An Overview Of The Ceramic Decal Production Process

If you’re in the market for custom decals, you may be wondering what the production process looks like, or what technology is involved. 

To put it simply, a decal is a decorative method by which designs are first printed on a special paper pre-coated with water-soluble gum, then immersed in water, and transferred to the surface of ceramic items. 

Whether it’s mugs, plates or bowls, the process is the same. 

In this blog, we will give you a brief overview of the process involved to create high-quality, unique decals. 

3 Categories for a Ceramic Decal

Ceramic decals can generally be divided into three categories: on-glaze decals, in-glaze decals and under-glaze decals.

1. The on-glaze decal

The most popular decal and the type of decal with the highest variety of colours.

As the name suggests, ceramic decals are applied to the glazed ceramic surface and fired between 800 – 900°C. The ceramic pigment is a self-fluxing system that adheres to the glaze.

2. In-glaze Colour

In-glaze is applied when a higher durability ceramic decal product is required and is typically fired between 1050 and 1200°C. 

At this higher temperature the in-glaze ceramic decal sinks into the molten glaze providing higher resistance and decoration that is better integrated into the ceramic surface. Therefore, it’s essential that the correct firing range product is used to match the glaze melting point.

3. Under-glaze Colour

With the under-glaze technique, the colours are decorated on the bisque ceramic body and then glazed. 

The products are twice fired to provide ultimate durability; the decal is placed onto the bisque piece and hardened on at 800 degrees. The glaze is then applied, and the product fired again to glost temperature to seal the decal completely. 

Why Are Different Temperatures Required?

Depending on the type of colours required, the finish of the surface and also the necessary level of durability different firing temperatures will be used. 

How Many Colours Can You Use?

In theory an infinite number of colours can be used in the production of a ceramic decal. Generally, decals are printed in one of two ways. 

Spot colours – Are individual colours used to make a design. Specific single pigments like greens , blues etc. These single colours can however be blended to create other colours throughout a pattern by the skill of the studio team. 

CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. These colours are printed using a dot rosette to create the illusion of multiple colours. In theory any colour can be achieved with the four-colour set. In ceramic printing compared to standard print the reality is different. Ceramic pigments are oxides from the ground and thus do not have the same vibrancy as inkjet colours. Often in this process additional colours are used to supplement the set. As the rosette is a series of dots this type of printing is not the best option for producing solid areas of colour.

Precious metals – Bright or semi-matt (burnished) golds and silvers can be used in the production of decals but are luxury premium products. These pastes are available in a variety of grades depending on their actual metal content. Golds and silvers can be integrated into designs containing only other on-glaze colours.

Metallic effect – When gold and silver precious metals are deemed too expensive, pigments containing metallic flakes can be used to create rich lustre effects. As with the precious metal pastes these are only fired to on-glaze temps.

The Durability of Decals

The durability of decals is largely dependent on the firing temperature. The lower the firing temperature, the shorter the lifespan of the decal. 

For this reason hotel ware and high use items like this would likely use inglaze decals to take advantage of their dishwasher performance.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the decal production process – from choosing the right ink system to balancing the firing temperatures.

But when done correctly, the results can be stunning and long-lasting.

We hope you found this overview helpful. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the decal production process, feel free to contact us

In the meantime, take a look at our range of decal services here. Thanks for reading!

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