Acid Etching Metal Jewelry – UPDATE

by Virginia Vivier.

Peruvian Serpent God - Etched Talisman (attracts positive energy and good fortune wherever you go).


Queen Elizabeth Eyes -Etched Brass Necklace (eyes from the Queen's image on a one pound note printed in 1981).


Sterling Silver - Secret Message Capsule Pendant (secret message can be enclosed forever inside the etched capsule).


Esprit del Sol - Etched Southwest Sun Spirit Necklace.


This update is for the multi-part tutorial that begins on the Acid Etching Metal Jewelry, Part 1 page.

I’ve experimented a bit with metal etching designs on sterling silver, copper and brass, using ImageOn, transparency, magazine paper, PnP and drawing directly using Staedtler pens.

Here are links to my previous blog posts:

DIY Design Transfer for Acid Etched

DIY Acid Etching on Brass and Copper

However, that info is a bit outdated.

New: Using Pulsar Transfer Paper

I have since begun using a laminator to transfer paper toner to metal. Works great if it gets to at least 425 degrees. You can find more info on using a laminator to transfer paper toner to metal on this website which sells Pulsar Transfer paper.

I used James Binnion’s idea of “Pulsar transfer paper.” Works even better! But it is a little pricey.

I definitely prefer Pulsar paper over ImageOn, or PnP, if you are going to purchase transfer paper.

Here’s Jim’s advice:
“I found ImageOn HD to be a pain. Someone mentioned a different product, “Toner Transfer Paper” from Pulsar ( The company is marketing to printed circuit board hobby electronics buffs.It is basically paper that is coated with dextrin (a starch) that is run through the laser printer.The toner transfers to the paper then you iron on the image to your metal and then place the metal and paper into water.

The starch dissolves allowing the paper to float free of the toner. This has a big advantage over the acetate method in that it transfers all of the toner not just some of it.

I have very good results with it.

The two biggest issues I see with these processes that use the laser printer toner are that the metal is not clean enough and 2nd, and maybe the biggest issue, is the metal may not be perfectly flat or the iron is not held perfectly flat on the metal.

The cleanliness is easy to solve with products like Barkeepers Friend or Clean King scouring powder.

Both of these use pumice and a mild acid to really clean the surface of your metal.

The 2nd issue is a little harder to diagnose but if you have really clean metal but you only get partial adhesion of the toner then it is likely you are not getting the transfer paper, acetate or, PNP fully flat and in contact with the metal.

The trick I have been using is to buy a piece of 1/16″ thick silicone rubber and placing the rubber between the iron and the paper or acetate.

Silicone rubber will transfer the heat to the paper/metal stack and greatly reduce issues of not having everything perfectly flat.

Once I started using the rubber my success rate went up to near 100% for such transfers.”

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

Tip for Making Laser Toner Transfers

One thing I meant to mention about etching using any kind of toner transfer paper:

At first my transfers came out great, then year later, transfers came out broken, spotty, or incomplete. I finally figured out it was caused by an exhausted toner cartridge.

As soon as I bought a new laser toner cartridge my transfers were dark and solid. You could actually see the mound of toner on top of the transfer paper.

So, now I keep a separate “new” cartridge for making toner transfers, and use the old one for making general office copies. It only takes 30 seconds to switch them out.

This applies, no matter what kind of transfer paper you use. The heavier the layer of toner, the better the transfer.

Hope this helps!

Go to the main part of this tutorial at Acid Etching Metal Jewelry, Part 1.

Virginia Vivier
Esprit Mystique Artisan Jewelry
Esprit Mystique Etsy
Tucson, Arizona


Thank you for these great updates!
by: Rena

Thanks so much, Virginia, for providing more great info, updates, and product recommendations for this popular tutorial!

I really appreciate your continuing to share your knowledge and experiences for this cool jewelry making technique!

This Sounds Amazing!!!
by: Maryanne Murphy

…and I am so confused:)

I do not work in metal, so am not up on the different techniques that can be used.

However, I do have a nifty logo that I want to get etched into metal, and I think you are the angel that can make this happen.

My logo is just a pdf file…..I can actually transfer the image onto metal??!!

How does the technique you describe actually etch on the metal surface? Do you have to apply a solution for the lines to get etched in?

Please tell me what it is that I have to purchase in order to make this magic happen.

Eternally grateful:)


Yes – You CAN etch your logo!
by: Virginia Vivier –


Your idea is doable! However, there are easier solutions than etching. Please describe how/why you want to etch your logo on metal? Are you making a sign? Or, perhaps you are making small tags? Or, pendants?

1st – You CAN convert your logo .pdf design file to .jpg or .gif or .tif, so that’s no problem.

2nd – If the design reduces well, you can purchase a design stamp and “stamp” the logo on a small metal tag. That would be easier and cheaper, if you want multiple tags. Custom design stamps can be made by a number of suppliers. You can Google to find suppliers that are near you, or email me and I can recommend a couple good ones. Approximate investment: $60 – $150

3rd – You can print “decals” of your logo that can be applied to metal, and sealed for durability. Approximate investment: $25 for decal transfer paper plus sealant.

4th – You can have your design “caste” in metal. This is cost efficient if you want multiple designs. Google for Casting companies near you, and discuss your idea with their experts. They are very helpful. Approx cost: (Depends on metal used, but approx $10 each, for brass, copper, pewter or silver). Minimum order costs determined by the supplier.

4th – You can etch your logo in sterling silver, brass, or copper. Google different methods (there are many) ~ here are links to my tutorial that may give you an idea of all that is involved:
Acid Etching Metal Jewelry part 1
Acid Etching Metal Jewelry part 2
Acid Etching Metal Jewelry part 3
Acid Etching on Metal for Jewelry.

You would need a laser copier, transfer paper, an iron, Ferric chloride/Ferric Nitrate etching acid, aquarium bubbler & baking soda for starters (not including metal to be etched). Approximately 1.5 hours time, plus $250 in tools & supplies. And, lots of practice! This would be good for “one-off” etching on metal, but less cost efficient than stamping the design, or casting it, if you need multiples.

Hope this helps! It’s hard to reply without more specific details about what you want to accomplish. Feel free to email with questions – Amulets at Esprit-Mystique dot com.

Virginia Vivier
Esprit Mystique Artisan Jewelry
Esprit Mystique Etsy
Tucson, Arizona

Thanks Virginia for the incredible and detailed information!!!

I looked at your jewelry on Etsy…amazing and beautiful!

I am babysitting my grandchildren right now while my daughter Cat is at a biker rally with our Biker Chic(TM) jewelry line. That’s why this process interest me…for our killer logo that Cat made. This is a long story, which has started here with Rena, will continue as soon as I can catch up. Three year old crawling up into my lap…I am grandma jungle-gym.

There’s so much WONDERFUL information you gave me to digest. Will go over it sans 3yr old…but wanted to send you a quick THANK YOU!!!!

Etsy is a wonderful place, I’m there too….but you NEVER get the kind of AMAZING support you do here at Rena’s….I feel like we are all “in her house:)!!

Thank you, Maryanne!
by: Rena

I like that idea – you’re all here in my house at a big, cozy jewelry meetup! :o)

Virginia, thanks for that insightful reply to Maryanne’s logo question!
Pulsar plus “Foil”?
by: Patricia

The Pulsar Transfer Paper sounds wonderful! Do you also use the “green foil” to seal it or just use the Transfer Paper image? I’ve been using the PnP Blue which needs no sealing.
No need for green foil with Pulsar Transfers
by: Anonymous


Good question! I saw the reference to the green foil and think that it is meant for sealing decals on metal or signs, but I could be mistaken. No, I don’t use the green foil. But the Pulsar transfers are great! Just a little pricey.

Make sure you get a solid layer of toner that transfers to the paper before you attempt to iron it onto your metal. If your design has half tones, or is not high resolution, it may not be strong enough to hold up in the transfer process. So, print out high resolution designs, and when you run the Pulsar paper through your copier, make sure it is set for the darkest copy possible without distorting the image. The results will be a slight mound of toner sitting on top of the Pulsar paper, if it is setup right. That will insure a solid transfer of toner on to your metal.

Happy etchings!

Virginia in hot, sunny Tucson, AZ
Different green foil
by: Patricia

The “green foil” I’m asking about is a different foil from the rub-on transfer foil. It is intended to seal the laser image once it is transferred to the metal so the image won’t be pitted. Not a big deal to a jewelry maker but a big deal to a circuit board maker. You’ve really answered my question, though, that you only use the transfer paper, not the foil. Many thanks for all the information and sharing it with us! I love etching metal. Thanks for keeping us up to date on new products!
by: Barbara in France

I’m dying to get started on etching after reading your instructions. But I’m intrigued about your riveting. How do you get those nice perfectly rounded rivets and what are they made of?
Thanks and I look forward to more of your tutorials.
Rounded head rivets & Hex nut rivets
by: Virginia Vivier

Barbara in France,

First of all I love your country! I have visited many times, all over, and am so envious! Wish I could spend more time there.

Regarding round head rivets – well, I cheat! I buy pure brass tacking nails at the hardware store. I put the rounded head on the front side of the pendant and then cut off the length of the nail on the back of the pendant to about 1/4 of an inch. I hammer it down gently to a domed cure, if possible.

Or, you can buy tiny brass hex bolts and screw them in with a hex nut. You can buy them in both brass and sterling silver. They really look nice.

Thanks for asking. My secret is out!

Virginia –

correction on typo for above comment
by: Virginia Vivier

I meant to say “domed curve” ! That’s what I get for writing a 6 am before I am awake! Sorry for the confusion!

Virginia Vivier

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  1. Virgina –

    I’ve been following your Acid Etching Metal tutorial. I tried the paper transfer first and had zero success. I then tried the red CD Sharpie and it worked perfectly! A couple of questions:

    1. After I pulled the pieces off the double-sided carpet tape (not easy, it’s the strongest stuff in the world), the backs were clean and the etching looked good. But when I put it in the baking soda solution to neutralize the acid, the backs got oxidized and the fronts lost some of the etching. Is this because I put multiple pieces in at the same time? Any suggestions how to stop in the future?

    2. What section is brass tacks in the hardware store?

    3. I checked out your website and you seem to smooth out the etched areas. Other than my mistake above, how can you do this?

    4. Do you have a good supplier for silver sheets?

    5. I can’t find a local supplier for Black Magic or any other oxidizer. Any suggestions? I tried the hard egg trick and didn’t get great results. Also, I’d like to be able to control where the oxidizer goes.

    Thank you for the tutorial! I’m having a lot of fun with it!

  2. Helen says:

    What about using acrylic paint for resist…ever try that?

  3. Hi Virginia!!

    thank you for your detailed explanation. I am Brazilian sculptress and etching printing maker artist. Your explanation are so precise and Aquarium Air Pump to vibrate the acid is a very good solution. I loved! Thank you for your generosity. I visited your site and your work is pretty good.

  4. Tania says:

    Hi Virginia! Thanks for all the fabulous information. Have you etched something super small? I’ve been commissioned to etch safety symbols onto 1/2″ sterling discs…
    Also was thinking to use a flat iron (for hair) as its a dry heat and has a temperature control. What do you think?

  5. I am curious as to which laminator you use. Someone else recommended the Apache, but it only goes to 390 degrees. You stated 425 degrees is needed. I am very meticulous with the cleaning, but I have problems transferring with the iron method. Nicole

  6. Thank you Virginia and Jim. you saved me time and Money.

  7. Gretchen Shea says:

    I just got a Scotch brand laminator at Staples for $33. It works great! I have a newer iron and I don’t think it was hot enough. My transfers kept peeling off. But with the laminator, they come out PERFECTLY every time. My son and I experimented with it a little bit and found out that if you wipe the print and the metal with a mix of alcohol and water and send it thru twice when they are still wet, that works best.

  8. Nika van der Meer says:

    Seems like most laminators I’ve seen have rollers rather than heated surfaces that are flat. Does the metal get deformed when you run it through the laminator? What is the thickest gauge/mm metal you can use in a laminator? Thank you so much for the information.

  9. Pablo Ricardo says:

    Thanks for this excellent tutorial, and I appreciate your hard work as I know the amount of time, money and dedication for making such a complete tutorial, .
    Some comments about about the heat toner transfer method. I’ve tried this with unreliable results as you have to deal with too many variables;
    1-The toner (the Brother Laser printers are a pain because of the toner) the cheap refills are better.
    2-The paper: inkjet photographic, inkjet dextrin coated (like Pulsar), inkjet clay coated will kill the printer as they are not made to being heated in a printer (a lot of printing shops refuse to print with these papers on their very expensive laser printers) except the photographic one for laser printers which is useless. Acetates transparent paper is accepted but the results are blurry, and the expensive Press and peel are not worth the price .
    The simple yellow heat toner paper sold by the Chinese on Ebay works pretty well and is cheap but remains the problem of the hot press.
    3-The hot press aka cloth iron gives very inconsistent results as the pressure and temperature are almost uncontrollable. A laminator works sometimes better but only with a few brands, as most have not enough pressure and/or heat.
    The drawback of the heat toner transfer is the use of pressure and heat to melt the toner on the copper; it’s impossible to get fine lines as the toner line has to be “crushed” on the copper. Worst copper is very heat conductive so you have to pre-heat the copper when thickness is getting high.
    After wasting time and money I went to photosensitive film. Night and day, transfering the drawings was not more a frustating and painful task.
    The Method seems complicated at first sight but in reality it is not, you have just to be careful, no more luck factor but just attention.
    20 bucks cheap laminators will do the job as very litle pressure and heat (only 105 C), even an humble iron will work on small pieces, heat gun will work also at low heat. The developper is just washing soda (sodium carbonate) and the remover is soda ash at low concentration, or simply thinner.
    The UV curing is done with one or several 9 watts UV lamp, or UV leds.
    Excellent transparents are made with a simple inkjet which gives a far better resolution than a cheap laser. I have done some with 0.2 mm lines and spaces…The resolution of a dry film is around the same, so you can get results comparable to a hand made “eau forte” (etching) copper plate.
    There are many tutorials on the net from the simple to the complicated. And it’s worth to be tried with total expenses under 50 dollars (film 20 bucks, chemicals 5 dollars, distillated water and other items).
    There is even a sensitive paint sold at 6.04 USD free shipping on Ebay. Tricky to learn (nitrocellulose lacquer solvent is best for this paint) but interesting.

  10. brouhaha says:

    just getting started with this; Brother laser printer did not transfer anything at all from glossy catalog paper to clean, flat copper after 3-5 minutes under the iron. Black sharpie seems to be working fine, red sharpies not quite as wells. Any suggestions for how to remove sharpie from metal when I’m done? (apologies if you covered this already and I just didn’t see it…) Many thanks for all your detailed and well-illustrated advice!

  11. Thank you for very informative articles on etching. My results to date have been variable but I’ll keep trying with a the tips you’ve provided.

  12. jennie says:

    Can you please tell me what kind of laser printer you use? I just purchased a Samsung Xpress and it keep jamming the PnP paper. Won’t work 🙁

  13. Nicole says:

    Jennie, I put carpenter’s tape over the paper. Then let the whole thing soak in water.

  14. Pablo Ricardo,
    Could you explain the process you’ve mentioned above in a little more detail, and perhaps even give an inventory of items needed for this process?

    I am brand new to jewelry making and looking for the best, and cost efficient way to start etching some designs into sterling silver. I don’t want to invest a ton of money$, but would like to get professional results. Also, it would be great if I could use my inkjet printer at home, as it sounds like print stores don’t want the transfer paper in their machines.
    Anyone else feel free to chime in please, and thank you!!

  15. Douglas says:

    If I may offer my two cents.

    I cleaned my practice piece with Bartender’s Friend, then some 70% alcohol with a Scotch-Brite pad (which scratched the brass a little bit). Then I applied my pattern from the transfer paper using a hot iron. The pattern was applied, but not completely: about 50%-50%.

    I went back and wiped my finger over one of the other pieces of brass that I’ve reserved as practice pieces. I could feel some of the gritty BF under my fingertips… and my fingers came back blackened. So a higher order of cleaning is required.

    I have worked in a number of companies where industrial level cleaning of parts was required. I’m talking about internal parts for diode-pumped lasers.

    Here is what we used: a high concentration of IPA (isopropanol) or methanol, or sometimes a 50%-50% mixture of the two. Applied with a cotton swab or kimwipe (say a very clean kleenex or paper towel). When I say clean here I mean chemically clean of course.

    Then the part would be baked in an oven since many substances live in the pores of the metal (we were often using aluminum). Perhaps making a sandwich of the metal and paper towels with an outer layer of newspaper and heating this with the iron?

    This would be done industrially with rubber gloves on the hands, since or skin has a lot of oils that could contaminate the metal surface.

  16. Hello! It’s been really cool to see all these posts about etching- thx so much! I see people are fond of the toner transfer paper by pulsar. If you want to print photographs onto that transfer paper for etching what printer/s would you suggest?


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