Sunday, August 16, 2009
Why I love etching
I've been doing lots of tiny pieces lately (more coming soon!) so I need a smaller hallmark. I have an etched brass plate with a bunch of hallmarks that I use to make the little tags I put on the back of my work, but they are too big for much of my new stuff, so it was time to see how small I can get. I get asked about how I get my art work on to my pieces quite regularly, so I thought I'd share a bit of the process here.
I etch on brass with ferric chloride (which is available in the US at electronic supply houses, since it is commonly used to etch PCB boards). The big trick is using Press n Peel blue transfer paper (also known as PNP) to transfer art to the brass for the resist. I do most of my artwork in Photoshop and Illustrator, and print it right onto the transfer paper in my toner based laser printer. You can also use a toner based copier with the PNP. You can google "copper etching" and get lots of info about it, or you can go to Art Jewelry magazine's website here:
and download the etching project. I hadn't etched in years and this refreshed my memory and introduced me to the PNP paper. I highly recommend it.
I did the art for the hallmark in Illustrator, so I have a nice vector file which can be resized without losing any image quality. I made it smaller - the line thickness of Lulu Bug is .35 PT, which is really fine! Once I got a little gang of them laid out, I printed it on to the PNP paper, cleaned my brass sheet and used an iron to transfer the image to the brass. I use a meat thermometer to check the iron temp - 275F seems to be optimal. Too hot or not hot enough and the image won't transfer. Once the image was transferred, I put tape on the back of the brass (to act as a resist and prevent the back from etching) and suspended the brass face down in a bath of ferric chloride. 45 minutes later I had my new tiny hallmark! The photo shows my original and the new one - 5/16" wide. I keep meaning to try photo polymer plates as an alternative to etching, but with the detail and fine lines I can get this way I probably won't get to it anytime soon.