All about the Au, Orotone Prints

I still need to scan my print processes from the last couple of weeks so those will have to wait until the next blog post (Cyanotypes, Vandyke Browns, and Ziatypes), so in the mean time, let’s explore the alternative process of making Orotones (aka Auratones). Orotones consist of a plate of glass or in my case an inkjet image printed on a transparency sheet backed with your choice of metallic material. This combination gives your image that look of metallic, reflectiveness of the Orotones of old. Pick your price range for your metallic backing; mine limited me to the use of foil leafing, which worked just fine.

I used a package of gold foil sheets and a package that had silver, loose leaf flakes. Just a word of warning before you go any further, I made a HUGE mess! Flakes of foil everywhere, both from the foil sheets and the flakes, but the flakes were by far the messiest. I think I may have tinseled my entire office and it isn’t even Christmas.

LowRes-13 copy

When I started this process for class I went to the Internet looking for more specific instructions on using sheets of metal leaf with transparencies and found a whole lot of nothing. I encountered a lot error while trying to lay the leafing sheets on top of various adhesives and paints that I had brushed on paper. I knew I could directly paint the transparency with metallic acrylic paint, but it cracks and still looks slightly dull. I did not have any liquid metal leaf to try, and I was not positive that even if I purchased it that it would coat the transparency to my liking. So through a bit of trial and error, I arrived at the following process and I am very happy with the results.


Once I figured out my process this image is the type of result that I was getting. Just a quick snapshot, but you can see the evenness of texture and color of the gold.

Here is my version of making Orotones if you would like to give the process a try.

Step one is to collect the following materials:

  1. Image printed on inkjet transparency paper
  2. Foil/Metal leaf
  3. Spray Adhesive: 3m Super 77
  4. Self Adhesive lamination sheets (optional)
  5. Metallic acrylic paint (optional)
  6. Support surface of some kind, or a frame for your final image (optional)

First, you are going to print your image on the textured side of a transparency sheet. I purchased my transparency sheets at a local craft store, but next time I will be purchasing these. Prior to printing, I edited my images in Photoshop to get the best range of tonal values and to make sure my highlights did not fall off in a place where I would need more definition. Also, while in your photo editor make sure to flip the image horizontally especially if there is text because, if not, it will read backwards. Next, load your transparency sheet in your printer so that it will print on the textured side of the sheet, and then print just like you would if you were printing on paper.

After your print is complete be careful not to touch the fresh ink as it will smudge, but the tackiness of the drying ink is actually your friend. If your image does not have a lot of highlights (the full blown highlights become clear transparency sheet without ink) you should not need adhesive. Then just lay your foil on top and gently (YES, be GENTLE or don’t and find out why I recommend a gentle touch) use the brush to smooth the leafing into the ink. I found that starting in the center of the image and working towards the edges worked best. Once you reach the edge the excess foil should make a clean break from the edge of your transparency.


LowRes-4 copy



If your image has a lot of highlights you will need to use the spray glue. I did manage to patch up several images that I did not use spray glue on with some clear gel tacky glue, but you give up a smooth, uniform finished product with that method. I still like how a few of those images turned out, as I think the imperfectness of the process can add to the image. But, if you are of the Type A personality – use the spray glue. Spray the printed (tacky, textured) side of the image with glue, your final view will be through the glossy side.

Next while the glue is still tacky, you do not need to rush as you have plenty of time, loosely lay the foil sheets on top of the glue. There are a million, trillion ways to press the leafing into the glue, but I found the (GENTLE) brush from the middle method mentioned above to works best. When I was spot fixing I sometimes just used my fingers too because usually the glue was a bit wet on those, and I didn’t want to get it in the brush. Another issue that you will encounter is that the oils in your fingers make the leaf sheets stick to your fingers, and the foil is very delicate, which can cause it to rip, fold in the exactly opposite direction of your needs. I did see online tutorials where the person used some sort of brush to grab the sheets, but I just made due with my oily fingers.

I also used the spray glue to adhere some transparency prints to the paper that I had painted with acrylic and pressed with leafing flakes for a quirkier, alternative feel. I quickly abandoned this method as it was even more time consuming and messy, and I was not in love with the final product.

LowRes-16 copy

After I had the foil applied to the transparency to my liking, I added clear laminate to back of the foil to help protect it from scratching, as it was still rather delicate. I only had one sheet of self adhesive laminate so I ran out rather quickly, and at that point I used the spray glue to adhere flubbed transparency backings or paper to the backs of the prints. If you are going to immediately frame the image you probably do not need to back it.


I wrecked plenty of prints while learning this process, so give yourself enough materials for mishaps, and time to get a feel for the spray glue and leafing application! Because this blog post seems to be full of dire warnings I will add one last one, do not touch the front of your transparency print with spray glue fingers or get spray glue on the surface by any manner as it will cause a permanent smudge. I knew this and still managed a smudge or two, sticky fingers are sometimes hard to out maneuver.


3 thoughts on “All about the Au, Orotone Prints

  1. Aurotones seem simple but there are so many ways to execute this process. I actually used multiple layers of metallic paint and scratched away areas I wanted a pop of color to show through.


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