Decal transfers – IKEA Project


Learning the technique of digital decal transfer, so we can apply designs onto a plain IKEA tableware, which could be then exhibited at their Cardiff store.

Ceramic decal
Finished application of my bacteria decals.

Beginning with an introduction into decals and on-glaze paints and their application, I started to think about what sort of designs I could apply on the already glazed tableware from IKEA, and any limitations awaiting.

Decals are a ceramic glaze printed on a decal (sticky) paper. It reacts with the already fired glaze underneath, at 850 °C, burning away the film that the glaze is printed on. Because of the extra layer that burns away, decal designs shouldn’t overlap as the top layer wouldn’t adhere to the surface.

Any white areas on the designs are printed as transparent, so any background colour would affect the final result. That’s why I chose just white ware for the simplicity, and one light colour, burned orange bowl, to see the effect anyway.

The shape of the wares need to be considered when wanting to apply larger designs, thinking about the curves and edges. A flat pattern of the ware would needed to be created; very time consuming and tricky process, for the rather short project.
This fact clashed with my initial idea of using images from the slide collection in our library and covering almost entire surface of the tableware.


Cardiff slides
Images of Cardiff from the slide collection
cardiff slide
Scan of a slide showing construction in Cardiff.






Cardiff slide
Construction in Cardiff, image taken from the slide collection in Cardiff Metropolitan Library in LLandaff Campus


I managed to find a few interesting slides of construction work or architectural drawings of buildings in Cardiff, visually close to Bechers’ images.

These images were useful to learn and experiment on while undergoing Adobe Photoshop induction.

Edited slide image Edited slide image

2 of my attempts at playing with Photoshop. Looking at just the supporting structure elements which would look good as a pattern over the whole ware.

As a back up plan, I decided to use an image making technique I played with earlier.
Using slabs of clay as stamps with texture and pattern inscribed onto them and then painted with ordinary acrylic paint; that way I could create a smaller designs which could be scanned and then applied onto ceramic ware.
Bacteria clay print Bacteria clay printBecause of the natural and fluid character of the technique, I went for a design of a different kind of an architecture; juxtaposed to the large nature of industrial functional building, to the micro functional structure of cells and bacteria. Inscribing into the slabs of clay feature such as ribosomes, circular DNA, cell walls or cytoplasm.

Clay slab bacteria stamps
Clay slabs, painted and used to make prints

The prints were a success with its colourful looks in slightly off/burned hue which was caused by the tone of the clay, highlighting the universe of small parts/factories within the walls of bacteria or cells.

Happy with the designs, I have created the specific sheet in Photoshop that needs to be send to
However, a problem with an extraordinary high cost and delivery charge occurred, for just one sheet of A3 decal paper.
We had to get organised as a group and split the delivery charge and the sheets to make the cost more bearable.
I ended up arranging different sizes of my scanned print designs to fit as many as possible on an A4 sheet of decal paper. I decided to add at least one image from the slide collection; planning to cut it up and use elements of it.
Decal ready to print

Prepared with the wares and my printed transfers I started to investigate how should I apply it best.
As the set looks better stacked up as a one bigger structure, rather than spread out on a table;  I decided to apply one of the largest print so it would run across different pieces when stacked on each other.Testing where to apply the decals
The smaller elements were trickier to organise.

However, smearing some paint on my fingertips and handling a mug pretending to drink from it, I could see where are the points of contact with the body, giving chance for bacteria to travel from hand onto the mug or vice versa.
On to these places I would then apply my smallest transfers, highlighting the most contaminated places of the object.
Final Decal

With this placement I wanted to explore some ideas I’m investigating in the main body of my work: how an idea/impression of a structure/object has an impact after they disappear.
How the remaining debris can have an effect on future, or the present.

Final DecalFinal Decal





Final Decal

Final Decal

As for the image taken from the slide collection; I used an architectural drawing of proposed Cardiff Bay Opera House, due to it’s coffee like colour and almost abstract design. I cut the decal print into few basic components which I then applied on a cup and saucer. Looking more at the shapes and angles they create on the cup, enhancing the abstractness of the image as well as disunion between plans and reality.

There was a problem of creasing when trying to apply the decal through edges. I have carefully pressed it and created as little ridges as possible, but I’m intrigued how the overlapping folds will turn out after firing .


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Marek Liska

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