What is a decal and how does it work?

A ceramic decal is a design specially made to be transferred and fused onto a ceramic surface to stay there. With a special printer using high quality ceramic overglaze toner we print our decals onto special waterslide paper. This paper is heavily starched and smoothed. Then we laminate each sheet with a food safe, lead free flux coat. Once ready to apply, cut out your image leaving a slight border. Drop your decal in water and watch as the smoothed paper is ready to separate or be separated from the ink and flux coat. Once separated, the image gets slid onto the piece. Smooth out air bubbles and then you are ready to fire. The piece is fired to a low temperature, causing the flux coat and pigment to meld with the glaze. This gives it a durable food safe quality.

Where can decals be used?

Ceramic decals are typically used on completed glazed pieces. For the most part, these glazed surfaces are white or other light colors. The decals are translucent and we find they are visually much clearer on a white or light glaze.

What are waterslide decals?

Waterslide decals are also called water transfer decals. They’re generally printed face-up and rely on the dextrose corn sugar remnant that comes from the decal paper helping the decal to stick and transfer onto another surface. Preceding the dextrose layer, there’s usually a glucose film added that gives the decal its sticking qualities. The function of the dextrose layer is to give the decal the ability to slide off the paper onto the base. 

One thing that waterslide decals have over other products is that they are thinner than other decorative techniques and can be produced with a very high level of detail in their designs. They are very popular among craft disciplines like scale modeling, ceramic markers, art schools (students and teachers), and more. This type of decal is very accessible because of its Do It Yourself labeling system. 

How do I apply the decals to a surface?

The right way to apply waterslide decals to any surface is to just add water! That’s why they’re called waterslides, because you just have to pull the backing layer off and slide it on the surface you want. It’s useful to know that these decals can be perfectly applied to ceramic surfaces. Click here for step by step instructions on applying decals.

How true are the colors?

We like to get as close as we can. Our printers use a color palette that is different from your standard RGB color palette. Here’s the short story…

When an artist uses a computer to create a design for printing or wants to print images from a
digital camera, the assumption is that it’s going to print in the same colors as it looks on screen. But the problem is that many computer screens show colors in RGB mode while images are printed in CMYK format.  The issue lies in the fact that the computer screen and many image editing programs show colors in RGB mode, but images are printed on paper in Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black (CMYK) format. There are times when the conversion from one to the other takes place without any issues and it looks the same from the screen to the print out. Other times there is an issue during the conversion from RGB to CMYK and there will be noticeable differences between the shades of color. To avoid this, convert all graphics to CMYK format during the layout design phase. You’ll be thankful you did!

Are your decals food safe?

Yes, our decals are made with the best quality materials, specifically designed to be food safe. They’re lead and cadmium free. Our decals meet the requirements set by the FDA standards and the Prop 65 standards.          

What to do to avoid pinholes and blowouts?

The reason for those holes appearing in the decals is that sometimes air bubbles or debris can get in between the decal and the piece. For best results we recommend swabbing the area you intend to apply the decal with an alcohol swab. Apply the decal smoothing out bubbles with a CLEAN sponge. On flatter surfaces rubber or plastic ribs can also be used to smooth out bubbles. Be gentle when smoothing your images to avoid tearing.

Can decals be returned?

Unfortunately, No. Since our decals are custom designed with your image we are unable to resell them if returned. Our customer satisfaction is a top priority. We will always seek references and designs to ensure we are on the same page, communication is key. Through this method, when you receive your designs, you won’t have any reasons to want to return them

How do I fire ceramic decals?

This is a very important part of the process. The first thing to do is soak the decal in water, that way you will remove any paper backing. Then, apply the decal and squeegee the water out of it. Dry the piece carefully or, try to air dry it as long as you can. Now comes the challenging part, you have to fire the decal to cone 1376F-1544F at a fast firing speed. Avoid soaking or holding. 


  • Ensuring the surface you plan to use is completely clean is important. Use alcohol to help wipe away any and all debris from the surface.
  • While cutting your decals, cut through the entire sheet, this is different from what you would normally do cutting stickers where you only cut the top layer. If you’re using a Cutting Machine, make sure you use a setting that works for the type of waterpaper you own. The recommended default setting is “Medium” but you can adjust it as needed. 
  • As you may already know, you have to soak your decals before applying them to a surface. Fill up a dish with clean water, dunk your decals in for at least 30 seconds or, until the edges come off. When you see that happening, you can take them out of the water. 
  • Take advantage of the fact that by the time you’re soaking your decals, your fingers should be already wet. Decals bond best when both the surface and your fingers are wet. This allows you to easily move the decal around so it can be placed just right.
  • Be very gentle when you pull back the waterslide paper off the surface, it’s very delicate. 
  • When you’re using the squeegee, smooth away the imperfections on your decal working from the middle outward. 
  • Practice makes the master. Be patient with your own process. Your first designs might have some little wrinkles or bubbles, the more you practice, the better. 
  • While dabbing the decal with a paper towel, be very gentle and never rub it, because it will come off that way. Just give it some gentle touches, don’t overdo it. 
  • Let your decals naturally air dry for at least 3 or 4 hours. This process can go faster if you use a hairdryer, just don’t put it too close to the decals, use it at a minimal distance.          


We offer the best custom made Waterslide Decals for ceramics. If you want to know how to get the perfect decal for your project, scroll down and learn more about our services. 

Why IMW Waterslide Decals?
  • Firstly, our decals are food safe. You know that we wouldn’t make anything that didn’t follow the safety requirements that assure the best quality products. 
  • We have a smaller print size and can pass that savings along to you 
  • High-resolution printing, the type of resolution that you just can’t get at home. We absolutely recommend that if you are looking for a professional finish, print it with us. 
  • Easy online ordering. We want to make everything as easy for you as possible. Order them online, and receive them fast and reliable. 
  • Fast timing. (Referential timing) We are fast and timely. Typically orders arrive between 3-5 business days after your order. 
  • Free technical support online. If you need any help applying your decals, we can provide the needed technical support as part of our service. With us, you’re not just buying some decals, you’re getting the full experience of a quality process.

We want to provide you some simple recommendations for when you submit your designs, so we can get them with the best resolution possible. This ensures the best quality end result. Feel free to ignore these tips, but we encourage you to follow these instructions. 

  • Send your image files to [email protected] (referential account). If your design is over 10MB we recommend using a free sharing service like DropBox, WeTransfer, or Google Drive. 
  • 300 dpi file resolution is the best quality image. 
  • The recommended saving your images as .pdf, .pdi and “.tiff”. We can help you to make the file work correctly, just contact us and we’ll guide you through the process. What we want is for you to have the most professional resolution, all of our effort and attention is on it! 
  • Make sure all of your black and white images are on greyscale. 
  • All of your colored images should be in a “CMYK SWOP coated” file. This will get you the best rendering of the color limitation during the digital process.

If your image doesn’t meet these requirements or you don’t know how to create these settings, we can help you for a minimum fee. If you need us to design the decals, that has an extra charge that can be arranged depending on your particular needs. 

If you have any questions about this process, please let us know, and don’t hesitate to contact us. We want to know about you!