How to Make an Artistic Cuff Bracelet with an Etched Design

handmade plexiglass bracelet with etched design  (c) purl3agony 2013
handmade plexiglass bracelet with etched design (c) purl3agony 2013

I love interesting and eye-catching jewelry. I love it when people notice my jewelry or accessories and ask me about them. I like to search out unique pieces that make a personal statement - and these plexiglass bracelets certainly make a statement. Because the background is simple and clear, your design can create a bold artistic image against your skin, almost like a removable tattoo.

Although these bracelets are made with just a few common materials, this project is a multi-step process, and it certainly helps to have some experience with drawing. These bracelets are great for artists who want to wear their art on their cuff!

handmade bracelets with etched design  (c) purl3agony 2013
handmade bracelets with etched design (c) purl3agony 2013

Forming Your Blank Bracelet


I made my bracelets out of 1/8" thick plexiglass. I then used a commercially-made bracelet from my own collection as a template for the shape of my cuff, but you can make them any shape you want.

My cuffs are 7 inches long and about 2 inches high, and I rounded the ends so the bracelet would be comfortable to take on and off. I suggest you use one of your own bracelets for measurements before cutting out your plexiglass piece.

For best results, use an electric saw with a new, clean, fine tooth blade to avoid chipping when cutting out your plexiglass pieces. Once your bracelet blanks are cut, gently sand off any plastic debris using some fine sandpaper.

While you're cutting and forming your plexiglass pieces, I would make a few at a time. If you make a mistake shaping or etching your design on your bracelet, there's really no way to fix it. You should have a few back-up pieces to use.

bubbly handmade bracelet  (c) purl3agony 2013
bubbly handmade bracelet (c) purl3agony 2013


Once you've cut out your plexiglass pieces, the next step is to form them into your C-shaped cuff. Your plexiglass will probably have a paper backing. You can leave that on during the heating process. It will be easier to remove when your bracelet is warm.

1. Preheat your oven to 260 degrees. You may need to adjust the temperature and time based on your oven.

2. Place your plexiglass pieces on to a clean, metal baking sheet. Put the pieces on the baking sheet with the paper side down.

3. Bake your plexiglass for about 6-8 minutes. You should watch your pieces while they are heating. If they bake too long, they will start to bubble. This can become an interesting design feature, but you won't be able to etch your bracelet if it has bubbles (see image above).

4. Take your plexiglass blanks out of the oven and using protective gloves (an 'Ove' Glove is great for this), immediately start to bend your bracelet into a C-shape. Remember to leave enough open space in your C to slip your wrist through. I used another bracelet as a guide for shaping, but you can also form your bracelet around a piece of PVC pipe.

When forming your blank bracelet, bend the plexiglass with the paper towards the inside of your bracelet. The paper should just fall off as you bend it. Your heated bracelet should be just soft enough to bend, but not floppy.

You should form all of the bracelets at the same time. It shouldn't take a lot of pressure to shape your bracelet. If it's not bending easily, put it back in the oven and heat it again. Try extending the time in the oven by a few minutes.

Once you bracelet is shaped, let it cool completely.

etching tools  (c) purl3agony 2013
etching tools (c) purl3agony 2013

Etching Your Design or Image


Once your bracelet has it's shape, you will need some type of stylus to etch your design on your piece. I have two. One (on the top in the photo) is a tool that I bought for printmaking. It's made for etching copper plates for printmaking.

The other (on the bottom in the photo) seems to work a lot better for this project. My husband bought it for me at a big box home improvement store. I believe it is made for etching on metal if, for instance, you wanted to mark your name or identifying information on something.

etching a design on handmade bracelet  (c) purl3agony 2013
etching a design on handmade bracelet (c) purl3agony 2013

Transferring Your Image

You can trace your image/design on to your bracelet, or you can draw it freehand directly onto to the top surface.

If you want to trace it, first draw your image/design on a piece of tracing paper. Place your drawing inside your bracelet where you want it, and tape it tightly in place.

etched design on handmade bracelet   (c) purl3agony 2013
etched design on handmade bracelet (c) purl3agony 2013

Etching Your Design

Use your stylus to draw or trace your image on the outside top surface of your bracelet. When drawing with the stylus, you will actually be etching your design into the plexiglass. You will need to etch deeply to mark the material. You don't want to just score the surface, you want to etch it deep enough so that it makes a white mark in the plexiglass. You should be able to feel your etched lines when you run your fingernail over the surface.

Your marks are going to hold the color when you paint your bracelet, so put your lines close together, use crosshatching where you can. You want a dense concentration of lines in your design. Even if you just want a single line for an area of your image (like the antenna on the butterfly), you should go over this line a few times with your stylus.

handmade plexiglass bracelets with etched designs  (c) purl3agony 2012
handmade plexiglass bracelets with etched designs (c) purl3agony 2012

Adding Color to Your Bracelet

Once you've transferred your image onto your bracelet, wipe off any plastic debris that might be on the surface. Using acrylic paint and a paint brush, color in your design as you choose. I would use the paint at the consistency that it comes out of the tube - do not water it down at all - but you can mix and blend the colors as needed.

Let the paint dry completely, preferably overnight. Once the paint is dry, use your fingernail to scrape off the excess paint, as you might scratch off a lottery ticket. You should scratch until you can see the details and lines in your design.

If the color is coming completely off as you scratch, then your bracelet probably isn't etched deep enough. I would suggest taking your stylus and etching your design again, making sure that your marks are deep and dense. Then repaint your design, and scratch off the excess color again.

Just an FYI: Once your bracelet is complete, I would be a little careful in how you treat it. The plexiglass is sturdy, but I would keep the painted area away from water or soap if possible. Try to avoid scratching your image area with anything (like a brush) that might flake the paint.

There are many ways that you can personalize these bracelets with your choice of shape, design and image, and color. You can create abstract designs on your bracelet, or add images of your own artwork. The choices are completely up to you. I hope you create something wonderful and love wearing it!

copyright © 2013 by Donna Herron. All rights reserved.

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Comments 27 comments

theframjak profile image

theframjak 3 years ago from East Coast

purl3agony, these are so cute and so cool. I particularly love the butterfly bracelet. Thanks so much for sharing.

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

Hi theframjak! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!! Hope you have a chance to make one of these bracelets!

kidscrafts profile image

kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

Your bracelets are just beautiful! Interesting technique!

At one point in my life, I chose a symbol to represent myself and it's the butterfly; from me it's the symbol of transformation... so my favorite bracelet is the one with the butterfly:-)

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks, kidscrafts! I like the butterfly too - because I wear a lot of pink and purple :) I appreciate your comments!

kidscrafts profile image

kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

Wouldn't it be easier to do the etching when it's till flat (so before to place it in the oven)?

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

I think the heating process would soften a lot of the detail in the etching and you wouldn't have the grooves to capture your paint color. And when you bend the bracelet to shape it, you might distort your image. But... there's certainly room for experimentation with this project :) Have a great day!

sparkleyfinger profile image

sparkleyfinger 3 years ago from Glasgow

Awesome way to make unique pieces! I'm actually in awe at this. It's so simple and effective! Voted up and useful.

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

Hi sparkleyfinger - love your username :) and thanks so much for your compliments and support!! I appreciate it. Thanks again!

Linda DeJesus 3 years ago

Hi! Love this project and tutorial - Thanks for sharing it! One question, though - I understand you draw the design on the outside of the bracelet, but where do you do the etching? On the inside? Also - I bet this would make some cute rings as well! Thanks again - Linda

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

Hi Linda - The etching is part of the design and it is done on the top or outside of the bracelet. Thanks for your question. I will clarify that in the instructions. Thanks again!!

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

Hi shahpriya - Thanks so much! I'm glad you like them. I hope you have a great day too!

Berliner 3 years ago

Trank You!

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

Hi Berliner - You're welcome!

Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 3 years ago from Texas

OH, wow! This is SO neat! I had no idea you could make bracelets out of plexiglass using your own oven. Thank you for the step by step instructions and photos. I love cuff bracelets! The etched designs are very pretty and seems like something I could actually do. This is VERY useful! Thank you for sharing :)

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

Hi Jamie - I must admit, I think it's pretty cool too :) You're welcome and thanks for your comments!

CarolRucker profile image

CarolRucker 3 years ago from Cincinnati

Thanks for the information. I'm always on the lookout for new jewelry ideas to share.

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

Hi Carol - You're very welcome and thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comments :)

Mardi Robyn 3 years ago

Oh wow! What a neat process! Very pretty!

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

Hi Mardi - Thank you!! I appreciate your comments. I love seeing your postings on!

Lotti 3 years ago

Great idea, I'd love to try this! Just a suggestion, if you want to keep the design more safely you could try a little two-part epoxy resin in clear. Hopefully it'd attach firmly and permanently. Unless you'd like to be able to scrub out the paint and use different colours the next time. :D

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

Hi Lotti - Thanks for your suggestion! I'm not sure whether it would work or not. If you wanted to try this idea, I'd suggest using a scrap piece of plexiglass and doing a test etching before using the epoxy on a finished bracelet. Thanks again for stopping by!! I hope you get to try this project :)

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma

These are awesome! I have always loved clear jewelry. These would be neat even without designs, but your etchings are beautiful too!

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks so much, Sharkye11!! I've thought of making a bunch of thinner cuffs, maybe only 1/2 inch wide, leaving them blank, and wearing them as a pile on one wrist. I agree it would look very cool :)

Thanks for commenting! I appreciate it!

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

How very cool this idea is, and you've already got me thinking outside the box with it. Have you tried embedding beads into the plastic while it was hot? Pinning, etc.

heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

What beautiful pieces! Heating in the oven kind of reminds me of Shrinky Dinks (oh dear Lord, I'm showing my age). Like that they serve as temporary tattoos. Voted up and beautiful!

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 2 years ago from USA Author

Hi RTalloni - Interesting idea - it would take some testing to find out at what temperature the beads would stick to the plexiglass. For these bracelets, the temp was definitely NOT hot enough to adhere beads to the surface. I think if the plexiglass was to get hot enough to embed beads in the surface, the shape of the bracelet would get distorted and lose its stability. But there's probably some way to do exactly what you described - maybe with epoxy.

Thanks, as always, for your support, comments, share and pin!!

purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 2 years ago from USA Author

Thanks so much, Heidi! This bracelet project is a bit like Shrinky Dinks - just as much fun, but this plexiglass does not shrink in size :)

So glad you enjoyed this project! Thanks so much for your comments, vote up, and support. I appreciate it!

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