Sunday, October 21, 2012

Backwards and forwards with laser decals

Yes I have heaps on Katrina Chaytor to tell you but I may not get that done this weekend, stacks going on family wise.  As I compose my thoughts on the huge amount of information gleaned watching Katrina in action at POTober - I want to mention a hint or two about laser decals that I may not have shared before.  It may influence how you go about your decal work.  Please excuse if I blogged this already.

Here are a couple of slipcast  bowls (Keane's JCast I think) onto which I applied laser decals post glaze firing, taking the decal firing to 1060 degrees C, way higher than normal onglaze decals which are usually around 750-800 degrees C (can't remember how to find the degree sign without getting distracted).  Can you see the difference?  One bowl has far clearer images than the other.  The least clear image is from the decal that was applied in the normal waterslide manner.  You trim your decal, soak it in water, apply it to the glazed ware face up and slide the cream card backing away from under the printed image leaving behind just the black laser printed image on fine transparent plastic, squeegeeing it into place and removing air or water from behind.  Easy right?  It really is exactly like those toy tattoos you used to play with as a kid.

bowls and decals by Elaine Bradley, drawn design of decals by Emma Vinkovic
Below the left hand bowl has a better, clearer image than that on the right - why?  This happened when I applied the decal onto the ware 'back to front' - face down, i.e. TONER side down, without relying on the waterslide effect to put it in place, and without the gummy layer between the decal and the backing paper to help it adhere to the ware.  I sometimes put a lick of gum arabic betwwen ware and decal on to get a bond going.  It seems to have kept more of the print/toner that was printed on the decal than the other bowl.  I think it is worth that teeny bit for effort for such a more defined result.

Below is a collage of laser decals applied to a store bought plate - before and after firing.

Right now I am experimenting optimistically with printing with cobalt in the toner cartridge.  I'll post the fired results when they are ready.  I doubt I'll get to finishing my post on Katrina's work.  So tired ... a local party kept my whole street awake and I am a yawning wreck.  See you soon, possibly over at 
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All text in this blog posting is copyright of Elaine Bradley, Ceramic Artist, Western Australia unless quoting from another source.  All photographs in this blog posting are copyright of Elaine Bradley unless otherwise stated.  No responsibility can be taken for external links.  Please report any errors in crediting photographs, sources or facts to the author in order to allow her to rectify the matter.  Your response or feedback is welcome.


  1. Those look super, they look like they are raised off the bowls. I bought a laser jet printer to do decals right before I left California and here it is two years later and I haven't even tried it, one of these days.

  2. by back to front do you mean the image is reversed, toner side agains the bowl? how do you get the image to adhere, by wetting the outside when it's against the bowl?

  3. Linda, yes by back to front I mean the image is reversed toner side against the bowl. There's little except water to get it to stick so I often add a lick of gum arabic with a soft little paint brush as an adherent under the decal. Have you tried anything like that or anything else?

  4. Elaine, thanks, no I haven't tried decals but I do have an HP printer to make them up, perhaps I will give a go, I have lots of ghost town photos and other photos I'd like to memorialize on pottery somehow, a distant goal perhaps.

  5. Hi Elaine - these are great - thanks for the tip, I'll try that. Now I'm integrating my laser decals with the transfers I bought in China in my next exhibition that I've just started working on ( the Chinese call the the transfers decals too - all very confusing). The range of on-glaze decals in China is staggering - a whole street of decals shops in Jingdezhen, and they fire to all different temperatures too. We also visited the decal making factory and saw them being made using silk screens. I'll let you know how I go with the reverse application decals!!

  6. Hi I am a student currently in year 12 and I'm interested in using laser decals in my art BOW
    I was wondering if your store bought plate was from any dollar shop or did you have to buy it from a ceramic store