How to print on glass and ceramics with waterslide decals

Updated: 2021-06-02

How do you print a design on glass or ceramics?

Want something special? Would you like to cover a glass, mug, jar or vase with a piece of art? Even though it may be challenging, it is easier than you think, as long as you have a computer and printer, a little creativity, and a little bit of time.

High quality photo prints are extremely popular. You can easily print your favorite photos to hang on the wall or even create a photo book for your loved ones. But printing on ceramics or glass is a whole new challenge. The process is not only time consuming, but it also requires some special materials and equipment to be used. The type of ceramic or glass used depends on the desired result.

Despite what a lot of people think, you cannot print on ceramics or glass with regular inkjet ink, as the ink would seep into the porous ceramic and ruin your design. In order to print on ceramic or glass, you need to use ceramic or glass ink. Ceramic ink can be applied to ceramic and glass surfaces, while glass ink can only be applied to glass. 

When ceramic ink dries, it adheres to the ceramic surface. When glass ink dries, it stays in place on the glass surface.

The key difference between ceramic ink and glass ink is that ceramic ink is a ceramic coating that’s applied to the ceramic surface. Glass ink is just like regular ink, but it’s formulated to adhere to glass – it is  fast-drying, permanent and alcohol-based.

Can you print your own glass or ceramic decals?

Decals are a great way to add a personal touch to items that don’t normally have a flat surface to place a sticker on. They are also good for covering up scratches on valuable items like your car or bicycle.

Can you put waterslide on ceramic?

There are a number of different processes for making decals, but the one I’d like to show you here uses a waterslide transfer. Waterslide decals are one of the best ways to give a plain ceramic vase or glass jar or even a simple bottle a personal touch, but applying them can be tricky.

Avoid the most common mistakes by keeping the following tips in mind. 

How do you apply waterslide decals to ceramics or glass?

  • For the first step, you have to purchase some high quality inkjet waterslide paper and you also need to purchase some kind of clear varnish, preferably in spray, that will stabilize the sticker.
  • As you may or sure know, there are two different types of inkjet waterslide decal papers that you can use with your inkjet printer. One is matte finish waterslide paper, which tends to look a bit more like a regular matte photo paper. The other is gloss finish paper, which is a shiny decal that looks more like traditional bumper stickers. The paper type that you choose will depend entirely upon the style of your work.
  • The decal paper needs to be loaded into the printer in such a way that your print lands on the shinier side of the paper, so load it and print the picture.
  • Apply two thin layers of varnish to the printed decal. First, spray the first layer, let it dry for about 15 minutes, and then spray the second layer. The water slide decal should not be varnished more than twice as it may become stiff as the varnish gets thick.
  • Then, cut out the image closely around the edges and immerse it in water for 1-2 minutes.
  • For a decal to stick properly, the surface must be clean before it is applied. For ceramic surfaces, you might also want to apply some water on them as well, e.g. with a cotton swab. This is not necessary with glass.
  • With the backing still on the waterslide decal, place the decal gently onto the target surface, then carefully remove the backing underneath by slipping it off the decal, holding the image in place with the same cotton swab.
  • Afterward, you can wait a couple of minutes for the decal to stick to the surface. If you feel so, you can apply another layer of varnish, both on the sticker and on the ceramic or glass surface around the sticker.

What kind of printer do you need to make waterslide decals?

If you are using an inkjet printer, any one will do, but for the decal paper, please consider the quality above the cost. When you use a cheap, low quality paper, you may end up compromising the quality of your final product. The same can be said for the ink cartridge. As the ink quality rises, so does the quality of the result. The better the ink, the better is the result.

Are waterslide decals permanent?

We live in a busy world today and people don’t want to bother with a lot of hassles. They’re looking for quick fixes to their problems. And that’s why fun stuff like waterslide decals are so appealing. These water slide decals offer a quick, clean, and convenient way to decorate any surface without having to deal with messy paint. But one thing that comes up frequently is the question, “Are waterslide decals permanent?”.

The truth is that in order for your decal to become permanent, it needs to be sealed.

How do you seal a waterslide decal? Do you always need to bake them?

Sealing your decal is one of the most important steps in the waterslide decal process. It’s a little more work than simply putting the decal on the desired surface (mug, jar, vase, glass panel), but that extra effort is well worth it. A decal that is not properly sealed will not last very long.

Several minutes ago, we applied a clear varnish on the decal and the surrounding surface, and now we are going to complete the process. The best way to seal a waterslide decal is with hot air.

You can use a hair dryer or you can bake the final product in an owen. If you decide to use a hair dryer, you may want to set it on a high heat, with a low or medium flow of air.

What is the best temperature to bake the waterslide decals in the owen?

Once the decal is on your jar or mug, you can place it in the oven for about 10 minutes at 110C (230F) to seal it.

Do you need to bake waterslide decals?

In contrast to oxide glazes fired in a kiln, waterslide decals do not truly cure and fuse into the substrate, but instead they simply melt on to it. During the melting process, the decals become almost an integral component of the ceramics and the decals will last much longer than if they were not baked.

How do you make waterslide decals dishwasher safe?

The great news is that the sealed decals can last a long time under normal use. The bad news is that they can be damaged by dishwashers. Even though you can fully seal the decal using the owen, the decal will not become dishwasher-safe. You are still able to hand wash the decals if you wish.