Glass Transformation: Etched Glass versus Decorative Window Film

The use of glass in new buildings and retrofit projects continues to increase, and its applications aren’t limited to exterior windows. Glass is being used inside as well, from glass-walled offices and cubicles to partitions and stairways. Using glass on both the interior and exterior allows natural light to flow throughout a building, encourages collaboration and productivity by eliminating visual barriers, and makes 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. Use chemicals to etch the glass surface
2. Apply decorative window film to the glass

Let’s look at how these two options compare when it comes to price, design options, installation and maintenance.


The cost of etching, cutting, sandblasting, or texturing glass is high because it involves labour, 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 accidentally broken.

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


Just as easily as tastes 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 with no glass damage. 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 etched, cut, sandblasted or textured, it can’t revert to its original appearance.

Design Options

Your imagination is the only limit to decorative window film options – especially with Vista® by LLumar® new Custom Decorative Window Film. Once you’ve selected the pattern, you can control colour, 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, is printed directly onto decorative film. To add to the customization, hundreds of transparency and light-transmission options offer varying degrees of privacy and light filtering.

Customizing decorative glass is more complicated. 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 grease stains and fingerprints, as well as to dust and dirt accumulation, 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. While wearing gloves is often necessary to keep new fingerprints from being left behind.

Conversely, decorative film is less susceptible to grease stains, fingerprints, and dust and dirt accumulation. It’s durable, easy to clean and doesn’t 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).

Design Time

From initial design to installation, a custom decorative film can offer a pretty quick turnaround time. Etched glass often takes months to produce and doesn’t allow for modifications in the process if you or your client would like to make a change.

Plus, with custom decorative film, you can request a full-size sample so you can apply it and see if it’s the best choice before making your final decision. This takes the risk out – especially if you’re applying this to a large project.


Decorative window film goes on quickly and quietly – with few disruptions to daily operations, no loud noises or distracting mess. In fact, 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.


Due to the chemical treatment involved in the glass-etching process, decorative glass may not qualify for recycling at the end of its lifecycle – so it heads straight into the already-overburdened landfills.

When window film needs to be removed, a smaller amount of waste is generated as compared to large pieces of etched glass. And depending on the type 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, graphic patterns, gradients, textures, colours or custom designs?

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