Every year I make a set of ornaments for our Christmas tree, with a few extras to use as hostess/neighbor/coworker gifts, and sometimes to adorn wrapped packages for friends. This year I wanted to do something with glass balls. I like how lights on the tree play with clear glass—so pretty—so I kept the glass plain rather than paint or glitter-ize the inside. I chose a formal script font, which, when paired with a sprig of holly on the simple glass, created a classic look I loved.
Go ahead and choose a font that fits your style…funky or modern or heavy metal or whatever…make it something you love.
Here’s the sprig of holly to add to your initials, if you like.
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What You’ll Need:
- Glass balls (I used 4″ round glass balls and 3″ flattish glass balls)
- Vinyl stencil material – Any temporary or permanent adhesive vinyl will work. I used permanent.
- Transfer tape (I used TransferRite clear transfer tape)
- Blue painters tape
- Rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl)
- Facial tissue – a couple of pieces
- Hair dryer or heat gun
- Armour Etch etching cream
- 1″ foam craft brush
- Rubber gloves
- Small craft knife – an old paring knife will work well.
- Paper – to protect the work surface
- Sink with running water – to rinse the etching cream (stainless steel or plastic, NOT porcelain!)
- Cutting machine, such as a Silhouette or Cricut – My Silhouette Cameo is powered by Silhouette Studio Designer Edition version 3.3.638.
When applying vinyl to balls, the biggest challenge is the getting the vinyl flat on the curved surface. Making the right choices before you start can help a lot with that:
1) Larger balls are easier to work with (more gradual curve = better chance the stencil will end up flat).
2) Smaller designs are easier to work with (they don’t extend as far around the curve).
3) Flatter ornaments are much easier to work with (with an almost flat side there is way less curve to deal with).
4) Simpler designs are easier to apply.
I found that a design between 2½” – 2¾” tall was a good range to aim for. Any larger and you’re fighting the curve big time; any smaller and the design starts to look a little lost.
Applying the stencil…
STEP ONE: Once the stencil is cut and weeded, apply transfer tape to the design, and trim everything to about ¼” from the design. Use rubbing alcohol to clean the area on which you’ll apply the stencil. Allow to dry.
STEP TWO: Remove the backing paper and eyeball where you want the design to go on the ball. Push the center of the design onto the ball, and working outward, slowly smooth the vinyl onto the ball. If things start to get wavy and threaten to make creases, stop, make sure the rest of the design is tacked down in enough spots to keep the design intact, and then remove the transfer tape to free up the vinyl, making it easier to massage into place.
Rub outward from the design edges. If the waves still refuse to flatten, use a hair dryer for a few seconds to apply heat and then try again. Be careful you don’t let the vinyl get too hot or it’ll melt. I found I had just the right amount of heat if I used the dryer until my fingers holding the ornament started to feel uncomfortably warm. Then I quickly put the hair dryer down and rubbed outward from the design edges while the vinyl was still warm. The extra heat makes a huge difference in getting the vinyl do what you want.
STEP FOUR: Remove the metal cap, and cover the hole with painters tape to prevent water from getting inside when you rinse off the etching cream. I wound a strip of tape around the collar of the hole, sealed the bottom edges well, then pinched the top tape parts together.
You’ll notice in the photos below that I didn’t seal the hole on this ‘V’ ornament. This is the ornament that taught me what a hassle royale it is to dry the inside of glass balls. I was sure to seal off the hole on the rest of the ornaments I did, oh yeah, oh yeah.
STEP FIVE: Use painters tape to extend the stencil by an inch or two all the way around to prevent an “oops” etching outside the stencil area. Get a good seal where the tape edges meet the stencil and other pieces of tape.
STEP SIX: Time to etch! The etching cream is serious acid—hey, it eats glass, right?—so read the warnings on the label and follow them…rubber gloves and good ventilation for starters. Shake the container well before opening (as you would a small can of paint). Using a craft foam brush, gently apply a thick even layer of cream onto the design. Let sit for 10 minutes.
STEP EIGHT: Use the sponge brush to gently wipe off the cream and return it to the jar to reuse on a future project.
STEP NINE: Holding the ornament with the sealed hole on top, rinse under running water in a stainless steel or plastic sink.
***NOT a porcelain sink***
…the etching cream will de-glaze porcelain. Not a pretty thing.
If my right hand hadn’t been taking this photo, you would have seen it gently rubbing the remaining cream off with a facial tissue in the water stream.
STEP TEN: Remove the stencil and discard. Use a small craft knife for stubborn spots. Give the ornament a quick wash with soap and water, dry, and yo, you’re finished etching. Replace the metal cap and add ribbon if you like.
As you can see, I made quite a few. They make a great gift—inexpensive, yet special because they’re handmade and personalized, and with a wow factor because etching to most folks is a mystery. You’ll get a lot of “You *made* that? Wow.”
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More glass etching adventures at Whatcha Workin’ On:
Pi(e) Plate for your Math Nerd
Whimsical Etched Vase
Etched Flattened Wine Bottle Cheese Tray
Starfish Nursery “Love You” in Etched Glass Frame
Framed Etched Horse Art
Silver & Gold Etched JOY Mirror