The Studio

Copying a Pattern onto Metal

As part of my experiments with metal inlay I’ve been investigating a different way of transferring a pattern or design onto metal ready for you to cut out.

I’m sharing this with you in case you’d not heard of this method and wanted to give it a try yourself.

Now, the usual method I use is to print out the design to the right scale and then glue the printed design to the metal. You then use a jewellers saw to cut around the design on the metal.

However, there is another method which uses acetone to transfer your design directly onto the metal ready for cutting out.

I was curious to try this out, really just to see if it works. But also there are times when it could be really useful. For example:

  • If you wanted to texture the metal in certain areas as opposed to cutting it out.
  • If you wanted to etch the design onto your metal.
  • If you only want to cut part way through the thickness of the metal, such as engraving.

Here’s what I did along with what I found out.


To transfer a printed design onto a sheet of metal using acetone. 


Metal sheet (I used brass)

Acetone and kitchen roll

Computer, Printer Paper and printer

Masking tape

The Theory

  1. Print out a design from the computer to your desired scale.
  2. Put printed design face down onto metal and secure in place with masking tape.
  3. Dab the paper with acetone. This will transfer the printed design onto the metal.
  4. Remove the paper and masking tape. The printed design should have transferred onto the metal.


It works!

Acetone is very flammable and should be used with caution! Read and follow all the instructions on the bottle and make sure you dispose of the used kitchen roll responsibly. Also wash the metal well after finishing the process to remove the acetone.

Remember the design will be back to front, so be careful when printing out the design that it is the reverse of what is required.

Make sure the printout uses as fine lines as possible to ensure an accurate line to cut into. (My lines were quite thick, meaning if I were to cut out this design it would not be that accurate.)

If you are just cutting out all the way through a sheet of metal, you might find it just as easy to stick the paper onto the metal and saw through the paper. However, for certain applications, like for example where you’re only going part way through the thickness of the metal the acetone method is a good idea.

I hope this is of some use to you in your work. If you do use this method I would be interested to hear how you get on and why you used it.