Photocopy Phiasco (or, what is Emulsion Aggregate copy toner?)

Microscopic toner particles

Microscopic toner particles

Microscopic E-A toner particles

Microscopic E-A toner particles

For the past few months I struggled with toner transfers. The older laser printer at UNM worked just fine, but the newer one did not. Copies from Kinkos wouldn’t transfer, either. It was like all of a sudden, the toner was different. The solvent’s I’ve used before (acetone, Citrasolv, or PureCitrus Air Freshener Spray) would not dissolve the toner from the copies. With nothing better to do, I did some internet research. (Now is when I wish I had a chemistry degree.) It turns out, in the last few years, the companies that make toner have stopped using the crushed plastic particles of the past. The new ’emulsion-aggregate’ (or E-A) toners are grown chemically in a lab. This means the particles are smaller and more uniform (and possibly made of an entirely different plastic).

More about toner particle size and shape:

So the experiments will continue for toner transfer. When it works, it’s a great way to add text or photographic images onto aluminum plates and polyester plates.

2 thoughts on “Photocopy Phiasco (or, what is Emulsion Aggregate copy toner?)

  1. Hey Carrie, Thanks for your in depth sampler using different poly-plate drawing materials. I’ve found sharpies and Zebra brand (Office max) ballpoints to work nicely. Also, good to know about the new photocopy toner particles. I get pretty good results from old photocopiers; direct copy onto the plate and acetone transfer (yet too toxic). Any new results for you regarding transfers or using copiers? Also, which polyester plates do you use? A sometimes frustrated printmaking instructor, Lisa S.

    • Hi Lisa,

      Hang on to that old photocopier. They work the best. If you have an old copier, you can use CitraSolv (sold as an all-natural cleaner) like acetone to make a transfer. It’s nicer than the acetone, but still wear gloves when you use it. I also like to use the citrus air freshener (the kind that is made with citrus oil, not just citrus scent) to do transfers. For polyester plates, I like the Smart Plates that Takach Press sells. You can find them at Happy printing!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s