diy wednesdays: message in a bottle

with february 14th right around the corner, we thought it would be fun to come up with an idea for a non-traditional valentine. glass etching cream is fairly inexpensive and super easy to use, and this “ship in a bottle” motif is a whimsical way to present your honey with a love letter they’ll never forget. click here for the full instructions and more photos or just click “read more” below.

happy valentine’s day!
derek & lauren


Here’s what you’ll need:

-Empty wine bottle
-Glass etching cream (like this)
-Newspaper or paper towels
-Stencil or contact paper
-Scissors/X-acto blade
-Rubber Gloves
-Foam Pad Brush
-Bucket of water, for rinsing

1. Get your hands on some glass. We chose a wine bottle, but the possibilities are endless, as you can do some nice etchwork on pretty much anything you can find: cups, vases, plates, mirrors, windows, candle holders, light fixtures, jelly jars…. anything but Pyrex, because tempered glass does not etch. And the flatter the surface, the better.

2. Head to your local craft/art/hobby store and pick up the main ingredient, etching cream. We use Armour Etch, and although it’s nowhere near as scary as the stuff they used back in the day (Hydrofluoric acid) you should still exercise caution and practice safety when using it. Which is why you’ll need gloves as well as something to cover your workspace, like newspaper. You don’t want to get this stuff on your skin (it’ll burn) and try not to get it on your clothes, because you love your clothes. Be smart and read all the instructions and warnings on the label.

3. Take a tour of the store picking up a paintbrush (or foam pad brush), some contact paper, masking tape, vinyl lettering, and any stickers you find with interesting silhouettes. This is the stuff you’ll be using to make your fun designs.

4. Once you’ve got all your materials the first thing to do is wash and dry your glass. If the surface is covered in dirt, dust, fingerprints and sticky stuff, the cream will have a harder time doing its job.

5. Figure out a fun and interesting way to decorate the glass with your adhesive “resistors”. Spell out something witty with the vinyl letters, cut a cute shape out of the contact paper, use stars and dots and whatever else you’ve got to make your glass look just how you want it. We found a ship silhouette and traced it onto Contact Paper before cutting it out with an X-acto blade. Apply to glass and press down nice and firm. Remember: any surface that is covered with a sticker or tape will NOT be etched. So in effect, what the stickers show you is a negative of what your finished product will look like.

6. Now that you’re happy with your design, put on your protective gloves, pick up your paintbrush and slather the etching cream liberally on your glass. Put on a nice thick coat covering all the spots you want etched, going over the surfaces of your “resistors” to make sure you’re reaching all the nooks and crannies.

7. After the cream has been on for 5 to 10 minutes you can rinse it off with water. Once you’re sure all the cream is gone, remove your stickers and dry your glass. That’s it. Whaddya know? Etched glass!


  1. Wonderful idea, I LOVE it!

  2. Kate says:

    Such a cool idea! Wish I had more time to implement it for tomorrow!

  3. CHIC says:

    This is a cute idea.

  4. kccr says:

    this is really lovely…would it work with a mirrored surface as well?

  5. yes, etching mirrors works too.

  6. Blair Helms says:

    I LOVE this idea! I am wonding how I could use this on my votive holders for the tables at my wedding. Maybe with our names and date, or a little shell or sandollar to go with our theme . But I’m not sure how I would make a stencil like that. Any ideas?

    Thanks! – Blair

  7. liz says:

    there are lots of free places to get stencils, or you make your own in any design program. should work great for personalizing items for a wedding.


  8. cjh says:

    Blair, you can make stencils like they did here. I’d look for simple designs in clipart. Or use adhesive letters/numbers. I did that on wine glasses a few years ago. Great personalized Christmas presents.

    This is a super cute idea!

  9. marilyn p. says:

    fantastic!I love it!

  10. Cakespy says:

    Ooh, how cool! And perfect for hiding a love note for Valentine’s day too ;-)

  11. sooo pretty. i love this.

  12. Aww that’s a really nice idea. I will keep this in mind for the future!!


  13. Valerie says:

    I ended up making my valentine a pirate themed message in a bottle last night. it was well received. thanks for the idea!

  14. Kelly says:

    This is brilliant. And it goes so nicely with my peg leg!


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