CUSTOM DIGITAL DECALS
The Ceramic Shop’s custom digital decals are a great way to add a personalized layer to your work, and overall, they are very easy to use. This page will provide you with very detailed information that may help you in everything from setting up your decal file, to applying your decal, to firing.
Please note that while we do what we can to get your decals to you as quickly as possible, the typical turnaround time for custom decal sheets is 10 - 20 business days plus transit time. We unfortunately can not rush orders under any circumstances.
PREPARING YOUR DECAL FILE:
The printable decal sheet space is 15.75” x 10.25”, so you can start your setup by creating a file in any graphics editing program with those dimensions. The resolution (dpi, or ‘dots per inch) should be at least 300; you can go up to 600 here. Basically, you don’t want your decal to appear pixelated, so 300 dpi is the minimum suggested resolution at which the human eye can no longer see individual pixels.
Your color profile is also very important when you set up your document – you want to make sure that you embed a CMYK profile, because that is the color profile necessary for printed materials. When you set up your document, you may have the option to embed an RBG profile – do NOT do that, as that is the color profile that is specific to web-only colors. Have you ever printed out an image from a website and noticed that the colors in the resulting print-out look a little bit off? That’s the reason why.
What file format should I send?
The following file types are ideal: .jpg, or .pdf. If you need to send us your actual working files, so we can assist in layout or design, you can send: .ai , or .psd files. Please understand we do not handle font files so when working with specific fonts in Illustrator you must CREATE OUTLINES for all fonts in your file, this saves your font as vector shapes and will assure your files will print correctly. When you place your order online, simply send the artwork to firstname.lastname@example.org. For large files, we accept Google Drive invitations and DropBox. Also, when you order, it is important to note if you will be using these decals for glass or for ceramic so we can let our printer know the correct backing to print on. You can either let us know when you email your image, or you can note it in the 'comments' section at online checkout.
If you are unable to complete a layout yourself, or if you are in need of some graphic design help, or photo retouching, we’re happy to help you! There is an additional $60/hour fee for this service which you can read about here; please contact us before placing your order, and we’ll give you a quote. Email project requests to email@example.com.
Creating a testing area:
With all ceramic processes, we always suggest testing before you enter full-on production. With digital custom decals, you can make a test strip for firing somewhere on your decal layout. You can do this without taking up much space on your sheet; just make a thin strip of color blocks that feature colors from your design (or, if you are ordering a black-only decal, a greyscale). Testing with this strip will help you to zero in on the perfect firing program.
Some notes about colors:
Please keep in mind when creating a decal layout – we cannot guarantee that your fired colors will be as bright as the colors that you see on your computer screen (which is yet another reason that we suggest testing). Although our printing process does aim to keep colors as consistent as possible, there are many factors at play here. If you send us a decal with, say, fluorescent green details, keep in mind your end result will still be green – just more muted. The fired results here are created by chemical reactions obtained through firing, not by simply printing fixed ink colors. Expect a slight degree of color variation, especially with bright colors. Additionally, please keep in mind that there may be chemical factors beyond our control when it comes to the ceramic pieces you places the decals upon - for instance, the presence of zinc in the glazes of your ceramic pieces can greatly affect the end color result of your decals.
Please also note that our decals do have certain limitations -- we cannot print metallic tones, including gold, and we cannot print opaque white. Custom decals assume application on a white (or light-colored) surface, and they are slightly translucent. When you send us an image with white in it, please note that the printing process reads that as clear.
We offer both food-safe and non-food-safe decals. Please specify which one you're interested in. Non-food-safe decals offer brighter and more vibrant colors. Also note that most pinks and purples are not printable using the food-safe sheets. Also please let us know if you'll be applying your decals to either ceramic, glass, porcelain, or enamel ware, and we'll be sure to get the right decal for you!
Selecting ceramics for decals:
Our decals work best on white- or light-colored ceramic; they are slightly translucent, so they will not show up very well on darker pieces.
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APPLYING YOUR DECAL:
Please keep in mind that our custom digital decals are overglaze decals – this means they must be applied to work that has already been glazed (and, ideally, they should be applied to gloss surfaces, as opposed to satin or matte). The fun part about this is that you can apply these to virtually ANY fired ceramic surface – think vintage thrift-store mugs or old china you found in your basement or off-the-shelf dishware from any home goods store. These decals will only work as overglaze decals for a few reasons: in the first place, the slick surface of fired gloss glaze makes a great surface for the decals to adhere to; in the second place, the decals get fired to an overall temperature that is much lower that the ranges that both bisqueware and any glaze – low-fire included – so if the decal process is followed with a glaze firing, that will be hot enough to burn them out.
When you receive your decal in the mail, you will see it is simply one large sheet. You will also probably notice the paper has a yellowish-beige tinge to it – that’s the flux coat that the printer sprays on your finished decal to ensure that it melts smoothly in firing, and that yellowish color burns out when you fire it.
Prepare for application – we recommend setting up a space with the following items:
1. Your decal(s), cut up and ready for application
2. A bowl of room-temperature water
3. A rubber rib, or something flexible that can act as a squeegee – here at The Ceramic Shop, we really like using this red rib by MudTools.
4. A towel to clean up water drips from your ceramic piece.
Once you have all of those elements assembled, you are ready to apply your decal! Soak each decal in room-temperature water for at least a minute; you will know they are ‘ready’ when you fish them out and the plastic-like decal starts to slide away from the paper backing. Very carefully, without folding your decal, place the plastic part ONLY on the clean, dry surface of your ceramic piece. You will notice that you will be able to slide it around and position it.
Once your decal has been placed where you wish it, take your rubber rib and working from the center outward, squeegee out the water that is trapped between the decal and the ceramic piece. Soak up the water with your towel as you go.
That’s it – that’s all there is to applying your decal! At this point, we suggest waiting for your piece to dry completely before you proceed with the firing outlined below – that is, at least 24 hours – but we have had several customers fire them after just a few hours without a problem. Firing wet decals can contribute to pinholing, or to water marks being visible on your finished work, so allowing your pieces the time to thoroughly dry can make a big difference.
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FIRING YOUR DIGITAL DECAL
Note: We encourage you to always run a test firing with a single piece before applying and firing the entire batch.
Ceramic Decals (Digital kiln):
You will need to set up a 5-step program in your kiln’s control panel. Program the following:
1. 100F per hour up to 140F, soak/hold for 30 minutes.
2. 100F per hour up to 190F, soak/hold for 30 minutes.
3. 250F per hour up to 450F, soak/hold for 20 minutes
4. 600F per hour up to 1000F, soak/hold for 10 minutes
5. 1000F per hour up to 1465F, soak/hold for 15 minutes
Glass Decals (Digital kiln):
The firing schedule for glass can vary quite a bit depending on the type of glass you use, so please allow for testing if possible. We suggest creating a small run of 'tester' decals on your ordered sheet to do this.
If you regularly fire glass over 1000F, keep your firing cycle the same; if you plan to fire at 1000F and below, use the program listed below:
100F per hour up to 140F, soak for 30 minutes.
100F per hour up to 190F, soak for 30 minutes.
250F per hour up to 450F, soak for 20 minutes.
600F per hour up to 1000F, soak for 10 minutes.
Please note that food-safe decals may require adjusting the schedules listed above, maxing out at about 1350F as opposed to 1465F for ceramic.
Ceramic Decals (Manual kiln):
Our custom digital decals for ceramic fire at cone 016 or 017 (cone 019 works better for food-safe decals). The decals need to be fired as slowly as possible below 500 degrees F. If you have a slow setting on your kiln, you can use that for the first part of your firing.
This is only a guide and one can modify this to accomplish their required results.
Please clarify when ordering whether or not you want your decals to be food-safe.
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DIGITAL DECAL FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Is there a discount for bulk orders?
A: For large orders of 25 or more digital full-color decal sheets, we may be able to offer a slight discount – contact us for details at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are unable to offer bulk discounts for our black-only decals.
Q: Do you print custom decals in gold luster?
A: We have received several inquiries about having digital decals done in gold luster. At this time, we are unable to do that, because gold luster decals are created through a screen printing process, rather than a digital printing process. This means that the customer must pay for a custom screen to be fabricated, and then for the additional gold luster printing of decals. Gold luster is quite expensive, so generally, this is not the type of process where you can order just one custom sheet.
Q: Can you send me a test decal?
A: Unfortunately we cannot send you a test decal. Please see suggestions above in the first section, ‘PREPARING YOUR DECAL FILE’, for creating a test strip on your decal sheet.
Q: Can these decals be used on glass?
A:YES! We can indeed print custom decals for use on glass – just make sure to specify when you send your artwork to email@example.com, so we can let our printer know to use glass-specific backing and flux.
Q: Ten business days is a long time to wait for my custom decal -- can I get my order sooner?
A: In general, we do our best to turn around your decals as quickly as possible, but custom projects simply take time. We ask that you take this turnaround time into account when you place your order, as we cannot offer refunds for custom products. In some cases, the cycle of our printer may mean that you receive your decals quickly, but in general, ten business days is pretty accurate. Please note that international orders may take longer due to longer shipping times.
Q: Can you print opaque white decals?
A: No, we cannot print the color white. Custom decals are translucent and designed with the assumption that they are going to be applied to a white/light colored gloss surface. The printer reads the color white as clear.