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Photocopy Etch                                     
Matt Forrest                                                                                                

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In the past it was required to screen print photo resist onto intaglio plates using hazardous and dangerous chemicals to produce the image; or coat the plate with a photographic polymer sheet like, for example, ImagOn.

In my research to find a simple, low-cost, and safe form of transfer I came up with a way to use inkjet paper to make a toner transfer that doesn’t require a water bath or any other chemicals to produce the transfer.

Toner Matrix : Etched Copper


Warning: Ink jet paper can cause damage to a photocopier, that’s why I recommend 

you use or buy an older machine if you intend to make a number of plates and use this 

processes continually within your shop. 


Materials needed for the Photocopy Etch:

  • Strathmore glossy photo paper (8.5 x 11 inches) For Inkjet Printers

(other glossy photo papers can be used)

  • Canon Imageclass D860 Photocopier
  • Photoshop CS3
  • Household iron (This can be used as a substitute for your hotplate to pre-heat the plate)
  • Flat working surface
  • Sheet of solid wood (approx. 12 x 12 inches)
  • Wooden and metal spoon                                                                                                             


 Everything you will need 


  Method:The steps are simple for a 5 x 7 inch plate:

Step 1

Import your image into Photoshop.

I recommend you bitmap your image with a halftone dot 150 dpi at 40 lpi.

You can go higher but I would run a small test before hand. 


Step 2

Print out your image onto regular copy paper.

Now take this and your glossy photo paper to your photocopier machine.


Step 3

Simply place your image onto the photocopier bed.

Place your glossy paper in Tray 2 or the external tray feed.

Set the photocopier on the following settings:

Setting for copier

Auto Exposure

Text Image Quality

Paper select tray 2

Now press copy.

Step 4 (optional)

Repeat Step 3, re-running your inkjet paper back though the photocopier.

No shifting should occur.

You can run the photo paper through once depending on the copier and how heavy the toner is.


Step 5.

Clean the plate.



Place your plate on a piece of wood board.

Preheat an iron on its hottest setting (cotton) or a hot plate to 400 degrees.

Pre-heat the plate using the iron for 1–2 minutes. 



Place the image which has been printed on glossy photo paper, onto your plate.



Step 6

After the inkjet has been placed face down on the plate, let paper and plate heat up.



Place the iron on top and press down.

Move the iron slowly over the whole plate for between to 2–5 minutes.




Step 7

Press the image down with a wooden spoon.

Pull up one corner to see if a good transfer has taken place.

If not, reheat that area and repeat the pressing action with a wood or metal spoon. 



Above left: Example of good transfer (with gloss)

Above right: Example of a bad transfer: wasn't allowed to heat up sufficiently to make the transfer   

Step 8

Take the paper off and etch your plate using an appropriate nontoxic process e.g.

copper sulfate or Edinburgh Etch.











Matt Forrest