Electroforming Resources for Aspiring Artists
*This page is still in progress! Be sure to bookmark and check back frequently for updates!*
I want to help other aspiring electroformers, jewelers, crafters, designers and artists out there get started on electroforming with some resources that I personally use for my work.
I developed a sub-brand of my brand called Cu Electroforming that features house made Copper Electroforming Solution. (Cu is the symbol for element 29, copper!)
I'll have these starter kits (as well as individual components) available to purchase online shortly!
Don't want to wait for kits, or would you rather purchase supplies separately?
Here is a list I've put together that you can 90% buy all in one go on Amazon with Prime Shipping. If you are a student, you can join Prime Student, and get free 2 day Prime shipping!
Let's Go Shopping!
- A basic 3 Amp Power Supply aka an electroforming "rectifier"
- 1000mL Beaker
- Red/Black Lead Wires
Copper Electroforming Solution (homemade or premade!)
Conductive Paint (also homemade or premade!)
Funnel and Filters - to pour back and clean your solution
- Thin Gauge Titanium or Copper wire - to suspend the cathode/piece you want to plate
- 8 or Lower Gauge Bare Copper Wire - for the anode coil that goes inside the tank
Spring Clips - to secure your suspension bar down while plating
Water Based Polyurethane - to seal in any organic pieces
E6000 Glue - to bond a jump ring to the piece. I prefer the mini size tubes, as the larger one tends to dry out before I can use it all!
Jump Rings - to create a place of attachment of your piece
Soft Paint Brushes - to apply sealant and conductive paint
- Opened Jumbo Paper Clips, Small Spring Clips and a Drying Rack - fantastic aides for prep before plating
- Jewelry Wire Cutters and Pliers
Heavy Duty Wire Cutters (for your 8 gauge wire)
- A Brass Brush and Steel Wool - to buff and shine finished piece and anode
- A Dremel and Brush Wheels - for ultra shine
Protectaclear or Renaissance Wax - for sealing in the finished piece
Liver of Sulphur - for patina/antiquing your piece (be warned: very stinky!)
Shop Towels - because they are the best
- A Lipped Tray - to put your set up in, and prevent any accidental spillage from going on to the floor
Distilled Water - for replenishing evaporated solution, cleaning/washing, thinning conductive paint, and for mixing your own plating solution
- Safety Glasses and Gloves - safety first!
(if you can't see the images/links below, be sure to turn off any adblocker for this page)
Here is a list of materials you'll need if you would like to make your own electroforming solution and conductive paint.
Be a Thrifty Scientist!
This is the much cheaper option than buying the premade items, but keep in mind that you must bring your patience and prepare for a lot of practice, trial and error!
Homemade Copper Electroforming Solution Supply List:
- Copper Sulfate
- 98% Sulfuric Acid 18.4M; 36.8N
- Distilled Water
- Glass Stirring Rod
- HDPE 1L Bottles (Link is for a 2 pack, as you may want more than one! Make sure whatever you get has the safety cap)
- A Funnel
- 1000mL Glass Beaker
The measurements for a great solution is as follows:
- First pour some distilled water into your 1000mL beaker (to prevent dust)
- Add 200g of copper sulfate
- Add distilled water to the 1000mL line on your beaker
- Using your stirring rod, stir until dissolved
- Add 40mL of Sulfuric Acid, stir
- Fill your 1L HDPE bottle with your new solution until you are ready to use! Make sure you use a bottle that has a safety cap on it.
- Mark on the bottle what date you made it. When you begin use it, also date that. This will come in handy in calculating how many pieces you can make during a date range on the same bottle.
*If you live in colder climates (60 degrees fahrenheit or below), you'll want to boil your distilled water first, so you won't have any issues with dissolving the copper sulfate
Homemade Graphite Conductive Paint Supply List:
- Fine Grade Graphite Powder
- Acrylic Paint or Water Based Polyurethane
- Distilled Water
- Wide Mouth Jar - I use several jars to make varying consistencies for the needs of my different mediums(dipping, brushing, spraying). Make sure to use an air tight plastic lid, or something that won't rust!
- Glass Stirring Rod
- Mix equal parts graphite powder to your choice of either acrylic paint or a water based clear polyurethane
- Stir until smooth, adding distilled water to desired consistency
- Make a base level consistency in one jar, date and label it
- You can then make different consistencies by adding more distilled water or medium to your mixture:
- For dipping or spraying your pieces with conductive paint, you'll want a thinner mixture.
- For brush painting, you'll want it slightly thicker, but also have a container of distilled water nearby to thin your loaded paintbrush up as needed.
- Date and label any of these containers as well
- Always shake well before using
- Have a little cup of clean distilled water nearby when painting to dip your brush into to thin as needed when painting
The Basics: Simple Electroforming Tutorial
If you purchased my Electroforming Starter Kit, you can view the instruction text(same as the printed manual that is included in your kit) here:
(Tutorial pictures coming soon!)
Please keep in mind that this included instructions for the acetone based conductive paint that is included in the kits- and not for a water based copper or graphite conductive paint that is commonly used.
Here is the tutorial for the water based conductive paint (which is usually either a copper or graphite paint): EnchantedLeaves.com/Electroforming/Water-Based-Tutorial
Step by step photos for the tutorials coming soon!
And possibly a YouTube channel! :D
Tips & GuidelinesElectroforming takes some trial, error, tweaking, and a lot of patience! Here are some helpful notes that I've learned over the years.
- Over time, your solution's electrolytes will become depleted. You can then use a new solution, or replenish with brighteners and distilled water(more on that soon!)
- If your power supply has the option of constant current- keep it switched on
- Set both knobs to 0, and don't adjust the voltage, only the amps
- A safe setting is .1 amp per square inch of your piece to be plated
(length x height x .1)
- Turn on the power supply before submerging your piece, and turn off before removing
- When in doubt, "Low and Slow" is the way to go
- Don't let your anode touch your cathode (don't let the bus bar/suspended wire/piece to be plated touch the copper coil wire inside the tank)
- Air bubbles are unwanted! If you see any air bubbles on your piece(from air that was trapped in crevices during initial submersion into the plating tank), gently jiggle your wire until you see all the bubbles shake off. You might want to switch off your power supply, in case jiggling tampers with the connection. Failure to do so during the beginning will cause pockets of unplated spots, as it does not plate under the bubbles
- 85% of the time your piece will appear pink/dull/matte- and that is very normal/common. It will shine beautifully with steel wool, a brass brush or a dremel with a wire brush wheel
- Always be sure your organic pieces are fully dried and sealed with a water based protective coating before painting with conductive paint to prevent contamination of your paint and solution
- Once you've had a better feel for plating, try to increase your amps in the first hour to help get a faster initial coat, then turn it back down. Leaving it on high for too long can "burn" your piece and make your plating too coarse or brittle. It is helpful to use this method for the first coat, since prolonged exposure to the solution can dissolve the conductive painted parts if they aren't plated fast enough
Titanium wire helps prevent "floating" of lightweight pieces in your plating tank
Titanium wire also is less prone to fusing of the suspension wire to the piece
- The more contact points from your suspension wire to your piece, the faster initial plating coverage. For example- suspension with your wire that spirals around your piece(photos coming soon!). This should be experimented with only after you have become more comfortable with electroforming
- If you are brushing on your conductive paint, keep your brush strokes smooth and fluid, to ensure a smooth and even plating, as the finished plate will translate rough brushstrokes
- Always use distilled water when cleaning your brushes, tank, etc, to prevent contamination
- There is no shame in needing to repaint spots you may have missed after plating. Try to catch it soon, otherwise you will have uneven layers of your copper plate. When repainting over a piece that has already started plating, thoroughly rinse your piece with distilled water and fully dry it before repainting the needed spots. I've made the mistake of painting on a piece that still had some solution residue dried on it- and the paint will clump and crumble right off!
- Yes, you can plate multiple pieces at once. You'll need to make sure they are all connected on the same wire, or at least all on an conductive bus bar, and you'll have to increase your amps accordingly(.1 amp per square inch). Only attempt after you're more confident in your plating practice
- You can incorporate aggregation (fish bubbler) to your tank set up if you are having issues with striations or unwanted patterned textures due to proximity of anode/cathode. I haven't had too much success with this, but I'll provide more resources and research on aggregation once I learn it
- As an alternative to painting with a brush, use wide mouthed jars of relocated conductive paint to dip pieces in, removing any excess dripping with a soft brush
- As an alternative to painting varnish/protective sealer with a brush, you can also use a spray form of a water based polycrylic
Jewelry or display racks work great to suspend pieces you are prepping (weather it be the sealant stage or the conductive paint stage!) using opened paper clips (S shaped) to hang the pieces on the drying rack
- Old phone books and text books work as wonderful leaf and flower presses! Leave in for a minimum of 3 days, but best at a week+
- A low setting flat iron can also help to speed up the drying process of leaves (put paper or fabric over to protect them!)
Vegetable Glycerin is a fantastic solution to keep on hand. It can be used to soften and preserve organic materials that you need to be flexible for your project. More details and tutorials on that soon!
- If you want a lacey leaf look- a baking soda wash will help to skeletonize leaves, gently brushing out the fleshy pulp. A good tutorial can be found here.
- If you would like to patina your piece for an antiqued/oxidized look, liver of sulfur works very fast and very well. It smells awful, but is great. Experiment with different water temperatures for some wonderful color effects
Step by step tutorials & more resources coming early 2018!
Affiliate Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate
advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com products