Printing Your Own Laser Ceramic Decals

04_10_decal

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: Laser waterslide paper, white backing, clear film. 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!

laser_decal

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/

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Kiln Update

Today’s post was going to be about my recent excursions to Copenhagen and Louisiana, but my kiln is ready to be unloaded, so I’m going to go do that instead!

I used every available shelf for this kiln. Then I used shelves for the wood kiln. There ended up being about 1/2 cone difference between the top and bottom.

Checking the translucency!

Unglazed cup

Glazed

Another cup – view 1

view 2

 

view 3

Here’s a preview for tomorrow’s post:

Into the Fire

Ready to fire!

Well, peeps…  Here’s my first major project of the semester, in the kiln and ready to fire.  These particular pieces are for the show we’re having in NYC at the Thomas Hunter Projects in a couple of weeks.  If you’d like to come to the (closing) reception, it’ll be from 6-7:30pm on Friday the 24th of February.  It would be nice to see you there!  The show itself opens on the 13th.  I believe it’s open to the public free, on weekdays.

This load will be fired to Orton cone 11.  What does that mean, you ask?   Cones are little tall skinny pyramids that melt at different points in the firing.  Notice them in the upper right and lower left of the photo above.  You can think of them as temperature gauges, even though that’s technically not correct – they measure the heat work done inside the kiln, not the temperature.  For example, cone 11 will melt somewhere between 2359 and 2394*F, depending on how fast the kiln is fired.  If the kiln is fired really slowly, the cone will melt at a lower temp than if it’s fired quickly, because there’s more heat work done in the slower firing.  [Please see comments below for more explanation of heat work.]

So, to cut to the chase: you place cones in specific areas of the kiln, typically where you can see them throughout the firing.  This kiln has two peepholes (or spies) in the front door.  When the kiln is going, I can take out a peep (little refractory -non-melting- plug) and look in the hole to see my cones.  As they melt or “fall” I can tell what’s happening inside the kiln.  I can see if it’s firing evenly, from top to bottom, and adjust it accordingly.  I can also tell when to start the reduction process (starving the kiln of oxygen to produce certain color response from the clay) and when to lighten the reduction.  [To read more about reduction, see the comment section of this post.]  The cones also tell me when my firing is finished.  When cone 11 falls in this kiln (it’ll look like it’s bending in half and touching its toes), I know to shut the kiln off.

These pieces are paper-thin porcelain, so they should be super duper translucent after they’re fired (and changed from ‘clay’ into ‘ceramic’).  I’m a little worried about the kiln itself though, because the last person who fired it had some problems with it randomly shutting off when it got to the higher temperatures.  So, I might end up babysitting it on a nearby chair with a book for several hours tomorrow.  Good times!  Hopefully it won’t come to that, though.  Wish me luck!

Orchid update. Because I know you were dying to know! 9 blossoms and 2 itty bitty buds 🙂 Also, please enjoy the pictures of my family and friends in the background.