Printing Your Own Laser Ceramic Decals

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Recently one of my good friends, Bethany, has been helping me figure out how to make, apply, and fire decals to my ceramics. She’s been using this process for a long time and has been very helpful and patient as I pester her. Check out (and buy!) her work here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/stanleychesteralbert. Thank you, Bethany!

The neat thing about this process is being able to print any black and white image you want (as long as you own the rights to it or it is in the public domain, of course). So, it would be easy to customize a mug, say, with a person’s photo or name or maybe even a phrase they are known for saying. Mine might read: “Where are you and what are you doing?” I like to open emails that way. Anyway, the photos I used as decals above are some I took on my phone and manipulated using Photoshop. The heart on the cup is a string of text I made on one of the other Adobe programs.

Last week, someone posted on a ceramics message board questions very similar to ones I had when first starting this process. I’ve decided to compile what I’ve learned so far into this post. Maybe it can help you. Links to a couple of other good resources are listed at the bottom of the post.

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What I am using for this process

Printer: HP 1022. I bought mine used on Amazon. Bethany finds hers on Craigslist.

Laser cartridge: 12A (Brand new – there are questions about new vs. old cartridges on forums with some saying new ones don’t work. Mine is working fine.)

Paper: BelDecal laser waterslide paper, white backing, clear film. When I called, they gave me a firing program that was totally absurd – it involved my firing an empty kiln to cone 017, then opening the hot kiln, sticking my work in, closing the lid, and soaking it for an hour. Sorry, not happening. I’ll list my firing program below. As always, TEST TEST TEST. Just because this works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you, your clay/glazes, kiln, etc. Tinkering might be necessary.

Glazes:

Porcelain cup = Shaner’s Clear with colorants (cone 10).

Tiles = Deb’s Clear (cone 04).

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Firing cycle (all in Fahrenheit, * denotes degrees):

Apply decals to a clean, already glaze-fired surface. Smooth out all bubbles. Dry at least 24 hours.

5 segments–

1) 200*/220* HOLD 20 minutes [lid cracked 1/2 inch, peeps out]

2) 100*/500* HOLD 15 minutes

[somewhere in the 600* range, close lid]

3) 180*/1000* NO HOLD

[somewhere in the 900-1200* range, put peeps in]

4) 125*/1200* NO HOLD

5) [for earthenware] 200*/1770* HOLD 15 minutes 

OR, 5) [for high fired ware] 200*/1945* HOLD 15 minutes

Approximately 11-12 hour cycle. Very stinky around 400 degrees. Vent if possible, or vacate the area during the firing. TEST TEST TEST.

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Here is my first decal test page, and one of the original photos. You’ll notice that though the decals print jet black, they fire brown. That is because you are burning out basically everything in the decal/toner except the iron oxide, which ends up being brown. To make the decals permanent, you need to apply them to a glazed surface. If you fire to the right temp for your particular glazes (this might be different than mine), the iron will sink into the glaze and become permanent. Cram as much as you can onto the page – you only need enough room to cut around them, and the paper isn’t cheap!

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Laser decals on a porcelain cup and earthenware tiles. Ghosting on the tiles is from firing an original layer of decals to cone 04 (same temperature as the glaze maturation) and then refiring to cone 08 with a new decal in an offset position.

 

More resources:

http://lindaarbuckle.com/handouts/laser-decals-for-ceramics.pdf

http://rothshank.com/justins-work/decal-resources/

Garden time!

Today I added to my little “garden” at the studio. Because I live in a largish apartment complex I can’t have a backyard garden. Hence the taking over of the studio railings. I’ve been looking all over for planters that can hang off round railings – most are designed for window ledges or rectangular deck railings. Today I found this set at Home Depot. They come with self-locking metal strips that you can bend around a railing of any shape (and almost any size… I had about 10″ extra on each of the attachment points). They are called “Fiskars hanging garden system,” and they were $19.98 per set of three baskets. I hung the baskets side by side so as to not block the sun, but they also interlock, so you have the option of hanging them vertically too.
I think they’re great. I’ve been sketching out contraptions to solve this very problem, and this design is head and shoulders above anything I’ve been dreaming up!
Here are some pics. I planted green beans, sweet peas, tomatoes (thanks for the plants, Nancy!), bell peppers, and cayenne peppers in these new planters. I had already planted strawberries and Brussels sprouts in my Topsy-turvy strawberry planter. The BS (ha!) are doing much better than the strawberries.

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Studio garden

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Brussels sprouts are taking over the strawberry planter

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My one and only ripe strawberry so far!