Duplication of uniqueness: electrotyping in nature printing and its application in contemporary art

Heritage Science. 2019;7(1):1-10 DOI 10.1186/s40494-019-0263-0


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Heritage Science

ISSN: 2050-7445 (Online)

Publisher: SpringerOpen

LCC Subject Category: Fine Arts | Science: Chemistry: Analytical chemistry

Country of publisher: United Kingdom

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML, ePUB



Valentina Ljubić Tobisch (Department of Physical Chemistry, University of Vienna)

Albina Selimović (Department of Physical Chemistry, University of Vienna)

Anna Artaker (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Elise-Richter-Research Fellow)

Martin Klobassa (Sculptor and Metal Designer)

Wolfgang Kautek (Department of Physical Chemistry, University of Vienna)


Blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 19 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Abstract The nature printing technique was designed for the electrotyping reproduction of leaves and other natural products. Authentic impressions could be performed by inserting leaves between two lead plates or pressing leaves into the lead plate by a press. The impression obtained in the soft lead plate could then be further reproduced by copper electroplating. Electrochemically deposited copper is hard-wearing and therefore very suitable for the production of printing plates. However, depending on the technical implementation and the choice of the materials used, decisive differences in the faithfulness of reproductions of original motifs may occur during the electrochemical deposition. A central topic in electroforming of printing plates is the choice of the conductive layer on the mould. In the present study, it has been shown that graphite powder represents a conductive phase on the siloxane mould superior to silver and copper powder. The grain size of the copper electrodeposit depended on the powder grain size. The copper plate deposited on graphite powder showed the lowest grain size (5–20 µm) and the highest homogeneity of the print background. Hand polishing of the printing plate resulted in a much better faithfulness of the motif details than that of the machine polished version. However, the background of the print derived from the machine polished plate was the most homogeneous. Electrochemical investigation showed that remnants of the silver powder could result in local elements that could enhance corrosion and thus impair the durability of the printing plates. This phenomenon was negligible with the conductive layers consisting of graphite and copper.