What is the difference between Etched Glass and Decorative Window Film?

posted by Solar Shield, 3 years ago

Decorative window film is being used on glass as interior design as well as privacy. We see this in glass-walled offices, cubicles, partitions and stairways. Using glass on both the interior and exterior allows natural light to flow throughout a building and eliminates visual barriers  making a space feel larger.

But plain glass can be a challenge when it comes to creating a unique design. Since glass is used in almost every building, how can you make it stand out?

There are two options to transform the look of glass:
  1. Using chemicals to etch the glass surface
  2. Apply decorative window film to the glass

You want to make sure and  compare the differences when it comes to design options, installation, maintenance and price.


The cost of cutting, etching, sandblasting, or texturing glass is high because it involves labor, materials, shipping, and installation. Once a decorative glass order is placed, it can’t be changed without additional cost. It’s also expensive to replace if the glass is ever gets broken or damaged.

Decorative window film costs only a fraction of what etched glass costs in terms of labor and material. It’s also much more cost-effective to ship as compared to large, heavy sheets of glass.


Just as easily as tastes preferences can change, decorative window film can be removed without impacting the existing glass. Whether your client is ready for a new look, or tenants are vacating a space, decorative film comes off quickly without harming the glass. New decorative film can be placed on the surface if desired, or the glass can remain plain.

Decorative glass, however, is permanent. Once glass has been cut, etched, sandblasted, or textured, it cannot revert to its original appearance.

Design Options

Your imagination is the only limit to decorative window film possibilities. First there are hundreds of already patterned films. Then you can customize further if you want to change color, opacity, pattern size, and texture to design almost anything your creative mind imagines. That imagination is brought to life through high-definition graphics, complete with impressive detail, and is printed directly onto decorative film. To add to the customization, hundreds of transparency and light-transmission options offer varying degrees of light filtering and privacy.

Customizing decorative glass etching is a more complicated process. Unless you use an existing pattern, creating customized etched glass involves finding an artist who is familiar with glass etching techniques, and has the equipment to complete your project.


Vulnerability to fingerprints or grease stains, as well as the acclimation to dust and dirt, often makes etched glass a less desirable option. These factors make keeping it clean a challenge. Special cleaners and cloths are needed to appropriately maintain etched glass.

In contrast to etched glass, decorative film is less susceptible to fingerprints, grease stains, and dust and dirt accumulation. It’s durable, easy to clean and does not require special cleaning fluid or techniques. In fact, the glass can be cleaned and maintained just like it was before the film was applied (using commercial cleaners or soap and water, with the exception of abrasives).

Design Time

From initial design to installation, custom decorative film can offer a swift turnaround time. Etched glass often takes months to produce and does not allow for modifications in the process, should you or your client would like to make a change.


Decorative window film installations happen quickly and quietly – with few disruptions to daily operations, no loud noises, or distracting mess. Often, many interior film installations can be completed in a day or less, depending on the size of the project.

Installation of etched glass, on the other hand takes longer, and is often more disruptive.


The chemical treatment involved in the glass-etching process may not qualify for recycling at the end of its lifecycle.

When window film needs to be removed, a smaller amount of waste is generated, as compared to large pieces of etched glass. Depending on the type of film used, decorative film may qualify for recycling.

Choosing the Right Type of Decorative Window Film

Decorative film lets you add your own style to a piece of glass to quickly and cost-effectively, making it uniquely yours. When you’re working with a smooth glass surface, decorative film is an ideal solution. But, which style is best for your project: frosts, gradients, graphic patterns, textures, colors or custom designs?

For more ideas on  decorative window film, the wide array of film options, and when and where they can be used, click the above link.

If you have complete a recent decorative film project we would love to know how it turned out! If you have any pictures, we would love to see them.

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