Transfer print to metal

Is it possible to transfer an inkjet print from paper to metal? My
colleague says he can do it with a printout from a laser printer,
but has no success using a printout from an inkjet printer. His
technique is as follows:

Makes the graphics in reverse, black on white.

Makes a laser print.

Place paper on metal, print side down.

Rub over with cloth dipped in acetone.

Bingo! Your print is on your metal!

Can anyone do this using an inkjet printer?

Janet in Jerusalem

Can anyone do this using an inkjet printer? 

I print the design on the shiny side of a sheet of overhead
projector transparency film. Let it dry for a couple minutes then lay
a strip of transparent tape over it and burnish it down on the ink,
using care not to get any bubbles under it. Peel the tape off of the
film and position it over the work. Lay it down right where I want
it, burnish it down with a fingernail and then peel it back off from
one end. The tape will leave some of the ink on the work. Let it dry
for a while and then do my thing.

It’s usually not a perfect transfer, sometimes better than others.
Too much ink, a dark design or one with broad lines can leave blobs
of ink, while fine lines and light images can be almost invisible, so
if you need high detail this probably isn’t the best way to do it. It
works better on a piece with a fine matte finish as opposed to a high
polished or rough surface. The flatter the piece, the better it works
too, as the tape won’t wrap smoothly around curved surfaces. For
large designs I use clear packing tape. The “Low Noise” type works

Dave Phelps

There is ink jet transfer paper, but it will not work as an etching

Hi Janet, transferring the print will only work with laser print and
here’s why: the laser printer actually sprays a plastic based
compound on the surface of the paper which will then transfer
cleanly. In addition to the acetone technique, you can tape the
pattern to the recipient metal face down, and place the metal on an
electric griddle, heating the metal enough to liquify the print
which is then burnished to the surface of the metal with an agate
burnisher. Works like a charm! HP bottom of the line laser printer
is about $99 online, but do shop around.

Susan Ronan
Coronado, CA

Hi Janet,

Unfortunately you can’t do it with an inkjet printer (unfortunate
because we just bought a new printer and I didn’t think of buying a
laser printer). The key is that laser printers and xerox machines use
toner, which will come off with acetone and adhere to the surface of
the metal.

If you don’t want to buy a whole xerox machine or laser printer, you
can always go to your local library / use your corporate printer (if
you have a day job) and copy whatever it is you want to transfer onto
your metal surface.

If you’re sawing, engraving etc and will be touching the surface of
the metal frequently, you may want to apply a layer of spray laminate
to the metal surface. The toner tends to get rubbed off by the oils
and rubbish on our fingers.

All the best,
Alex Poh

Is it possible to transfer an inkjet print from paper to metal? 

Have you tried the inkjet transfer paper used to make prints on
T-shirts? Works with heat, rather than a solvent.

Al Balmer

Etching metal is my passion. I love how metal reacts with a mordant
with its textures and imperfections. There are many ways and aids to
transfer images onto metal. Traditional ink jet printers use water
based ink which is water soluble and don’t really transfer. An older
laser printer (they are pretty cheap now), with copier transparency
film is still my favorite.

Take a look at this protocol.
Photoetching Metal Using Photocopy Transfer - Ganoksin Jewelry Making Community

A similar process does not require the transparency film.

Use heavy weight high quality laser print paper.

Iron the image side down to the metal in the same way described in
the article, but make sure everything is dry and clean. The toner
will adhere to the metal with enough heat.

Allow the metal to cool down.

Soak the paper and the metal in a dish of warm water for about two

Gently rub the paper off. The image will remain behind. Etch as
described in the link.

Questions? Ask away!

Karen Christians

Hi, I’m new here - I just wanted to add that not ALL laser printer
toner contains the plastic so not all will work. I know that Samsung
and HP laser toner contains the plastics and will work and that
Brother laser printers will not work as Brother toner as far as I
know does not contain the poly plastics.


Hello there,

In my opinion the best method that I’ve experienced in transferring
designs onto metal in the way you are asking is hands down laser

The reason is because you can accurately transfer the toner by
melting it onto the metal surface. Furthermore, if you order the
specifically made transfer paper and especially the green foil that
you cover the transferred design on the metal, you can get the
precision that photo etching or magnesium plate etching but for super
cheap costs.

I recommend PCBFX (google the site). Their transfer paper and the
green foil you should get too are the best I’ve used. You also should
get an Apache laminator if you don’t already have one. It’s the
easiest way to heat and press the design onto the metal. Great laser
printers are only 80 bucks and they are wireless, you can print from
your phone if you want.

I recommend the Brother wireless printers.

I’m sure there are other methods but this way worked the best for

Many people who went with the more expensive photo etching probably
became frustrated with the difficulty of heating and pressing the
toner onto the metal. That is what the 100 dollar tough as a tank
Apache laminator comes in. But you have to pass the metal with your
transfer paper on at least 8 passes to make sure it’s hot enough and
the toner transferred completely.

When I used to try transferring images without the laminator, I had
failures almost every time. With the laminator, I have never had a
failed transfer after 20 or 30 times I’ve used the method.

PCBFX has directions on their website and the owner has emailed me
back when I had a few questions.

Rick in Florida.

Rick, good advice. You should know that the Apache laminator became
very expensive and they now recommend a different laminator on the
PCBFX website.

I have found a method to transfer ink-jet images to metal. This
method hasn’t been 100% successful, but it did work with some
experience. I have an older HP printer. I use # 74 black HP ink. HP
printers are recommended, but NOT Epson or Brother brands.


for info.

Tom’s transfer fluid may be easiest to use, but I did experiment &
found that “Nikolas Clear Brushing Lacquer” diluted with denatured
alcohol; 1:3 (1 part lacquer 3 parts denatured alcohol) worked best
for me. I wait ~1 minute, then burnish image. Others used Clear
Bullseye shellac diluted with 5-10 parts denatured alcohol.
Birchwood Casey Tru-oil did not work well for me. Of course do this
in a well ventilated area!

So, what works for your inkjet ink? Try applying different solvents
right onto ink side of a fresh print with q-tip. Correct solvent
will dissolve the ink. Try acetone, denatured alcohol, lacquer
thinner, naphtha, etc. Mix correct solvent with shellac or lacquer.
Experiment with proportions, but add more solvent than the

Some tips:

  1. Use Pictorico TPU100 Premium OHP Transparency Film for inkjet -
    (see B&H Photo to buy) - use the glossy, premium brand

  2. Use ‘Best Quality’ black & white setting on your printer

  3. May need to flip your drawing or image before copying [flip image
    on computer, or copy original to transparent film & then flip to

  4. Sand metal with 320 grit sandpaper or scotchbrite pad for
    ‘toothy’ surface, then clean the metal surface with denatured alcohol
    or acetone

  5. Wipe a thin even layer of transfer fluid on metal surface with
    cotton ball, let dry until tacky. [you may have to experiment with
    drying times]

  6. Tape the transparency with ink side down on the prepared surface

  7. Burnish image firmly over the back side of the transparency [I use agate burnisher]

  8. Lift slowly & image should be transferred

  9. Only fresh printed images should be used. They get too dry to
    transfer after a couple days.

  10. wipe sawdust (lemel) away with a brush, not fingers

Hope this helps!

Oh, I didn’t know that about the Apache being high price now.

Is it no longer in production? Books are like that too for some

If a 10 year old book goes out of production, I’ve seen some insane
prices on books.

There were two models at least of the Apache Laminator. One is the
Canadian version I think and one for U. S. One is digital and one is
not I believe.

The digital one is the easier to use one to me, and it ramps up to
400 degree’s and applies pressure! (just explaining for those who
don’t know about it)

I bought mine for about 120 on Amazon prime last year or maybe 1.5
years ago.


Rick, my error. When I wanted to buy one about 8 months ago they
were $250, if you could get one. There must have been a hiatus in
their manufacture. Amazon now has the Apache for $98. Also there is
another cheaper model by Apache that does not work for this purpose.
not enough heat.