Transferring an image to metal has been a bug bear for a long time
Then I discovered how to transfer an image to metal using a laser
Solved a lot of hassles for me.
Another way for those who don't like using chemicals:
1) print your image onto heavy laser printer paper, the expensive
stuff. There has been alternate printing onto clay based paper which
is the crappy advert flyers. Have not tried it yet.
2) clean the metal well first
3) iron the image directly onto the metal with setting on high
4) when metal is cool, soak the image with metal in water. Leave for
an hour. When the paper is saturated with water, slowly and gently
rub the paper off. The toner is left behind and is very stable.
Do you all use anything as a top coat when doing this? would
something like renaissance wax work or is it fine as is?
I have found the method Hans describes to be repeatedly frustrating
and not at all reliable in completely transferring a design to the
metal. There's an alternate method to this that I find a lot better,
a lot easier, and a lot less messy because it doesn't use solvents.
You will still need a laser printer that uses toner -- I bought a
cheap Hewlett-Packard P1102W wireless laser printer for under $100
USD. You will also need a cheap heated-roller laminator, which can be
found for around $20-25 USD, and you will need a roll of baking
parchment paper (NOT waxed paper!).
Cut your parchment into sheets about the same size as your printer
paper, making sure you handle it only on the edges if possible (you
don't want to contaminate the surface with oil or dirt from your
hands). Your pieces don't have to be perfect, they just shouldn't be
bigger than the printing paper you're using. Lay a piece of parchment
on top of a sheet of printer paper, and tape it firmly onto the top
edge of the paper. I use blue painter's masking tape, other types of
tape will also work. The taped edge is the edge you will feed into
Put the parchment-bearing paper into your printer, making sure that
the parchment is on the side that will be printed, and print your
Once the parchment is printed, do NOT touch the toner on the surface
and be careful not to set anything on it because you will ruin your
image and have to reprint it. If you aren't going to use it right
away, lay another piece of parchment over the printed surface and
carefully store it flat, like in a file folder.
I won't go into how to clean and prep your metal for transfer, since
that's easy info to find. Once your metal is ready, trim your image
out of the larger piece of parchment and place it with the toner side
down onto the metal.
Again, be careful with handling it as the toner comes off the
parchment very easily. Tape the parchment to the metal, toner side
down. I use blue painter's tape and cover the entire back of the
piece of parchment, overlapping onto the bare metal. This creates a
secure pocket so that the paper can't move, since the tape won't want
to stick to the siliconized parchment very well.
Now heat up your laminator for about 5-10 minutes and simply run
your flat piece of metal-with-parchment through it about ten times.
Don't let it cool down between runs, just keep running it through.
The metal will be hot, and you'll need some heat protection on your
hand to transfer it back into the laminator when it comes out.
Once you run it through enough times, set it aside and let it cool
completely. Then peel off the tape and the parchment will come right
off the surface, leaving your toner image securely on the metal.
Inspect your image to make sure it doesn't have any pinholes or
mistakes, which can be corrected with resist/paint/etc and you're
ready to etch.
That's it. Using this method I get about a 98% perfect transfer
rate, and it can be used to make incredibly fine detail.
I use a heat transfer method too, only I print the laser image on
overhead transparency plastic sheet and use an iron to transfer the
image. I heat a heavy pancake griddle on the stove to about medium
heat, put a paper towel on it and then the metal pice with the image
film resting on it, another piece of paper towel, then press a hot
iron on it until the image transfers.
This is not an exact science here, however, since there is about a
ten degree difference between being hot enough to make a clean
transfer and being so hot as to melt the transparency. But with
practice I can get amazingly fine detail. I have about a 75% success
rate lately. Some pieces I have to clean and redo.
I find Talia's laminator idea intriguing.
I also use the transparency/iron method, almost the same. I use an
iron held platen-up in a vice. The metal goes on the iron with the
image on top of it, and I burnish the image on with a steel
burnisher. It takes experimentation to figure out the iron setting.
I am very interested in the parchment method. I might try it with
the iron, but I also like the laminator idea. It sounds as though it
takes the guesswork out of the temperature setting.
An extra tiny tip-- if, like me, you hate waiting for metal to
cool-- set the sheet on a steel surface like a bench block. It sucks
the heat right out.