• If there is wax paper on top of your decal, remove it.
• Trim around the decal so that no scrapes from other decals remain on the paper.
• Submerge the decal in a bowl of warm water. If it curls up, good, let it.
• While your fingers are wet, dampen the piece to be decorated, and wipe it with a tissue or paper towel. Now you have a clean surface to decorate.
• When the curled up decal begins to relax/un-curl (this usually only takes less than a minute), remove it from the water.
• Very soon the decal will be “slidey” on the paper. It is ready to mount.
• Put decal and paper together on the surface to be decorated and gently slide the paper out from under the decal (as if you were pulling the rug from underneath someone).
• Position the decal and squeegee from the center out, thus removing excess water, bubbles, and wrinkles.
• Squeegee several times.
• Let dry for 24 hours and fire.
More Simply Put
• Lose the wax paper
• Moisten & Clean your ware
• Remove from water
• Squeegee (a lot)
• Let dry
More Expansively Put
• If there is wax paper on top of your decal, remove it. Some decals have wax paper on them when you buy them. Some don’t. If yours does, toss it. The last thing you want to do is put a decal into the water without having first removed the wax paper. If you do this, you will have to throw your decal away.
• Trim around the decal so that no scrapes from other decals remain on the paper. It sometimes happens that when a neighboring decal is trimmed, bits covercoat (the clear plastic coating that covers the decal) are left behind. If these are not trimmed off, when your next decal goes into the water, they go in with it. And they detach very quickly and wind up in the most unlikely places (like right in the middle of the decal you are trying to mount). It is good practice to always inspect and trim a decal before putting it in water.
• Submerge the decal in a bowl of warm water. Warm water is always to be preferred. Cold water will work O.K., but warm water will make the decal release more quickly and be more pliable and easier to conform to curved surfaces. It also has a rejuvenating effect on old decals. If it curls up, good, let it. When a decal becomes wet, water soaks into the paper, causing it to expand slightly. Because the decal is still attached to the paper at this point (and doesn’t absorb water), the expanding paper will cause the decal to curl. Decals are fairly resilient, and so don’t mind a little curling. (But they HATE to be folded or creased. A creased decal should be thrown away.) If fact, if a decal curls when it is submerged in water, it is an indicator of a good decal.
• While your fingers are wet, dampen the piece to be decorated, and wipe it with a tissue of paper towel. Now you have a clean surface to decorate. A clean surface is good, but you don’t need to go crazy. Wiping off with a damp towel is good enough (for decals. For Gold, you need to use denatured alcohol). Truth be told, if you use alcohol to clean your surface, it will be overly dry and a little more difficult to decal. A slightly damp surface is perfect. Oh, if you must, go ahead and use distilled water (it’s not really necessary unless your area is prone to “hard water”, meaning it has lots of dissolved minerals in it).
• When the curled up decal begins to relax/un-curl (this usually only takes less than a minute), remove it from the water. Even when a decal has been removed from the water, it is still absorbing water. For a decal to release from the paper, the water has to absorb all the way thru the paper and dissolve the glue which is between the decal and the paper. What you DON’T want is for the decal to completely un-curl in the water and float off the paper. This washes away some of the glue (which is VERY necessary for the decal to stick to the ware before it is fired). Also, a floating decal can make it confusing as to “which side is up” (which if you put a decal on upside-down, it will fire badly).
• Very soon the decal will be “slidey” on the paper. It is ready to mount. This means that the glue has dissolved and has released the decal.
• Put decal and paper together on the surface to be decorated and gently slide the paper out from under the decal (as if you were pulling the rug from underneath someone). This is the best way to mount a decal. This way you are always sure that the decal is right side up, and, the sliding action of pulling the paper out from underneath the decal puts more glue on the decal, which is helpful in getting it to stick well. The more dangerous way is to pick the decal off the paper and flop it on the ware. This makes for more wrinkles that will have to be removed and also increases the possibility that you might put the decal on upside-down (which is disaster).
• Position the decal Don’t move the decal around too much on the ware. This rubs off the glue. [Special Note: If you do rub off too much glue and the decal won’t stick, all is not lost. Just re-wet the paper the decal came off of (thus re-activating the glue), put the decal back on the wetted paper (right side up), rub it around on the paper to pick up some more glue, and mount normally. While a decal is still wet, you have your window of opportunity for re-mounting. Once a decal has dried, it’s pretty much a lost cause.] and squeegee from the center out, thus removing excess water, bubbles, and wrinkles. A decal squeegee really makes it easier to mount a decal. INSTAR has the best one. (I’ve tried every squeegee from every decal printer in the world. They are either too soft or too hard or too big or too draggy or too something. INSTAR’S is just right.) Other things that can be used to remove bubbles and wrinkles are: Paper Towels, Damp Sponges, Cloth Baby Diapers, and Facial Tissue.
• Squeegee several times. Always pull from the center of the decal outwards. This is the most efficient way to squeegee and it virtually eliminates the possibility of tearing the decal. Start with a light touch. See the water coming out? Now go around a little harder. Ah, ha, more water comes out. Now maybe a little harder still. Well, what do you know? A little more water. This is an important concept, namely, the idea of progressively squeegeeing a little harder. Want to know the number one mistake that inexperienced decalers do? They don’t squeegee hard enough. And if they leave too much water behind, and if that water makes it into the kiln, what do you think will happen? That water will turn to steam and blow out whatever area of the decal it was underneath.
• Let dry for 24 hours and fire. It is not necessary to stress out if you have not removed every single molecule of water from underneath your decal. A 24 hour drying period will insure that the water is all gone. Oh, you say you are in a hurry? Find another hobby. Fired Art is the wrong hobby to be in a rush with. If you think that it looks and feels dry after an hour, you are mistaken. If you fire it, prepare for “frizzle city”.
Insider Tips and Tricks
• A Developing Tray or a large Pyrex Casserole Dish is what commercial decorators use to wet their decals. In fact, this is how they do mass decorating:
They put a whole sheet of decals into a tray of water, remove it, and stack 10 to 12 wetted decal sheets face-up on a glass slab. They then slide the decals off the paper with a finger and apply each individually to the ware. The technique for straightening the decal and removing water is the same as described above.
> Did I mention get an INSTAR squeegee?