The emulsion transfer process provides the ability to apply high resolution, archival quality imagery to many materials including wood, fabric, metal, glass, acrylic paint, and paper. The flexibility of this process is enhanced by the ability to layer transfers on top of one another or with layers of acrylic paint. The image being transferred combines with background features to create depth and rich texture that is difficult to achieve any other way.
This description of the process assumes the image is being transferred to an aged aluminum plate but it’s very similar for any of the materials mentioned above. The transfer process has three components; a digital image, a transparent film with an emulsion coating on one side, and the aluminum plate onto which the image will be transferred. First the image is printed onto the emulsion side of the film using archival quality pigment ink.
The image on the film is now ready to be transferred. The transparency of the film eases the task of aligning the new image with the any existing imagery or patina on the plate. Once film and the plate are aligned and setup for transfer, an ink receiving solution is applied to the plate. While the solution is still wet, the film, emulsion side down, is rolled onto the substrate and allowed to sit for a short period of time. When the transparent film is removed, the emulsion layer holding the image remains on the substrate.
The next steps depend on whether or not additional layers will be applied and the desired texture of the finished piece. Once dry, the ink that had been carried by the emulsion is now firmed applied to the aluminum plate. The emulsion itself can either remain on the substrate and become part of the protective layer or it can be washed off. For most of my transfers to metal, the emulsion is washed off and the finished plate is protected by a acrylic UV coating.