Plasma cutter art ideas: Using a plasma cutter to create metal artwork
Whether making signs, elaborate gates, metal sculptures, home décor, or fireplace screens, the talent and creativity of metal artists never ceases to amaze. When it comes to plasma cutter designs, artists provide never ending inspiration. These creative individuals are also excellent at upcycling as evidenced by artists who turn what many consider junk—old shovels, rusted saws, and discarded fire extinguishers—into jaw-dropping works of art.
Are you interested in creating your own work of art with the help of a plasma cutter? If so, keep reading for answers to common questions we receive from aspiring metal artists.
Can I do freehand plasma cutting or should I use a plasma cutter template or stencil?
It’s up to you to decide the type of cutting you want to do. Some artists create their works of art using a plasma cutter equipped with a handheld plasma torch. Their exact technique can vary. Some will use plasma cutter templates or stencils. They first place the template or plasma cutter stencil onto the metal and then use a plasma torch to trace along the edges. Instead of a plasma cutter template or stencil, some artists will grab a piece of chalk and create their plasma cutter designs directly on the metal before cutting. Others prefer freehand work—using their handheld plasma torch like a painter uses a paintbrush—to create their plasma cutter designs. There are also artists who create their art on a CNC plasma cutter, with others using both methods—a CNC plasma table for some parts and handheld cutting for others.
No matter your preferred plasma cutter medium—handheld, CNC table, or both—there is no question that the greater availability of light industrial plasma cutter options in recent years is making it possible for small home-based businesses and hobbyists to create elaborate projects.
What type of plasma cutter do you need to create metal art?
Typically, metal artists are cutting relatively thin material and prefer a lower amperage plasma cutter. A plasma cutter like the Powermax30® XP is popular among artists who prefer to cut with a handheld plasma torch. These systems also have the advantage of working on regular 120-volt household power, making it easy to hook one up in the garage, and like all Powermax systems come with a lightweight, ergonomically designed torch. The Powermax30 XP is small and lightweight making it super portable, however, there is one detail you need to be aware of: it is not designed to work on a CNC table.
Artists or aspiring artists wanting to create CNC plasma cutter projects will want to choose Hypertherm’s Powermax45® XP. This system is slightly larger than the Powermax30 XP but offers three advantages that make it more versatile:
- It is more powerful and therefore capable of cutting thicker metal with a recommended cut capacity of 16 mm (5/8″).
- It is designed to work on a plasma CNC table so you can do both handheld and CNC plasma cutter projects.
- It can mark and etch metal in addition to cutting and gouging as the amperage level on this system goes down to 10-amps.
Though the Powermax30 XP and Powermax45 XP are the two most popular systems among metal artists, they are by no means your only options. You can choose any of our Powermax® systems. In fact, we know many artists who use a Powermax30® AIR in addition to their main plasma cutter. The Powermax30 AIR is different from any other Powermax in our lineup because it contains an integrated air compressor. This makes the Powermax30 AIR especially well-suited for art installations in the field since a separate air source is not needed.
With the exception of the Powermax30 AIR and Powermax30 XP mentioned above, all of our Powermax systems are designed for both handheld and CNC cutting. Systems like the Powermax65/85/105 SYNC™ will allow you cut thicker material than is possible with a Powermax45 XP.
What type of metal can I cut?
Plasma can cut just about any electrically conductive metal so the metal choice is up to you! We’ve seen art created out of mild steel, stainless steel, brass, copper, aluminum, rusted metal, painted metal, metal that no longer resembles metal, metal grates, and more. Some artists even combine metal with a completely different material like wood or glass.
What about plasma cutter consumables?
You will want to choose the consumables recommended in your plasma cutter owner’s manual. In addition, artists often like to use Hypertherm’s FineCut® consumables. FineCut consumables are designed to produce a narrower kerf with a stiffer arc that is ideal for cutting thinner 10 mm (3/16″ and lower) material at 40 amps and below. These consumables are preferred by metal artists because they provide more control for detailed work. This in turn makes it easier to cut intricate, fine-featured shapes.
Interested in seeing more art created with plasma?
Visit our other post that highlights some work from various artists using plasma.