If you’re looking for something fun and eye-catching to do with your children, take a look at our etched glass lantern tutorial! Now that the days are getting shorter, I enjoy having some extra lights on during the long evenings. I often put up a “fall tree” in October or November (to be redecorated later as a Christmas tree) because the sparkling lights on the tree help make the evenings seem cozy and happy instead of long and dreary. But these beautiful lanterns are another great way to add some sparkle to your evenings, and they’re pretty quick and easy to make.
This can also be an educational activity! Look at the bottom of this article to find suggestions for ways to add an educational element to your glass etching.
We made our etched glass lanterns while we were on an RV trip at Jellystone Park in North Java, New York. Trish and I (Wendy) made lanterns along with Trish’s boys, my daughter, and Christy (from Go RVing). We truly did enjoy making the lanterns and spending some time being creative and having fun together!
First, make sure you have all of the materials you’ll need to create your lanterns. You’ll need:
You may also want to have scissors, paper, and pencils on hand just in case you want/need them. Some people may want to draw out their own original designs before beginning. And if you use the painters tape to make a design, you may need to use scissors to create clean lines.
Some of the Supplies We Used:
We used square glass jars with metal lids similar to the ones in the picture below. Of course, you could use hexagonal jars, round jars, or any other size or shape as long as the containers are made of glass.
There are all kinds of great etching stencils available! We had a selection of stencils with words, designs, and natural themes (like insects, trees, flowers, etc.), but you can use whatever you and your children want depending on their ages and interests. There so many cool stencils available online with nautical themes, flowers, letters and numbers, landscapes, and more! (And if you want to do this project for the holidays or for a DIY gift, you can even find holiday-themed stencils.)
You can use paintbrushes you already have on hand, or you can buy some inexpensive ones to use just for this project. (We found that our paintbrushes were pretty gunky and stiff after using them for this project, so we threw them away afterwards.) The sizes of the paintbrushes will depend on your stencils. If you choose stencils with small, intricate designs (best for adults and teens), you’ll want smaller paintbrushes so you can get the details you need. If you choose stencils with larger designs, you’ll want to use larger ones.
You don’t have to have painters tape unless you want to be able to create your own designs to etch. Or if you have younger children, you may want to put painters tape around their stencils to help keep them from getting the etching cream where they don’t want it.
There are several kinds of etching cream available. Be sure to follow the instructions for the specific kind of cream you have. Some have to be left on for a longer amount of time in order to complete the etching process and produce a pretty finished product.
Battery-Operated Fairy Lights:
After completing our glass etchings, we put battery-operated fairy lights in each of our lanterns. The lights made our lanterns glow beautifully! It’s not absolutely necessary to put lights in your etched glass container, but it’s a great idea and makes for a beautiful lantern!
If you decide to put the fairy lights in your lantern, you’ll need some kind of sticky putty to use to stick the string of lights to the inside of the lid. You can skip this if you want to (or you can use tape or glue, etc.), but if you don’t stick the lights to the lid in some way, keep in mind that all of your lights will end up on the bottom of the lantern instead of being suspended to fill the inside of it.
You can use whatever disposable gloves you have on hand, or you can buy some inexpensive ones. You could do this project without using gloves, but we found that the gloves helped a lot since we didn’t have to worry so much about getting the etching cream on our hands. Other than that, you’ll only need paper towels–which you probably already have–and water.
After you’ve gathered your supplies, you’ll want to make sure the outside of your glass container is clean so the etching will work well.
Once your glass is clean and dry, choose the stencil you want and apply it to the area you want to etch. (This is the point when, if you have younger children, you may want to put painters tape around the outside edges of the stencil to protect the areas you don’t want to etch.)
Then use your paintbrush to apply the etching cream to the inside “open” areas of the stencil. Make sure the glass is completely covered with a thick layer of cream unless the instructions on your bottle say otherwise. Our etching cream called for us to apply a thick layer of cream, wait five minutes, use the paintbrush to rub the cream in again, and wait five more minutes. Your etching cream may have different instructions, so be sure to read and follow them carefully.
After the etching cream has been on the glass for the recommended amount of time, carefully remove the stencils and wipe off the cream with paper towels. Then use wet paper towels to wash off the remaining traces of etching cream–or just wash it off in the sink with soap and water.
Once the etching is complete, attach the string of fairy lights to the underside of the lid with sticky putty. (There may be a little pull tab that has to be removed from the string of lights in order for the lights to work.) Turn on the lights, put on the lid, and enjoy your beautiful lantern!
Use these beautiful lanterns to add whimsy and cheer to your home from October all the way to the New Year (and beyond, if you like!) Are you planning to make these at home? If so, let us know how they turn out!
- Have your children look up information about glass etching. How does it work? Why does it work? How does it actually change the glass? What is glass etching used for? (For example, it can be used to make glass translucent even if it isn’t decorative.)
- There are also various techniques that can be used to etch glass. Do some research to find out what these techniques are and how they work. How are the methods different? How are they the same? Do a Venn diagram to show the similarities and differences. (If you’re not familiar with Venn diagrams, make learning about them part of your educational experience too!
- Look up some famous etched glass artists. Find out how and why each one got interested in etched glass. Look up some information about the pieces they’ve etched.
- Have your children take the information they’ve found on one of these topics and use it to write a short report. (Younger children will need help with this, but older children may be able to work independently.)
- Have your children practice “public speaking” by having each child present his or her piece to an audience (you, grandparents, friends, neighbors, or siblings). Make it fun by having each child pretend to be a famous artist who has made an etched glass piece to present to someone famous or important.