Rust Printing




I've become a huge fan of rust since I learned about rust dyeing. Now I want to share another technique with you, called rust printing. It's a way to print a graphic design or a shape onto materials such as artificial leather, paper or plastic. It's an interesting technique to experiment with. Take a look at this Instructable to learn more about the possibilities of rust printing!

To learn more about rust dyeing, see my previous Instructable:

Step 1: Graphics & Shapes

By using the Omax Waterjet I've cut out a couple of graphic designs and shapes. I recommend simple letters and shapes. You can't control how the material you're printing on will absorb the rust and often the rust will bleed over the edges.

I can imagine not everyone has access to a metal cutting machine like a waterjet or metabeam. But there are metal letters and other graphic designs available for sale. You can also take a look at your own metal collection, anything rusty with a cut out pattern is worth trying.

Step 2: Basic Steps

Choose a material, preferably a material with a flat surface. Make the metal shape wet by spraying a combination of vinegar and water on the surface. You can also sprinkle some salt over the surface to speed up the process. Vinegar and salt have the ability to get the rust off the metal so it will get in- or onto the material. Place the metal shape on top of the material. You can place something heavy on top to make sure it stays flat on the material.

How long you have to wait before you can take the metal shape from the material depends on the material. In the next steps I explain per material I experimented with which steps I took and what the results are.

Step 3: Materials

The fun part of rust printing is to experiment with different materials to print on. I gained surprising results with artificial leather, paper and plastic sheets. But I can imagine there are a lot more possibilities to experiment with!

Step 4: Rust Printing on Artificial Leather

Artificial leather turned out to be one of the best materials to use for the rust printing. If you wait long enough, a rusty layer will attach to the leather.

For this experiment I used grey and red artificial leather with a smooth texture and a flat surface. I sprayed the combination of water and vinegar on the rusty shape, sprinkled some salt on top and placed it on the leather. I waited a night before I took the metal shape from the leather and let it dry.

A disadvantage of printing on artificial leather is that you can't fix the print. At least, I haven't found a way to fix it yet. So you have to be careful that you don't damage the layer of rust.

Step 5: Rust Printing on Paper

Rust will make beautiful patterns on paper and it doesn't need a lot of time to develop into a visible print.

After I made the surface of the metal shape wet and sprinkled some salt on top, I also sprayed some water and vinegar on the paper itself. I placed the metal shape on the paper and kept an eye on the process. After a couple of hours the paper already absorbed the rust. I took the metal shape from the paper when I thought the print was dark enough, let it dry and after that I placed the paper under a couple of heavy books to straighten the wrinkles.

Because the paper is absorbing the rust, it's important that you keep the metal and paper wet. But be careful with adding water and vinegar, the paper will wrinkle quickly. Using thicker paper is also a good idea for avoiding too much wrinkling.

Step 6: Rust Printing on Plastic

Even plastics, such as acrylic sheets, can be used for rust printing!

The process is similar to the artificial leather process, as the rust will attach to the surface instead of being absorbed into it. I made the surface of the metal shape wet and placed it on an acrylic sheet with some heavy objects on top of it. I waited for a night before I took the metal shape from the plastic and let it dry.

If you want more rust printed on the plastic sheet you should give it more time and add some water and vinegar now and then.



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    9 Discussions

    Waldemar Sha

    2 years ago

    Makes me think of this:


    3 years ago

    That look really cool! The black one in the first picture of step #4 really looks like fire


    3 years ago on Introduction

    I used just a salt and water spray on my metal sculpture pieces - left in the sun, and they rusted beautifully. Will have to use vinegar next time - easier to mix. Isn't it funny how when you want things to rust, it seems to take forever?!?!? Great project. Just wish I had a waterjet cutter to make some designs.

    You photograph your images so beautifully and I enjoyed finding out more about this process, thankyou.


    3 years ago

    *immediately starts searching internet for waterjet cutters nearby* Love it!


    3 years ago on Introduction

    So Creative! I love the look! I've applied iodine to paper to get a rust effect. I might have to try this too!