Water-based ceramic transfer printing : the development and creative use of a new on-glaze screenprinting system.
Screenprinted ceramic transfers are one of the primary methods of decorating industrial
ceramics with polychromatic imagery. The technique has also been used by individual artists
as a means of personal creative expression. Currently transfers are produced by printing
enamels mixed with a solvent-based medium onto a prepared paper. The image is
overprinted with a solvent-based film, covercoat, thus fonning a transfer which can be
applied to two or three dimensional ware. Once fired the print is bonded permanently with
In recent years Environmental and Health and Safety legislation, concerning levels of
solvent used has led the industry to seek alternatives to solvent-based systems. This
legislation and the health implications of the process have also made transfer printing less
viable as a creative technique for the small scale artfcraft user. The British ceramic industry
has yet to adopt a reduced solvent system.
This research project has addressed these issues through the development, testing and
patenting of a new water-based screenprinting system. This was achieved through a practice
led research methodology approached from the perspective of an individual artist
printmaker. The new system involves the use of a water miscible printing medium, which is
waterproof when dry, used in conjunction with a pre-covercoated release paper. Initial
printed tests, applied and fired onto tiles, established the creative production potential for
water-based transfer printing. This work was later expanded into the making of a body of
transfer printed ceramic artwork, further testing and demonstrating issues of practicality and
creative potential. A series of collaborative industrial trials indicated that this research may
also have an industrial application.
Throughout the research, the developing system was considered both in terms of its practical
aspects and visual quality of the resultant fired image. An overview of ceramic transfer
printing processes since cl760 with an emphasis on these aspects provides points of
reference against which the practical research results have been assessed.