How to make ceramic photograph tiles

Written by b. ellen von oostenburg
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Whether it's for an individual ceramic tile or a larger tile wall mural, photo decals on ceramic tiles are a great way to revitalise a drab living space. New digital technology, in both photography and in printing techniques, has now made it possible for anyone to put photographs on any surface, including ceramic tiles. A home computer is now a personal printing company that can print photos directly onto decals that can be transferred to tiles.The process is simple and straightforward.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Photograph
  • Decal paper
  • Computer & printer
  • Clear spray fixative (optional)

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  1. 1

    Choose photo and scan into computer. According to expert Richard Wasowski in his article "Digital Ceramic Decals" in Ceramic Industry online magazine: "Regardless of the source, the image must contain enough optical data to print with 300 dots per inch (dpi) of "real" information. This means that an image scanned at 600 dpi optically can be enlarged two times and still have great detail. If a digital camera is used, a three- or four-megapixel unit typically provides enough resolution for a 5 x 7-inch image."

  2. 2

    Print the photo on decal paper. Be sure to purchase the correct decal paper for the type of printer being used---inkjet or laser.

  3. 3

    Apply the decal to the ceramic tile. The process first involves soaking the decal (which has a paper backing) in water until it loosens and is ready to slide off the paper backing onto the tile surface.

  4. 4

    While it is still wet, position the decal paper next to the tile and slide the decal off the paper backing and onto the tile surface. When it is in place, carefully sponge off any excess water. This will stabilise the decal on the ceramic surface.

  5. 5

    Allow time to dry. Drying time can be accelerated by using a blow dryer set on "Cool."

Tips and warnings

  • Among the advantages of the transfer-decal process is that any decals that are applied to permanent tile installations can be changed easily at will. Simply remove the design as per manufacturer's instructions and slide on a new design.
  • Decal manufacturers suggest using clear, white or blue-based papers depending on usage. Consult with the supplier when ordering.
  • For large photo ceramic tile murals using this process, apply a grid (matching an existing blank wall tile installation pattern) to a photo using the computer's photo enhancing program. Then print out each of the photos in the grid on individual sheets of decal paper. Apply decals to the tiles on the wall mural which match the computer grid pattern from the original photo. The end result is a dynamic, photographic, ceramic tile wall treatment.

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