While traditional leaded stained glass is a time-honored art glass technique, it isn’t the only artistry involving glass out there. Far from it! One of the other traditions for glasswork is glass etching, and it is often utilized within a stained glass window!

Glass etching refers to the process of abrading or roughening a piece of glass in an effort to produce a decorative design atop the glass surface. Etched glass can be an effective tool when light is limited in any building. You can often see etched glass in a church window, hotel window, or sometimes a restaurant window. 

A variety of techniques are utilized in order to achieve an etched surface in glass, all with different effects. Hydrofluoric acid is often used to etch specialized art glass with two or more layers of color, known as flashed glass. Hydrofluoric acid can also be used to engrave detailed designs onto clear glass. Additionally, all of these etching techniques can be achieved using computer-drawn designs and plotter-cut self-adhesive vinyl sheets.

Glass etching is an elegant method of creating a design on the surface of a smooth piece of glass. The process is permanent and will create an everlasting piece of art. Etched and carved glass has become extremely popular in the past three decades and can now be seen in high-end hotels, theaters, and especially churches. The current interest in etched glass has created a boom in architectural applications and has now spread to become more common for personal gifts, awards, and commercial spaces.

Techniques of Glass Etching:

Surface Etching 

Surface etching is a type of etching completed in one stage of abrasion. This means that the etched design is created in one swift motion. The process will create a design that usually looks to be white and clear against the color of the glass, dependent upon the colors of the flashed glass. The unetched areas of glass will appear darker whether they be blue, black, or clear glass. When creating an etched glass design it is important to separate the spaces of etched and unetched glass to create a three-dimensional appearance. Without space, the design will blend together and create a single silhouette with little to no detail standing out. This style of surface etching has become one of the most common and sophisticated forms of detailing glass pieces.

Associated Crafts®/ Willet Hauser’s® glass etching station complies to strict industry safety standards.

A piece of flashed glass was etched in the stained glass studio using hydrofluoric acid. The top layer of brown-hued flashed glass was etched away in order to create the areas of white fur on the fawn and mother deer.


Carving is a style of etching that includes several types such as single-stage and multi-stage etching. In single-stage etching the surface is blasted with a design deep into the glass separating the elements from clear space to negative space. During multi-stage etching elements are carved at different depths creating a more three dimensional carving. With multi-stage etching there is a hollow shape within the glass that may appear solid on the opposite side.



Etching can be done with multiple techniques, but these are two of the most common techniques used. For stained glass artists glass etching techniques give the ability to create a more sophisticated glass piece. Each of these techniques have their strengths and weaknesses depending on the style of art glass you are looking to add in your church. If you are looking to add glass etching art or need a restoration on your stained glass windows contact Associated Crafts® & Willet Hauser® today. We offer free window inspections, project guides, and a no-obligation appraisal!