Photo Polymer Plates for Jewelry Artists

6 Must-Have Techniques to Make Your Jewelry Totally Unique

The use of Photopolymer Plates in the Visual Arts is extensive! Although Photopolymer Plates were developed for Flexographic (industrial) printing, artists soon found ways to exploit this very versatile material for making art prints, etchings, artist books and more. Today these plates are also used by jewellery artists worldwide. When I first introduced the Metal Clay community to the concept of making texture and design plates at home, for a low cost and in a very short period of time, I had no idea how well they would be embraced. You can find step by step instructions to make the plates here.

The Brooch I Wear When Teaching Jewelry

The Brooch I Wear When Teaching Jewelry

But making impressions is only one technique the plates can be used for. Once you have the set up required for exposing and making the plates, you are all set to use them for other things: 1. Printing This is what they were designed for! Think of packaging and presentation materials and printing on materials to make jewelry from.

  • Use your logo on Card Tags, pretty paper bags, or for that matter fabric bags.
  • Print designs on simple paper box tops
  • Use for simple printing on invitations to shows or exhibitions
  • Print onto perspex or on glass for use in jewelry pieces

2.    Embossing This works especially well when you use the harder polymer plates. All you need is a simple ball stylus purposely designed for embossing, or try an empty ballpoint pen to start you off. Make sure to use good quality, heavy paper. 3.  Using a Photopolymer Plate as a Mold for Wax Models for Casting Making multiple, or related castings is easy when you start with a basic design in a polymer plate. *    Use the deepest plate you can buy *    Brush Petroleum Jelly into the grooves and all over the plate *    Build a shallow retaining ‘wall’ around the design to keep the liquid wax in *    Pour the wax carefully into all the grooves *    Let it cool naturally and take it off the plate The resulting wax can be further worked like any other wax model 4. Making Molds for Glass Once you start making cast glass designs with Photopolymer plates, you’ll get hooked to the ease of getting intricate designs, lettering etc with absolute accuracy and so easy to achieve.

  • Use a plate thickness suitable for your design (a plastic backed plate would work better for this process)
  • Oil well in the grooves and all over the plate
  • Build a retaining ‘wall’ around the design, make it in two steps, one for the plaster and one a bit deeper for the glass
  • Pour in your casting plaster mix and let set
  • Take off the plate and dry thoroughly

Then follow you favorite casting schedule with the glass of your choice 5. Making Molds for Pottery Clay Plaster molds you make for clay would be similar to the ones described above. They can be simple press molds, or made with a well to take casting slip. You could also try to dust a plate with powdered clay and use pottery clay to take an impression directly from the plate. Use a flexible (plastic-backed) plate to make it easier to release from the plaster or clay would be advisable. Very intricate designs can be achieved, as a base for further work, or for inlaying other colours of clay. Make lovely pieces that can be set in metal or simply strung on cord or leather.

Bi-cone Bead in the Making

6. Making Impression Plates for Polymer Clay and Metal clays This is what many metal-clay artists use to get nice clean lines in their designs.

  • Excellent as a starting point for further carving
  • Great for bold inlay designs
  • Making metal Logo tags, using computer artwork including lettering
  • Making Keum-boo texture plates and more
Bi-cone Bead

Bi-cone Bead

The possibilities seem endless,  and I haven’t even scratched the surface! In the next few weeks I’ll expand on some of these techniques, making it easier to follow the different processes. If you’re new to PPPs, try them!  I’m sure you’ll like them too once you’ve made a few plates. Initially process seems very complex, but nearly all of my students found it easy to do them after a couple of tries, so don’t give up too early:) Have you used Photopolymer plates in your work? Please share what you use and what your medium is and how you expose them, I’d love to know:)

Leave a Reply 0 comments

Jody Kidd - April 15, 2013 Reply

There are a few places to get PPPs, is one you could try

Robert - April 15, 2013 Reply

We’re can I buy these Polymer Plates?

Maggie - March 12, 2013 Reply

I use 0175 plates for enameling Wayne, what are you planning to do with these very thick plates? Is there a reason you want them thick? Check out boxcar, they have them:


Wayne Spinks - March 12, 2013 Reply

What is the thickest photo polymer you have found? We are just getting ready to try this technique. Thanks W

Lorraine Cook - September 4, 2010 Reply

Last time I wrote to you I believe you were heading south to Melbourne. Now it appears you’ve returned to the North? Are you still teaching? Where is the new factory/studio? Your blog is not giving vital secrets away like ‘location’. But a drive to Tamborine is no big deal so if that is where you have returned to then I think it’s time I got to know about PMC. I had one go and muffed it. Well a couple of things turned out OK but just need someone to focus me.

StudioSylvia - January 6, 2010 Reply

Hi Maggie.
Wishing you a wonderful 2010 filled with many blessings, unlimited artistic endeavours and much art filled moments.
Very informative post. I have been making polymer stamps, using a satchel of polymer and the process is the same except as what we did with the plates, except for setting the polymer after the stamp has been made.

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