In this tutorial I cover the application of decals to fused glass, but these decals can be applied to other materials such as glazed ceramics, other glazed earthenware and even enameled copper jewellery and more. The processes covered in this tutorial can usually be applied to these other materials, as long as you pay attention to the firing temperature.
I’m assuming you already have your printed decals, probably by purchasing one of our Sepia Decal Designs and choosing the Print ‘n Ship option. However, if you have purchased our Laser Decal Paper and you’re looking for information about developing designs and printing on the Laser Decal Paper you should read the resource article How to Create Sepia Decals with Laser Decal Paper.
You should have also received a comprehensive set of manufacturers instructions with the Laser Decal Paper for using it with other materials, as mentioned above.
While I could just talk about how to apply the decals, I want to just touch on creativity.
This is all about ‘being creative’. While we provide a range of decal designs that can be used individually, there are a number of ways to be creative and create unique imagery. Quite complex imagery can be created by applying a few of the following ideas.
- Consider applying multiple decals, like a collage. Several decals together can communicate an entirely different message to your audience.
- Overlap decals. Yes, you can overlap decals, but dry each one in turn before applying the next.
- Cut up decals and use smaller components. Cutting up decals to apply in sections can be very creative. You can build a complex scene with small components and create connections between components. A simple example is to combine a silhouette of a person with that of an animal to create a more intimate connection.
- Consider adding colour. There are ways to add colour to your decals. Have a read of our resource article How to Add Colour to Your Sepia Decals.
- Experiment. Try anything and then let us know the result, failures and all.
The basic process is quite simple; apply a sepia decal to your cabochons and fire them in a kiln at a high temperature, much like other full colour ceramic or glass decals. The decal backing burns off and the sepia image is fused onto the surface of the cabochon.
The sepia image is permanent and will, from all of our tests, not wear off and can’t be removed without damaging the glass piece. In fact, we also put a test piece through the dishwasher many times and could not detect any noticeable fading. The image is also food safe and thus can be used on practical pieces.
- Use a light coloured base glass. The obvious choice is white, simply because it provides the greatest contrast between the sepia image and the background. But you could use many light colours, and even some richer colours. Obviously, the darker the colour the more the image will disappear against the background. It all depends on the end result you are wanting to achieve.
- Test with text. That sounds funny, but if you purchased your decals from us you will find a row of text along the bottom of each decal sheet that can be used for testing purposes. Save those precious decals.
- Test your kiln. I suggest you fire a test decal on opal white to get a feel for how your kiln fires. Keep in mind that kiln temperature readings are not necessarily accurate. In my kiln, in most cases, I successfully fire the decals to 730 C (1346 F).
- Kilns have cool spots. As you probably know, kilns can have cool and hot spots. Keep this in mind when placing your pieces.
- Glass brand and colour will affect temperature. I use Bullseye 90 glass. Other brands may fire differently. I found a difference between opal white and opaque white glass, the opaque requiring a higher temp.
- Test your project. In addition to glass and kiln variations, the needs of your project will dictate temperatures. Things like layering decals, any colour being applied, the number of firings and so on.
- Apply to a smooth surface. Any irregularity may result in movement and breakup of the image as the surface of the glass softens and attempts to flatten. You may end up with a blurring and indistinct image. Having said that, it does depend on your intended result. I suggest you try a range of techniques. Add a decal to an unfired piece, or even a matt finish, to see what happens.
- Fire your decal last. For the best result your piece should ideally be fully fused and if possible the decal application should be the final process.
- Fire as little as possible. Something to be aware of is that these decals will fade with repeated firings or too high a firing temperature. Remember, all glass heat work is cumulative. The goal is to fire these to a point where they fuse to the glass and no more.
Applying the Decal
Here is what you will need.
- A clean area to work in. Dust and the likes settling on your pieces before they dry is never a good thing.
- Something to cover your work during the drying process, that doesn’t touch the piece.
- A container of warm water for soaking the decal prior to application. Make sure it is big enough so you can retrieve the decal easily.
- A small rubber roller to remove bubbles from under the applied decal, or just a good lint free towel.
- Paper towel.
- A soft lint free cloth.
This is how I do it. Start here but be prepared to experiment if you don’t get the result you require.
- Cut out all your decals before starting. Cut them as close to the image as possible.
- Clean you glass. I strongly suggest you thoroughly clean your glass piece. You don’t want any grease or oil from your fingers on the piece. I first use a glass cleaner that doesn’t leave any smear and a lint free cloth to polish the surface. I then further clean the area where I am placing the decal with alcohol spray and a clean lint free cloth. You should have a squeeky clean surface to apply the decal.
- Soak your decal in warm water. It will curl up. When the curl has flattened out and the decal readily slides on the backing paper it is ready to apply. Do not over soak the decal to a point where the decal separates from the backing paper. This will make your life much more difficult.
- Gently apply the decal as close to the final position as possible. Slide the decal off the backing paper just enough so you can hold it in place on your piece with one hand, then with the other hand slowly slide out the backing paper from underneath.
- Slide the decal so it is in its final position. Keep movement to a minimum. You don’t want too much of the glue from the backing paper left on the glass.
- Remove any air bubbles. If you have a rubber roller, lay a paper towel over the decal and roll out any bubbles. DO NOT RUB. I just use a lint free cloth (a cheap cotton tea towel) that I fold so I have a smooth pad and then dab this without rubbing onto the decal. Us a rolling motion towards the edge of the decal to remove bubbles. Make sure there are no creases in the cloth as they can deform the decal. Use reflected light to carefully inspect your piece to ensure you have removed all bubbles. Bubbles are bad as the trapped air expands and blows a hole in your decal.
- Put your piece aside to dry, covered if possible. Don’t just cover with a cloth as it may stick. Cover so nothing is touching the piece. Dry for at least a couple of hours, depending on your environment. You don’t want to fire a wet decal as the water in the backing paper turning to steam can destroy the decal.
- Once dry, clean around the decal. Clean your piece to remove any residue left after applying the decal. I use alcohol spray on a lint free cloth.
- Fire the decal. Place the piece in the kiln and fire using a suitable schedule. That schedule will differ greatly between a platter and a jewellery cabochon. However, in all cases you must vent your kiln initially to burn off the backing paper. I vent up to about 535 C (995 F), then close the kiln and allow the schedule to continue. For cabochons I ramp up AFAP to about 730 C (1346 F) and then shut off, allowing the kiln to cool naturally. Because the pieces are small this is fine. For a platter I would at least have an annealing segment.
WHY NO RUBBING? If you rub these decals it is possible the image on the paper will release and rub off. You can end up with either a smudged image or a faded image. Dab or roll only.
Hope this all helps with your creativity.