What are Etching Stencils?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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Etching stencils are used as a guide to customize glass and metal products. Stencils for individual use are sold in craft and hobby stores. They are also used in product manufacturing to create computer-processing boards, emboss numbers into metal products and more. Etching is the process of cutting into an unprotected part of a glass or metal surface with a strong acid or chemical. These techniques are widely used in manufacturing to create a permanent image on the surface of a hard material.

When purchasing etching stencils for personal use, there are three things to consider: design, type of etching cream required and complexity. Etching has a long history, with goldsmiths and metalworkers using these techniques to create armor, guns, dishes and other tools. Evidence indicates that etching was used in the Middle Ages in Europe and maybe even earlier.

The design is absolutely critical when selecting etching stencils. Think about the material you plan to use, the image you want to create and the overall visual impact. Etching stencils come in a wide range of sizes and styles.

To use an etching stencil, there are three steps. First, secure the stencil to the work product. This can be a glass vase, wine glass or glass window. Use an etching knife to trace the stencil pattern into the material. Finally, apply the etching cream to permanently transfer the image onto the object.


In manufacturing, the chemicals used are much harsher and allow the image or design to be etched into hard plastic, metal, glass and wood. The most commonly used procedure is to block off the sections that should not be etched in a specific pattern using a special paste. The complete product is then submerged into a chemical bath and the unprotected sections are etched. Upon completion, the covering paste is removed.

The type of etching cream required depends on the stencil and the material. Glass stencil kits often use etching cream, which is widely available from craft stores. Check the bottle to see if the cream is reusable or disposable. There is a significant difference in price, and it may be more economical to purchase the reusable cream if you do a lot of etching.

For your first project, select a nontoxic etching cream and purchase thick gloves. Select a design that has simple, elegant lines, not too much detail and where any mistakes can be hidden. As you improve your skill and technique, you can look at etching stencils that have multiple images, layering and other styles.


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Post 1

Armour Etching cream is a great beginners product. They also have a large selection of stencils just for the cream, all you have to do is take a popsicle stick and rub the stencil on, brush the cream on, wait, then rinse. Super easy. They have beginners kits that are a good place to find out if you like it enough to "move up" in the hobby.

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