Two ways to color metal using Image Transfer Solution

 

Alice in Wonderland image transfer bracelet

Hi Bloglandia! Last weekend I did a demo in our Spokane showroom on how to use Sherri Haab’s Image Transfer Solution (ITS) and thought now would be a good time to share these techniques for colorizing metal with everyone.

Image transfer is just that – transferring an image from the paper it is printed on to a different surface (in this case, metal jewelry components). Image transfers have a vintage, ethereal feel, and I love how the different colors of metals shine through. Unlike many of the other solvents and processes used for image transfer, Image Transfer Solution (ITS) is non-toxic. Yay! Plus, it has another purpose not even mentioned on the bottle: it is an excellent way to seal colors onto metal (more on that in a bit).

Transferring Images – ITS Method #1

One caveat: The images you use must be printed on a laser (toner based) printer. Ink jet pictures will not work. The pictures can be black or white or color. Photos and text should be reversed before you print, since transfers will be mirror images.

To be honest, I did not like ITS the first couple of times I tried it. I kinda hated it. Following the directions on the bottle, I prepped my metal with steel wool and heat-set the images in a 325 degree oven – just like it said! – but things just kept going wrong. Either my images would wash right off the metal or the paper would be so very stuck to the metal that no amount of scrubbing would remove it. But I loved the concept, so I kept playing with it. Below is my own method for using ITS. Maybe the package directions will work like a charm for you. If not, I hope my tips and tricks help:

  1. Scuff up your metal (aluminum, brass, copper and silver all work great) with a medium grit sanding pad or sand paper. Steel wool leaves the surface too smooth, in my opinion.
  2. Wash metal with rubbing alcohol to remove dirt, dust and oil – even if it looks clean!
  3. Using a clean, dry paintbrush, evenly coat the prepped metal with just a couple of drops of ITS.

  1. Press image face-down onto metal and press firmly into place to remove any air bubbles. ITS is like glue – you will not be able to reposition your paper at all, so be careful to place it where you want it! Let dry. Use an iron (high heat, no steam) to heat the metal for 1 or 2 minutes. Don’t worry, the paper won’t burn. Let metal cool.
  2. Place the metal into water and using a gentle circular motion, begin rubbing the paper off, leaving the image behind. Don’t get to aggressive or you could lift off parts of the image. Patience pays off here.
  3. After most of the paper is removed, use a sheet of polishing paper and more water to remove the finer paper fibers.
  4. After all of the paper is removed, seal the image with a dab of Renaissance Wax and a soft cloth. It really improves the luster.
image transfer necklace

My photograph looks like a vintage postcard after being transferred onto aluminum. The Swarovski beads are the same colors as the prayer flags hanging on the mountain tea house.

Complete your jewelry piece! The image is permanently attached. You can even punch holes or dap the metal and it won’t come off!

Sealing Colors – ITS Method #2

Image Transfer Solution can also be used to permanently seal inks onto metal! Ranger Adirondack Alcohol Inks are tons of fun to mix and blend onto non-porous surfaces, like metal, but since they are ink, they can be rubbed or washed off. That is, unless you seal them with ITS. When you heat-set ITS, it binds the color to the metal. It will not wash off or bleed onto your customer’s skin.

Vintaj fussy peacock pendant colorized with alcohol inks for a faux enamel look.

You can color your metal with alcohol inks and then, after they’ve dried, paint a thin layer of ITS over the top. Another option is to mix the ITS directly with your inks (just a few drops of each) and paint that mix onto your metal. Either way, once the ITS has dried, you need to heat-set it to make the bond permanent. Just follow the directions on the Image Transfer Solution package for using an oven to heat-set (the iron won’t work for this application).

Looks like patina - but this blue bee was colored with alcohol inks.

There you have it! Two tried and true methods for permanently coloring your metal pieces for jewelry and other applications. Although this post focused on metal, Image Transfer Solution can be used on polymer clay, etched glass and other surfaces too! Since it really only takes a couple of drops per image, you’ll have plenty to experiment with! ~ Cindy


PS: here are some handy links to some other how-to‘s in the Rings & Things blog!

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45 Responses to “Two ways to color metal using Image Transfer Solution”

  1. Norma says:

    Thanks a lot for these tutorials. It makes me consider the ITS since there are so many applications.

  2. Great tutorial. Thanks!

  3. Linda Ames says:

    Great info:)

  4. patti says:

    I’ve been using steel wool and haven’t been happy with the results. So, I’ll give your method a try – it sounds more promising. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Cindy says:

    Good luck Patti! I hope the sanding pad/sandpaper helps you as much as it helped me!

  6. Charlene says:

    A million thank yous! I tried the method on the package first and had the exact same problems you described. Your method worked perfectly. I really appreciate it.

  7. patti says:

    I wanted to let you know that I gave your method a try and it works!!! I switched to sanding paper and used the iron directly on my metal instead of my toaster oven. It works every time.

  8. Lysa says:

    Do I have to use the special ITS paper? I have the ITS in my cart but am unsure about proceeding.

    • Cindy says:

      Hi Lysa! You don’t have to use the special ITS paper. Some people prefer it because they find it easier to wash the paper fibers off the transfer, but personally I like regular copy paper just fine. Good luck! :)

  9. Linda says:

    This is a great tutorial. I’ve been wanting to try the image transfer, but wasn’t quit sure how to do it, or what I needed. I’m going to have to get me some ITS, so I can give it a try. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Sally says:

    I ‘m so glad to read your blog. This has cleared away my fears of using IT”S. Keep up the great ideas and tips.

  11. Sheela says:

    Thanks for the tips on using ITS. Have you had success with using a heat gun? I tried to transfer an image onto a domed (convex) brass locket. Ensuring the iron gets onto all parts of the curved exterior was challenging. Didn’t work great the first time. Most of the image transferred well, but other parts didn’t. Any tips would be appreciated!

    Thanks!

    • Cindy says:

      Hi Sheela! I have tried using a heat gun, but the results were not that great. I think what I like about the iron method is the direct heat + pressure seems to = better transfer. Heat alone doesn’t quite seem to do it for me, although it seems like the better the image is burnished down to the metal while the ITS is wet, the more likely the heat gun could be successful. Good luck! I’d love to hear how it turns out for you! :)

      • Sheela says:

        Thanks Cindy. I might need to use the combo: iron + heat gun. Good to know about burnishing it well. I did spend some time pressing all bubbles out. I’ll let you know! Now I need to go buy a heat gun :(

  12. andrea says:

    Please better explain the picture. Is it printed at home from a laser jet printer on regular weight paper? or toner? Or is it printed at home on photo paper? A professionally printed photo? Is it a cut out from your favorite magazine? See where I’m going with this? I think know this step will save your readers a great deal of time.

    • Cindy says:

      Hi Andrea! The photo was printed on a laser/toner printer on regular copy paper. Most home printers are ink jet and won’t work for this type of image transfer.
      I haven’t tried professional photo paper (I think it would be too thick) but I’ve used images from glossy magazines with great success. Good luck!

  13. Kim says:

    I am SO glad I found this tutorial! I am planning to make belt buckles, with an aluminum insert that has the design on it such as the ones I have seen on Etsy. Would you have any idea what guage aluminum would work? The buckles are reactangular with rounded edges and not particularly deep. They also are slightly curved. I think it needs to be thin enough to cut to size. Can you make a clean cut somehow or would a lot of filing/sanding be involved? And would you happen to know the best adhesive to attach aluminum to antique nickle? Sorry, I’ve gone way off topic here! Just so glad I know how to transfer images now! Thanks so much!
    Kim

  14. Nancy says:

    I’m a novice at using alcohol inks and was wondering how you kept the ink off the raised areas of the metal? Or did you sand it back off the high spots?

  15. Ilan says:

    Hi great tutorial!
    I would like to do photo etching.
    could I transfer a b&w negative photo and then put it in the ferric chloride acid? (The ink of a laser printer is an acid resister )
    will it etch through the ITS?

    Ilan

  16. Polly says:

    Hi Ilan,
    The ITS is a great sealant, so I expect that you won’t be able to etch through it. What you need is the Press-n-Peel Transfer Film: http://shop.rings-things.com/cart/pc/Press-n-Peel-Blue-Transfer-Film-1989p28106.htm.
    The only tricky part about using the blue transfer film, is it is very particular about the temperature required to transfer it. The cheap iron I use doesn’t have a reliable temperature gauge/control. The ideal situation is a good iron that actually tells you what temperature range you’re in (rather than just a green/yellow/red dial), and an electric griddle. With the transfer film, you’re ONLY transferring the toner, whereas with the ITS, the ITS stays on the piece (along with the image it trasnferred).

  17. kyla says:

    Please help. I following first the directions of the paper pack. Had the images printed at Office Max on the ITS paper. then sanded the metal, cleaned with alcohol, then preset the oven to 325, let them cool, then soaked them and used the blue 1200 grit. then buffed and then used ren. wax. The images were either too dark, or not even there. The wax actually took one image off. They also were not shiny after buffing.

    what am I doing wrong?? Help
    thank you in advance

    • Polly says:

      Hi Kyla,
      Did you follow all of Cindy’s steps above?
      She lists some great tips to get good results. Starting with “Transferring Images – ITS Method #1″ she has steps 1, 2, and 3 — did you use that step 3?
      And then she has a photo and steps 1 through 4. In that section, steps 1 through 3 are very important. And then, just a TINY dab of the Ren Wax.

      • Polly says:

        I’m not sure why they were too dark … what metal are you putting them on? The ITS is transparent, so your background metal color will show through wherever there is no ink.
        Dark metals could be a potential problem.
        Other than that, how do the copies from Office Max look? Are they darker than normal, or do they look nice to begin with?

  18. lisa says:

    Hi i have been playing around with the its product with the pre printed collage sheets they have,and i went to get my own printed on the its blank sheets ,and i can find no one here in south australia to print them for me ,they say because it not a sandard A4 size paper and it will jam,or they are not willing to stuff up there equipment,i have been to a dozen places.reading your blog you say use plain paper,or do you mean plain transfer paper,cheers

    • Polly says:

      Hi Lisa,
      You can use regular copy paper — the standard paper used in most offices. We didn’t like extra heavy photo paper. But images cut from glossy magazines work great.
      I’m a little surprised that the printers in your area can’t/won’t print to alternate sizes. Most HP and Canon laser printers can easily select 6-10 different envelope sizes to print on, as well as 10-20 different paper sizes (8.5×11 letter, A4, A5, Legal, Executive, …). But maybe that’s just our printers in the US. Maybe we have such a long list of options due to our local non-standard options, plus everyone else’s standard options!

  19. Will this process work with a large piece of metal (2″ x 24″) that has been black powder coated?
    I want to get colored images onto eyepiece trays that I manufacture. Silk screening is, apparently, not an option, nor are decals (they come off too easily).
    Please advise to the above email address.
    Thank you.

    • Polly says:

      Hi James,

      The ITS wants to be baked at 325 for about 20 minutes, so try a piece of your powder coated metal in the oven and see if it is still ok.

      If that works fine, then move into issue #2.

      The second potential issue is when you rub (gently sand) off the paper. I don’t know how durable your powder coating is — even if you use a very fine grit like 1200, it might still remove some of your black powder coating.

      I think the only way you’ll be able to know for sure on #2 is to give it a try. I would get one of the assortments of polishing papers, since I don’t know which one would work best for your powder coating. They’re only about $8 for a pack of 8 different grits and they’re useful for other projects too.
      http://shop.rings-things.com/cart/pc/Polishing-Paper-Assortment-Wetordry-1988p22827.htm

  20. Diane says:

    I know this is an old posting, but if you’re still reading, first of all thanks very much for the tutorial! I also have a question – what if you wish to transfer to a curved form, i.e. a convex or concave shape where you can’t hit it directly with an iron? I wonder if using a hotter oven would bake it on better without the pressure of an iron, since an oven temp set at 325 doesn’t necessarily mean the piece will get to 325… ?

    • Polly says:

      Hi Diane,

      For heat-setting ITS, pressure is not important, so any method you use to heat it is fine, as long as you don’t overheat your piece to the point where your paper burns (which, from a Ray Bradbury book title in my memory, I believe is 451 F).

      In the past, I’ve used ITS to seal alcohol inks mixed with some delicate pigments, and I was afraid they would singe/darken, so I heated my piece in the oven for a longer time period at a lower temperature (300) and it worked great.

  21. Darlene says:

    This is a great tutorial! Thank you a lot I will give it a try. Was wondering can I use glaze for polymer clay instead of Renaissance Wax?

    • Polly says:

      Hi Darlene,
      I am pretty sure that your polymer clay glaze should work fine. I haven’t actually tried it so I can’t guarantee it, but I can’t think of any reason that it would not work.
      ~Polly

  22. Lisa says:

    Hi,

    Thank you so much for the tutorial! I have been experimenting with ITS on ITS paper for a few rounds now and I’m having a couple of issues that I’m hoping you can help me with.

    1. Even after coating with Renaissance wax, the surface scratches VERY easily. Am I doing something wrong or is this scratching to be expected even with Renaissance wax? I wonder if I should try one of the spray enamel sealers like Krylon.

    2. I want my transfer to go to the edge of my round stainless steel pendant, but I find that even after gentle sanding the edge still feels like there’s paper there on the metal. It’s not smooth and professional looking. In the photo above it looks very professional with a smooth edge. I wonder if it’s because I’m using the ITS special paper which is thicker than regular copy paper.

    Would love to hear your thoughts/advice.

    Thanks in advance!
    Lisa

    • Polly says:

      Hi Lisa,

      I find that the ITS is quite durable, so I wonder if you are heating it long enough. It might be worth experimenting a bit to see if an extra 5 or 10 minutes makes it stronger.

      I do recommend one of the spray enamel sealers like Krylon. They give you a more durable finish then the Ren wax does. (Just carefully follow the instructions on the can.) We use Envirotex, but Krylon is good too. I like Ren wax for my own personal projects, but when I’m selling finished jewelry, the spray sealers are best because they are less likely to require touch-up later.

      I will ask for a second opinion on the paper. You may be right about the thickness. The thickness of the ITS paper may have some pros and cons.

      ~Polly

  23. thanks for information, a question could use the product in silver or copper and enamel

    • Polly says:

      Hi, Karla from Costa Rica

      Yes, you can use Image Transfer Solution on silver and on copper. You can also use it on real enamel (because genuine enamel is melted glass, which melts at a much higher temperature). But in case it is not real enamel, test it first. Image Transfer Solution can be used on almost everything that can safely be heated to approximately 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

      Sí, puede utilizar la Solución de Transferencia de Imagen en la plata y el cobre. También puede usarlo en el esmalte real (porque genuina esmalte es vidrio fundido, que se funde a una temperatura mucho más alta). Pero en caso de que no es el esmalte real, probarlo primero. Solución para Transferencia de Imágenes se puede utilizar en casi todo lo que con seguridad puede ser calentado a aproximadamente 350 grados F (175 C).

      ~Polly

  24. Julie Hernandez says:

    Hi

    Does ITS work better than Liquitex and if so, do you know why? I have been transfering images to metal using Liquitex gel medium and some come out really great and than with some of them I can’t get all the paper fibers off the metal. Do you know why this could be happening?

    Any information would be helpful.

    Thanks :)
    Julie

    • Polly says:

      Hi Julie, I haven’t used Liquitex. I’ve only used ITS, but the same thing happens to me sometimes. I feel like I’m following the same steps each time, so usually I assume that I’ve accidentally over-soaked a spot with a bit too much Image Transfer Solution. Or it may even be small inconsistencies in the paper itself. ~Polly

  25. Melie says:

    Thanks so much for this Julie. I have been researching different printing options for a few days now and it’s been so informative reading this article from you explaining all this in detail. Glad I came across this! Thanks

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