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Transfer Patterns to Ceramics - A How To: Article or Project

Ceramic bisque or Greenware
Assorted papers (tissue, copier, carbon, etc)
pens, Sharpie markers, pencils, stylus
Pattern or design

You can also use these techniques for other media

More Details

When working with clay or bisque canvas, some people are skilled enough to sketch their design and then paint. However many people have issues with free hand design and/or placement, so choose to use a pattern. Patterns can be uniquely created or copied from others. There are several methods to transfer patterns to a ceramic or clay project.

The basic process is really simple. Size and copy your pattern to fit your item. Lay a printed pattern over the canvas (bisque or greenware) and trace the design with a pencil, pen or stylus. The light pressure will imprint the design on your item. Below are several methods to accomplish a transfer. If possible, cut away excess paper around the design to allow more ease in manipulation on your item.

Tissue Paper

Nothing fancy about it, just regular inexpensive tissue wrapping paper. This paper is easier to work with, especially on items that do not have a flat surface as it will somewhat mold itself to the shape of your piece. Simply place the tissue paper over your design and copy the pattern by hand with a marker, pen or pencil. Use most any of the techniques below to proceed. Obviously tissue paper cannot run through a copier.

Tissue Paper - The Easiest Way To Transfer Patterns

For this method to work best, trace your design onto the tissue with a soft lead pencil. A super easy way to use this tranfer method is to place the copied pattern against your item and trace the design with an extra-fine Sharpie marking pen onto your item. The ink will seep through the tissue paper and leave an imprint on the surface. When you fire your item, the ink will fire off; however, one caution. If you use this method on bisque and finish the design with non-fired paints, you need to exercise care in what paints you use. Since you will not be firing the item again, choose paints that will not break-down the ink causing smudges or bleeding and choose colors that will cover the ink lines. Multiple coats may be needed in some cases. Seal your non-fired items with an acrylic fixative.


Carbon Base Transfer Paper

There is a specially formulated paper on the market, usually available at ceramic or craft stores which can be used in a printer. Designs can be printed on it and then the transferred design can be traced onto the greenware or bisque. (Follow instructions on the package as only one side will transfer) This special paper acts like its own carbon paper and can sometimes be traced a couple times before losing its properties

Laser Printer on copier paper

Using a laser printer, print your pattern and lay it face down on your item. If the surface is flat, this is relatively easy. Gently rub over the back of the paper with a spoon or flat stone and the ink from the printed pattern will imprint on the item. This is not so easy if the item has a rounded surface.. Also, this technique reverses the pattern design, so any graphics/lettering would be backwards.

Any Copier Paper

Take the printed pattern and holding it face down over a light box or up against a window in daylight, you can heavily trace the design with a soft lead pencil #2 (you will have design on both sides of the paper). Place the design (pencil side down) on the surface of your ceramic item, then trace with a pen or stylus. The carbon from the pencil lead will imprint on your surface.

How to Reverse your pattern

Use a light box or hold up your pattern to a window face down and trace the pattern on its back. Make a copy of the back side of the original pattern.

Carbon Paper - 1

This is an 'old fashion' way, but still effective. It is simply placing some carbon paper between the printed image and the item and trace away. The difficulty lie in checking your progress and trying to maneuver it on rounded pieces.

Carbon Paper - 2

Reversing the carbon paper so it faces the back side of the pattern, lay it on a table and trace the design. When you are done, lift the pattern off and you will see the carbon image on the back of the design. Then, take the design and place the carbon tracing side down on the item and trace again. It will transfer to your bisque or greenware. The carbon imprint will fire off. Use care as it is easy to smudge the tracing.

 

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