Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cold Toner Transfer Etching onto Metal

I hope the title made sense. What I am going to show you are pieces that I made following this video.

The key to success in using this method is to experiment with the ratio of alcohol to acetone. What you want is a liquid that will soften the toner ink, not melt it.

Begin by printing a design with a LASER printer onto glossy paper, which I bought at Amazon pretty cheap. When you print it, you'll want to use the inverse of it in order for it to transfer in the correct orientation. Most image programs have a simple command to do inverse. Cut out your design. Try not to handle the paper too much and make sure your hands are clean.

Scuff up your copper (or silver) with a 3m green scuff pad. Make sure it is clean. I used denatured alcohol as the last cleaning step. (The video calls for some hard to get alcohol. The stuff from the hardware store works fine- denatured alcohol.)

NOTE- this next step needs to be done quickly because the liquids evaporate quickly. Lay down a generous wet layer of your liquid mixture onto the metal. Place the image, print side down, on the liquid and metal. You can use a small instrument like a q-tip to gently push the paper down, if you need to, in order for the paper to become saturated. Wait 15-20 seconds for the toner to soften. Using a folded paper towel, push down on the paper and metal using a firm touch, but being careful NOT to move anything.

After you have blotted the liquid, let the paper flash off. You can actually see that happening. After it has flashed off, place it in a small dish of water for about a minute or two. You should be able to lift the paper off easily.

After the paper comes off, you will notice that the black toner looks white. That is the paper sticking to it. It won't harm your etch. If etchant can eat metal- it can certainly eat paper first. Trust me.

Now, all you need to do is to don some gloves and submerge in ferric chloride for etching. There are a ton of youtube videos for that part. My favorite is actually a clip of a video. (Lexi uses a stamp, just ignore that part.)

When you are finished with the ferric chloride, you can return the used portion to the bottle. You can use it over and over, but as it ages, it loses its strength. I started out with a very weak old bottle and then got some new. You'll want to use a baking soda and water to clean up any messes.

In order to hurry things up to meet my Christmas deadline and because I am impatient, I used the saltwater battery method, too. But, be forewarned-- IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO USE THIS METHOD WITH STERLING SILVER. No matter what the guys says. It is NOT possible. I spent a great deal of time and money trying to get it to work - it doesn't. And, you can't use ferric chloride on sterling silver, either.

After doing the saltwater etch, I have to say that I prefer the ferric chloride method. But, try both ways for yourself and see which you prefer.

I took some quick pictures of my finished pieces. The finishes came out extra nice, but they didn't photograph as well as they look. Two in particular, the rat and Dr G,  had an almost holographic effect.

Here's the paw from the last post. This time with the patina.

For my brother. The picture could have been better....

One of a few I made.
For my doctor. This came out real nice.

It has frosted letters.
For my grand daughter. This was a pumpkin carving template.
Front and back- Heating and Air Conditioning. The finishes look much better in person!
This is my favorite. I love how it came out. I experimented a lot with it. I love how the "fur" came out.

That's it. If you have any questions just shoot them at me in the comments. I know I just kinda skimmed this.

Go make something awesome!


  1. Tela, thank you for sharing this process. This is something that I am anxious to try. It is incredible the way that you get such clean lines with your etching. I will be referencing as I start creating!! Thank you so much!!

    1. Thanks Susan! I think the ferric chloride works best. Of course, a nice clean transfer is most important.

  2. You can electro-etch Sterling silver with Cupric Nitrate available online from The Science Company. The same solution in a less concentrated will also etch copper, bronze, and brass. It can be filtered and reused for years. The disadvantage is tbe cost. It is expensive and requires a power supply that is rated at 2 to 3 amps. The etch is much smoother than using salt water. I took a week long class at William Holland last year. I can send you a link to John Fetvedt's instructions online if you are interested.

    1. Hi Kathy, thank you! I've seen plenty of directions but I would love to see the directions you have. I haven't done it, yet. I was waiting for better weather to have the windows open. I bought Ferric Nitrate. I believe that is what it was. I'd have to dig it out. I burned up some wall warts trying to do the salt water method. Now I need to get some more. That video really infuriates me! If you read all the comments on both his etching videos you will see that NO ONE was able to do that with silver. He should edit the video. I burned up a bunch of silver, time and money trying to get it to work.


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