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Glass engraving is a popular trend in restaurants, bars and gift industries. In many cases, engraved glasses are given out as souvenirs at trade shows and sporting events. In the past, glass engraving seemed like a task that could only be handled by professionals in a factory, but in recent years, that trend has changed. Home lasers are rising in popularity, and now DIYers and makers can engrave their own glass.

Watch some pint and shot glasses being engraved here.

Glass etching can be divided into two varieties: laser etching and sandblasting. Sandblasting produces a deep mark in the glass, while lasers make lighter surface marks. Sandblasting is more labor intensive and requires professional knowledge, while laser etching is easier and requires less labor, making it the preferred method for home etching.

Color of Glass

Custom-engraved wine glasses are a popular gift, and many at-home laser engravers have found that orders increase around holidays and special events. (Source: Epilog Laser)Custom-engraved wine glasses are a popular gift, and many at-home laser engravers have found that orders increase around holidays and special events. (Source: Epilog Laser)Before getting started, you’ll need to know how to choose the correct glass for your applications. As a general rule of thumb, the lighter the color of the glass, the better the engraving will appear. Darker glass bottles, like brown beer bottles, are generally avoided for laser etching because the etching doesn’t contrast very well. With lighter glass bottles, like green or clear glass, the contrast of the engraving tends to show up much better.

Type of Glass

This may be surprising, but you don’t need to purchase expensive glassware to get a top-notch engraving; inexpensive glass works just fine! In fact many laser operators purchase their glassware at discount retails shops like the Dollar Store. If you are doing something higher-end, like crystal, you’ll want to be especially careful as the lead in this substrate expands at a different rate than the crystal does, which can cause cracking and breakage. Using a lower power setting can help this problem, but we always recommend having spares in case of breakage.

Glass Shape

In order to engrave a round glass object, like a beer bottle or wine glass, you must have a rotary attachment for your laser machine. A rotary attachment plugs easily into a laser machine and allows the glass to rotate as the laser etches.

There are several tips to help ensure a crisp engraving on glass, ranging from your artwork set-up to masking.

  • 300 DPI: Using a lower resolution, around 300 DPI, produces a better result on glass as you separate the dots you are engraving.
  • 80 percent Grayscale: Change the black in your graphic to 80 percent black to improve the engraving quality.
  • Masking: Some people find that applying a thin, wet sheet of newspaper or paper towel a little larger than the engraving area also helps with heat dissipation and improves the engraving. Just be sure that there are no wrinkles in the paper after it is applied.
  • Dish soap: Using your finger or a paper towel, apply a thin coat of liquid dish soap – any kind will do – over the area to be engraved. This will dissipate the heat when engraving.
  • Polish: If there are small shards of glass, you can polish the area with a ScotchBrite pad or something similar.

Testing the Glass

If you’re new to glass etching, you should test speed and power settings on the glass you are planning to use before starting the actual etching, and it’s always ideal to have a few extra pieces in case you encounter any problems. If you’re concerned about artwork placement on the glass, you can always mask with tape and very lightly engrave your design – the graphics appear on the tape so you know exactly where it will appear when you engrave the glass.

Hopefully, these basic tips have you ready to fire up your laser for your next glass engraving project! From here, the process is fairly simple. Place the glass you wish to etch on to the rotary attachment in the machine. Next, load your design, press start and off it goes! When the laser engraving is finished, take your glass out of the machine, wipe off the dish soap, remove the mask (if you opted for it), and your glass is ready for use.

For additional assistance with your glass engraving project, Epilog Laser provides numerous online resources and video tutorials.