How to Make a Ceramic Decal with a Laser Printer: Sepia-Toned Images Are Easy to Transfer and Make Permanent

The materials needed for this technique are decal paper and a laser printer. Note, this works for laser printers or copy machines, not ink jet printers. Iron in the toner bonds with glaze in the ceramics. Brands of printers with toner that contain iron include HP and Apple. Beldecal makes a decal paper that can be used for this process. Use the laser water slide decal paper. The decal should be the last step, and placed over a light-colored or clear glaze. The glaze underneath needs to be fired before the decal is applied. This provides a smooth, non-porous surface for the decal to stick to.

Choosing a Ceramic Decal Image

The final image will be a sepia-tone, like an old photograph. Hint, there are many public-domain old photographs on the Library of Congress website. The photographs can be downloaded in various sizes and resolutions. The image does not need to be a photograph. Drawn images can be scanned. Black and white or gray toned images work best. Use your imagination to create something unique.

Images can be sized and set up in Word, Publisher, or any image processing software. The darkest image will be produced print side down on the project. Therefore, if your image contains text, you will need to reverse the image. It is possible to reverse the decal, the image looks fine, just not quite as dark. Remember that partially used sheets of decal paper cannot be fed back through the printer.

Print the image on regular paper first and try it out on the project. If the image looks good and is sized correctly, print on the decal paper.

Applying the Decal

Cut out the image. Cut close to the image to avoid excess decal to smooth out. Soak the image in a bowl of water. The decal paper will separate from the backing in about 60 seconds. If left for a while, the decal will separate from the backing and float on top of the water. This is perfectly fine. The decal is not damaged, just a little harder to work with.

Place the paper, image side down, on the project and slide off the backing. Hold the edge of the decal in place with the thumb. Smooth with a dry or damp cloth. Work out any air bubbles. Air bubbles will leave a blank spot in the image. Very tiny air bubbles, smaller than soda bubbles, will not affect the image. Fire hot enough to soften the glaze.

Firing Schedule for a Cone 04 Glaze:

  1. Lid open
  2. 1 hour low
  3. 2 hours medium
  4. Close lid
  5. 45 min high

Experimentation yields the best results. If the image wipes off, it was not fired hot enough. If the image is faded, it was fired too hot.