I have been doing some simple photoetching experiments this past week, and
getting caught up on this mailing list I realized the group’s been
I’ve been using photocopies (I don’t have a laser printer) ironed on to
metal to transfer the toner to the metal. The toner becomes the resist. I
needed a way of transferring words to metal, and I have now tried it with
bronze and silver bracelets with some success. See the last three images
on my page of new work and experiments in progress at:
This is similar to the method described in The Complete Metalsmith, Tim
McCreight, published in 1991 by Davis Publications. A local printmaker I
know uses acetone to release the toner from the paper, but I found I lose
too much detail with that method. Things I’ve learned over the past few
days with the ironing method:
-get a very good, dense photocopy or laser print. You want lots of toner.
-make sure the metal is flat. Warps and curves stop the paper from
contacting the metal.
-make sure the metal is clean and grease free. I use a very fine abrasive
(600 paper) under running water
-use the highest setting on the iron, that’s usually “linen”.
-put the metal on a flat piece of wood. You want the metal to get hot. If
you put the metal on a steel block the block sucks the heat away.
-use a thin, low quality paper for the photocopies. Better quality papers
absorb too much toner when they are ironed.
-soak the paper in water for a few minutes and then lay it on the metal
like a transfer. The wet paper is more flexible and stays exactly where
you want it. Lay a thin paper towel on top of that and iron. When you iron
it you can tell from the steam that the temperature is almost there. Heat
a few moments longer, usually until the paper begins to scorch.
-don’t iron the paper too long, or the ink gets absorbed instead of
-before the metal cools, peel the paper back slowly. The ink should still
be partly melted. If part of the ink has not transferred, iron those spots
now before you remove all the paper.
-it takes a lot of practice to get it right. Remove your mistakes with
acetone and try again. Photocopies are cheap!
-some minor flaws can be touched up with a waterproof fine tip marker.
For these experiments I used a nitric acid etch (1:4 acid to water ratio)
for a couple of hours. For anyone not familiar with etching, please read
all the necessary cautions in the books: mixing instructions, gloves, eye
protection, fume extraction etc.
Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada