Frost relief glass bead

Acid-etch a glass bead to create a luminous glow
Acid etching is a chemical process that roughens the surface of glass at a microscopic level — just enough to give your glass beads a frosted matte texture. Try this technique to add a new dimension to your jewelry. The tactile and visual contrast catches the light in unique ways, allowing the bead to appear as if it is glowing from within.

Safety first

  • Protect your eyes, skin, and respiratory system from contact with the acid. Although the chemicals you’re using are fairly mild, they can still be serious irritants for some people, and can cause serious chemical burns if used carelessly.
  • Good ventilation is especially important if you have asthma or are chemically sensitive in any way.
  • Use a respirator mask rated for acid vapors.
  • Wear gloves and long sleeves. Nitrile gloves are the best for acids, but vinyl or latex are okay, too.
  • Wear safety glasses.
  • Keep chemicals away from curious animals and children.

Download the PDF for more safety and design tips.


  • glass bead of any size
  • acid-etching crème
  • baking soda
  • bamboo skewers
  • Color Shaper painting tool or small paintbrush
  • cotton cloth
  • craft glue
  • distilled white vinegar (optional)
  • old toothbrush
  • newspaper, plastic sheet, or large garbage bag
  • 2–3 plastic containers
  • plastic knife or similar plastic applicator tool (optional)
  • resist gel
  • Styrofoam packing material or small bottle (optional)
  • safety equipment including nitrile, vinyl, or latex gloves; respirator mask; and safety glasses



1. Place a small drop of craft glue on the tip of a bamboo skewer, and insert the skewer securely in the bead hole (PHOTO A). Let the glue dry. If you want a small stand to hold the skewer in place, poke the skewer handle into Styrofoam packing material or prop it inside a bottle.

2. Spread newspaper, a plastic sheet, or a garbage bag over your work surface to protect it. Fill a plastic container with water for cleaning your brush. Using another plastic container or lid as a palette, squeeze out about a dime-sized amount of resist gel.

3. Gently wipe your bead with a cotton cloth to remove fingerprints and dust. Dab a small amount of resist on the tip of your Color Shaper tool or paintbrush, and smooth it onto the parts of the bead you want to protect from the etching process (PHOTO B).

4. Stir the acid etching crème, and dab a small amount of it on the end of a bamboo skewer, plastic knife, or other applicator tool. Smooth the crème over the surface of the bead while trying not to touch the glass directly with your applicator tool, like smoothing frosting onto a cake (PHOTO C). Repeat until the surface of the bead is completely covered. The layer of crème is thick enough when it hides the color of the glass underneath. Leave the crème on for about 10 minutes.

5. While you wait for your bead to etch, mix about 3 tablespoons (44.4 ml) of baking soda and 1 cup (.24 l) of water in a plastic container to make a neutralizing solution.


6. Using your applicator tool, gently wipe away excess crème, and scrape it back into the container of crème. Immerse the bead in the neutralizing solution. Swish the bead around a bit, and use an old toothbrush to gently scrub the surface of the bead (PHOTO D), which speeds the neutralizing process. When there are no more bubbles, the acid on your bead has been neutralized.

7. Rinse your bead in clean water. If the glue and resist do not come off, soak the bead in water for a few minutes until the skewer slides out and the resist comes off easily. Allow the bead to dry. If you see a rim of white around the edges of the etched areas, use the toothbrush to lightly scrub the bead with vinegar.

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