How to Etch Glass by Sandblasting

Glass etching is a centuries old method of imprinting images on glass. One way to do it is by sandblasting. Sandblasting allows more variation with the use of different sand coarseness, depth blasting and gives the finished product a richer textured appearance.


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    Remember that the main idea is to cover the area not to be etched and expose the area to be etched.
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    Take a piece of glass out of an old picture frame to start with.
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    Apply a vinyl adhesive masking to the glass, being careful not to leave any air bubbles trapped underneath. The vinyl adhesive should be of the removable variety. A good material to start with is clear contact paper.
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    Lay the glass on top of the design you want to etch. Use a black and white image.
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    Cut around all the edges where the black meets the white with an exact-o knife.
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    Peel the area to be etched.
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    Now you are ready to sandblast.


  • Shelf paper is generally 2 mils thick which is barely thick enough to sandblast safely without blasting through. You can try to find 4 mil paper or double layer the 2 mil.
  • The finished product usually looks best from the other side, so spell out words backwards, etc.
  • If you use a white adhesive paper, you can trace the design on with carbon paper or spray adhesive the back of your design and stick it to your contact paper and cut through both the design paper and the vinyl.
  • Someone with a vinyl plotter cutter can create some patterns that would be helpful
  • There are multiple types of sandblasters such as pressure pot, siphon, and soda blasters. Soda blasters will not work for etching.
  • If you know someone with a small sandblast unit, try it with theirs before you invest in the equipment you will need to get serious at it.
  • Cover the back of the glass before sandblasting.
  • Glass etching can also be done with acid cream.


  • Do not breathe sandblast dust. A hood or full facemask is required unless you build or buy a sandblast cabinet. I have built about 7 or 8 cabinets over the years and also have the protective equipment for projects not intended to be blasted in the cabinet.

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Categories: Glass and Stained Glass Projects