I have a vector file of technical drawing consisting of detailed line work that I'd like to transfer to a dark paper or card stock. Tracing, making stencils, etc. won't work due to the fine, complex lines.

I don't have access to a screen printer that would do a one-off so I was hoping someone might have some suggestions. In case it helps, I do have access to Photoshop and Illustrator, and there are local sign shops that may have some options but cutting vinyl isn't the effect I'm going for. I'm hoping to get a more textured effect, not a faux texture created digitally.

I was thinking it would be great if the line work could be transferred somehow as an adhesive which I could then sprinkle white or metallic powders over to make the drawing appear on the dark paper.

I'm at a loss to figure out how to do something like that which could allow more textured line work to appear on the page so I'm open to suggestions.

2 Answers 2


Look around the city you live in for a MakerSpace or other tech-tools club. Such places often have tools which would be prohibitively expensive for an individual to own. As a one-time visitor or for a small membership fee, you might get access to any of the following tools which would assist in your project...

  • A Laser Cutter or Laser Etcher
  • A photographic-quality CNC Machine
  • A Vinyl Cutter (to create a stencil over which you can apply metallic paint)
  • A Photo-Etching Rig (to create a better stencil than vinyl)
  • A large form factor Laser Printer to use with the foils which @fred_dot_u suggested.

Such equipment might also be available at a local university or even in the public library.

  • Great suggestions. There is a small makerspace nearby so I'll check that out to see what they offer, and read more about the equipment you posted. I might find a novel or better method using one of those than I imagined.
    – dugost
    Oct 7, 2017 at 17:24

Beginning at the easier level, you may find that laser printer foil will do the job. It's a product from decades ago which works well and simply.

laser peel off foil

One prints an image using an ordinary laser printer. It must be a laser printer, although a toner-based copier will also work. No ink-jets!

The printed image is then covered with the foil and secured using appropriate fasteners usually provided with the product. The fasteners have to be heat resistant.

You then apply heat to the foil and image which causes the plastic powder from the toner to melt and merge with the foil. When the entire image has been heated and cooled, the foil is peeled away, leaving the new color to the image.

Various colors are available. I've primarily used gold, but it was nearly 20 years ago and there is more variety now.

One can use a heat press, a clothes iron or feed the paper and foil back through the printer, using caution, to cause the fuser portion of the printer to heat the toner for bonding.

The less easy level involves a laser cutter. That portion is left as an exercise for the reader.

  • As I'm planning to print something likely larger than will fit through a laser printer, I may have to use the clothes iron method but I'll see if I can find any of this foil. Coincidentally, I last used something like this about 20 years ago myself on a project in college. Thanks for the reminder!
    – dugost
    Oct 7, 2017 at 14:39

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