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How-Tuesday: Glass Photo Etching

Mar 17, 2009

by daniellexo handmade and vintage goods

Have you ever thought about trying glass etching? If so, I’ve got a project for you! I’ve taken cream glass etching to a new level by using PNP Blue Transfer Paper as a resist!  PNP Blue Transfer Paper was originally used to etch circuit boards and has recently been adapted to etch jewelry.  I tested this transfer out on glass and it works like a charm!  Use this photo-transferring method to create classy custom gifts.  In the project below, I etched a photo and quote by Martha Stewart for Time Out New York magazine. (See it here!)




Step 1


Scan or create your high contrast design using photo-editing software. Print out your design in high contrast black and white onto the PNP blue paper. (See the directions included.) You need to use a laser printer or take your design to a copy center and get it photocopied onto the PNP blue paper. (Remember to invert and flip your image!)


Step 2


Make sure your flat piece of glass or mirror is clean and free of dust. With your iron set to cotton, start by tacking down a small corner of your design with the tip of the iron. Then glide the iron over the entire design smoothing out any bubbles. Lay the iron on the glass for 5 minutes.  Lift the iron and apply pressure to the entire design until the transfer is almost black. Remove the iron. After allowing the glass to cool, peel off the PNP blue paper.



Step 3



Protect the rest of your piece with contact paper. Patch up any areas that the PNP blue may not have stuck to with nail polish (or small pieces of tape).


Step 4



Put on your rubber gloves (and any other safety gear you feel necessary). See how I’m not wearing gloves in the above photo? That is bad, bad, bad. 

Apply a thick layer of the Armour Etch cream with a foam brush. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then rinse.  

Remove your contact paper. If any of the toner from the PNP blue paper is left on your piece, remove that with a paper towel soaked in acetone (or nail polish remover). Clean with glass cleaner and you’re done!

Tada! Here’s a photo of the finished piece, graced with Martha’s visage and her quote: “I catnap now and then, but I think while I nap, so it’s not a waste of time.” Cute!

If you make something using this technique please, let me know in the comments below! I’d love to see photos! Upload them to our Etsy Labs Show and Tell Flickr Pool, too!

More project downloads are available here! Check out all the How-Tuesday content!


  • yummyandcompany

    yummyandcompany said 11 years ago

    awesome! does this work on mirrors too?

  • BluCille

    BluCille said 11 years ago

    Looks neat and pretty easy.

  • coup

    coup said 11 years ago

    very interesting! I'm dying to try it!

  • Ryanplz

    Ryanplz said 11 years ago

    i love tuesdays, just because of these how to articles. this one is really, really neat. thanks for sharing!

  • craftgasm

    craftgasm said 11 years ago

    Super cute, and easy-looking! (Like I needed another skill set to add to my "need to learn" list. Thanks a lot.) ;)

  • BabbidgePatch

    BabbidgePatch said 11 years ago

    looks like a fun project ~ the matching beer mugs are cute ~

  • redyellowandblueink

    redyellowandblueink said 11 years ago

    oh wow-too cool, gonna have to give that a try. Interesting stuff with the PNP Blue Transfer Paper. Yummyandcompany-this should work on mirrors-they're just glass with a reflective backing.

  • uncharted

    uncharted said 11 years ago

    this is my favorite "how - to" so far, thanks!

  • noelleorozco

    noelleorozco said 11 years ago

    Awesome info. Cannot wait to try it myself!

  • humblebea

    humblebea said 11 years ago

    What a cool article and project....Martha is the best! (-:

  • GemmaBeads

    GemmaBeads said 11 years ago

    That's a great method! Had to laugh at the "jewelry only" written on the iron. That's something you don't see everyday!

  • skycreation

    skycreation said 11 years ago

    Wow! Magic! Thank you for a great how-to :) I will not stop until every piece of glass in my house is etched!

  • lucybluestudio

    lucybluestudio said 11 years ago

    That tutorial just gave me a million new ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  • juln

    juln said 11 years ago

    Cool tutorial! I bought a huge sandblaster and took a class on using photoresist from a company in town that manufactures the stuff... I probably would have gotten farther with some creme and an iron, I'm afraid! People do think while they nap... don't they?

  • BululuGems

    BululuGems said 11 years ago

    Lovely project ;D

  • beautifulbridget

    beautifulbridget said 11 years ago

    Very cool!!!!!!!!!

  • BreadandBadger

    BreadandBadger said 11 years ago

    What a cool way to use etching cream! I'm sad to say I've never had very good luck with the cream (I engrave with a drill and sandblast everything else), but I bet I would have had better results if I'd tried it this way. Great way to get halftones, too!

  • sheenajewellery

    sheenajewellery said 11 years ago

    nice to see "my" technique haha... being used on glass.I first learned etching at art school but didn't start using the pnp until later. I have quite a few pieces in my shop that I made using my photos from Japan and elsewhere...mostly of cactus for now. take a look if you like!

  • baconsquarefarm

    baconsquarefarm said 11 years ago

    Thanks for a lesson in glass etching, always wondered how they did this~ lots of great ideas, got my square brain thinkin outside the box~

  • SunflowerCreations

    SunflowerCreations said 11 years ago

    Very interesting, I love learning about what others are creating.Thanks for sharing!

  • christinececelia

    christinececelia said 11 years ago

    oh- fun!

  • worksandfinds

    worksandfinds said 11 years ago

    Oh, that is cool.

  • MyJunkyTrunk

    MyJunkyTrunk said 11 years ago

    Now that's really neat!

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez said 11 years ago

    looks cool & easy...thanks 4 sharing

  • LoucheLab

    LoucheLab said 11 years ago

    I have an armor etch bottle I've been saving for a rainy day (or actually dreading to use because of all the warning on the label. I think it's time for me to give it a shot...

  • whyte

    whyte said 11 years ago

    Oh just great, another got-to-try it project. I should never come to the storque.

  • MarcoLaGrenouille

    MarcoLaGrenouille said 11 years ago

    great tutorial, thanks!

  • kikuhandmade

    kikuhandmade said 11 years ago

    wear gloves,though! this stuff is dangerous. it has small amounts of hydroflouric acid - my brother got burns of a higher concentration of this stuff (much higher, cleaning car parts) and went to the hospital in intense pain - almost lost his fingertips! this stuff goes through the skin, doesn't hurt (at first) and seeks out bone and nerve tissue. be careful. but super, duper gorgeous - i wish it worked on fused glass!

  • EpicBones

    EpicBones said 11 years ago

    woah, fancy town! glass etching, love it.

  • dogties

    dogties said 11 years ago

    How cool!

  • Artieno

    Artieno said 11 years ago

    This is awesome! Woow!It's amazing how the end product comes out so beautiful, I just love it!

  • thestapeliacompany

    thestapeliacompany said 11 years ago

    Ooo! This makes me want to go etch something!

  • zombuki

    zombuki said 11 years ago

    Looks interesting but dangerous! Resin is as dangerous as I get ...

  • JAdamsDesigns

    JAdamsDesigns said 11 years ago

    Too Cool! I'm gonna have to add this to my list of things I want to try!

  • urbbody

    urbbody said 11 years ago

    I am so going to try this...and funny quote, btw.

  • Mattamorphis

    Mattamorphis said 11 years ago

    I adore etched glass

  • BargainHeadbands

    BargainHeadbands said 11 years ago

    I will definitely try this! Thanks for sharing, this is great ;)

  • lowrahk

    lowrahk said 11 years ago

    Can the php resist be reused? How many pieces can be etched with a piece of pnp? any tips for doing a rounded bottle with this technique?

  • AmberLeaf

    AmberLeaf said 11 years ago

    I use this stuff and it's GREAT! Armour has a line of reusable stencils that work around or on any surface! So...for bottles or any odd shaped piece the rubber stencils work beautifully! Thanks for this How-To!!!

  • aileen

    aileen said 11 years ago

    Great how-to! I've used PNP for etching copper but didn't know it could work with glass too. Will definitely have to try this!

  • ruthshapiro

    ruthshapiro said 11 years ago

    When rinsing the etching cream, don't rinse in your best porcelain sink-it will etch too! Also, there is a way to transfer images like you do without expensive PnP! I should think it would be fine with the Armour Etch. Convo me for directions!

  • Mattamorphis

    Mattamorphis said 11 years ago

    Very cool is that martha. Oh I bow down.

  • claunux

    claunux said 11 years ago

    veeeeeeery interesting! nice

  • boci

    boci said 11 years ago

    I've etched glasses using cut out vinyl moose and trees. It's one of the side benefits of working at a sign shop. Check with your local sign shop and they might give away scrap vinyl for free. I'm always scrounging the trash at work!

  • TipsyTimeMachine

    TipsyTimeMachine said 11 years ago

    SAFETY TIPS -Kikuhandmade is right about how dangerous the acid etching cream is! It will be absorbed through the skin, and eventually weaken your bones. PROTECT YOUR SKIN. So wear good rubber or nitrile gloves and be very careful not to puncture them or cut them on the glass. -PROTECT YOUR EYES, wear safety glasses, or a face shield in case you get splashed when rinsing, or scrubbing with a toothbrush. - PROTECT YOUR LUNGS The fumes are not healthy, so put on a fan, work outside, go to a Workplace Safety supply store and and ask for a respirator with detachable filters that will protect you from Ammonium and Sodium Bifluoride(and bring a list of any other chemicals that are in substances you work with such as lacquers, acetone and glues). The salespeople will help you find the right product. -Scrape as much of the acid cream as you can back into the jar, it can be reused.(a flat edged plastic ice scraper, or paint scraper will work) - Rinse the cream off into a plastic bowl, put in a lot of baking soda to neutralize the acid before you dispose of it or pour it down the sink. Keep adding baking soda until the bubbling stops. I'm not trying to scare anyone, I've taken many classes where there is a laissez-faire attitude about safety. I've taught people of all ages, I think safety should always be a priority, and we should protect our good health.

  • Nyblaque

    Nyblaque said 11 years ago

    Thanks tipsytimemachine for the safety tips. I hope I can make it to Etsylabs monday..i would love to try this;-)

  • soap

    soap said 11 years ago

    oooh, that's so much easier than what i used to do. i'll dig out that etching solution again.

  • DzyMsLizzy

    DzyMsLizzy said 11 years ago

    Guess I'll give the ol' etching supplies another go. Haven't tried any in a while. Did not know the cream could be re-used, or about the baking soda. Good to know, esp. since we're on a septic system! I don't know about the photo thing, though. I do have a laser printer, but it is extremely picky about the kind of paper you put through. It will paper jam just on a whim. It prefers standard paper...doesn't like photo paper or card stock. I fear the thin transfer paper may just bunch up inside and make a horrid mess.

  • ImagineMDD

    ImagineMDD said 11 years ago

    Thanks so much! Do you know if the etching cream has a shelf life? I've always wanted to do this and my sad little bottle has been in the supply closet for a while. Now I'd really like to get going. :)

  • JudyThompsonArt

    JudyThompsonArt said 11 years ago

    Very Kool...very detailed ..

  • VictorianInspired

    VictorianInspired said 11 years ago


  • TipsyTimeMachine

    TipsyTimeMachine said 11 years ago

    You're welcome Nyblaque ImaagineMDD - How old is your bottle? I've had mine for five years and it still works fine. You can get crystals if the cream gets too cold, the solution is to sit bottle in warm water for awhile. Then open the bottle and stir the cream (carefully while wearing gloves). DzyMsLizzy - the baking soda will only neutralize the acid, but it won't remove any chemicals that you may not want in your septic system. The film is thin like acetate, so you may not have the same problems with it as with photo paper. There are a couple of other etching creams that work - Velvet Etch and Etch All. Stained and fused glass supply stores should carry them.

  • metalicious

    metalicious said 11 years ago

    I love this tutorial! Very informative and made it seem easy (and safe) to do!

  • lovinganvil

    lovinganvil said 11 years ago

    wowie zowie. gracias a todos. xoxox

  • ApertureAgog

    ApertureAgog said 11 years ago

    After learning from Danielle how to do the basics at the labs last week, I can't wait to try this! Thank you.

  • DoodyPops

    DoodyPops said 11 years ago

    TipsyTimeMachine & kikuhandmade are right. People should realize that just because you can buy this does not mean its safe! I used to do silversmithing and could not believe what I saw done. Please wear gloves and watch you do not transfer to other surfaces while working with it.

  • PiperRiley

    PiperRiley said 11 years ago

    I am def going to try this!!! Thanks :)

  • KimsCraftyApple

    KimsCraftyApple said 11 years ago

    WOW! This looks like so much fun! I've done glass etching before but never like this...excited to try it!

  • knittaddiction

    knittaddiction said 11 years ago

    This is a cute idea for using digital images.. I love digital because you can get detail you wouldn't otherwise get from doing it by hand... We did this in elementary school with contact paper cut outs and sticky stencils... And like someone else mentioned above, scraps and leftovers from vinyl shops are a great way to create templates! LOVE <3!

  • artbywinona

    artbywinona said 11 years ago

    Thanks so much! I have been trying to remember where to get PNP Blue. I didn't realize Thompson Enamel carried it.

  • ThePuddingAlibi

    ThePuddingAlibi said 11 years ago

    Way to neat of an idea...when am I going to have time to do all the fun how-to's!!! Wait, I know, I don't need to sleep's overrated anyway...I'll just drop that activity.

  • bon311

    bon311 said 11 years ago

    Great idea. If it's done on glassware or coffee cups, is it diswasher safe?

  • dordlor

    dordlor said 11 years ago

    I got to try this. It brings up a lot of ideas. I am a little concerned about the safety, however.

  • shellydaly

    shellydaly said 11 years ago

    Does anyone know if this technique with the cream etch and the pnp paper would work on resin? thanks!

  • loudmatter

    loudmatter said 11 years ago

    Does anyone know how to make this work on rounded glass?

  • beadlove2211

    beadlove2211 said 11 years ago

    I have used Armor Etch in the past to make things on drinking glasses. I works very well. Its fun to!

  • TipsyTimeMachine

    TipsyTimeMachine said 11 years ago

    bon311 - etching gives the glass a frosted surface(similiar to sandblasting but with a smother texture), I haven't had any problems with glasses in my dishwasher. shellydaly - The Armour etch is a glass acid - I don't know of any acids that you could use on a resin (or would be reltivelysafe), there are so many different recipies for plastics and resins. loudmatter - If by rounded glass, you mean glass that has been fired, then no it won't work because the glass has changed chemically in the kiln firing, and is now much harder. Sandblasting is best for fired glass, I don't know if the PNP film can hold up to sandblasting abrasives, most people I know use vinyl stencils for sandblasting.

  • mleefipps

    mleefipps said 11 years ago

    hmmmm... the mirror broke from the heat of the iron... what did I do wrong? I had it set on cotton, but it shattered! Maybe because of the age of the mirror?

  • ZombieIrish

    ZombieIrish said 11 years ago

    This is awesome!! I've been wanting to do glass etching for a long time~

  • kathykatita

    kathykatita said 11 years ago

    Hey your article is just awsome! but i was wondering if there is a way to do something like this but with colors. thnx~

  • DzyMsLizzy

    DzyMsLizzy said 10 years ago

    Ahh--thanks for reply... good to know about the other chemicals... then I guess that would have to be cleaned up in the outdoor washout sink, that empties into what amounts to a French drain, and does not go into the septic.

  • LondonParticulars

    LondonParticulars said 10 years ago

    Daniellexo, I just bought a huge bottle of Armour etch...I can't wait to try this what a GREAT tutorial, thanks!

  • jiang888

    jiang888 said 9 years ago

    Excellent post, thank you very much for taking the time to share with those who are starting on the subject. Greetings Microsoft Outlook 2010

  • SweetSeamz

    SweetSeamz said 9 years ago

    Sounds like a great technique but Ummm ..... would you have a lot of glass breakages from the heat of the iron??? Especially on a large mirror when you put the design on say the bottom only??

  • kmyck1

    kmyck1 said 8 years ago

    I've tried to get the image to adhere with the PNP paper several times to various mirrors with no luck. I've changed temperature and time. On two a small bit of the toner image stuck - but nothing else. I followed your directions and then tried again following manufacturer directions.

  • turguto

    turguto said 8 years ago

    Hello, Very nice work. I am in Turkey. Can you give information about the use of transfer paper and the PNP. Where could we take. Only yetiyormu transfer paper. greetings

  • peggyworthington

    peggy Worthington said 8 years ago

    Anyone have an idea why I keep breaking mirrors and glass? The only one that did not break was a piece of glass 1/4 " thick. Suggestions??

  • bobbevins

    Bob Bevins said 6 years ago

    Does not work. Glass shatter!

  • websurfer2000

    Hirofumi Lianggiya said 6 years ago

    My glass shattered too. It's impossible. I think this method only works on small project which should be smaller than the iron's heat plate, so the heat would heat up the whole piece of glass evenly. Wish it was mentioned. My $20 Italian glass plate went caput <:/

  • Safe T Glass | said 4 years ago

    […] How-Tuesday: Glass Photo Etching | … – Have you ever thought about trying glass etching? If so, I’ve got a project for you! I’ve taken cream glass etching to a new level by using PNP Blue … […]

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