Etching glass 

The two most well known methods for etching of glass are sandblasting and acid etching. 
Another method for etching of glassware is glass laser etching and a relatively new method for making etched glassware is the use of a frosting glass paint which gives an etched effect.
 
Example of translucent glass

What happens with etching is that the smooth glass surface is roughened. This roughened glass surface scatters the light upon entering the glass while the light finds no obstruction entering clear glass. Through etching, glass becomes translucent.

Flat glass is used for making translucent glass windows or translucent glass panels. The purpose of making them translucent is that the glass will still transmit light but it causes sufficient diffusion to prevent perception of distinct images. In other words you still have the light but you can’t see through it.

Another application of etching is to make decorations on glass. This is seen on windows, glass panels and glass doors and etching as a decoration technique is futher very much used for glassware, like vases and tableware.

Sandblasted door
Sandblasting

With sandblasting the glass surface is bombarded with small particles made out of carborundum (the “sand”). This powder is propelled with high pressure air to the glass in high speed and during the collission of the particles with the glass surface tiny pieces of glass are blasted away. It is also called “abbrasive sandblasting”. The result is that the smooth surface roughens up and from transparent it becomes translucent. 

For sandblasting you need a compressor to create a high speed air stream and the blasting itself has to be done in a closed area. Either the operator has to ware a closed suite with air supply and do the work in a closed room or the sandblasting is done in a “glovebox”, where the operator stands outside a sealed container and where he/she can do the work by putting the hands in gloves which are so arranged that the “sand” can’t come outside the container.


Acid etching

Acid etching is done by reaction of the glass surface with acid. The acid eats parts of the glass surface and roughens up the smooth glass surface. 

Personalized, acid etched glasses
The acid can be in liquid form or in cream form.
Liquid is used for etching large surfaces, like a whole vase or a window. Etching creams are ideal for making designs on glass. 
A masking foil is used to cover the areas which must not be etched.
 
Acid etching is a fun hobby and by using etching cream it is also relatively safe to do at home.
The acids are hazardous not only on contact but also the fumes. The use of etching creams reduces the risk.


The difference between acid etching and sandblasting is that sandblasting makes the glass more rough. The looks of acid etched glass is a satin-like look.

Glass Laser Etching

Laser etching is an interesting technique since you don’t have to use masking foils, chemicals or closed working areas. 

The tool here is a machine. Inside the machine there is a CO2 laser. The laser beam is directed through mirrors to the spot on the glass where the etching should be done. The heat of the laser blasts a part of the glass away leaving an etched mark. Driven by a computer the laser beam can be positioned everywhere on the glass surface and any graphics can in this way be etched onto the glass surface. 
Glass laser etching is a powerful glass decoration technique. With the help of a PC any picture, logo or image can be prepared and the next step is to let the laser do the work. The tedious work you have to do with acid etching or sandblasting, by removing small parts from the masking foil for delicate graphics, you don't have to do with glass laser etching. So it safes a lot of time. 



The laser etching machines are in principal operating in 2D. By revolving a glass object, like a glass or a bottle, during the laser etching, the image can be lasered on a cilindrical object.

This decoration method is usually not used by glassware factories. Glass laser etching is the preferred method for glass decorating businesses.
The only thing you need is a computer and a laser etching machine. The good news is that there are table top laser etching machines available for reasonable prices.

Frosted Glass Paint 

Etching is a nice decoration technique but not everybody is charmed of working with dangerous chemicals or has the money to invest in machinery. 

The paint companies have been able to make paints which give glass a frosted finish. The frosted look from the paints is also satin-like just like the result of acid or laser etching. 

The resin based paints have usually a frosting glass paint and the hybrid paints have also a frosted glass paint.

OrmoSol, a hybrid paint, has a very good frosted glass paint. The frosted coating is durable and, like the other OrmoSol glass paints, resistant to scratching, solvents and dish washing.

The advantage of OrmoSol frosting paint to resin based frosting glass paints is that OrmoSol frosted glass paint is chemically bonded to the glass surface and hence stronger.

Another big advantage of OrmoSol frosted glass paint is that the paint can be clear and colored. So with this paint you can not only make an acid etched imitation but also an frosted colored glass look. 

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about OrmoSol


The easiest way to make frosted glass and glassware!