How to add photos or drawings to glazed ware using decals

by Kaytea Petro

Large decals

Want to add drawings, logos or photos to your ceramics? Here's an easy technique that looks great!


Make your piece, bisque and glaze fire it.

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However you normally make ware - throw, handbuild etc. - go ahead and do that. Glaze it and fire it (any temperature firing is fine, as long as it works with the clay body and the glaze). Matte glazes work best; metallic glazes don't work very well.


Making the decals.

You're going to need decal paper and a laser printer. The best stuff is Fired-On Images MS (Multi-Surface) Transfer Paper, which you can order online. The best printers are HP Laserjet - if you're buying a new one, you can call them and ask for the one with the highest iron-oxide content in the ink. I use a HP LaserJet Pro MFP M127fn.

Using your graphics program to edit your images and size them to fit your piece. Print them out on the decal paper.


Cut out the decals.

Decals pretty much only transfer onto smooth surfaces, so trim the decals to size and get ready to transfer them.


Submerge the trimmed decal in a cup of water.

This will allow the decal to separate from the paper.


Smooth the decal onto the piece.

Use a sponge to press out any air bubbles.


Bisque fire the piece again.

Fire the piece to bisque temperature (04-06), any higher and the decal will be destroyed by the glaze running etc. At this temperature, the glaze won't run but it will open up and accept the iron-oxide from the decal.

The final piece will be dishwasher and microwave safe (provided you didn't use metallic glazes). Don't put the decals anywhere that will touch food because it's possible that it will leach into the food, although I have tested this using extreme acid and sunlight, and had no effect.