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What kind of photographic process is appropriate for printing image on ceramic?

DJ Anzai , Nov 22, 2002; 09:06 a.m.

For my graphic design project, I want to either transfer or directly print image on ceramic under glaze. What kind of photographic process can take the heat from firing process? I heard someone mention non-silver process will work.


leonid kotlyar , Nov 22, 2002; 11:07 a.m.

I have had good experience using liquid emulsion to print on large objects. You cover the object with the emulsion paste under a red light, and than stick it under an enlarger. Developing, of course, takes a bit of creativity to cover the dimensions you need. Maybe you can contact the people at Photographers' Formulary to find out if it can stand the heat. http://www.photoformulary.com/

Ake H Olsson , Nov 22, 2002; 11:50 a.m.

There is a process that is based on a B&W laser-print (has to be carbon based) printout.

I will be able to provide the details of the process later on when I consult my wife who is a ceramicist. However the way I have seen it done is:

* The ware has to be bisque fired to begin with * You use gum-arabic with your laser print to transfer a dye to the ceramics. The gum-arabic will stick to the carbon and pick up the dye which in turn can be transferred to the ware. * A clear overglaze if applied once the dye has dried. * Most likely you will have to use lower temperature for the firing (say cone 06 or so). * Make sure you make your laser prin a mirror image of your photo! * The process is tricky but fun.

Wayne Crider , Nov 22, 2002; 06:00 p.m.

I have seen vendors at shopping malls take your picture and print it on a glazed mug or otherwise. If one such operation is local, talk to them about the process. Also check wih Insta (Graphics?) in Cerritos Calif. They make machines that will do this process. Do a search under "screen printing" You'll probably find everything you need to know to do such a project.

Steve Bingham , Nov 24, 2002; 12:25 a.m.

Photo silk screening would also work at the bisque stage.

Struan Gray , Nov 24, 2002; 04:18 a.m.

The traditional way to do this is to use a dichromate process to produce a pigmented gelatin or gum tissue which is laid on the unglazed surface. The organic carrier is then burnt away before a final glaze and firing. The usual pigment is simple carbon black, as it copes with the final firing well and allows a high-quality photographic image to be formed.

There is a nice detailed description, with a whole heap of references, here:


This sort of technique is capable of very high quality results which are archival in a way that paper cannot match. It was - still is in some circles - a popular way of putting a portrait onto gravestones, and I have seen examples that have been outdoors since the mid C19th and are still looking good.

At the other end of the scale, you can buy transfer tissues from any inkjet supplier which can be used to put an image onto pre-glazed ceramic plates and mugs. These survive dishwashing - for a while - but are not as good in the long term and the image quality is not nearly as good.

Finally, there is always the Medici-method: hire a skilled porcelein painter to copy your photograph onto finest bone china. Costs a tad more than the other options though :-)

David Clayton , Nov 24, 2002; 04:20 a.m.

I work with interpretive signage - as you would know they are very graphic oriented. Most of my work is with Vitreous Enamel - a ceramic/glass like finish. Photographs (infact the whole sign) is made through a slik screen process. Porceline inks are screened on one colour at a time, and fired before each colour. I normally work with two colours plus background as a cost efficiency factor. I'm happy to send you photographs of some of my projects if you like - I'm not a graphic designer but I do write the text, do the research, source the photographs and then liase between the client and the designer - am happy to help you out here.

Cheers DC

Lyle Gordon , Nov 24, 2002; 01:55 p.m.

What about liquid light emulsion...

DJ Anzai , Nov 24, 2002; 07:40 p.m.

Thanks you all for helpful response!

I'm thinking about using liquid light emulsion, but would it be able to take the heat?

If that's not possible, I think I'll do waterslide transfer over glazed ceramic, but I'd like to avoid that.

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