It is a very exciting time to be a ceramic artist. There is a wealth of information available to help you do virtually anything you can dream up with pots. This is especially true when it comes to image transfer. Over the years, artists have been experimenting and discovering new ways to get imagery onto pots using high-tech and low-tech methods.
In today’s post, an excerpt from our book Image & Design Transfer Techniques, Martina Lantin explains a fairly low-tech way to use a photocopy or laser toner print out to transfer a pattern onto a pot. –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
How to Prepare the Laser Toner Transfers
The toner-resist transfer technique depends on the water-resistant property of the toner (rather than the toner’s iron content as in decal printing). It’s best to experiment with laser printers or copiers available to determine which may work best. Line drawings or patterns with equal amounts of figure and ground are suited to this technique. Using high-contrast images with minimal large open spaces ensures that the black areas resist the application of pigment and the printed spaces are consistent in their color application.
The image can be generated through the use of copyright-free imagery, or drawings made either on paper or digitally. Many copiers have the capacity to color reverse the image (making what is the black-on-white line drawing into a white-on-black image). When working with text, letters need to be mirrored in the original as the print process will be the reverse making the text readable.
Applying the Laser Toner Transfers
Apply the image to clay once the sheen disappears. Compress the back, then once the paper dries, peel it off.
This technique is flexible, working well with slips, commercial underglazes, and colorant/frit mixtures. I use a mixture of two parts Mason stain to one part Ferro Frit 3124. I like the direct control over color that my own stain mixture provides. Water is slowly added while blending the components together with a brush or palette knife (figure 1). The mixture may need to be adjusted to get the right consistency that’s repelled well by the toner spaces of the image. An additional variable is the pressure on the brush. Working quickly and directly can be the most efficient form of application.
If desired, apply a backing slip over the paper pattern before applying it to the clay. This creates a varied background.
Loading the brush with pigment, the lines of the motif are traced, reloading as needed (figure 2). The resistant properties of the toner will push the pigment away from the black areas of the image, allowing a freer hand. Any stray drops can be picked up with a sponge or dry brush.
Once the sheen has left the page, the print is applied to the piece and compressed from the center outward, or from one side to the other to avoid air bubbles. Using a soft rib, the paper may be further compressed to ensure transfer. Should the clay be on the drier side, the back of the page can be dampened with a sponge and compressed again.
The paper is pulled up once it has dried (figure 3). It can be reapplied and recompressed if the image didn’t transfer completely.
The versatility of this method lies in its ability to repeat an image using multiple copies, to execute fine lines, and be applied to a three-dimensional surface.
In addition, with a quick hand, the page can be backed with a contrasting colored slip (figures 4–5). The two techniques detailed here may also work in concert on the same piece.