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Etching a water bottle or tumbler the easy way

Two stainless steel powder-coated water bottles and one tumbler etched using Citristrip.

We all need to drink water and it’s especially nice if it stays cold, right? And if you drink coffee or tea I really like to put mine into a tumbler that will keep my drink warm for a long time. There is just nothing grosser than cold coffee or tea. Blech. So double walled stainless steel water bottles and tumblers are the ones we reach for the most, in fact DAILY, at our house. This makes a water bottle or tumbler a great gift!

As with most everything, I think water bottles and tumblers are made better with personalization and some kind of design that is special to the owner. This may stem from having a name with an unusual spelling, but I feel it deep in my bones.

I’ve got a really easy technique that gives you a permanent way to add a design onto any powder-coated water bottle or tumbler by "etching" into the powder coating. And you only need one easy to find, inexpensive product to get it done.

Video tutorial here:


Powder coated water bottle or tumbler

Citristrip Stripping Gel – this is available on Amazon, at Wal-mart and most home improvement stores

Scotch-Brite non-scratch scour pad – these are the blue ones



paper plate

weeding tool


permanent vinyl – my favorite is Oracal 651

more vinyl or painters tape – a way to tape off areas you don't want to etch on


Cricut or Silhouette

regular cutting mat

rubbing alcohol

embossing heat gun or blow dryer

dish soap

Let's get started

You can cut a small circle or other shape out of vinyl and test this process on the bottom of your water bottle or tumbler. To be honest each time I have made one of these I just go for it.

Measure the space on your water bottle or tumbler to see how large to make your design.

Since I have a Cricut I will be designing in Cricut Design Space. If you want to purchase an image from somewhere like Etsy, you can watch this video which will show you how to upload it into Cricut Design Space.

Pink powder-coated tumbler with the logo for Find Me Crafting etched into the side with Citristrip.

You can use names, titles, your logo, and whatever else you can dream up. I decided to use my own logo which is what I will be showing you in the tutorial. I also made water bottles with the name of the taekwondo studio where my daughter trains, and the American Sign Language sign for I love you for the daughter who is learning American Sign Language. Keep in mind that designs with open area in the middle and/or thick lines will work better.

Changing the size of a design in Cricut Design Space.

Size your design to fit your space. Do this by selecting the design and adjusting the size in the boxes at the top labeled “size”. If you want to change one of the measurements, say the width, and not the height, click the padlock above the size measurements and adjust away.

An arrow pointing to the Unite option in Cricut design Space.

If your design includes more than one piece or letter, select your entire design and then click “combine” in the lower right-hand corner and the “unite” option. This connects everything together as one piece. If you don’t and any of your shapes or letters are touching, they will cut as individual pieces instead of being connected.

Selecting a shape to add to a design in Cricut Design Space.

Now that everything is sized and connected together, select “shapes” from the menu on the left and then choose a rectangle. We are going to use this rectangle to create our stencil.

An arrow pointing to the "send backward" option in Cricut Design Space.

While the rectangle is selected, click “arrange” from the top and “send to back” or "send backward" so you can see your design once you move it on top of the rectangle.

An arrow pointing to the area that allows you to change the size of a design in Cricut Design Space.

Adjust the size of your rectangle so it is bigger than the design you have created and will cover the entire side of your water bottle or tumbler or close to it. Unlock the measurements so you can get the perfect size. You want to make sure to have a border around your design so when applying the Citristrip that area will be covered and you won’t accidentally etch it.

An arrow pointing to the "align, center" option in Cricut Design Space.

Center your design in the middle of the rectangle by moving it into the rectangle, selecting both the rectangle and the design, click the “align” bottom from the top, and then “center."

An arrow pointing to the "exclude" option to remove part of a design from a second part in Cricut Design Space.

Making sure both are still selected, click “combine” from the lower right and then “exclude”. This will remove the design from the middle of the rectangle making it perfect as a stencil.

Rolls of three different colors of Oracal 651 vinyl.

Time to cut out the design. I use permanent vinyl in a bright color that contrasts with my water bottle or tumbler for this step. Permanent because removable vinyl allows bleed through in the next step, and a contrasting color just because it is easier to see as you are placing it on your water bottle or tumbler.

Click “Make it” and on the next page “continue.”

An arrow pointing to the "more" pressure selection when cutting in Cricut Design Space.

I use the vinyl setting and adjust my pressure up to “more.”

Removing a section of vinyl after cutting it on a Cricut.

Once your design is cut out, use your weeding tool to only remove the vinyl from around the rectangle. I recommend reverse weeding the rest of your design which I will explain further down.

Cutting 1/2 inch slits in the side of a piece of vinyl after cutting a design into it with a Cricut.

I did this next step after I applied the transfer tape which made it a bigger pain in the butt to remove the transfer tape later. Learn from my mistakes and do this next step BEFORE applying the transfer tape.

Take the vinyl (that is still on the backing) off your cutting mat and use a pair of scissors to cut ½ inch slits in all the edges to allow the vinyl to more easily curve around your water bottle or tumbler when you apply it. Don’t get too close to the design itself, just do it at the edge.

Using a scraper to adhere transfer tape to a cut design in vinyl made by a Cricut.

NOW apply transfer tape to the entire design by placing it sticky side down on top of the vinyl and use a scraper to make sure it adheres.

Peeling the backing off of a piece of vinyl cut with a Cricut.

Lift the backing off of the transfer tape and vinyl making sure all of the vinyl pieces stay on the transfer tape.

Reverse weeding a design after the vinyl it has been cut into has been place onto a piece of transfer tape.

Now you’re going to do that reverse weeding thing I mentioned earlier. Use your weeding tool to remove the pieces of your design where you want the etching to go. This is all the letters and the center of the design making sure to leave the middles of any letters. Because everything is stuck to the transfer tape it’s much easier because tiny pieces will stay put.

Rubbing the side of a pink powder-coated tumbler with rubbing alcohol to remove any residue or dirt from hands.

Rub the water bottle or tumbler with rubbing alcohol on the side where you will be placing your design to remove any oil from your fingers or dirt so the vinyl will stick very well.

Lining up a design cut into a piece of vinyl with the top edge of a stainless steel tumbler.

Line up the top edge of your vinyl rectangle with the top edge of your water bottle or tumbler so you know your design is straight.

Pressing a vinyl stencil cut with a Cricut onto the side of a stainless steel tumbler.

Press the vinyl slowly down from the middle of the top to the bottom staying in the center. Then press outward to the edges of your vinyl. Use your scraper to adhere the vinyl.

Pick up and replace any areas that bubble up near the design itself so the vinyl is completely flat.

Removing transfer tape from a vinyl stencil adhered to a stainless steel tumbler.

Peel up the transfer tape slowly making sure all the vinyl stays on the water bottle or tumbler.

Use your fingers or scraper to rub the entire design and remove any bubbles.

Using an embossing heat gun to heat a vinyl stencil onto a stainless steel tumbler.

The next step is very important: Use an embossing heat gun or blow dryer to carefully heat sections of vinyl and then press down so it is very well adhered. Pay close attention to the edges of letters. You can actually watch small bubbles and lines flatten out and once it is fully attached you will be able to faintly see the texture of the water bottle or tumbler through the vinyl. Be careful though because the metal of the water bottle or tumbler gets hot very fast.

Using  blue painters' tape to mask an area of a stainless- steel tumbler to prevent etching in that area.

Use painters' tape or more vinyl on the rest of the water bottle or tumbler to mask it off and protect it from what comes next. Throw on an apron and some disposable gloves while you’re at to protect you and your clothes.

Applying Citristrip to a vinyl stencil to etch the design into a stainless-steel tumbler.

Pour some Citristrip onto a paper plate. Using a foam brush, apply a medium to thick layer of the Citristrip to the cut out design. Any remaining Citristrip can be put back into the container to use next time.

Using a weeding tool to check the powder coating under a layer of Citristrip to see if it has etched the design.

Now set a timer for an hour and wait. Once the hour has passed, use your weeding tool to check the powder coating under the Citristrip. If it is bubbling up and easily peels away, you’re ready for the next step. If not, wait longer. I add on 20 minute increments until it’s ready and peels easily away.

A word of caution here: Each brand of water bottle or tumbler is unique and even ones of the same brand but different color can have differing times for this step. I did two water bottles from the same brand but in different colors and one was ready after an hour and half, and the other took 7 hours. Check each one for readiness before moving on.

Using water to wash off Citristrip from a stainless-steel tumbler after etching a design into the side.

With disposable gloves on, run the design under running water and wash off most of the Citristrip.

Peel off the vinyl and tape.

Using a blue Scott-Brite non scratch scrubbing pad to remove powder coating etched with Citristrip.

Use the blue Scotch-Brite scrubber to remove the areas within your stencil. This will require a bit of elbow grease. Any areas that seem to be more stubborn I gently scrap at with my weeding tool being careful not to scratch the metal underneath.

Use dish soap to remove residue and any remaining gunk.

Your professional looking etched water bottle or tumbler is done! Wasn’t that easy?!

I have cup care instruction cards you can print on card stock for free down below to include with your gift.

Happy crafting!

2 comentarios

17 dic 2023

This is an AWESOME tutorial!!!! I'm usually the person who sees something and gets distracted by thinking I can do it without reading it all the way through - yours was so easy to follow, I followed it step by step and my water bottle turned out so great that I ended up making 5 more! One tip I can offer: don't do more than one at a time because scrubbing is exhausting! I can't wait to gift them because they look so professional! Thank you!!

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Contestando a

Thanks so much! I'm so happy your water bottles turned out great. I agree that the scrubbing is tiring but sooooo satisfying :)

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