How to transfer an artwork image onto metal

Transferring artwork to metal can take place through photo etching or by using a hot iron transfer. Hot iron transfer is the most efficient method, taking under an hour to complete. Hot iron transfer is done through use of an inkjet or laser printer, iron and cleaned metal. This process can be completed at home with satisfactory results. Photo etching requires more materials needed to complete a transfer, as well as up to eight hours of completion time.

Photocopy the image to transfer. Make a photocopy of the artwork image on regular paper. Adjust the size and contrast of the image, through making multiple copies, until the resolution and quality are acceptable. Print the image onto transparency film, which contains acetate. Make more than one copy, in case problems arise during the transfer process.

Prepare the metal for image transfer. Clean the metal with a copper or brass cleaner. This allows the transparency film to adhere easier to the metal and smooths the surface of the metal for optimal application. Cleaners, such as Penny Brite, Blue Magic Metal Polish and Metal Brite are ideal metal cleaners.

Transfer the image to metal. Set the iron on high and the electric griddle on medium high heat. A paper towel must be placed between the griddle surface and metal to prevent sliding during transfer. Clean the image and the metal with denatured alcohol. While still moistened, press the image firmly onto the metal. Place another paper towel over the back of the transparency film image, and set the hot iron onto it. Remove the iron after one and a half minutes.

Lift one corner of the transparency paper to check its progress. Rather than abruptly removing the film after ironing, gently lift one corner to check the transfer status. Do not move the paper from the metal, as this could damage the end product. Continue using the hot iron until optimal results are met. Remove the transparency film, and the image will have been transferred.


Attempt photo etching if dissatisfied. Photo etching is achieved by using chemicals, soak and rinse baths, safety supplies and some chemistry knowledge. More available time is needed than with the hot iron transfer process. The photo etching process yields quality results and is used in the mass production of artwork, and can be done at home, as well.

Things You'll Need

  • Transparency film
  • Newspaper
  • Ammonia
  • Iron
  • Electric griddle
  • Printer
  • Copy paper
  • Formulated metal cleaner
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Paper towels
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About the Author

A copywriter and publicist, Brooke Ashley has been writing professionally since 1998. Her poetic work has been published in "Maverick Magazine" and her Web content is featured on Ashley earned her Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the State University of New York at New Paltz.