Pottery Tips and Techniques
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Decals can be a costly and time consuming way to print images for ceramic pieces.
There are several types that can be used with pottery.
Regular commercial ceramic decals are fired at Cone 017 and can withstand daily use, mild soaps and exposure to direct sunlight without any damage to the image.
Most nonfunctional pieces do not need to withstand a great deal of handling.
I've made ceramic no fire decals and used color laser printed photos not normally intended for ceramic use.
Laser printed decals are low cost in comparison to fired ceramic decals. Ceramic fired decals are high priced and may include a large set up fee.
Laser decals,(ceramic no fire decals) are heat cured at low temperatures that are within the range of a regular kitchen oven, these no fire decals are easy to use and allow for cheap experimentation and personalization.
Laser printed decals do have limitations and drawbacks though.
They can only be used for nonfunctional ceramic works, because a bare decal can be easily scratched.
They do not have the same lasting quality as decals made specifically for ceramics.
It is easy, start with digital photographs or any picture you like.
GETTING DECAL PICTUREPhotographic images can be manipulated using computer graphics software such as Adobe Photoshop.
Self portraits can be altered to exaggerate features, add elements or reconstruct the composition to enhance the work.
Begin with a digital image and using your computer, alter the composition, color and shape.
The image that appears on the screen is a mirror image of what will appear on your piece of ceramic.
When you’re finished working with the image, reverse it, this is especially important for text.
When the images are complete, lay them out on a single page and include multiples.
Having several copies of the same image helps you avoid additional trips to the printer.
PRINTING CERAMIC DECALPrint the decals on Lazertran decal transfer paper on your printer but be sure and check your printers compatibility with the paper at www.lazertran.com or have it printed at an office supply store Kinko's or Office Depot.
Lazertran decal paper is available from their website at www.lazertran.com.
Always print out a proof on plain paper first to check color.
Most printers will accept your digital image file from a CD, flash or jump drive.
APPLYING NO FIRE DECALSTo put the decals on your ceramic, you'll need a heat gun, scissors, rubber rib, utility knife, cotton balls, rubbing alcohol, tray for water, decals and your ceramic piece.
To make sure that they stick and can be seen, apply decals to clean, glazed surfaces.
When you have a light colored decal always put it on a piece of pottery that is painted or glazed dark so it will show up well and a light background if your decal is dark.
The ceramic surface should be flat or gently curved so that the decal will lie flat.
Remove dirt, grease and oils by cleaning the surface with rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball.
Cut the decal to the desired size.
I use the proof page images as templates on awkwardly shaped forms to assist in correct sizing.
Get a tight fit since any further trimming of the decal when it’s in place may result in tearing.
To eliminate air bubbles trapped in the toner, use a heat gun to slowly and briefly heat the decal until it becomes shiny.
Be careful because overheating will damage the decal.
Soak the decal in water until it releases the paper backing after it curls and relaxes, gently wipe the gum off the back of the decal with your fingers.
If the gum is not completely removed, it will turn brown when fired.
Place the decal on the surface image-side down.
If necessary, apply heat from a hair dryer to help massage the decal over gentle curves.
Use a rubber rib to remove any excess moisture or air bubbles from underneath the decal because air bubbles will rupture the surface of the decal when cured.
Also, make sure the edges are adhered to the ceramic surface or they will curl and melt.
Trim the decal with a craft knife, if necessary, but use caution to prevent tearing.
TIP FOR FINISHING NO FIRE DECALSIf you want a less glossy finish, omit the firing.
If you do omit it, don’t wipe the gum off the back of the decal and apply the decal to the ceramic piece face up, no mirror image needed.
Apply a coat of clear poly acrylic paint to seal and protect the decal.
FIRING DECALSBefore firing, the decal has a satin finish, which will become glossy once it is fired.
Place the kiln or oven on the lowest possible temperature approximately 150ºF and hold this temperature for at least an hour, then slowly raise the temperature every 20 minutes.
The decal should become glossier as you approach 400ºF.
It’s possible to get the desired glossy finish at a lower temperature if applying heat for a longer period of time.
Check the piece every 15 minutes or so to see if you have gotten the desired finish.
When done, shut off the heat and allow the piece to slowly cool in the oven or kiln.
I sometimes rush the firing process or fail to remove all the air bubbles, which results in pinhole marks in the fired decal.
If this happens to you, touch up the imperfections on your pottery with acrylic paint or you can remove decals with lacquer thinner if necessary and start over.
OK, now that you know the how comes and why for's about no fire decals, go find a picture that you think is the most beautiful thing you ever seen and make a decal of it yourself.
Put it on a piece of ceramic and you will have created your very own ceramic masterpiece!
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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.
Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.
The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.
With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.
When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.
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