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Zipatone transfers


A friend just gave me a batch of what looks like black decals. They
were in her deceased aunt’s studio. Her aunt was a jeweler and an
enamelist, so possibly they had something to do with her work. On the
outside of the package it says zipatone transfers. The sheets inside
the package are marked letraset instant lettering. I did some
googling on the Internet, but did not come up with any I
took one of the black decals, and was able to burnish the design onto
a piece of paper.

My friend says her aunt did a lot of etching and she thought perhaps
she used them as a resist in the acid. She also thought that her aunt
used them in her enameling, but did not know in what way. Can anyone
shed any light on this?

Which behoves me to mark the use of my things with full information
so that my grandaughter, who will inherit the whole kit and kaboodle
will know what everything is used for.

Alma Rands


It looks like a material that ( used to be) was used to do lettering
on engineering drawings. I probably have some somewhere. It may still
be available. I haven’t used it for years and years. It would
probably work as a resist at least with some mordant’s. I never used
it that way.

letraset may be a name I recall ??

it is still around



Ahhh, Letraset. Chart-pak. how well I remember those transfer
lettering sets. For some check here:

Before the days of computers (Yes, even before the days of command
prompt commands input!) there was a way to produce quality lettering.
You placed the sheet with the letters on the material you wanted the
lettering on then with a tool (often a pencil) burnished the
reverse, and the letter would transfer to the new surface. As I
remember incomplete transfers weren’t uncommon. It also took a deft
touch to align multiple characters so that the looked good.

I don’t know if they are any good as a resist in etching or not. I
suppose it would be worth a try. It would appear that you can still
find transfer lettering, but certainly not in the volume as when it
was in every office in the land.

Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Henderson, NV



We used Letraset in the design of our high school annual…way back
in the 60’s. You draw the lines w/ a non-repro pencil
(non-reproduction), line up the letters and burnish away. It
photographed well, and no lines are visible. Not sure how it could be
used in enameling. It usually sticks well enough that it can’t be
peeled back whole. I would imagine that it may be usable in etching,
but not sure what it’s made of, so would have to be tested.

I think I remember using it in the 80’s for a design project, but
haven’t seen at the art stores lately. But that could be because I’m
not looking for it.

Kay Taylor

On the outside of the package it says zipatone transfers. The
sheets inside the package are marked letraset instant lettering. I
did some googling on the Internet, but did not come up with any

Letraset has been in business forever, though I don’t recognize the
"zipatone" product. It may be a discontinued product. I suggest you
contact them through their web site,

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ

I did some googling on the Internet, but did not come up with any
I took one of the black decals, and was able to
burnish the design onto a piece of paper. 

Burnishing the letters (or symbols, etc) onto paper ( or vellum, or
other drafting film, etc.) is in fact their intended use. The stuff
kind of dates to before everyone could computer print anything they
wanted in any font they wished, but still have uses in the graphic
arts when clean lettering is desired somewhere where you can’t just
use your computer printer to generate the whole thing. So far as I
know, transfer lettering like this is still quite available, if not
quite as widely used as it once was.

The letters CAN be used as etch resists too. Some versions were
specifically made for this, especially for etching circuit boards.
But they don’t, as I recall, actually work all that well, tending to
lift off the metal more quickly than more standard resists do. As I
recall, the usual method for circuit boards was to use these things
to make a mask for exposing a standard photo resist, but people
could also use them directly with modestly good results on copper,
with ferric chloride mordant. Be sure the metal is very clean, of
course. And warming it a bit while applying the letters helps too.
Still, your results will vary…



This sounds like a different application from what I am familiar. I
have used a lot of zipatone. It came in sheets, what I used was red.
It was a sticky back material that you carefully peel the back off
of and then apply or apply and peel as you go. In this sense I could
see it being used for a resist as it leaves a plastic like sheet on
whatever medium you are using. I used it on sheets of mylar to
create “plane” areas for hand laying out of Printed Circuit Boards.
Before you peel and stick it can be cut into whatever shapes you
want. Any exposed areas after application might be able to be etched
as the remaining zipatone would act as a resist. What I used takes a
little practice to apply so go slow and if any air bubble get trapped
under the zipatone they can be carefully burnished out. Maybe in your
application they could be left alone. As for the letraset, that may
be a different product that was put inside the zipatone box. There
are letters with the same peel and stick application but they are
generally one letter at a time. Difficult to align. I used these
over 20 years ago. Mostly these have been replaced by computer
applications, at least in the PCB industry.


I think Zipatone is used to put an overall gray tint on the
background. Press it on like the letters


I don't know if they are any good as a resist in etching or not. 

I used to use them for etching. I doubt they’d stay on for silver,
but worked fine for copper or brass. But there sure are easier ways



I just realized how old I am. I had a graphic design business
starting in the late 1970s. Zipatone (and Letraset) was one of
several brands of dry transfer lettering and graphics for use in
paste-ups and sometimes one-off art. There were no computers yet, so
we used them for typography to supplement typesetting, and for clip
art in designs. They went directly on the (brochure /book/ signage/
flyer etc.) mechanicals that went to the printer. Most of us used
them a lot. When we closed our office around 1995, we could have
bought a decent car for the amount of money we had in stock. The
strangest thing to recall is the use of Chartpak tapes to create
perfect lines on maps and charts.

They might make great resists, if they don’t dissolve.


Hi Alma,

I think you probably have the right idea about the transfers. While
not perfect, Letraset is often used as an etch resist for one-off
jobs, particularly for things such as lettering on printed circuit
boards. It will tolerate ‘gentle’ etchants such as ferric chloride
well but is not so good with more aggressive ones such as nitric
acid. The metal you apply the transfer to must be very clean and
grease-free and the transfer must be rubbed down well without
trapping air bubbles. Letraset does have a limited lifespan which
varies depending upon storage conditions and, after a few years,
loses much of its original tackiness. After etching, it can be
cleaned off with almost any solvent or wire wool.

Best wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK


Zipatone is a proprietary name of a whole range of products. Ages ago
I worked as a Cartographer (Map maker) and used these products
regularly. In the days before computers, their press on letters were
used by the graphic arts field to label all manner of things. The
also had adhesive sheets in colors and patterns. That is how certain
areas of a map could be designated, such as green for forests. The
adhesive products would work for etching, as you can even use file
labels, but I would be skeptical of the press on or rub on,
especially if they have been around awhile. Even when the products
were “fresh” they had a disturbing habit of having half the letter
flake off before you could get it burnished on to the paper or mylar
sheet. Very frustrating!

Theresa Bright


Well, I just learned that these letraset transfers are waxed based
and so me enamelists used them for a quick design on their enamels.
The friend who gave them to me found some handwritten instructions
left by her aunt for their use. Although the envelop was labeled
Zipatone, it only contains Letraset transfers. The Letraset ones
have a waxy base. According to her notes she would rub them onto the
copper, sprinkle some enamel over them, pop them into a hot kiln for
10 seconds, and remove them from the kiln, and when the copper had
cooled the grains of enamel would have adhered to the waxy transfer.
Next she would dump off the excess enamel from the copper. The
copper would then be returned to the kiln for a full firing of the
enamel. The waxy transfer would burn off leaving no residue, only a
nice enamel design. The instructions did not state whether she did
this over bare copper, or fluxed copper. I would imagine fluxed or
pre-enameled or else there would be a lot of cleanup of the bare part
of the copper, and no mention is made of this in her notes, which are
quite detailed…

Obviously this method never became very popular, as it is not
mentioned in any of my enameling books, nor do I know of anyone using
this method.

Alma Rands


Zipatone was a product used in the printing industry during prepress
litho stripping or color separation.

Kevin Lindsey

Although the envelop was labeled Zipatone,

Likely half the people here have used Letraset for something or
another - starting with high school journalism for me. A search for
Zipatone brings up Wikipedia first thing (screentones), which says
that they are no longer in business…