A Guide To Coloring Etched Glass

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Glass can be etched to add a fun message to glassware or to personalize something as a gift. But etched glass is the same color as glass, meaning there isn’t naturally any color. But most people want it to look cool. So how do you add color to it?

Adding color to etched glass is easy. All you need is a form of dye, a brush, cotton swabs, and some rubbing alcohol. You can also use coloring wax to color etched glass, but if you use this method, you will need a buffing tool to get a smooth, finished look. 

Want to learn more about coloring etched glass? Let’s look at some of the supplies you can use as well as the method you should follow. 

What is Etched Glass?

Etched glass is a piece of glass or glassware that has been partially carved. This partial carving is typically used to add words or a pattern to glass. 

Since etching is the scraping of the surface of the glass, it leaves a frosted look that is usually rough to the touch. Most frosted glass is items like plates and glasses, but you can also find it on windows and doors. 

How Do You Add Color to Etched Glass?

Little girl painting glass at table indoors

There are a few different ways to add color to etched glass. You can use items like alcohol ink, an oil-based pen, or a coloring wax. No matter which material you use to color your etched glass, the method is the same and is as follows. 

  1. Start by applying the paint or ink to the entire area where the etching is present. Don’t worry if you get it on the non-etched glass at this time. 
  1. Once the etched area is colored, take a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol and use it to remove any ink or paint that ended up in the non-etched area. 
  1. Allow the glass to dry completely before use, usually for at least 24 hours. 

Which Type of Paint is Best?

The best type of paint for coloring etched glass will depend on your personal preferences. Some paints leave a lighter, water-colored look, while others make your glass look more like stained glass.

Alcohol Ink 

If you want a lighter, watercolor look, alcohol ink like those made by FansArriche (on Amazon) is best. Alcohol ink will lightly color the etched area of the glass and shouldn’t stain the non-etched area.

This means that after you apply it, you just wipe away the excess, and you are done! The only downside is that the colors aren’t as vivid.

Coloring Wax

For a deeper, richer color, use a material like Amaco Rub N Buff Coloring Wax (on Amazon). When using coloring wax, you will spread a thick material over the part you want to color and buff off the excess using a buffing tool. The result is a thick layer that can be difficult to see through. 

The downside to the coloring wax is it doesn’t come in as many fun colors as the alcohol ink, but the result is beautiful, especially if you pick a metallic hue like gold or silver. 

What Other Supplies Will You Need?

Woman painting with stained glass paints on a glass vase

Besides choosing your painting medium, you will need a few other items to color etched glass successfully. 

  • Paintbrush or another method of spreading paint
  • Paper towel
  • Drop cloth (to protect the area you are working in)
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rubbing alcohol 
  • Gloves to protect your hands (optional)

Luckily, the list isn’t too long. But if you are using coloring wax instead of paint or oil, keep in mind that you will also need to add a buffing tool to your list of supplies. 

Tips to Keep in Mind

Below are some tips to keep in mind as you color etched glass.

Don’t Mix Colors with Etching Cream

If you are etching the glass yourself, it may seem easy to kill two birds with one stone and add dye to the etching cream. Don’t do this, as the dye will adhere only to the cream and not the glass, leaving you with no color on the glass itself. This is a waste of dye.

Coloring Wears Off Over Time

While you might be proud of your beautiful etched glass, remember that the coloring will wear off over time. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep some dye on hand so you can re-etch a project you love when needed. 

Do Not Color Food Surfaces

Unfortunately, most glass etching dyes are not food safe. This means they can only be used to color the exterior of the glass that won’t be used to serve food. If you color a food serving service, then this glassware item should be used for display only. 

Final Thoughts on Coloring Etched Glass

Overall, adding color to an etched piece of glassware is an easy afternoon activity as long as you have the right paint and supplies.

The best paint to use will depend on your preferences, but alcohol-based paint or coloring wax works best with etched glass. Just cover your word surfaces and hands as dye does stain!

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