Laser Printer Decals

 This week I’m going to share with you guys a little about laser printer decals. This is something I have been experimenting with and still have not mastered, but I have been having a lot of fun with it.  One of my main inspirations for these decals are scientific illustrations.  While I am drawn to all kinds of scientific illustrations, from old, strange surgery methods, to field guide chart drawings, and human anatomy, my main focus has been on animal skull illustrations.  In my spare time I have been doing a few drawings of a couple different animal skulls and have turn them into decals to apply to some of my ceramic mugs.  I have been playing around with different application kiln temperatures, as well as seeing which glazes work to apply the decals on, and which ones do not.  I have used a few different sources online as guidance for this process since I don’t really know any other ceramic artists who do this sort of thing.

There are a few things you need in order to do this type of surface decoration.  The first thing you need is a laser printer,  I found one for $20.00 at the University’s surplus store, it is not the best quality, and probably needs a new ink cartridge, (these are super expensive so until I decide if this is something I want to do frequently with my ceramics I am holding off of getting some equipment of better quality), but the better quality printer you have, and ink, the better your results will be.  I have found that my images have come out pretty dull-as you will see below- and I am almost certain part of the reason is because I need to replace my cartridge.  The reason you need to use a Laser printer, and not an ink jet printer, is because the Red Iron Oxide in the laser printer ink will be what reacts with your cup’s surface-creating the image. So you can see how if you are low on ink, your image quality will suffer.  The next thing you need is a paper called laser decal paper, this is very similar to temporary tattoo paper.  Here is the link to the site where I ordered mine from, sometimes you can find it cheaper on amazon or other sites of the sort. http://www.beldecal.com/laser_paper.html  The last things you will need are scissors, a bowl of water, and a sponge.

Here are my drawings, I will scan them into my computer and format them just by using Microsoft Word, but you can use whatever program works best for you.

Cooper's Hawk Skull

Cooper’s Hawk Skull

Deer Skull

Deer Skull

1.The decal paper you will print on has a protector sheet that you need to remove.  (Typically the paper will come with a sheet of instructions on how to use it so follow those instructions as well).  First run a test on normal printing paper so you don’t waste the decal paper if it doesn’t turn out how you want.  I always fill up a full sheet with multiple images of multiple sizes so I’m utilizing all the space on one sheet. Then proceed to print the image you want to use on your cup onto the decal paper.

Remove protective layer

Remove protective layer

This is my printer and the paper, I keep it in the bag it came in along with the instructions and extra decals I haven't used yet.

This is my printer and the paper, I keep it in the bag it came in along with the instructions and extra decals I haven’t used yet.

Here are some test prints I ran.

Here are some test prints I ran.

2. Cut out your image you want to place on your ceramic piece.To do this you will place your decal image into a bowl of water for about 5-10 seconds.  The time will vary depending on the size of your decal-the smaller the image the shorter amount of time.  A good way to check if its ready is to try to gently slide the image away from the backing paper, if it moves it is ready to apply to your piece of pottery.

Placing the decal in water for about 5-10 seconds

Placing the decal in water for about 5-10 seconds

3.  Place the decal on your piece of pottery and gently slide away the backing paper.  The thin transparent layer your image is printed on is very fragile so be very careful not to rip it.  You will have a little bit of opportunity to move the image slightly if you have to adjust where it sits on your piece of pottery.

Sliding the backing off of the decal.

Sliding the backing off of the decal.

Adjusting where it will sit.

Gently adjusting where it will sit.

4.  Once it is in place, take your damp sponge and smooth out any wrinkles and air bubbles, you want it to sit flat against the surface of your piece of pottery.

Sponging away extra moisture, bubbles and wrinkles.

Sponging away extra moisture, bubbles and wrinkles.

5. You will then place your work into a kiln set to about cone 06, and when it comes out, all the material will have burned away and leave you with a sepia toned image of your printed decal!

Ready for the kiln.

Ready for the kiln.

All fired and ready for use.

All fired and ready for use.

For my decals, I have been trying to make them completely on my own, however, there are other options for people who do not like to draw, or don’t want to purchase the printer and the paper.  Another option is to go online and purchase pre-made decals.  When you order online decals you can not only choose to have multiple colors-when you make them the way I have been doing it, they come out in a sepia tone only because you are only relying on the red iron oxide as your colorant, buy you can also send them your own design and they will make it for you.  I have not done this yet but here is a link to a source I found for a place that will do this for you. http://www.theceramicshop.com/store/category/40/242/Decals/

 WHAT’S ON THE RADIO:

This week was a fun one, we had a house concert at our place and were lucky to have Robert Louis Cole play for us. So this week I have been listening to his album “Long Darkness of the Night”.  Here is one of his videos for your viewing and listening pleasure.

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One thought on “Laser Printer Decals

  1. Really interesting and cool method! I’ve never seen anything like this before, so it was pretty mind-blowing to see how this is done. Why do you choose animal skulls? I just ask because after viewing these images I find them really interesting and aesthetically pleasing, which I think is rather odd considering they’re objects from something that is dead. I guess I never considered anything that had to do with death aesthetically pleasing before because I just considered the negative connotations associated with death. The theme on your blog took me a second to figure out though, because it was so simple and hazy that it made things complicated for me. Awesome blog!

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