Recently, I saw a project from a friend who had etched some slate pieces. I’d seen folks use their Curio and the etching tool, but this time my friend used the etching cream you normally use on glass. I just had to try it! Since not everyone has a Curio for etching, I thought it would be a great project to share. I’m going to show you how I etched some slate coasters with just a few simple materials.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click the link and purchase something, I may receive a small commission. You pay the same price. This helps me to be able to keep my business going and provide more tutorials.
Materials for etching slate
- Slate surface — Be careful to get actual, real slate and not a synthetic material. You can find coasters here, or use something like a serving tray or sign or (these are all paid Amazon links). All of these make great gifts! Clean this with rubbing alcohol before you start so it has time to dry thoroughly.
- Glass etching cream — I like both Armour Etch and Etch All (paid Amazon links). Silhouette America has some, but it is currently out of stock and has been for awhile. I’m using Armour Etch because it’s what I found in my stash first.
- Vinyl for stencil — There are several brands of stencil vinyl, but I actually don’t like them as well as something like Oracal 651. The Oracal 651 has a stronger adhesive so there’s less chance of the cream seeping under the edges of your design. You can even go to a higher Oracal number like 751 or 951. Those are made differently than 631/651 (calendared vs. cast vinyl) and so are conform more to things like curves and textures.
- Transfer tape
- Squeegee — This can be something as simple as an old gift card. I like the ones with a felt edge (paid Amazon link) so they don’t accidentally lift the stencil.
- Popsicle stick — This is to get the cream out of the jar and spread it around. Something like a spoon, knife or a paintbrush works as well. Some creams come with a brush.
- Gloves — These are optional, but some etching cream can irritate skin.
- Painter’s tape — Again, this is optional.
- Paper towels
Step 1: designing
The size and style of your design depends on the size of your slate piece. In general, don’t try to get too intricate, particularly on your first try. You need the vinyl stencil to have enough surface area to stay put on your slate. Since slate has a textured surface, you can see the necessity of this. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have used the script font so small on mine.
I used some mountain scenes by Sophie Gallo and a mix of fonts —
- The Western-looking font I got somewhere years ago, and the site doesn’t sell it any longer. Main Street by Lori Whitlock is similar.
- The script font is Krasty.
- The sans serif block font is one you can find free many places called Bebas Neue. In the Silhouette Design Store, the fonts The Hustle or Gello are good substitutes.
I measured my coaster, then drew a square of that size in my software. Most slate has an irregular edge, so be sure to leave room for some margin around the design. I filled my square with a dark gray, and filled my words and design with a lighter gray. This helps me visualize the project really well. Be sure also to account for things like handles or holes on your slate.
Step 2: Cutting and weeding the stencil
Cut your vinyl as you would with any vinyl. The big difference happens when you weed it. You want to remove the DESIGN portion, not the background. You’ll be putting the etching cream in the areas where you remove the design pieces.
Use your transfer tape to move the stencil to your slate piece. With the squeegee, burnish the stencil onto the surface.
Remove the transfer tape and double check to make sure all the edges are down as securely as possible on the slate. You can heat it slightly with a hair dryer to soften the vinyl (make it more pliable). As it cools, it will stay into the textures better. I also like to add some painter’s tape around the outer edge of my stencil (you’ll see that below).
Step 3: Etching the slate
Shake the etching cream, then stir it gently also. Using the popsicle stick, scoop out some of the cream and apply it over your stencil. Dab the cream on rather than scooting it so that you don’t dislodge your stencil.
You need a pretty thick layer. Don’t worry about wasting it — you can scoop the excess back into the jar later. Make sure you cover your entire design.
Leave the cream on for about 15 minutes. How long depends on your piece of slate, your cream, your weather, etc. I did only 1 coaster at first so that I could experiment. As with anything, be willing to “waste” some materials in order to learn. Some folks like to move it around as it sits — it just depends on which cream you’re using and if you get a good, thick coat on. I did not move it around after I got it on initially and it worked great. I do recommend letting it sit for at least several minutes undisturbed at the end.
Step 4: Cleaning
Once you’ve finished letting the cream sit, begin scooping the excess back into the jar. Not every product officially states that you can do this, but I’ve never had a problem reusing it.
Get the majority off, then use paper towels to dab off some more. Don’t take too long to do this or worry about being too precise. You just want to get the bulk off while your stencil is still intact.
Then go to your sink and rinse the remainder of the cream off. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look like anything is happening. That’s because it’s wet. As it dries, you’ll see the etching. After you’ve gotten as much off as you can, remove your stencil.
Begin washing with soap and water right away so that you don’t have any remnants of etching cream on your piece of slate.
Here’s my finished set of 4 coasters–
Yep! I definitely see some custom charcuterie boards in my gift-giving future.
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