Monday, March 23, 2009

Mixed Results Using Ceramic Laser Toner Decals

Well, my decals didn't turn out quite as good as Cynthia's! Mistakenly, I originally set the kiln controller to Fast Glaze ^02, and in a panic, I had to stop the firing at about 800 degrees when I realized I meant to set the kiln to a fast glaze and at ^06. I think this had something to do with the majority of the images "lifting off" or looking like they got too hot beacuse the decals on the matte glaze pieces were very faint. All pieces were on the same shelf and the only items firing in the kiln. I am re-firing right now, slower and lower at a Slow Glaze Fire ^07... so we'll see. Linda Arbuckle's article has some possible trouble shooting solutions as well. "Laser-printed decals for ceramic use, by Linda Arbuckle, University of FL ceramics."

Getting back into clay, I wanted to see what the current trends and processes were. For me, reading any books, magazines, Blogs, publications etc. is my favorite vehicle for absorbing information, so I immersed myself in whatever I could get my hands on -the more non-traditional the clay process, the better. One of the books I checked out from the library that piqued my interest was "Image Transfer On Clay" by Andrew Wandless.

The use of transfers on clay interested me because in my past 20+ years as a graphic designer, I have an extensive library of "legal" copyright free images and original graphics. If I incorporated my designs into my clay work, I thought this may contribute to my work's originality. Combined with the good fortune of having the latest in graphic design software (Adobe CS3) and my MacBook Pro laptop, I feel good hardware and software helps to produce successful results using artful decals and transfers. First, 
I purchased a package of decal paper from Bel Decal paper on line. It arrived in a plain brown box from Florida with no real instructions, other than a reminder to remove the protective tissue before hand feeding the card stock into your laser printer. To be honest, I wasn't sure I even had ordered the right stuff! The most important piece of equipment, besides the decal paper, is using the right printer, or more specifically, the right toner, which has enough metal oxides to sustain in firing, and fortunately I have an old, large HP 4500 full color laser jet printer.

When I printed the decals I turned all of the images to black or grayscale in Photoshop and output only in black and not CM
YK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) because my printer is a full color printer. Cynthia recently purchased a very affordable HP p1006 laser printer in which the single black toner toner worked perfectly. Once you have filled a page with your designs and printed the page out, the application is pretty straight forward. Trim the paper close to the image, soak in warm water and slide onto your surface, blot dry and squeegee smooth. The peices I used were made using tile white clay bisque fired to ^04, matte and majolica glazes fast fired to ^05, then decal fired using fast glaze ^06 (which I think I goofed up). 

Here are some GREAT additional resources for using decals on ceramics: Justin Rothshank's Decalware, and Rothshank Artworks. On the Rothshank Artworks web site, click on the link pmirothshank.pdf for a great article printed in Pottery Making Illustrated March/April 2008 "Breaking the Rules -Pushing the Limits With Decals." There are vivid examples, resources, step-by-step 
instructions, applying to wood-fired ware and also how the decals work on unfired clay -which I didn't know you could do. Here is also a link to a Video from with Justin applying decals and demonstrating the process.


Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

well, yeah, I'd want a frog princess on my dishes too!

cindy shake said...

My kiss must not have worked on the first firing... stay tuned, he's back in the kiln...xox!

ang said...

brilliant info, thanks so much for that..that's one fat frog!!

Patricia Griffin said...

The frog is a keeper. Let's see how he looks back out of the oven. Thanks for sharing your adventures into the decal arena!