Ferric Chloride etching

I have been doing quite a bit of etching on copper using Press n’
Peel, and Ferric Chloride. I have been suspending my copper in the
Ferric Chloride face down—.(the face that is to be etched is down).
I keep it suspended so that it does not rest on the bottom. Recently
a friend sai= d that I should immerse it face up, and that there was
no need to have to rig up a system to suspend it. My first question
is, should I continue to suspend it face down, or should I have it
face up?

My second question is in regard to using my older model Canon copier
(PC920) which uses toner. I have been worried about the Press n’ peel
jamming in the machine, so have been taking my work to Laser quick
printers. However, lately they have switched to the new high speed
printers and my PNP copies have been coming out covered with little
pin dots as not enough toner is being deposited on them. I asked if
they were still using the carbon based toner and they assured me that
they were. Now, to my question. Have any of you used a Canon Copier
with Press N’Peel?

I did call Canon, but never got a good answer from them. The people
I spoke to were totally unfamiliar with Press N Peel and could not
advise me. One person said he was not sure, but he thought it would
be o.k., provided I let the machine cool down after each copy.
Another said that I would be ruining my copier.

Thanks for any help you can give me.

Recently a friend said that I should immerse it face up, and that
there was no need to have to rig up a system to suspend it. My
first question is, should I continue to suspend it face down, or
should I have it face up? 

You’re right to suspend it upside down. It lets the etched particles
precipitate to the bottom, allowing for a deeper and unclogged etch.

Sorry, I can’t help with the Cannon except to say that PNP is made
to go through copiers, so at least in theory, there shouldn’t be a

Happy etching!

Victoria Lansford

Ferric Chloride:

radio shak or reactive metals-modified hook type leads.excellent for
suspension face -whichever gives you the best result: for me Deep =
face down, not as deep=-face up P-NP, cannon + no Epson = yes,good
depostion of toner…also on your cannon check your toner level…and
ensure you have it set to BEST photo quality…or the equivalent, and
in the tab marked finishing ( my cannon has one in the printers and
scanners properties tab on that printer) make sure its set to
darkest, and economy mode :OFF… Xerox will give you a free colour
or b&W laser printer for your small business to try for various
applications.If you want,write me off list and i’ll send you the
link and /or application…

My HP laserjet 1100 series works best with P-n-P the thickness of
the material is able to be custom set with the guides onthe manual
paper feed…so if you have your printer9s) set to auto, try manual
and see if that doesn’t work better…Overall though…the Epson wins
for adjustibility of paper gauge,versatility and toner price…second
to the HP, third to Cannon- they are best at digital video cameras!


My first question is, should I continue to suspend it face down, or
should I have it face up? 

Your friend is wrong, you are right. Face down because otherwise the
copper debris will land on your copper.

Adding citric acid will increase the speed of your etch. It’s called
the Edinburg etch, the link to the university that created it has
been posted many times here, find it in the archives or do a good

You can buy citric acid at science or food supply places.

You definitely need to switch to a different copy shop, that’s a

Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Hi Alma face up works better for me beause I can see the amount of
etching. I tried my last batch face down and it didn;t seem to etch
as well…

I do copper and brass

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry


When I first took etching classes I was taught to suspend the metal
upside down, so that the bits of metal that were etched away could
settle to the bottom and not interfere with the process. After I’ve
used a batch of solution a few times, there is always some sludge at
the bottom. I use a suspension method that is very quick and easy. I
take a 3x4 sanding sponge from the hardware store (dense foam,
doesn’t absorb ferric chloride well, can be used over and over) and
wind duct tape around it, stick side out. I stick the metal to that
and suspend it in the solution. (When I etch bowls sitting right side
up, I switch out the ferric chloride solution every 15 minutes,
because the etching action slows down, as there’s no place for the
etched-away particles to go except the bottom of the bowl).

I learned silver etching from an excellent teacher, Angela Gleason
of the Monterey Bay Metal Arts Guild, and she taught us to attach an
aquarium pump to the container holding the etchant (in this case,
ferric nitrate) – because when etching silver you couldn’t just rely
on gravity to pull the etched particles of metal away effectively,
you had to agitate the solution to help the process. I’ve found this
also speeds up etching with ferric chloride, although it’s not as
necessary as with ferric nitrate.

I have an old Toshiba copier ($15 from a friend) that uses carbon
based toner. I had to play with the darkness setting before I got
copies that were just right. I only run a sheet of PnP at a time, so
the copier never gets a chance to heat up too much. I’ve heard of PnP
sheets sticking, but it hasn’t actually happened to me so far. I
don’t think that running one sheet at a time (i.e., one every 15
minutes) will ruin your Canon. You could always get another old one
(I hear you can pick them up for a few dollars at a dump or a solid
waste recycle place) and dedicate it just to the PnP.


I think your suspension idea is sound, any technique that keeps the
metal in a constant contact with the etchant is good, especially one
that will allow you to stir the fluid without touching the metal.
Putting it in face up is more likely to encourage air bubbles to
stick to the surface (but you will be able to see them) but there
isnt much in it. When we etch metallurgical samples they are always
immersed face down and suspended but commonly we do this for
electropolishing and we need to connect an electrode which is
otherwise insulated so just do it automatically for everything.


I have been using P & P BLUE with a cannon pc11 copier and an hp 2100
laser printer … works fine except when I get a burned out bulb in
the pc11 -like now. a real pain to change. The commercial copier
people may not let anyone use any media other than what they provide
for a good reason. pnp blue seems ok but the local people won’t use
it. I see their point - I fouled up a drum on our big fast office
xerox using the wrong overhead film.


Hi Alma,

I use my Canon copier with PnP blue, and it works great. I don’t
know why it would hurt the machine. Keep etching the copper facing
down. You are doing it correctly.

Cynthia Eid


Your image should always be facing downward. As the copper is etched
away, the copper residue will be taken away by gravity. You can speed
up this process by using a cheap aquarium pump and strapping it
outside your etching bucket. The vibration speeds up the action of
the etching. See my article on:

Suspending your piece is easy if you take thick styrofoam and some
double sided tape. Stick it to the back and the styrofoam will act
like a pontoon and keep your metal submerged, but not resting on the

Newer photocopiers depend on speed and electrostatic depositing of
carbon based toner to the film. The slower and older the copier, the
better the carbon deposit. Ink jet printers are water soluble, so
they won’t work. However, high quality laser printers are even better
than photocopiers. They deposit a great slathering of toner for the
PNP Blue and that is just what you want.

I use overhead transparency film and iron my images on. It’s getting
harder now, because the film quality has changed over the years along
with the technology, but it is still out there and it still works. A
feature of the overhead transparency film is that it is cheap and it
doesn’t mind getting heated up in the photocopier. I have an ancient
Canon 710PC, which is still the main photocopier for Metalwerx. It is
a sturdy machine! However, when I am doing photoetching, I make sure
that I purchase the more expensive toner for the printer and not the
cheap recycled stuff. I save my toner cartridge for just that purpose
and use the cheaper one for photocopies.

Good luck and happy etching!


School for Jewelry and the Metalarts
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
781 891 3854


Etched brass or copper particles need to be cleared away from the
surface of the metal or they will interfere with the action of
ferric chloride. (Silver pieces etched in ferric nitrate aren’t
bothered by the particles and can rest on the bottom face up.) Hence,
the piece needs to face towards the bottom to allow the particles to
fall away. The best way to accomplish this is to float the piece.
(You can superglue styrofoam from packing material or a cooler onto
the tape across the back of the piece.) There are two more reasons to
float the piece: One, because it’s much easier to check your work,
and without possibility of accidentally knocking off the resist with
tongs; and two because the flotation will also gently agitate the
piece–especially if you have good airflow.

I’m not familiar with Canon copiers. I usually just run off PNP at
the Kinko’s. But I doubt the material would jam in your printer if
you single-sheet feed it.

John Walbaum

Alma; I believe you friend is wrong. For nitric acid its ok to use
face up but with ferric a sludge develops which if used face up will
collect on the surface preventing a good etch. A very simple way I
found to avoid the rigging to hang the metal is simply bend the
corners down for about 3/8" I used 6x6 " squares of metal in a pyrex
baking pan. One more time saving tip is to cover the back with
plactic contact paper available in rolls at craft supply stores.

Dave Owen


I was taught to etch copper upside down and silver right side up.
I’ve always done it that way & have gotten good etches. I do spend a
lot of time brushing bubbles off my silver as it etches, but that’s

My copier doesn’t produce a strong enough black on my pnp. So I do
it at the local kinkos. I don’t tell em what I am up to, they’d
probably freak out. But I’m not worried, pnp is designed to go thru
the machine and does wonderfully. I’ve never hurt a machine yet with
it. I second Elaine, find a new print shop to run the pnp threw.

hth, stay cool today.

Dear Alma,

I used to etch with the plate facing up, but then I would have to
brush the surface with a feather to remove bubbles and residue from
the etching that would slow the progress.

Lately, I have been taping a block of Styrofoam to the back of my
copper or brass and it keeps the plate floating face down in the

You do not need to use a Canon copier with PNP paper just any copier
that has carbon based toner and not a laser printer. If your afraid
of ruining your personal printer, go to Kinko’s and use theirs. The
PNP paper is no worse than copying on a Mylar for overhead
projection. But you will want to set the copier to a darker print out
density to get a good amount of toner on the PNP.

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228

Ok so I was taught to etch incorrectly too man lol Time to curl up
with the complete metalsmith again.

Hot breezy humid brings to mind hammocks and iced tea

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry

I looked for PNP paper earlier this summer and did not find it. What
is your source?


This what the Edenberg etch is for! Citric acid is added to chelate (
tie up ad keep in solution) the reduced iron particles. It was
originated by art printmaker:

it has been discussed a lot search the orchid archive for “Edenberg
etch” there will be links there too.


Marilyn, PNP paper is carried by Thompson enamel, or you can get it
from Techniks.com. It is made by them.


PNP is stocked at Reactive Metals Studio in 5 and 20 sheet packs.

Bill, Deborah & Michele
Reactive Metals Studio, Inc
928-634-3434, 800-876-3434, 928-634-6734fx


I was taught to etch copper upside down and silver right side up.
I've always done it that way & have gotten good etches. I do spend
a lot of time brushing bubbles off my silver as it etches, but
that's life. 

You are probably using two different mordants (acid).

Etching in Ferric chloride eats away at exposed metal which needs to
be carried away be gravity. This is for your brass, bronze and

Etching in Nitric acid, your image needs to be upward, as the
chemical reaction between the nitric and the silver causes bubbles.
Dipping a feather and wiping away the bubbles, allows you to see the
progression of the etch. Much like when you are piercing silver and
the small silver bits get into the way. You have to push them out of
your field of vision.

Ferric Chloride is a slow etch. Set it and come back in an hour or
so. Nitric etching when fresh can take minutes, so you don’t want to
go anywhere while the etch is in progress.


School for Jewelry and the Metalarts
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
781 891 3854