Laser Toner Decals

I think I first got the idea for incorporating laser toner decals into my work from reading Paul Andrew Wandless' book, Image Transfer on Clay. I've always been interested in imagery. I was a painting major before I switched to ceramics and I've been trying to successfully combine images and pots since making that switch. In his book, Wandless talks about a few different ways to get images onto pots. Decals were the best choice for me because they are permanent (won't scratch after they're fired), food safe, inexpensive and easy to produce. They also show minute details extremely well. I try to use mainly my drawings by scanning them into my computer and opening them with Macromedia Fireworks.

Things you'll need to make decals:

1.) Waterslide decal paper-I bought mine from ebay. It's about $1.oo a page. Basically, the paper is 3 sheets; a protective cover, clear binder and paper backing. Make sure the paper you get is for laser toner printers.

2.) Laser toner printer-this is the KEY to the whole process. It works because some laser toner ink cartridges contain iron oxide. When you fire the decals in a kiln, the iron oxide is absorbed into the glaze permanently. The final color will be between sepia and black depending on the iron oxide content of the ink. I use the hp laserjet 1300 with good results. You can check the MSDS sheets for hp printers here.

3.) Image editing software like Photoshop or Fireworks. This is important, but not essential. You want to squeeze as many decals as you can onto the page because the paper is not cheap. You can create a document with these programs to be a specific size. I have also used the eraser tool to erase edges and other things I do not want printed to save space.

How to get the images on your pots:

1.) Once you have the images ready to print, you have to peel the protective film off of the decal paper. Make sure you know which direction to put the paper in! You want the images to be printed on the same side that you peeled the film from. Feed the paper one sheet at a time. It is thicker than normal paper and may get jammed if you don't do this.

2.) Let the ink dry for a few minutes.

3.) Cut the images apart, don't leave a lot of extra paper around the edges.

4.) Soak the images in a clean container with clean water until the backing begins to fall away.

5.) Peel the backing off and discard. Carefully apply the images to you pots (they need to have been glaze-fired.) You will be able to wiggle th images around for a few minutes until the water dries. Press out all of the air bubbles with a plastic rib or sponge. The ink won't be absorbed into the pot on air bubbles!

6.) Let the decals dry for about a half hour or until they won't wiggle any more. I fire my decals to cone 06 successfully, but you may want to do a few tests! The glaze needs to get "soft" enough to absorb the iron oxide. I just fire mine with a bisque load so I don't have to do a separate firing only for decals.


  1. This was pretty sweet. I tried and it didnt turn out quite as well as yours but I'm definitely gonna try again. Practice makes perfect, right?


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