Avoiding bubbles appearing under the vinyl resist on large sheets of glass when preparing etching or other resist based processes is often difficult.
A trick I learned from the firms that apply advertising vinyl to vehicles is to use a spray bottle filled with water that is just soapy. A few drops per pint will be sufficient.
Their process uses pre-cut vinyl with an adhesive backing. So the first thing to do is to pick out the unwanted pieces. That is the pieces covering the areas that will be etched. Then you need to put a backing onto the picked out vinyl – usually really wide masking tape.
Lay out the vinyl on the glass. Tape one end of the vinyl securely to the glass. This ensures that you get the vinyl correctly aligned over the whole area. Fold the whole piece of combined vinyl and backing back to the taped edge.
Carefully peal back the covering for the adhesive side making sure you do not pull off any of the isolated vinyl pieces. Spray the glass with a mist of soapy water to ensure all the glass is covered, do not have the glass running with liquid, but be generous.
Start the application process by folding the vinyl onto the glass. Use a credit card or better, a large squeegee such as used for grouting mosaics. The tool you use must be smooth to avoid scratching the vinyl. Push the soapy water forward and to the sides as you move along the piece of glass. Keep pulling the protective layer evenly off the adhesive side as you work forward.
When completely attached, remove the backing from the vinyl. This will enable you to see any bubbles you may have left. Work out any bubbles by further pressing the soapy water out from under the vinyl to the edges. Where any remaining bubbles are in the way of the design, puncture them and work out the bubble of moisture through the hole. Cover the puncture with a small piece of vinyl.
Leave for a day for the vinyl to become firmly attached to the glass and then you are ready to do the etching.
Where you are going to cut the vinyl by hand, you do not need the backing. All the rest of the process is the same.