Applying Pattern to Tiles Using Plaster Transfer

Use plaster to transfer images onto slip cast tiles!

Applying Pattern to Tiles

You may be familiar with newsprint transfer to get screen printed images onto clay surfaces. But in today’s post, we are presenting a slight twist on the technique that skips the newsprint. In this post, an excerpt from his book Handmade Tile, Forrest Lesch-Middelton explains his technique for using plaster to transfer images onto slip cast tile. Super cool! –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.


This process shares some elements with newsprint slip-transfer techniques, but instead of applying your transfer medium (underglaze or slip) to newsprint, you will print or paint your image directly onto a clean and smooth plaster slab.

1 Prepare a large, very flat and smooth plaster slab, preprint or order a custom-printed screen with your desired pattern or drawing, then place the screen onto the plaster slab.

2 Place a long strip of underglaze across the top of the screen, then pull the squeegee down the screen to force a single layer of underglaze through the screen directly onto the plaster slab.

Applying Pattern to Tiles: Silk-Screen Printing

Lay your pre-printed silkscreen directly on the plaster slab (1), run a band of underglaze across the top of the screen, and use the squeegee to apply a single layer of underglaze through the screen onto the plaster (2). Because plaster is absorbent like a sponge, make sure to lift the screen off the plaster soon after printing or it may stick and clog the screen (3).

Applying Pattern to Tiles: Casting and Transferring the Image

After the image is printed on the plaster slab, use clay coils or cottle boards to build a ½-inch-high (about 1 cm) dam around the image to act as a reservoir. Once in place, shore up the bottom edges of the reservoir with a final clay coil sealed tightly between the reservoir and cottle boards all the way around to prevent it from leaking (4).

There are two pouring options for making a transferred tile or slab. The first is to pour the slip to the thickness that you would like for your tile or slab (5), and then let it sit for about 30 to 60 minutes, until the slip has set and feels firm enough to release from the plaster slab. Remove the dam and begin to gently peel up the edges of the clay slab to test whether it will come off easily. If it feels loose from the plaster slab, peel up the clay completely and reveal the transferred image.

3 Plaster is very absorbent, much like a sponge, so you need to lift the screen off of the plaster slab once it is filled with underglaze or it will stick to the slab and clog the screen.

4 Build up a clay dam around the printed slab or clamp cottle boards in place. Shore up the bottom edges of the dam with a clay coil to ensure a tight seal.

5 Pour the slip to the thickness that you would like for your tile or slab, and then let it set up until the slip feels firm enough to release from the plaster slab.

6 Remove the dam, then gently peel up the edges of the clay slab; if it feels loose from the plaster, peel up the clay completely and reveal the transferred image.

Place the clay slab image side up on a flat table (6), and cut out the size of tile you’d like with a tile cutter, pizza cutter, or fettling knife.

Excerpted from Handmade Tile: Design, Create, and Install Custom Tiles by Forrest Lesch-Middelton, published by Voyageur Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group. To learn more, visit https://quartokno.ws/HandmadeTile and to purchase, visit https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/shop/handmade-tile. See more of Forrest’s work at www.flmceramics.com.

Comments
  • Can the plaster be re-screened for multiple use? Wouldn’t it need some way to prevent mis-registration of the print?

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