None of these images seen here are on the FRONT of the mirror. All graphics were etched through the silver nitrate reflective coating.

There are a lot of tricks for imaging into glass and mirrors. We used to do high-end specialty production of custom mirror effects many years ago. We can share these with you later, but for now we'll just make mention of the basics here.

Putting an image on the front of a mirror or plain glass is pretty "cheesey" however, by following the DecalPRO system to make a dry-transfer, you can make a fascinating effect by using the GrayTRF UNDER the toner image (much the same as applying white UNDER a color image).

Using Gray however, renders a must unusual "drop shadow" effect. The foils neutral gray tone under the graphic placed on top of the glass surface of the mirror is reflected backwards to the reflective surface of the mirror's base and then into your eye makes the "drop shadow" actually MOVE or float in the glass as your viewing angle changes, however, the image itself on the front does not move.

By putting images into the rear of the mirror, literally imbedding the image past the silver-nitrate layer, renders an equally amazing effect in that the artwork is surrounded by mirror! You can take a full color image, create a “mask” to remove the mirror’s silver backing and then insert the color image right into the mirror from the back. Once the silver nitrate is removed, you'll have clear glass.

There are also other tricks that will evenutally be discussed as time permits. Anyone wishing to know how these tricks work are welcome to call us anytime. One of the most truly awesome effect ever done is to sandblast an image into the back of a mirror, then "glue-chip" the area to make the spectacular "leaf" effects in the glass surface then... add silver nitrate back into the glue-chipped area. It makes the mirror look like a million bucks! It's one of those 'lost art' techniques you just don't see any more. Fascinating!

Here how to image the back of a mirror...
1) Remove the paint from the rear of the mirror
2) Print artwork to plain white paper & make the “mask”
3) Transfer the “mask” to the mirror’s surface
4) Etch the mask to remove the silver nitrate coating
5) Colorize the clear glass with a color print or paint

All mirrors have a layer of paint on the back to protect the very thin reflective coating of silver nitrate from being scratched and tarnishing. Remove all of the paint (or just a small area if you are working on a big mirror). The best paint remover we’ve found that works on all mirrors is called “Graffiti Remover®” (by Klean-Strip® #GA-166). We suggest you practice on a few sample mirrors before attempting to work on a big expensive one! You can purchase a 6-pack of decorative “mirror tiles” or visit a local mirror shop for some free “trashed” pieces.

A “mask” is a negative image. Think of it as an all black page surrounding a white (no toner) image. It is impractical to try to use a laser or copier to create a mask directly using the toner itself as the mask because printers can’t output a solid enough image.

  • Try to keep your artwork designs and images to illustration-type art. If a design calls for a “tint” (say 50% green), you will have to convert that to 100% black for your mask image.
  • Set your printer to output a “flipped” or “mirror” image and print on cheap 20lb paper. Do not use TTS paper for this step!
  • Cut a piece of WhiteTRF to cover the entire black image on the white paper. Lay the piece “lengthwise” (8” wide film laid onto standard 8-1/2” wide paper). Smooth out the WhiteTRF foil against the paper and secure all four corners with “Avery”® laser-type labels.
  • Run this paper & foil combination through the printer again by printing a “blank” page. If you get a wrinkle on the WhiteTRF you can NOT re-use the foil a second time. Throw it out, print another image and do again. The objective here is to make the White TRF stick to the toner printed image so that when we peel it off, we are left with a perfect “void” or clear area on the white foil. Throw away the print and keep the White TRF because it is a perfect negative image! (You can use an iron to make the transfer instead of the laser printer but you have to be very careful that you do not get any wrinkles across the film. If you are using one of the small “personal” copiers, you might not get a perfect transfer due to the copier’s heater being of low capacity. You can “prep” the copier by running a few sheets of blank paper through it followed by the paper & foil combination in quick succession.
  • Carefully and evenly, peel back both paper and foil and discard the printed page. Inspect the WhiteTRF for any missing components of the image. You can use a permanent black marker to “fill in” any easy to repair areas later if you detect only a minor flaw in the mask.
  • Lay this mask shiny side down over a paper towel and apply a light coat of KK-2000 over the dull side. You might want to tape the corners of the film down so it will lay flat for the spraying.
  • Lay a piece of “parchment paper” over the entire white area.

Wipe the entire exposed silver nitrate work piece very softly with denatured alcohol. The silver nitrate coating is extremely thin and can be scratched by a dry paper towel! (If you elected to remove all of the paint from the mirror and you don’t know which side is glass and which is silver nitrate, simply look at any edge of the mirror on an angle, looking from the inside out. If you see any perceptible “depth” you are on the glass side!) Some manufacturers use a “gold tone” protectant over the silver nitrate.

  • Align the mask and rub the image down with a lot of pressure using a dry paper towel to slide across the mask to prevent wrinkles. Carefully peel back the clear carrier directly back over itself and discard. If when peeling back you notice a bit of white film lift off, rub it back down and then continue peeling all the way off. Discard the clear carrier.
  • Remove any visible spray adhesive inside the silver nitrate “image area” by rubbing lightly with alcohol using light, quick strokes, back and forth over the artwork image. Too much rubbing will cause the image to start to fall apart!
  • Tape off all surrounding silver nitrate to prevent any accidents during the etching process. 3M makes an incredible 3” wide, “very low-tack tape” (#2070) which is perfect for this application. It is generally available at all good house-paint type stores. The adhesive strength of this tape is so low it will not damage the silver nitrate surface.

Slip on a pair of disposable gloves before handling ferric chloride. This chemical will not burn your skin, however it will stain anything it touches! Fold a paper towel into a small square and tip the bottle over to dab the paper towel. Hold the mirror in one hand with a light source behind the mirror and rub lightly over the exposed silver nitrate areas. Within a few seconds, you’ll be seeing right through the mirror. It may take a couple of “etchant dabs” to remove all of the silver nitrate. Check all edges of the artwork, especially in the corners to ensure the silver is fully removed right up to the mask’s edge. Wash the mirror with wet towels or running tap water to neutralize the etchant. Dispose of towels as per the instructions on the bottle.

There are several ways to colorize your mirror. You can brush-on metallic paints, air-brush, frost with translucent colors & back-light it or even insert the same image in full color right into the masked area. To prevent oxidation from starting, the silver nitrate surface must be stripped with denatured alcohol to remove finger print oils and other contaminants and then be covered with a few coats of clear acrylic.

A very interesting effect can be had by reversing the above technique to wind up with a totally clear piece of glass with small mirrored “accents”. Here’s an interesting trick... take a picture frame apart, remove the glass and have a mirror cut to the same size. Next, remove all of the protective paint from the back of the mirror. Print all of your “accents” on one sheet of TTS paper and cut them up. Jump over to the TECH SUPPORT button to read up on using an iron... “Calibrating An Iron”. Now position each of the cut up “accents” toner-side down over the silver nitrate mirror backing, cover with a piece of “parchment paper” and apply iron’s heat for about 10 seconds to each one. Allow the mirror to cool and then lay a soaked paper towel over all images for about a minute or two - slide the paper away and wipe away any glue residue. Cover each toner “accent” with WhiteTRF and heat transfer again. Once the art “accent” pieces are all in place, etch the entire mirror surface! Only the silver nitrate under the artwork will be protected with clear glass everywhere else. Leave the artwork in place since it will protect the little sections of silver nitrate from oxidizing. Put the new “glass” back in the picture frame and voila! An interesting effect that will have people asking how you did it?