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How to Etch Designs on Old CDs

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"Happy birthday" banner made from compact discs. Gray.

How to etch words or designs on the backs of upcycled compact discs.

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I’ve been working on a series of posts about upcycling CDs. You may want to check out my tutorials on How to Make Banners with CDs and How to Make CD Photo Coasters too. I’ve been making coasters and wall art with the ridiculous number of free CDs that I got off Freecycle this month. Remember those old AOL CDs? I am now the proud owner of a LOT of those.


  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Toothpicks

How to Etch on Old CDs

This is pretty basic and easy to do.

Start by painting your CD backs (the shiny part for those of you youngins who aren’t familiar) with acrylic paint.

Let dry.

Now you can use a toothpick or any other sharp-ish object to scrape away designs.

Gray acrylic paint on the back of a CD. Scraping away paint with toothpick.
Craft made from old CDs

You can use stencils on top if you prefer.

Using a stencil to etch on back of CD

I hot glued a bunch of CDs together to make a big banner and made this “Happy Birthday!” banner. I like it! I think it would be a little better if I’d done 3 layers of paint, but I was impatient!

I hung it on the wall using clear pushpins in the holes of the CDs, but you could also add a string across with hot glue. I did that, but it wasn’t even so I decided to just use the holes of the CD. 

Gray happy birthday banner with CDs
Gray paint on backs of CDs to make a birthday banner.

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