Glass Decorating Methods Comparison

Glass Decorating Methods Comparison: Sandblasting vs Engraving vs Laser vs Printing


This is the premier method for etching glassware. Sandblasting produces a deep, permanent mark, and it allows for greater flexibility in design. It produces the best result of all the available methods. Sandblasting is a labor-intensive process. The glasses are first prepped with hand-applied film masks and protective taping. Glasses are blasted with stream of pressurized abrasive in a special cabinet one at a time, then washed and packaged for shipment.  At National Etching we use a sandblaster to ensure all our finished glassware is of the highest quality.

Benefits of sandblasting:

  • Etching is permanent and will never wash, chip or wear off.
  • Etched glass has a more elegant appearance with deep and even cuts.
  • Designs can be extremely intricate.


Limitations of sandblasting:

  • Color is not an option with etching. Etched designs will appear as frosted white on clear and colored glass.
  • In general, etched glassware is more expensive due to the hand labor required.



While many people use the terms etching and engraving interchangeably, they actually mean quite different things. Where etching involves use of pressurized air and abrasive, engraving utilizes a fixed tip (similar to a drill tip) to incise or cut grooves into the surface of the glass. Designs can be quite complex depending on the engraving tip used. Nowadays this is an automated process with machines able to control the tip. At National Etching we use an engraver for our line of polycarbonate drinkware.

Benefits of engraving:

  • Engraving is permanent and will never wash, chip or wear off.
  • Automated process greatly reduces hand labor required.
  • Ideal for plastic and polycarbonate drinkware.


Limitations of engraving:

  • Color is not an option with engraving. Engraved designs will appear as frosted white on clear and colored glass.
  • “Banding” in designs is common, where the grooves cut by the engraving tip are visible.
  • Complexity of engraved design is limited by the size of the engraving tip.


Laser etchLaser Engraving

With laser engraving, a laser is used to permanently mark the glass. The laser fractures the glass at a microscopic level, thereby vaporizing it. This technique does not involve the use of abrasive material, tool bits or inks. Rather, the laser acts similar to a pencil in that the laser beam traces preprogrammed designs. At National Etching, we use a laser for non-glassware applications such as wood, ceramic, stone and metal.


Benefits of laser engraving:

  • Lasering is permanent and will never wash, chip or wear off.
  • Automated process greatly reduces hand labor required.
  • Designs can be quite detailed


Limitations of laser engraving:

  • Color is not an option with lasering. Lasered designs will appear as frosted white on clear and colored glass.
  • Lasered glass has an uneven look.
  • Lasered polycarbonate drinkware turns yellow at cut marks as the chemical composition is altered by the heat.




Printing designs on glassware is a popular option for large production runs with color or at a lower cost. Designs are laid on screens then ink is pushed through the permeable screen and onto the glass surface. Ink is then cured in an UV light tunnel to increase durability. Screen preparation is labor intensive, thus accounting for high setup charges.



Benefits of printing:

  • Color! Full color printing is available as well as Pantone color matching.
  • Lower cost for large production runs.


Limitations of printing:

  • Durability. Despite claims of inks lasting over 500 dishwasher cycles, this is rarely experienced.
  • Minimum order size requirements can be daunting.
  • Screen setup charges can add up, especially with full color designs.


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