Custom PC

HOW TO: Etch Glass Side Panels

By Antony Leather. Posted

When it comes to customising glass portions of your PC, etching is the easiest and safest way to do it. Tempered glass will shatter if you mess around with it too much, and it does so by design, leaving you with few options when it comes to customising glass side panels. Etching, though, is easy, perfectly safe, generates next to no mess and you can do it practically anywhere.

However, it’s important that you get it right the first time. Masking off areas is easy enough, especially if you use a cutting machine. However, etching is permanent and can’t be reversed, even with copious amounts of polishing, so you need to be very sure before you apply the etching cream. The end result can look fantastic, though, and it’s a great way to add a professional-looking design to your case.

1 / Decide on your design Creating an etching mask is tricky if you’re doing it by hand, in which case we recommend stocking to a simple design – otherwise it could take you days to cut out the masking. 

2 / Wash the panel To ensure the etching cream can work on the glass properly, it’s important to wash the panel first. This ensures there’s no grease or grime on the surface that could prevent the cream from making proper contact.

3 / Cut out masking We’ve used a Silhouette Cameo Portrait cutting machine to cut out our masking on adhesive vinyl film sheet, but you can also use carbon copy paper to trace a design onto adhesive film by hand, and then use a scalpel to cut out your design more accurately.

4 / Transfer to panel Once you’ve cut out your design, transfer the adhesive film to the chosen area on your PC, taking care not to damage it. If you have a particularly intricate design, you may want to use transfer paper to lift the masking off the backing sheet in order to transfer it.

5 / Insert the details Some designs will have sections that end up being separated from the main part as they’ve been cut out, such as holes in the middle of letters. Lift these using a scalpel or plastic pick, then place them into position within your mask. Again, transfer paper could help here, enabling you to lift the whole design in one go.

6 / Remove air bubbles Occasionally, placing the masking can result in visible air bubbles being trapped underneath it, especially in larger areas. You can use a bank card or a similar piece of flat, flexible plastic to work out the bubbles, lifting the film if necessary.

7 / Apply etching cream Once your masking is complete, apply the etching cream (we’ve used Armour Etch) using a brush. Apply it liberally, but don’t press too hard, as there’s no need to work it into the surface. Wipe off any drips and remove any cream that’s been accidentally applied outside the masking area immediately.

8/ Clean panel Follow the instructions for your cream regarding the length of time it needs to stay on the glass. This is usually only a minute or two at most. Once that time is up, put on some protective gloves and rinse the panel under warm water to remove the cream.

9 / Allow to dry You can now remove the masking. Clean the area to remove any sticky residue from the masking. The etching is quite durable, but avoid getting any coloured water-cooling coolants near it, as it can stain in the right conditions.

From Custom PC store