Did you know that there is an easy way to etch your painted tumblers using a vinyl stencil and Citristrip? It looks very clean and elegant when you are finished. I’m going to walk you through the process. It’s addictive. Consider yourself warned.
A big shoutout to M2C1Designs on TikTok who originated the process.
I am going to walk you through how to etch a painted tumbler with two methods. One is time – just apply the Citristrip and let it sit until the paint comes up. Then I’m also going to show you how to speed it up by adding heat using a heat gun. I was very nervous to use the heat gun. It was my first time and for some reason I was picturing a flame thrower type situation. Not joking – I imagined my hair going up in flames. Luckily, it was not that at all. It was very easy to use. I recommend not using a craft heat gun. They don’t get hot enough. I also recommend a heat gun with a digital temperature reading. So much easier to control.
What Tumbler Do I Use?
You need a tumbler to etch your design on. Powder coated tumblers work the best. How do you find one of those you ask? I’ll let you in on a little secret, most tumblers are powder coated (or in Yeti’s case dura coated – but same concept). If you want to know for sure, either go to the manufacturer’s website or go to Amazon and find your tumbler. They always have it listed in the product description. But I wouldn’t lose sleep over it. Most tumblers are powder coated – even the ones that look smooth.
What Vinyl Do I Use?
The brand of vinyl you are using does matter. You want to use permanent vinyl. Don’t worry, it will peel off when you are done. I have heard Oracle 651 works well, and I personally use Teckwrap which works great. I have read that other brands can fall apart under the paint striper. I have also read that even though you are making a stencil, do not use stencil vinyl for the same reason.
A Test Area is a Must
You should always do a test area on the bottom of you tumbler when you are able (some tumblers have rubber bottoms and it’s not possible). Why? You need to know how long to leave the Citristrip on, or if you are using heat, you need to know how long to apply it and at what temperature. You might be thinking, BeesKnees, I’m using your guidelines for time, I know what I’m doing. Well even within the same brand times can vary based on color or cup style. If you don’t want to ruin a cup, I recommend testing it first with your etching method of choice.
You can make your test area cute!
I have seen some people use the scoring method. This is where you take an Xacto knife and cut along the outside of the design right against the vinyl. Why? The person doing it said it makes a trench and the Citristrip doesn’t cross this trench. Given the miniscule depth of the trench, this doesn’t really make sense to me. What does make sense is you are cutting the paint in a smooth line, so when you pull the paint off, the line is crisper. However, I tried this method both with heat and time. I admit I’m not that great at scoring, but it didn’t seem to help my design at all. For me this method is too time consuming and not worth it, so I don’t do it.
Disclaimer: I am not a safety professional. Please research before you try anything new to make sure it’s safe. That being said, I have learned a few things along the way.
- You should always wear gloves while using Citristrip. Nitrile gloves not latex (Citristrip will eat through latex).
- Wear protective eye gear. You do not want to get Citristrip in your eyes.
- Use Citristrip in a well ventilated room – open those windows.
Heating Citristrip is an entirely different animal. Along with all of the above safety precautions, please wear a vapor respirator. Protect your lungs when using heat to Citristrip. For more details please read my post: Is It Safe to Use Citristrip to Etch Tumblers
Let’s Get Started Etching with Citristrip
Regardless of your method (time or heat) the first steps are always the same. First, prepare your vinyl stencil. Cut your design out using your Cricut or Silhouette. You want to weed out the area you want to etch (this is the area you would normally keep).
Next, you want to clean your tumbler with rubbing alcohol. Vinyl adheres better to a clean surface. It is so important that you get your vinyl on good. If it’s not on well, your design will not have clean lines.
Next, you are ready to apply your vinyl stencil. Use transfer tape to get your vinyl on your tumbler. Rub the vinyl stencil down as hard as you can. I use a tennis ball for this part. Then, remove the transfer tape. Next, use heat to adhere it even better. You can use low heat from a heat gun or if you don’t have a heat gun use high heat from a hair dryer. 300F to 400F for about 30 seconds should do the trick.
Make sure there are no bubbles anywhere along the edge area where the Citristrip goes. You can have creases or bubbles in your vinyl further away from that area, but no bubbles around the edge of the etching area because that means the vinyl isn’t down well and Citristrip will go where you don’t want it.
Use painters tape to tape around the vinyl. This helps protect the rest of the tumbler from getting damaged. The Citristrip can drip.
Apply a thick layer of Citristrip using a brush (foam or regular).
This is where we choose our path. Do we let the Citristrip sit (time method) or do we use a heat gun (heat method). Continue on here for the time method. Skip down to the Heat Method section if you prefer to use a heat gun at this point.
We leave the Citristrip on until the paint starts to peel. I have a cheat sheet on my freebies page that gives times of tumblers I have tried thus far. I will continue to update it as I test more.
If you did a test spot, you should have a good idea of how long your Citristrip needs to sit on your painted tumbler. When you reach this time, scratch off a little of the Citristrip with whatever tool you choose. I use my Cricut Weeding Tool. If the paint comes up easily and you see stainless steel below, you are good to remove the Citristrip.
Next, rinse the Citristrip off under running water. I like to use my utility sink.
At this point, leave the vinyl on the tumbler. You will want to get a non-scratch scrubber to scrub the paint away. I will be honest, with the time method, depending on your design, this can take a while. Scrub until you have most of the paint off.
Now you can remove the vinyl. Once all the vinyl is off, continue to scrub. You will not be able to get those small sections and crisp up your edges. Once you have scrubbed without the vinyl, you can now use a tool (orange stick) to get the paint off around the edges. It might not look crisp at first, but if you keep working on the paint, it is loose and will come up. The more you work, the better it looks.
Etch a Tumbler with Citristrip Using the Heat Method
Step 1 – Heat Method
If using the heat method, we still need to complete steps 1-5 from above.
Step 2 – Heat Method
Once the Citristrip is applied, in most cases you leave it on for around 10 minutes. Then, after 10 minutes put a piece of aluminum foil over the vinyl to protect it from the heat. I also put a sheet of aluminum foil under my tumbler to protect my mat (even though it is heat safe and would probably be fine – but remember my flame thrower fears from above).
Step 3 – Heat Method
Heat the design using your heat gun. In most cases it’s approximately 700F for 90 seconds. But remember, use that test spot to know for sure. This is where the digital temperature on the heat gun really comes in handy. Just set it to 700 and you know you are spot on. When heating the design coated in Citristrip, rainbow arch it going back and forth over the design.
Step 4 – Heat Method
Perform Steps 7-9 from above.
Which Method is Better to Etch a Tumbler – Time vs Heat?
So, is it better to use the time method or the heat method. Well, it depends. If you have all the proper safety equipment, the heat method is definitely quicker and the paint usually comes off easier. If you don’t want to invest in the safety equipment and are occasionally making etched tumblers, the time method works great too. It just takes a little longer.
One thing to note, I was so surprised to find one of my tumblers worked better with the time method and didn’t work as well with the heat method. It was the Mininoo Wine Tumbler. So if you don’t want to go the heat route, this is a perfect tumbler to use for time. It’s quick (20 minutes) and the paint melted off like butter. So that just goes to show, you never know. That’s why we test first.
This brand works better without heat.
And that’s it! You are done. Whatever method you used, you ended in the same place – with a gorgeous elegant tumbler. Just follow these steps and you end up with an amazing product. Don’t forget to test on the bottom! I am definitely giving these for personalized Christmas gifts this year.
Now if you will excuse me, I’m off to etch anything I can find. So addictive!