Do you feel completely overwhelmed when it comes to electroforming? I know, I’ve been there! When I first looked into electroforming, I was really confused. You’ve probably noticed that there isn’t much information about this form of art on the internet. I had to learn the hard way, but now I’m happy I can help aspiring artists to thrive in their journey! So, here are 10 electroforming tips for beginners that’ll help get you started the right way.
Note: Affiliate links may be used in this post. I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my affiliate link.
1. Be patient
This is probably one of the best electroforming tips I can give you… Be patient! Patience is something I lacked at the beginning, and it caused me to fail many times. I just wanted everything to be done and ready now.
The whole electroforming process is not hard, but it takes a long, long time. First, when you design your piece, if you use 2 parts epoxy, you’ll have to wait at least 8 hours for it to cure. Then, you’ll paint your piece with copper conductive paint, and wait for it to dry. After that, you’ll have to put your creations in the electroforming bath for at least 10 hours (up to 24-36 hours or even more depending on how big your piece is!).
Usually, to create one piece of jewelry, it takes me around 3 days. I’m not the most patient person so this was really hard for me at the beginning. So, here is my advice: don’t rush, take your time to do things and your creations will look amazing!
2. Maintain your bath
When I first started electroforming jewelry, I thought all I add to do was buy the electroforming solution and I’d be good forever. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case! Your electroforming bath needs to be maintained in order to keep working.
After a few plating sessions, the PH levels in your solution will change. Your creations will then end up with a dull salmony color on the surface. When this happens, you can try adding some distilled water and copper brightener to your solution. It should boost the brightening power of your solution and you should be able to use it a little longer.
You’ll also have to filter your bath from time to time to remove the copper deposit and blue crystals at the bottom of your bath. This is easy to do and can be done with a coffee filter.
If you’ don’t want to bother with maintaining your bath, you can just buy a new bottle of electroforming solution. It’s the easiest way to keep your bath clean and working, but it might become expensive in the long run.
If you feel comfortable enough handling acid, you can make your own electroforming solution with recipes found online and then you’ll have an idea of what to add to the solution to maintain it in the long term. However, this is hard to do for a hobbyist and requires you to be familiar with the science behind the process of electroplating and carefully study what happens chemically to your solution.
3. You can plate several pieces at once
If you’ve never electroformed anything before, you can try with one piece, but once you get used to it you can put several in your bath. In the small beaker I use, I put up to 3 pieces at a time. If you have a large bath, you can put many more! Just make sure they don’t touch each other in your bath, so that the back of them can be plated properly. The easiest way to do this is to attach each of them on a different hanging wire.
4. Be safe
Out of all the electroforming tips I’m going to give you, this one is the one you should always remember. Electroforming involves handling chemicals that can be dangerous for your health. I’ve seen so many artists say that they electroform in their living area… Don’t do that! You should definitely not breathe the chemical fumes from the electroforming solution, it could be very dangerous for your health.
You should always put your electroforming bath in a well-ventilated area, out of reach from children and pets. I put mine outside, on the balcony. If you have a garden or garage, that works too. Wear thick safety gloves, long sleeve shirt, and pants. The solution contains acid so you definitely don’t want to receive any of that on your skin.
Also, when you polish your pieces at the end of the electroforming process, you’ll have to wear a respirator. I have a complete list of what you need for your safety when electroforming in this post.
5. Seal your crystals
If you’re using crystals in your creations, you have to seal them before you electroform. If you don’t, the acid in your bath will attack your crystals and they’ll dissolve. The easiest way to seal your crystals is to use liquid latex. All you have to do is apply several coats of liquid latex on the surface of your crystal and wait for it to dry. Then, you’ll be good to go!
6. Keep your bath warm
Here is something I didn’t know when I first started electroforming in Montreal, in the middle of winter. The electroforming bath needs to be kept at a temperature of 60-75F (15-20°C) in order to work properly. If it’s too cold, it will not work! I know some artists who have the bath set up in a garage, and when it gets cold in winter, they place their bath on an electric hob to keep their bath warm. If you do that, set your hob at the lowest temperature.
7. Don’t contaminate your bath
if there’s one thing you don’t want to do it’s to contaminate your bath. If you do, it’ll change the composition of your bath and it will just not work anymore. Contaminating your bath means that you introduce foreign elements in the composition of your bath. So, try not to drop or put anything in your bath that is not what you want to electroform.
I once dropped wood in my bath, I even put my hand (with a glove of course) inside to fix my copper anode… don’t do that. Now I know better, and nothing except my copper wire and my pieces go into the bath. I even clean the tank with distilled water to avoid contamination.
8. Learn to calculate surface area and amps
To determine the amperage settings you’ll need to use, you need to calculate the square inch of the surface area you want to electroform. The average setting is 0.1 amps per square inch of surface area. So, if you want to plate 5 square inches of the surface, you’ll be setting your amps at 0.5. To do the calculation you can use this surface calculator.
9. Keep your bath moving
In order to get an equal plating on all your pieces, it is recommended to keep your bath moving. To do this, you can use a magnetic stirrer. It will just keep your bath moving while your creations are plating. Using a magnetic stirrer is not mandatory, you could do perfectly fine without one. The only thing is, if you don’t use one, you’ll notice that some parts of your piece are more plated than others. On mine, they are usually well-plated at the front but not so much at the back because I don’t use a magnetic stirrer. It doesn’t bother me though, because I add patina at the end of my process so it is not noticeable.
10. Don’t be afraid to experiment
Last but not least, and the most important of all my electroforming tips: don’t be afraid to experiment! Before I could make beautiful pieces of electroformed jewelry I had to try and fail many times. This is part of learning, and even though sometimes it sucks, it’ll only make you better at electroforming in the end. Get out of your comfort zone, be creative and use materials you’ve never used. I can guarantee you’ll love it.
Electroforming is a pretty interesting form of art. If you’re a total beginner, read my super detailed post on how to copper electroform jewelry and what you need to get started. Be safe, learn to maintain your bath and have fun creating amazing copper creations!
I hope this post will help you with your electroforming journey! Do you have other electroforming tips I should add to the list? Let me know in the comment below!