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Custom Single-Page Underglaze Transfer?

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17 hours ago, neilestrick said:

Do you roll it with a brayer? That seems to be the key with the rice paper I've been testing.

I work on bisque fired pieces, originally as-fired, but now usually with a layer of underglaze briefly oven dried.  I sponge on the transfer, burnish with a small polished wooden knob tool, using a piece of old knit T-shirt fabric as a buffer against scrunching and gouging the paper, sponge again, burnish again through a more dry piece of T-shirt, pick an edge of the paper and roll back a little to see if it is transferring completely, sponge/burnish again if not, then peel.

That technique is what has worked best at my small scale and fine detail objective, with Yasutomo hanshi paper, half-ripe xuan paper, and brief experiments with medical exam table paper (smooth, not creped) and paper from old sewing patterns.

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Looking for wet strength to aid in application to compound curves (like a teacup), I pulled out a roll of Talas TPB005002 wet strength tissue that I had bought some years ago.  This has long fibers and excellent wet strength, but its surface is too open to accept and hold fine detail.  Sizing the paper improves its behavior.

A couple of tries with homemade "British gum" sizing gave decent printing behavior, but the gum did what it does best, and turned into a tenacious adhesive that would rip the underglaze off the work, or if wetted sufficiently to sort-of peel, give a useless smear.

CMC sizing greatly improves the behavior of this paper.  It can give fine detail, though less reliably than on hanshi paper.  The peel behavior on underglazed low fire white clay, bisque fired at cone 06 (the body and underglaze are both thirsty, and the underglaze is more tenacious), can be quite good. 

Dish of hot water, sprinkle CMC on the surface, whisk, strain the globs out, you get clear "snot" as mentioned on the thread earlier.  I use a piece of 110 mesh screen-print fabric to support the paper for a brush application of CMC goop, then oven dry at 200 F / 93 C.

A single coat of sizing seems to work best: I tried 3 coats and ended up with a nearly glossy surface, decent print behavior, but poor transfer behavior.

Transfer behavior was less good on a commercial bisque espresso cup, underglazed and oven dried beforehand.  Wet behavior and conformation to curves was good, but peel behavior was poor.

I did half the cup by peeling and ended up with a not-great transfer (this piece does not even hold underglaze all that well).  The second half, I tried firing with the paper still on.  This almost worked, but there were areas where it looked like the design was disrupted by ash (and there was a little bit of ash left in the kiln).  The quality was promising, but not excellent.

9 gsm "Tissutex", my original source now apparently defunct, has a more closed surface, fair wet strength, good conformation, but short fibers, and tears easily in all directions.  When sized, it can work well, but it has a diabolical tendency to fold back and adhere to itself when wet, so it is difficult to coat with sizing.

Top pieces are transferred directly to cone 06 (fast schedule) fired once bisque, no underglaze, worked better than expected.  Larger pieces (70 mm diameter) are on underglaze (Amaco Velvet Lilac, Rose each lightened with White).  Larger pieces had been fired 3x previously at cone 06 fast (reused back sides of previous experiments).  Slight buff color background on the small pieces is from this low fire white clay.

Talas wet strength tissue paper, CMC sized one coat.  The wave grid has uneven density, likely uneven sizing on the paper.  On the balloons and hummingbirds you see a sort of rustic/weathered quality, mostly from the paper surface.  Small and large wave grid pieces were transferred from different clips off the same print: Amaco Velvet Rose underglaze color.  Balloons: Amaco Velvet Amethyst. 

Inks modified by dry-down, yellow dextrin, and gum arabic.  Mayco Crystal Clear overglaze on all.  Fired after decoration without overglaze, overglazed, fired again.


Edited by bny
Clarify statement about test cup, add images
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  • 2 months later...

Additional notes on paper for transfer...

Other workers report using newsprint, typically on larger scale work.  I have found that newsprint can be usable and in some situations superior to thin papers.  Art store Strathmore newsprint pads are mostly "rough" surface for drawing, but they also sell a "smooth" surface in 18x24 inch size.

The smooth surface is capable of giving a good transfer without rustic effect.  I suspect that house-moving store packing newsprint could work here.  What I have been using most recently is a very inexpensive product packaged for the school market: 500 6x9 inch sheets for around US$5.00.

Smooth newsprint holds considerably more ink than thin papers like hanshi, and has a nicely closed surface.  Wet strength and peel performance are better than hanshi.  Detractors: permeability is not ideal (hanshi is immediately permeable), the paper tends to wrinkle in wet/dry cycling, and it does not conform well to curvatures.  Sometimes "considerably more" ink is too bold.

It transfers ok on flat surfaces to bisque and to fired underglaze background, but generally smears on unfired underglaze (hanshi can sometimes work here).  The wrinkling can be relieved somewhat by fine mist spray onto the unprinted side of the paper, before sponging down. Spray, wait a moment, spray more, test for softness, then sponge down while holding the paper down. 

At first, it will be more apt to adhere to the sponge than to the work: get it just damp enough with sponge pressure and not too much water, to be uniformly darker (dry areas will be lighter in color), burnish, then work more freely with sponge, burnish, and test-peel.

The heavier ink loading gives a more bold transferred image, but complete transfer can be tricky.  Fortunately, the paper is strong enough to lay part of the peeled section back down, re-sponge, re-burnish, then try peeling again.  It also is apt to smear if overly dampened.

For finer detail and more subtle color density, and for curvature, I still favor hanshi.  An additional US distributor for hanshi (besides Yasutomo) is Aitoh, and I was pleasantly surprised to see some in the local art store calligraphy section.

Photo: left and center are smooth newsprint, Amaco Velvet dark green, dried down and with addenda previously described, right is hanshi, Amaco Velvet purple.  Camera focus masks defects, especially in the left piece: silk screen pattern, ink formulation, and design edge behavior all interact.  Note unfilled edge areas and edge smearing of transfer, likely curable with better technique.  Hanshi piece has a few small transfer gaps, but looks ok.  Edge wrap of the design on the hanshi piece hints at curvature handling.


Edited by bny
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On 5/29/2023 at 10:35 PM, bny said:

I suspect that house-moving store packing newsprint could work here. 

Thanks for all the info! I've been doing a lot of underglaze transfers over the last couple of months, and I tried using the newsprint I use to wrap pots when I sell them, and I was not happy with the results. The underglaze is much more likely to flake off when it dries, and the wrinkling is a big issue. I'm doing large patterns, not line work, so there's a lot of underglaze on the paper and it wrinkles up a lot. I've settled on half-raw rice paper, printed on the raw side. It holds the underglaze well, releases very quickly, and doesn't wrinkle much at all. I've just been buying it off Amazon, about 29 cents per sheet.


I've been using adhesive vinyl cut on my Cricut to make the screens, with Speedball Screen Filler, and it has worked very well. This is a shot of the vinyl being removed from the screen once the filler has dried:


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This is totally not my kind of work but WHAT A COOL THREAD!  Thank you to everyone who added input, details about how to do this, photo examples.  You are all the best.  I may have to try this some day - as if I don't already have more on my plate than I have time to keep up with!  Hahaha.  But, nice read.  Thanks for sharing.

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Agreed: newsprint holds a lot of ink and with larger areas of fill, can be very troublesome with wrinkling.   Heavy ink load also can be apt to smear in transfer, perhaps too wet on the sponge side and still too dry on the work side.  I used this on one sort of Mesoamerican pattern that I printed in brown ink, knowing from a test piece that it would smear and look a lot like a pattern in chocolate that got warm.  I served some people a bake sale brownie on it.

For fun a couple of hours ago I pulled a test print on the smooth newsprint wrapping paper from a recently arrived jar of peppercorns.  It worked as well as the other two smooth newsprints that I tried, apart from a couple of creases.

Your offset 3D shadow effect is nice.  I tried double print with red and blue line and op-art patterns and had reasonably good results.  One person said that it was making them dizzy and looked like something for comic book 3D filter glasses.  Your note suggests that xuan might be better behaved than other papers on the more heavily filled op-art, so I will give it a try, including printing rough side.

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