July 24, 2010

Adventures in Lazertran -- or Secret Squirrel & the Custom Dinnerware DIY

Do you remember those Make-a-Plate projects from your childhood?  You'd draw on a special piece of paper, send it to the factory, and a few weeks later would have a fabulous melamine plate?  I'm still a big fan of those plates, but I'm thrilled to say that I've learned a new technique that allows you to apply your own artwork and images to real ceramic dinnerware.  It's like Make-a-Plate, but ALL GROWN UP!  Interested?  Read on...

Several months ago I came across The New Book of Image Transfer by Debba Haupert.  In this book, Haupert explains in depth how to transfer images using Lazertran Waterslide Decal Paper to such materials as wood, leather, pottery, glassware, metal and ceramics -- making it possible to create completely customized, professional looking transfer projects at home.  

I purchased myself a copy, but as often happens, life got in the way and the book was shelved.  Fast forward a few months...I'm co-hosting a Tea Time Baby Shower for my sister and am brainstorming ideas for favors.  While shopping for the shower, I came across some wonderful mugs on sale and suddenly remembered the neglected image transfer book.

I zipped on over to our local art supply store, purchased a package of Lazertran Inkjet Paper, and was on my way toward a new adventure in crafting.  There was a little trial and error, but the overall process was a cinch and the results were delightful.

Update:  Although the mugs held up to a few rounds in the dishwasher, the images eventually began to chip.  I recommend hand-washing in order to preserve the longevity of your designs.

This week, my older daughter is visiting with her aunt, uncle and cousins out of town.  So, while my husband is at work, it's just me and my younger daughter, Max, left to our own creative devices.  

When Max was very little, we started a tradition of whispering, "You're My Secret Squirrel" into each other's ears at bedtime.  On her first day of Preschool I presented her with a squirrel necklace I had purchased from an artist on Etsy.  About a year ago, we found a plush squirrel in a store and promptly took it home, added a felt mask, and dubbed him "Secret Squirrel" of course. So, when Max started crooning, "I'm bored," I figured we'd make use of the extra Lazertran sheets left over from the shower.



Like the Make-a-Plates of our childhoods, your child can create a work of art, but instead of sending it away and having it come back on a single melamine plate, you can share the process with your child at home and apply it to a complete dinnerware set (even the forks and spoons).  Using an an image from an old tea advertising card I downloaded from Agence Eureka (my clipart hero), I made some modifications to turn the ordinary squirrel into a "Secret Squirrel", or, since the card was from a French tea company and originally read "Ecureuil", I changed it to "Ecureuil Secrete".

The Image:  If you can print it, you can transfer it. 

The Object:  If you can put it in the oven, it can take a transfer.

If you'd like to try your hand at making your own custom dinnerware at home, here's a tutorial, with tips and tricks I've learned through trial and error (so you don't have to). The possibilities are endless.  

One important thing to note, if you have an Inkjet printer, you'll need Lazertran Inkjet Paper.  The one potential downside to Lazertran Inkjet is that it darkens at the temperature needed to cure the decal.  If you're going for a "vintage" or "antiqued" look, use Lazertran Inkjet. I will discuss two techniques below:  Light Patina Technique and Dark Patina Technique.  If you would like to  have a clear background and have an Inkjet Printer, you'll want to purchase regular Lazertran paper and have it printed at a local printshop, (use mirror images) that has "oil fuser oil type copiers and/or laser printers".  Follow the instructions from Step 2 onward in the Light Patina Technique section.


Lazertran Transfer Paper (for Inkjet or Regular, depending on desired effect; see below)
Clean Ceramic Dinnerware (I purchase my pieces at a local thrift shop for less than a dollar for the whole lot)
A hair dryer or heat gun
A bowl of lukewarm water
Paper towels or tissue

(best for images with borders)

Step 1:  Print image(s) on bright, white side of Lazertran paper.  Bear in mind that the transfer will darken slightly as it bakes.  Images that appear in your printout with a plain "white" background, will come out with an aged ivory appearance after baking.  I recommend putting a border around such images before printing.

Step 2:  Apply hot air to images with highest setting of hair dryer, or craft heat gun, until the images appear slightly shiny (this indicates that the ink is dry).

Step 3:  Wait 15 minutes.  Okay, I like to err on the side of caution.  Just in case the ink didn't completely dry, I don't want to run the risk of bleeding ink.

Step 4:  Cut out images.  Cut out as closely to the edge of the image as you can.  

Step 5:  Place cutout in lukewarm water.  It will curl up immediately.  Gently uncurl and allow to soak for about a minute.  This will loosen the decal from the backing paper.

Step 6:  Remove decal (still on backing paper) from the water and slide directly on to object taking the transfer.

Step 7:  Use a bit of soft paper towel or tissue to blot the excess moisture.  Do not wipe or it may cause scratches or tearing.  Be very gentle.  Blot and lightly press to remove all air bubbles.  Don't worry if part of your image won't lay flat (as pictured above).

Step 8:  You may still have some air bubbles and areas that won't lay flat at this point.  Use the hair dryer to heat the decal, and using the soft paper towel or tissue, continue to lightly press and secure the decal.  The heat of the dryer will begin to dry the decal and help it adhere to the contours of your piece.

Step 9:  All air bubbles should be gone at this point and the object should be lying perfectly flat.  Allow the piece to air dry for 1 hour.

Step 10:  Bake transfer object in a 200 degree (F) oven for 1 hour.

Step 11:  Raise oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another hour.

Step 12:  (Almost done) Raise oven temperature to 350 and bake for a final hour.

Step 13:  VERY IMPORTANT.  Raise the temperature to 400.  Bake for fifteen minutes.  The image will darken and will become shiny.  This is how you will know that it has completely adhered.

Step 14:  Remove piece(s) from oven and allow to cool.  Wash your piece(s) with a damp sponge to remove any browned adhesive.  

Done!  You now have your very own custom dinnerware that is dishwasher and oven safe.

(for images without borders)

Step 1:  Print image(s) on bright, white side of Lazertran paper in reverse (mirror image).  Images that appear in your printout with a plain "white" background, will come out with an ivory appearance after baking.  

Step 2:  Apply hot air to images with highest setting of hair dryer, or craft heat gun, until the images appear slightly shiny (this indicates that the ink is dry).

Step 3:  Wait 15 minutes.  Okay, I like to err on the side of caution.  Just in case the ink didn't completely dry, I don't want to run the risk of bleeding ink.

Step 4:  Cut out images, being mindful that any part of the decal left intact will dark with baking. 

Step 5:  Place cutout in lukewarm water.  It will curl up immediately.  Gently uncurl and allow to soak for about a minute.  This will loosen the decal from the backing paper.


Step 6:  Remove decal (still on backing paper) from the water and slide, FACE DOWN (so that the "right" side of images will show) directly on to object taking the transfer.


Of course, this is just one of the many applications of Lazertran.  I look forward to experimenting with many more techniques and sharing the results with you.  

Here are some fun images, perfect for custom coffee/tea cups that I modified from clipart generously provided by Karen, aka The Graphics Fairy (my clipart heroine).

As always, you are welcome to use any of these images for non-commercial purposes.  Give credit, where credit is due (when applicable), and feel free to come back to share your creations and and successes!

Secret_Squirrel_Bedtime-1.jpg picture by sarahjmorriss


  1. AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! Really I cannot say it enough! This is such an impressive technique! I {heart} the secret squirrel!

  2. Aw, "you are my secret squirrel"! How sweet is that. Loving the craft idea and technique!

  3. I must try this project! My mind is racing with all of the wonderful things I could make as gifts, not to mention what I could make for myself. I hope I can find a store that carries the Lazertran Paper.

    Secret Squirrel is so sweet!

  4. I'm incredibly jealous that you have a local store that carries the paper--I've always had to order mine online.

    Back when I was with eHow I did an article about the martini glasses I mentioned before--the process is very similar and it's got a link to where I got the paper from in case it's different than what you have available.


  5. this is fantastic. i am in awe of your creative talent....and your secret squirrel is adorable! this might have to be my next rainy day project...it is too much fun!

  6. Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave today [25 Jul 12:00pm GMT]. Thanks, Maria

  7. I'm so impressed. This is my new endeavor to conquer, along with refinishing my wood pieces. I'm so excited to try this, you have no idea. The tutorial was excellent. I already found a local place on line, Blick's, where I can go pick up a pack of the paper. Yay! I feel empowered!

  8. These are too cool! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, I'm so glad I was able to browse around yours too!

  9. This is AMAZING! I have so many ideas! What a great neat way to customize a gift for someone!!

  10. Mother of Pearl!!!!!! :)))) I love this just love it. My mind is racing and I am full of ideas for this. Thanks so much for posting this!!!

  11. That is so cool! I'd love to try it. Thanks for your sweet comments on my blog, they are very much appreciated!

  12. Wow, going to have to try this, and I couldn't believe it when you said oven and diswasher safe!! Going to have to try this one. Thank you so much for sharing this awesome project and the tutorial!!

  13. Fantastic, such a great project and the result is adorable - thank you for sharing this project ... it is very tempting to try

  14. Very nice project! The possibilities are simply endless, thanks...

  15. Jenn, Jenn, Jenn,
    I LOVE it!!! Do you know I have that very same book and the Lazertran. Unfortunately, when I tried this the ink washed right off of the paper, during the soaking phase. I think it might be because I bought the paper about 2 years ago and then it sat in a drawer the entire time. Shameful, I know! Either it's just too old now, or it's my printer. But yours turned out beautifully, and such a charming look! I'm so glad you linked this up today for Brag Monday. I may have to give this another try.

  16. Lazertran is such an awesome product. Like Karen, I too have had that book for years, and I am sad to say have been hording the decal paper for as long. It is rather expensive and I have been loath to try it until I found the right project. This might just be it! You mentioned re using the scraps. How do you do that?

  17. What a totally cool idea! I am featuring this at somedaycrafts.blogspot.com. Grab my "Featured" button.

  18. What a cool idea! I had no idea this was even possible

  19. Well, my mug is in the oven! I'll do a few more tomorrow, this was my test, and send you some pictures. Thanks again, Jenn, for your kind words AND your great ideas!

  20. I had no idea you could even do something like this from home! Thank you for sharing!

  21. Nice! I have had some lazertran lying round for at least two years - how bad is that! this is inspiring me to get into it! My aim was to use it as a resist on metal etching plates but I think I will go look for some nice china plates instead.

  22. I just found your through The Graphics Fairy's new DIY blog! I am so inspired by the dishes you created and this technique you've shared! I am off to hunt down some lazertran paper! Thank you so much for the ideas! I am delighted to be following you!
    Best Wishes and Blessings,

  23. Thanks so much for sharing this tutorial! It's helped me out so much! :) - Laura

  24. Thank you. This was very helpful in deciding to NOT get the Inkjet due to the yellowing. And also because depending on paper thickness my printer might reject it as my Mac can't alter the settings... I wanted to do the inkjet to be able to do it at home without the hassles of copy shops and all these "hidden" fees afterwards mine charges. *Sigh* Wish Lazertran would fix that issue with the yellowing.

    Do you have any suggestions for similar products to the Lazertran? Waterproof decals? I also read that they are not dishwasher safe but yours were okay...? And some people had trouble just with regular water and had to use a finishing spray. How have yours held up to regular washing the last few years?


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