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:
http://www.artjewelrymag.com/art/default.aspx?c=a&id=647
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.

6 comments:

Eve M Metalsmith said...

I ADORE etching too! The possibilities are absolutely endless, anxd the results achieved are (for me) different every time. I have recently purchased some of the blue pnp paper, but as I don't have ready access to a laser printer (mine is inkjet) I haven't begun experimenting yet. I've been using the much less than perfect technique of hand drawing my resist on. I love the results of this, but it is quite hard to get a lot of detail, and is quite time consuming.

Thanks for your post, I think it's given me the 'nudge' I've been needing to begin working with the pnp paper!

Haley @ Iridescent Dark said...

Wow, that really is tiny! Thanks for sharing more of your technique with us all. I'll be going to the printmakers shop this week, so I'm very excited. It'll be a while until I get to your standard of work, but I'm all for trying! =D

Candied Fabrics said...

Whoa! How neat is that? I love blogs - you get to see stuff you never even thought about - and as a textile artist, I've never thought about hallmarks...or etching...

Lou said...

Thanks for sharing this, I have an etching kit but I am yet to try it all out, will def get round to it soon!

Fashionably Adorned said...

Hi~
I love etching and only started a couple months ago. I was wondering how I could get smaller stuff on my metal, as of now I've been hand drawing or using stencils. Thanks for sharing your techniques with us!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the info! 2 questions, so you use PNP Blue or PNP Wet? And, what kind of tape do you use on the back of your brass plates? Just regular scotch tape?

Thanks!