Monday, October 8, 2012

Mirror Etching/Engraving.

I just did this mirror as a wedding gift for one of my best friends. I told her I wanted to make them a wedding gift and not buy it, but I needed some suggestions. 
I ALSO told her that I like a challenge, so not to be afraid to suggest anything.  She said she loves Tuscan landscapes and off to google image search I went. 

Now before I scare you off with my very detailed etching, let me just say YOU CAN DO THIS! I counted up, and this is only my 10th glass etching project. 2 sets of duplicate projects, a couple that were just writing, and the others were not very detailed at all. 

Finding the right picture is usually the HARDEST part of an etching for me. There is almost never just ONE picture that is exactly what I want. So I have to use elements from several different pictures to get the effect I'm looking for. 
I spend HOURS finding the right ones and deciding how I wanted the finished product to look. 

This time I used these 5 as a template for the finished project.

Once I found the right pictures I had to make them the right size and style. My preference is to use a sketch cause it gives clear lines. To get the sketch look I zoomed in on the pic on the computer to about the size I wanted it for the mirror, placed my white tissue paper over the computer screen and traced the basic image. I had to fill in the gaps and draw a few things on my own to make the proportions right.

Once I got it the way I wanted taped it where I wanted over the mirror, but only taped the top 1/2 in place so I could slip the carbon paper under.

This is carbon paper, or transfer paper. You can get it at any hobby store. I got a package of 3 sheets for $2 or $3 about 6 years ago, and just started on my last sheet for this project. "shiny" side up, dull side down. You can reuse it multiple times. I use it on wood, and glass, but it will transfer to most surfaces. GREAT tool to have!
 When etching glass the MOST important rule to remember is SHADE THE LIGHT. Anything you want white you etch, anything you want "black" you leave unetched. Since I had a VERY large portion of area that I wanted etched I decided to try a new technique. I bought some etching creme
I got a 10 oz jar at the local Hobby Lobby for about $20. Kinda pricey, BUT what they don't tell you is you can SCRAPE IT BACK INTO THE JAR!!! 

So since I only wanted a certain area etched with creme and the rest to actually be hand engraved I took some fabric paint that I had and painted the lines that were drawn on with the carbon paper
 Any lines that crossed over other lines I waited to paint till the first ones dried. other wise you get big smudges

Now once you put the creme on you have to rinse it off, so to avoid rinsing off the carbon transfer of what I wanted engraved I did the engraving first.
I have a set exactly like this that you can get a Harbor Freight for $10. I use the rotary tool and the diamond point tips. . (The only tips I really use look like they have a ball on the end, they give me the cleanest smoothest lines out of all of them, I only used 3 different tips)

Now for that hard part, PERMANENTLY etching the glass. There is no eraser folks, so this first step can be kind of scary. Just close your eyes and JUMP ...ok, actually don't close you eyes, and no jumping with power tools and GLASS. Just be brave and BELIEVE in your self. 

You can see I basically engrave AROUND the transfer lines, then fill in the blank space

 Now I'm ready to use the creme! New experience for me. Since I was covering such a BIG surface it didn't give me a smooth even finish, which happened to be perfect for this project. 
Use in a well ventilated area and always Always ALWAYS use safety protection! In this case rubber gloves and eye protection.

I poured it on a small section and spread it with my finger. Let it sit for 2 mins then rinse off. I had to do this in about 3 different segments. 
NOTE: Do you see the dirty smudges on the mirror? Guess what? They are now PERMANENT dirty smudges. As I was rinsing I got some over spray on the middle of the mirror and didn't realize it, so the creme sat there. When rinsing off your piece RINSE THE ENTIRE THING, even if you didn't put etching creme on it. Then wipe it dry with a clean cloth.

Now I took a plastic scraper and easily scraped the paint lines off  (some small particles of the paint remained and I later had to go over it with a sharp exacto knife to clean it up)
 You can see the difference of detail with the hand engraving and the etching creme. Also an effect I wanted. 
 Now I took the different pieces of my landscape picture, taped them where I wanted them and slid the carbon paper under them to trace it on the glass. The carbon paper doesn't have to be taped down. 
 you can see the transferred image
 Now fill in the white. Again using the proper safety equipment. I highly recommend safety glasses and a facial mask, you don't want to breathe in glass dust. 
 Finished the landscape! YAY! I also went back over some of the creme etched portion to heighten the detail, like the crack in the wall and the wood grain. (But I did that after I took this picture, but you can kind of see it in the picture of it framed) (I know I"m probably the only one who will ever know the difference though :) )

 Now to attach the hardware.
I used hot glue to glue the mirror in the frame, covering every inch for the edge of the mirror, then glues the card board in, this protects the back of the mirror from getting scratched. 
 You want it 1/3 the total height of the mirror down(does that make sense?) The frame was 24 in tall so I put the hooks 8 in from the top. Then I attached the picture wire to the hooks. 

I'm VERY happy with the way it turned out (and so is my friend, which matters more than my opinion) Except for those darn permanent dirty spots :S

Don't ever be afraid to do something that is hard, because you will never know what you can accomplish. You just may surprise your self. And if it doesn't turn out, well I bet you learn a lot that will help you in the future. Win-Win


  1. Sarah. SARAH. YOU ARE A MAZING!!!!

  2. Photo Mirror Effects app is an useful Mirror Effects Photo Editor app which will let you select your photo from the gallery or take a picture using the camera and apply various 3D mirror effects.

  3. Hi Sarah, I really like your design and combination of all different elements you used from all pictures. But to be honest, I'm not such a fan of the (old) frosted (etched) mirrors. I found a website were they laser engrave mirrors. With this technique the natural refection of the mirror is still maintained (and with etching not).