Printing your own Laser Decals
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.
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: BelDecal laser waterslide paper, white backing, clear film. When I called, they gave me a firing program that was totally absurd – it involved my firing an empty kiln to cone 017, then opening the hot kiln, sticking my work in, closing the lid, and soaking it for an hour. Sorry, not happening. 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.
Porcelain cup = Shaner’s Clear with colorants (cone 10).
Tiles = Deb’s Clear (cone 04).
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.
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.
Here is my first decal test page, and the final decals after being fired onto my pieces. 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!
See more helpful ceramic resources here.