What are Underglaze Decals? A Comprehensive Guide

Underglaze decal is a type of decoration that is applied to the surface of pottery before the glaze is fired. 

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about underglaze decals, including what they are, how they are made, and how to use them!

What Are Underglaze Decals?

Underglaze is a type of pottery decoration in which painted designs are added to the exterior before it is covered with a clear ceramic glaze and fired in a kiln. 

Because the glaze covers it afterwards, such ornamentation is extremely long-lasting and can also be used to create pottery with a consistent sheen. 

Underglaze decorating involves using pigments obtained from oxides that melt with the glaze during firing in a kiln. 

It is also a less costly option because only one firing is required; overglazing, on the other hand, necessitates a second firing at a lower temperature. 

Some examples of oxides that do not lose their colour during a firing are cobalt blue, made famous by the Chinese Ming dynasty and white porcelain, as well as cobalt and turquoise hues found in Iznik pottery

However, today, there is a much wider range of underglaze colours available.

How is Underglaze Used?

Underglaze, which is available in a range of colours from commercial vendors and is used for industrial pottery production. 

Underglazes for low temperature burning are available, as well as technique options such as liquid underglaze pens or solid chalk blocks. 

Stained slips, for example, have been used since ancient times. 

Their application has diversified and a number of artists have created their own chemical processes to get specific effects. 

Due to the development and improvement of alternative glazing methods that do not require such a high heat point, there is a decline in underglaze usage in comparison to 18th-century usage during commercial manufacture. 

The beauty that only underglaze could provide is now attainable with a number of over-glazes, discounting the benefit of commercial underglaze production.

Underglaze Transfers

The underglaze transfers (often known as decals) are a method of screen printing or freehanding a pattern onto a transfer paper (often rice paper or newspaper), which is then placed, dampened, and burnished onto the surface of a leather-hard piece of clay. (Kind of like how a lick-and-stick tattoo is applied). 

Artists can either acquire rice paper to make their own designs, or purchase pre-printed designs online. 

Underglaze decals, unlike overglaze decals, are frequently applied to greenware and bisque and fired at higher temperatures than their overglaze counterparts.

How to Use Underglaze Decals

A decal is a way of transferring pre-printed images onto ceramics. (Transfers basically mean the same thing). An underglaze decal is a picture that has been printed on to backing paper. 

In commercially produced decals, the transparent backing paper is frequently tissue-like and translucent. It’s a method of displaying the underglaze pattern. 

It may be applied in a variety of ways to your ceramic work after that. You may either buy commercially produced underglaze decals or produce your own, and underglaze transfers can be used on both greenware and bisqueware. 

Making your own transfers is quite easy. Simply create your design and then pass it through a photocopier on normal white printing paper to make your own copies. 

After that, you may apply your underglaze to the image. The black portions of the photocopied image will resist the underglaze. 

As a result, your underglaze will sit neatly between the lines of your design. 

Then, the underglaze should be allowed to dry on the photocopied image before being applied to your pottery. It’s easier than it sounds, and the results are fantastic. 

To apply the decal, simply wrap it around your pottery and moisten the transfer paper. When the paper is wet, the underglaze detaches from it and bonds to your clay.

Want to know more? Please contact us today.

In the meantime, take a look at our ceramic decal methods here.

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