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Can not get PNP paper to stick


I have a question that I know someone out there can answer for me: I
am trying to etch some ‘dog tags’ for a client. I did some research
and found out blue PNP paper was pretty much the only way to etch
letters. I took it to a copy shop, and had them use a toner-based
copier to print my text backwards, 2 copies. I practiced on copper
first, and ensured it was super clean and flat before putting it
under the iron. I had the iron set on polyester, (although I
eventually tried it on all the settings to no avail) and I could
never get it to stick all the way.So I thought maybe it wasn’t clean
enough, hot enough, too hot, maybe I just needed to try silver.
Everything I could think of I tried, and the results were always the
same: 75% on the inside middle of the block, and about 20% on the
outside edges is all I could ever get to stick. What am I doing

Thanks guys!

Tara Hutchinson
Tara Hutch Designs

I gave up on PNP. I never got consistent results with it. I switched
to a photo process using ImagOn film (from I believe the instructions say to
use a press to apply it to the metal, but I’ve been very successful
using water with a squeegee to get it onto the metal. I expose it
with a halogen flood lamp. It works great.


I have used it with great results. The important thing I learned the
hard way was to make sure the person who prints it out prints it on
the dull side. You iron it on the shiny side with the printed dull
side down. Also make sure they are using the most ink possible that
helps get a good impression as well. I lost a piece of PNP to that.
Iron it like you are burnishing something. Good Luck!

Tara -

What a timely question! I just got through a successful effort; it
was my third try. I would not have been prepared to be challenged by
the process had I not read your question first.

I preheated the iron hotter than what is called for; these are not
precision instruments, probably have ‘cold spots’, and need some
help along the way.

I believe the target metal must be quite hot, up to the listed 375
degrees. I used a heat gun on the metal first. Using tweezers, I put
it on a very thin cloth towel to protect the surface below, provide a
little cushion, but not so much that the iron would not make
commplete contact.

When I put the PnP on the metal (I used 20g copper), I could see
that the design was adhereing to the metal; the two times before it
had not appeared to stick. Then I put a thin sheet of paper over the
back of the PnP and started ironing. I pressed firmly and kept the
iron moving to overcome any irregular heating.

I made sure to quench the metal like the directions say. I believe
it does two things for you: allows you to handle the metal soon, and
makes a clean break of the resist surface that adheres from that
which does not adhere.

Keep in mind that this product is designed for the electronics
industry. The copper surface that is to be etched is very thin. When
the directions say that the target metal must be the correct
temperature, it doesn’t take much heat frrom the iron to do that.

The toner from the laser printer becomes the glue that holds the
resist in place. On extremely thin copper the heat of the iron is
sufficient. We use relatively thick metal, so we have to use a lot
more heat energy.

To recap:

+ use a very thin towel under the metal, on a hard surface
+ use a higher setting on the iron
+ heat the metal before placing the design
+ use firm pressure on the iron and keep it moving
+ quench in cool water to ensure a clean breakaway

I hope this helps you find success!

best regards,
Kelley Dragon

Hi Tara,

The manufacturer has stated that some of the new copiers run at too
high a temperature and the PNP won’t work. You might want to try a
laser printer and see if that helps.

Bill, Deborah, Michele & Sharon

Get a metal thermometer and test the temp. of your iron, it must be
just right.


I also gave up on PNP. ImagOn is great. I get mine from and it comes with instructions modified for
"jewelry" instead of “printing”. You apply it with water and a
squeegee and expose it with a CFL compact flourescent light bulb.
This is the way to go…good-bye PNP!


Tara, here are some things that might help:

  • Because you’re getting more transfer in the center than on the
    sides, it sounds like your piece does have a bit of a dome to it.
    I’ve found that most commercially cut pieces do have some doming just
    from the cutting process, and more so on larger pieces than smaller.
    You can try flattening the piece a bit more, or make sure you’re
    moving the iron around to get all the edges (I do the latter).

  • When using PnP, I have found the best results with my iron set
    about half again as high as recommended (wool setting). Every iron is
    different, so you might have to keep experimenting to find the right
    setting for you.

  • Make sure you’re on a flat section of your ironing board. Ours has
    only a couple of truly flat parts.

  • Move the iron around. This is a delicate operation, because you
    don’t want to smear the toner. I set the iron down on the piece and
    leave it undisturbed for 10-15 seconds (I’ll have to actually time
    that one of these days), then gently use the point of the iron with
    some pressure to make sure I’ve got all the edges.

  • Make sure you’re ironing long enough. All in all, I’m ironing for
    anywhere between one and two minutes. (You get to a point where you
    can tell from the look of the backing that you’re done.)

  • Allow the piece to cool before you peel off the backing. I iron
    between a folded sheet of paper; when it’s done, I pick up the paper
    and drop the piece into a small bowl of water.

  • Toner is basically plastic. When you put paper (or PnP) through
    your laser printer, the rollers melt it onto your paper (PnP). Using
    the iron transfers it to your metal. Some of the toner for the
    newer, faster laser printers has a higher melting point. (My old
    workhorse HP laser printer died a spectacular death late last year,
    and I had to replace it with a newer model. Not only are the toner
    cartridges much more expensive for far fewer prints, but I’ve had to
    adjust my heat settings and timing to get good PnP transfer with the
    new toner formulation for this printer.) The big printers/copiers at
    big copy shops work especially hot and fast. It could just be that
    they’re using some kind of super-high-heat toner and you’ll just
    never get good results. Try another (smaller) copy shop, or ask a
    friend to print it on their office copier/printer.

I hope this helps.

Lori Paximadis


You need to use a roller. Roll all over the thing. Heat it up for a
couple minutes then roll the heck out of it. Heat it up again and
roll again. I used to get the same problem with inkjet photo paper.
Here’s my process:

I need to update it to add a couple new things I discovered: the most
important being that a brass brush works miracles at getting the
toner off after and doesn’t remove any of the design. -m

I know someone who uses a humidifer in the room she is dong pnp so
there is good moisture in order to ensure good adhesion.


Tara, Are you sure that the copy place used dry carbon based toner?
The kind used at Kinko will not work, and many of the copy places are
no longer using carbon based toner. That may be your problem. I use
PNP for all my etching and have never had a problem, so I suspect it
may be the ink your copy place uses.


....found out blue PNP paper was pretty much the only way to etch

Tara, I use overhead projector transparencies (Apollo, or 3M’s
PP2500) for etching on base metals, using the ferric chloride that
Radio Shack sells. I like PnP, but these transparencies are easier to
find and somewhat cheaper. From your description of your process, I’d
guess that you need to use more heat (i.e., I don’t think the
polyester setting is hot enough).

For more help on etching,

–Katherine Palochak’s articles in Lapidary Journal, June and July of 1998
–Mona Clee’s article, “Easy Etching,” in Art Jewelry magazine, Nov. 2006
–the tutorial on Sarah and Andrew Goss’s website
–the Orchid Archives.

Have fun!
Judy Bjorkman

I worked with pnp paper successfully for several years. There are a
few tricks to make it work well.

-Make sure the metal is flat, the reason it’s not transfering on the
edges is that the iron is not making contact there.

-Sometimes the “bur” from sawing the metal will catch on the base of
the iron, quickly run a file around the edge of the metal so that it
is slightly tapered before you do your transfer.

-Dont use a metal cutting scissors use a jewelers saw to cut your
metal. -Oils from your skin will sometimes effect the transfer, First
clean your metal with Bon Ami cleanser ( like comet with no
chemicals) and a clean green scotchbrite pad, then rinse of the
metal under cold water, the metal is clean when you can pull it away
from the faucet and the water sits on top like an even pool of
water. The metal is still “dirty” if the water seperates.

-The size of the metal will affect the transfer, a one inch piece
tends to over heat. 6 square inches is too big. I always cut around
a 4" sq. then I held the iron flat on the metal without moving for
30 seconds. For 1 to 1 1/2 minutes I would rotate the iron all over
the metal. Then immedietly after take a bezel burnisher and gently
burnish the surface for 15 seconds.

  • It’s common to have missing areas with pnp. Non-glitter fingernail
    polish works great to fill in those areas. Cover any bare spots with
    that too and it will make your chemicals last longer.

After you get the design to transfer successfully there are a few
more things to know.

-Don’t get the ferric chloride anywhere near aluminum, it will
create a very scary smoking nuclear cloud. Ask me how I know :slight_smile:

-Use a 5 gallon ice cream bucket with a lid to do your etching. Then
you wont have to breathe the chemicals -Float your piece upside down
in the chemical. You can do that by attaching the metal by the edges
with clear packing tape to a piece of styrofoam.

Agitate the bucket every few minutes or set on the drier while it’s
running. That will help keep air pockets from forming under the
metal and create a more even etch.

Tracey Johnson

i’m reading this, and i did want to try a couple things with this
transfer process. at some point in time.

i am wondering if an electric soldering gun could help with this
process. it seems like a regular household iron might work on larger,
flat surfaces, but if you wanted to peer down and really observe the
process unfold, something smaller would help? also one can make
different “blades” for the soldering iron to adapt to curvilinear
surfaces for sure. heat “proof” silicon might be a good bench top
work surface, as well.

purely speculative at this point…

The original poster claimed she was having problems getting Press N
Peel Blue paper to stick to metal for an etching resist. Here is how
I use PnP Blue. I rarely have any problems:

Equipment: - Toner-based photo copier. You cannot use an ink jet
printer. Most laser printers should also work, but I’ve heard that
some of the newer Brother printers/copiers don’t. It may be something
to do with the toner formula. I use an old Sharp model AL1641CS. - A
clothing iron AND an electric griddle (both of mine are from a thrift
store and they are dedicated to this use). -Stove thermometer (from a
wood-burning stove store). It has a large bi-metal expansion coil and
a magent on the back). It registers up to way past the temp we need
here. It’s used to calibrate the iron and griddle. - A brayer, one of
those hard-rubber roller thingies that print artists use to roll
paper and ink flat. - Rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs. - Burnisher -
Second burnisher or large pair of blunt-tipped tweezers/tongs

Here is the procedure:- This is basic, but absolutely critical. Make
sure you have printed your image onto the DULL side of the PnP Blue
paper. That’s the side that has the blue waxy substance that
transfers to your metal. It just won’t work if you print onto the
shiny side. - Calibrate your iron and griddle. Use the thermometer’s
magnet to attach it flat on the heating surfaces of the iron and
griddle to calibrate what settings on your hot plate and griddle
correspond to the correct temp recommended by the maker of PnP Blue
(I forget what it is at the moment). I also use this thermometer for
calibrating my keum boo hot plate. You’ll only need to do this once
if you write the settings down and save the info. This is critical
because irons (and electric griddles) aren’t well-calibrated. Your
"cotton" setting, might be my “Rayon” setting.

Once you’ve calibrated, - Set the iron and griddle to heat to the
correct temperature. - Trim the PnP blue paper so it is slightly
smaller than the metal sheet. You want at least a millimeter or so of
metal all around the edges. If you don’t do this air/bubbles can
enter from the sides if you accidentally bump the edge of the PnP
paper that is extendeing beyone the metal. You can trim the metal
later if need be. - Made sure your metal (silver, copper, nickel,
stainless) is very clean and free of scratches. -Take a cottom swab
wetted with rubbing alcohol and swab a light layer of alcohol all
over the top surface of the metal (watching that no cotton fibers
come off onto the metal!). Do not use water in place of alcohol as it
will produce steam and you can trap steam/water bubbles under the PnP
film; alcohol volatilizes quickly enough that you shouldn’t have this
problem. -

Being careful not to touch the surface of the metal with your
fingers, touch one edge of the PnP Blue (DULL/printed side down) to
one edge of the metal and then carefully slide the rest of it down
with the other edge coming last. Center it. It should slide on the
wetted surface. - Place the brayer on the center of the PnP Blue and
quickly roll to one edge, go back to the middle and roll to the other
edge. This squeezes out excess alcohol and presses the PnP paper
smoothly into FLAT contact with the metal, removing any bubbles. -

Quickly (before all the alcohol evaporates) place the metal and PnP
Blue onto the pre-warmed griddle. Place a piece of copy paper or
paper towel over the metal (sometimes I forget to do this, but it
doesn’t seem to matter, so I’m not really sure how critical this is).

  • Place the pre-heated iron on to the paper/metal. You don’t have to
    press down; the weight of the iron is enough. You don’t have to move
    the iron back and forth over the piece (It’s not a shirt) unless the
    piece is larger than the iron can cover. In this case just move it
    from time to time and increase the overall heating time. Time the
    piece for the 2 (or is it 3? ) minutes recommended by the
    manufacturer (a bit longer if you have to move the iron). -

At the end of the time lift the iron and copy paper and inspect the
PnP blue. The pattern should show dark blue through the plastic
surface. If any areas don’t show dark blue (i. e: light blue), use
the burnisher. Holding the piece down with a second burnisher or any
blunt object (because the metal is hot!), I briskly burnish all the
lines of the pattern until they show dark blue. Don’t burnish too
hard or too long or the waxy blue substance can smear under the
plastic. Because the griddle keeps the metal up to temperature, you
can continue to work the pattern even though the iron is removed.
Just don’t overwork it. When the pattern looks dark blue all over
(meaning the blue material has adhered to the metal), remove the
piece from the griddle with a pair of tweezers/tongs. -

Let it cool before trying to remove the PnP Blue paper. (If you do it
right away the waxy blue film can smear. )

After it’s cool, use a craft knife to gently lift a corner of the
paper. Pulling on the corner, gently peel the paper from the metal.
You can use a craft knife to remove any smears or unwanted blue. Or
use a fine tipped china marker to fill in any line work that is too
light. If you’ve followed the procedure carefully, it’s rare you’ll
need to do much (if any) of this touch-up, unless it’s a very large
piece. I have done very complicated patterns on pieces 8 x 8 inches
this way with only minor touch-up needed. I just had to move the
iron to cover all the piece and increase the heating time. And use
the burnisher to make sure all the lines are dark blue. I can keep
metal prepared this way for months before I etch, as long as nothing
abrasive rubs against the pattern I’ve created. I usually keep the
patterned metal in plastic baggies.

Good luck. If you continue to have problems, feel free to contact me

Denny Turner


I found that you need the highest heat setting and really need to
burnish the paper onto the silver. You have to rub quite hard until
you see the image become quite clear through the back. Wait 5
minutes and then start to peel it off (after it’s cooled down). I’ve
never had a problem with PNP paper when used in this way.

Hope this helps.

Dana Evans


-I too, have used PNP Blue, and other methods for etch transfers
such as Kodak photo-print paper, magazine paper, Acetate overhead
sheets, Direct-print (no longer made), Copper-line paper and
Self-adhesive signage tape… here are my thoughts- I hope you can
profit from my mistakes:

-In reality the goal is to get the iron to remelt the toner, raise
the surface of the metal to a high enough point to adhere to the
toner, and not smear the image, and let the toner cool by simply
removing the iron. You must make sure the metal surface is clean and
oil free- wear gloves and swab the surface prior to any operation
with acetone to strip any oils off. First- patience- out of all the
processes- the acetate overhead projector sheets were the most
convenient for “seeing” where the transfer was but were a pain to
remove. The Kodak photo paper was the easiest to get to release (just
soak in warm soapy water and rub lightly with fingers), and to print
to. The rest were a general waste of time and effort overall- but
then again most folks using the other methods are printing circut
boards- not muchbut a series of parallel tracks and runs there.

Secondly- The heat source you are using has to be considered. The
COTTON setting or highest heat is advisable- this is what liquifies
the toner. The heat alone though is only part of the equation- equal
pressure is the key to getting the toner to transfer evenly. If your
iron has the steam holes in the plate- remember there is no pressure
over those holes no matter how hard you press… So, for the iron- a
high heat setting, solid pressure and if you can find a surface
without the steam holes then you are in business. A colleague of
mine has a silk-screen t-shirt press set for his silver and brass
sheets- large surface area- cam operated pressure plate… overkill
for my use- but not for his needs.

-When you place the design- tape it in place and put a paper towel
over theitem- keeps the adhesive from melting/sticking to the iron,
and allows for motion without the image slipping under heat and
smearing your image.

-Finally- patience! The surface you are transferring to needs a
prep- use a green scrubbie to “rough the surface” just a touch (You
can buff the surface at the end) to give the toner an area to adhere
to- and time- it is about time… Start by pressing the iron for 10
minutes at high- see what you have- and I mean really press- dont
slack off. adjust your time accordingly with your experiments.

SUMMARY- (thanks for making it this far)

1- Wear gloves

2- prep your metal surface clean off any oxides, swab with acetone
to remove oils/fingerprints or the specks of gremlin dust that will
taint your project

3- after metal is air dry place it on sturdy surface with a backing
that will not compress during your pressing- and place iron on metal
to begin heating surface.

4- let your metal heat while you tape and get your transfer
(previously printed and trimmed) ready

5- lift iron, apply transfer- tape to surface- and place paper towel

6- press iron FIRMLY into table surface and HOLD for 10 minutes
(make sure the holes are not over the design- no pressure- no

7- remove from heat- soak in soapy water. Use light finger pressure
to scrub off the paper bits.

Notes: Use Kodak Photo paper (Glossy is best) and if your toner
smears or smudges- it was too hot and the pressure slid the
transfer- clean with scrubbie and acetone, and repeat- pressure is
straight down. Hope this helps- are you electro etching or acid
dipping? Electro etching will not undercut and give a crisper image
all around- as well the toner transfer will not flake off as easy in
my experience.


Although PNP paper is not my favorite method of image transfer
(unless I’m doing a large batch when I can use an oven), I have had
luck with it over the past. I used a press cloth in foil to envelope
my metal and attached PNP paper. I had my iron on the highest
setting. I kept it moving under as much pressure as I could for at
least 10 minutes, flipping my copper from one side to the other at
least once during that time span. I usually had to do at least 20
images in this fashion, so it was very time consuming. I use a
different system now that is much faster and more accurate, but much
more expensive.

Sandra Graves, Isis Rising

PNP problem. I’ve been reading these blogs because I have had
problems with PNP also. Today though I read a response that mentioned
using inkjet photo paper in a laser printer. After I read that I ran
up to my computer, grabbed some HP inkjet brochure paper and ran it
thru my laser printer.

Voila!!! I cleaned my silver, placed my printed image on (upside
down of course); set my iron on it at medium heat for 60 seconds,
then turned up the heat and used the tip of the iron to heat and
burnish my image. In less than a total of 3 minutes I have an
indestructable transfer. I willnot go back to PNP. Give it a try,
it’s well worth your effort.

Agitate the bucket every few minutes or set on the drier while
it's running. That will help keep air pockets from forming under
the metal and create a more even etch. 

I like to set my etches on an agitator used to debubble casting
investment. It keeps a very even vibration just strong enough to
keep the sludge out of the kerfs. Also, regarding PnP, I have found
that after heating/burnishing/whatever quickly put the piece under
cold running water. That seems to set the resist and separate it from
the PnP acetate.

from Don in SOFL