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Can I add color to etching cream?

Etching cream is a popular DIY method for creating designs on glass, mirrors, tiles, and other surfaces. The cream contains acids that eat away at the top layer of the material, leaving behind a frosted etched effect. Standard etching cream only creates a white frosted look. However, many crafters and DIYers wish to add color to their etched designs. The good news is, there are several ways to add color to etched glass and other materials after using etching cream.

Using Paint Pens

One of the easiest ways to add color to etched designs is by using paint pens. Paint pens, also known as enamel markers, have an acrylic paint in a marker body which allows you to draw directly onto glass, metal, ceramic and more.

Here are some tips for using paint pens on etched pieces:

  • Let the etched area dry fully after using the etching cream. This allows the paint to adhere better.
  • Clean the surface thoroughly to remove any etching cream residue.
  • Shake the paint pen well before use.
  • Test the pen on a spare piece of glass first to ensure compatibility with the surface.
  • Draw your design in the etched areas, using multiple colors if desired.
  • Allow the paint to dry fully, about 24 hours, before handling.
  • Seal with a clear acrylic spray for added durability.

Paint pens allow you to add any color you like over the etched design quickly and easily. The paint will become permanent once cured. You can find paint pens at craft stores, art supply stores, or online.

Using Colored Enamel

Another way to add color to etched glass, tile or metal is by applying colored enamel. Enamel is a colored glass material that can be melted and fused to surfaces. Here is the process:

  1. Select a colored enamel in a powder or liquid form.
  2. Clean the etched surface thoroughly.
  3. Apply the enamel carefully within the etched areas.
  4. Fire the piece in a kiln according to the enamel manufacturer’s instructions to fuse it.
  5. Allow to cool fully before handling.

Using colored enamel to fill etched designs takes more time and work but creates a permanent result. The glass enamel will not scratch or fade over time. You will need access to a kiln to fuse the enamel.

Tinting the Etching Cream

Some etching cream products come in a standard white or cream shade. You can tint the cream itself with acrylic paints before applying it to the surface to create colored etched effects. Here is how:

  • Select acrylic paint in the desired color.
  • Mix a small amount of the etching cream with a bit of the acrylic paint.
  • Test on a spare piece of glass to ensure the color etches correctly.
  • Apply the tinted cream following the product directions.
  • The etched design will take on the tint color.

Tinting the etching cream with acrylics means you do not have to add color after etching. This technique allows you to make custom colored etching cream easily.

Using Stained Glass Patina

For glass etching, patinas can add colorful finishes. Patinas are chemical solutions that create stained glass effects. After etching glass, patinas are brushed or dipped onto the surface to tint the etched areas.

Common patina colors include:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Amber
  • Black

Multiple patinas can be layered to create custom colors. The patina will permanently tint the microscopic etching on the glass for a sleek finish.

Filling with Colored Sand

For a beach-inspired look, colored sand can be used to add hues to etched glassware, vases, mirrors, and more. Here is the technique:

  1. Etch your design as normal.
  2. Clean and dry the surface completely.
  3. Apply colored craft sand or fine glass beads/stones within the etched areas.
  4. Tap gently to remove excess.
  5. Finish by sealing with a layer of waterproof clear glue or resin.

The resin or glue seals the sand in place for a durable finish. Craft sand comes in a rainbow of colors to choose from. This method creates a unique scattered look within the etched outlines.

Using Rub N Buff

Rub N Buff is a special effects product used to add metallic finishes. It can be used on top of etched glass, tile, plastics, and metal. Here is how it works:

  • Etch your design as normal.
  • Clean and dry the etched piece.
  • Apply Rub N Buff with a soft cloth or cotton swab.
  • Buff gently to remove excess.
  • Seal with a clear acrylic spray.

Rub N Buff comes in various metallic colors to choose from including gold, silver, copper, bronze and more. The wax-based product will add a shiny metallic finish within the etched outlines only.

Filling with Colored Caulk

For filling larger or deeper etched areas, colored caulk can be used to add instant color. Clear silicone or acrylic caulk can be tinted with acrylic paints before applying. Here are some tips:

  • Squeeze out a bead of caulk onto a surface like cardboard.
  • Add a few drops of acrylic paint colors and mix together with a popsicle stick.
  • Test your custom colored caulk on a spare material first.
  • Apply the tinted caulk carefully within the etched areas and let dry.
  • Once cured, you can polish or sand flush if needed.

Colored caulk dries solid so offers a durable finish. It can be matched to any custom color desired.

Using Colored Grout

For tile etching, colored grout can be used within the etched recesses to add color. Standard white grout can also be tinted with acrylic paints. Here is how to grout etched tiles:

  1. Prepare your colored grout mixture.
  2. Apply grout within the etched areas, pressing firmly into the recesses.
  3. Wipe away excess grout from the tile surface.
  4. Clean and polish the tiles to reveal just the colored grout within the etchings.

Grout adds color while also protecting the etched tile edges from damage. Colored grout opens up many options for customizing the look.

Layering Multiple Color Techniques

You can also combine multiple techniques to add color to etched pieces. For example:

  • Tint the etching cream and apply to surface.
  • Once etched, use paint pens to add details.
  • Finish by brushing on a stained glass patina.


  • Use a primary color enamel to fill larger etched areas.
  • Add metallic Rub N Buff accents.
  • Outline certain sections with paint pens.

The combinations are endless! Layering colors and textures creates unique custom etched pieces.

Best Practices

When adding color to etched designs, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Always read and follow the individual product instructions closely.
  • Test products first on spare pieces of the material if possible.
  • Allow etching cream to fully dry before adding color.
  • Clean the surface thoroughly after etching to remove residue.
  • Apply products carefully within the recessed etched areas only.
  • Allow paints, enamels, epoxies, etc. to cure fully before handling.
  • Consider sealing the finished piece with a clear acrylic sealer for added durability.
  • Hand wash only, do not soak, and avoid abrasive cleaners.

Taking these steps will help ensure your colored etchings last for many years!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about adding color to etched pieces:

Question Answer
Does the etching cream color matter? White or cream etching cream works best as a base for adding colors later.
Can I etch and add color to items like sea glass or marbles? Etching cream and color techniques only work on solid glass, tile, metal, and other hard surfaces. Soft or porous items like sea glass will not etch properly.
Do I need a kiln for coloring etched glass? A kiln is only required when using colored enamels that need high heat to fuse the glass colors permanently. Other color techniques do not require a kiln.
How durable is colored etched glass? As long as the glass was etched properly and coloring products cured fully, the designs are durable for everyday use. Avoid soaking, harsh cleaners, or abrasives.


Adding color to etched glass, tile, metal and other materials opens up many creative possibilities. Whether using paint pens, colored enamel, tinted etching creams, patinas, or specialty fillers like sand and caulk, you can create custom etched pieces that make a statement. Use a single coloring technique or layer multiple methods. With the right etching prep, color application, and sealing, your art will last for many years to come. Exploring different looks by making test pieces is part of the fun and creativity of etching. Enjoy bringing your etched designs to life with gorgeous color!