Ceramic Industry

PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: Instant Color Laser Decals

March 1, 2011
Copy Cal enables decoration using one-of-a-kind artwork without the need for special equipment.

Copy Cal is an inexpensive and easy method for achieving full-color decorating and personalization in any quantity. Copy Cal is a water-slide decal paper that prints in a regular color laser printer or copier. It enables decoration using one-of-a-kind artwork without the need for special equipment.

The patented decal paper consists of four layers. The bottom layer is the carrier paper. The second is a water-soluble adhesive layer that allows the decal to release in water. The support layer (third) gives the decal its strength and handling properties. The fourth (or top) layer is a resin that bonds with the standard electrostatic toners used in most laser printers or copiers.

How to Use

Artwork is generated on the computer and outputted to the laser printer/copier using Copy Cal paper instead of regular copy paper. Alternatively, the artwork can be placed on the platen of the copier. It may work best if the bypass tray is used, as this is a straighter paper path and the Copy Cal is thicker than normal paper. Once the image is printed on the Copy Cal paper, the decal can be cut to the desired size.

The decal should be soaked in water for about 3-5 seconds, then allowed to rest for about 60 seconds. This allows the water-soluble adhesive to release the decal from the paper carrier layer. The decal can then be slid onto the ware; water and air bubbles should be removed with a squeegee. If the ware is curved, it may be necessary to warm the ware slightly to make the decal more flexible.

The decal should be left to dry on the ware for 1-2 hours, then cured in an ordinary oven at 350°F for 15-20 minutes. After the piece is allowed to cool, the surface should be wiped with a clean, wet towel.

Once cured, the decorated image is very durable and can only be removed by a solvent such as acetone or with vigorous scraping with a razor blade. The cured image is heavy-metal free and UV resistant, and can be hand washed.

Potential Applications

Many customers want a certain design on a particular shape of ceramic or glassware, but they can't visualize how it will look when completed. Instead of proofing traditional ceramic decals, which can be expensive, a Copy Cal proof can be used to ensure that the customer likes the design fit and size. If the Copy Cal proof is approved, traditional ceramic decal printing can proceed.

This technique can also be used for trade show samples and website photo samples. Decorators can use the system to evaluate customer reactions to a range of designs without the need for expensive ceramic decal proofing. After the show, only the most popular designs can be developed. This can save thousands of dollars in product development costs.

For non-food-bearing surfaces, the decal paper can provide personalization, photo decorations, or short-run full-color decorations. It can be used to decorate items such as ornaments, vases, cookie jars, night-lights, trophies, jewelry, desk accessories, plaques, decorative plates, trinket boxes, etc.

Copy Cal can be used to make fully functional finished pieces in less than an hour. Images are as high quality as the output from a printer/copier. It is ideal for photo-quality images for commemorative plates, photo ornaments, wedding favors, memorial items, and keepsake boxes.


Copy Cal is not dishwasher safe and should not be used on surfaces that come in contact with food or sharp objects. It will not replace traditional ceramic decals for food contact areas or for large production runs.

In addition, it is difficult to use on ware with severe compound curves such as fat-bellied teapots because the decals are not as flexible as traditional ceramic transfers. Finally, Copy Cal is not suitable for surfaces such as trivets that may come in contact with temperatures in excess of 400°F.

Expand the Toolbox

Copy Cal will enhance the decorator's capabilities and is suitable for smooth surfaces such as ceramics, glass, enamel, and even some plastics. An opaque version is available for glass and colored ceramic glazes, and two ceramic versions can be used on white glazes. One is for copiers that use fuser oil in the toner system and the other is for newer laser printers that don't use the oil.

Copy Cal is supplied in 11 x 17-in. sheets. It will not replace traditional ceramic decals, but it does provide decorators with another option for proofing, personalization, or small custom runs where traditional decal decorations are impractical.

For more information, contact Maryland China Co., Inc. at 54 Main St., Reisterstown, MD 21136; call (410) 833-5559; fax (410) 833-1851; e-mail info@marylandchina.com; or visit www.marylandchina.com.