top of page

How to apply ceramic underglaze transfers

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

Ceramic underglaze transfers are a fun, creative and easy way to decorate your pottery, especially if you are a beginner. I have tried and tested many ways, both successful and unsuccessful to apply them. Even my teenage art students have mastered the techniques that I have outlined below!


When you are learning how to use ceramic underglaze transfers, it is important to understand the different stages of clay. This will help you to know how far you can manipulate the clay before applying the transfer.



I am going to focus on my own techniques that I find works best for me, taking you through the different stages of applying ceramic underglaze transfers to clay, such as damp, leather-hard, bone-dry and bisqueware. I'll also outline some basic tips while working with ceramic underglaze transfers. There will be more instalments to this article on different aspects of working with ceramic underglaze transfers, but let's start off with some introductory information.


How to apply underglaze transfers to damp clay

Damp clay can also be defined as 'plastic' and is very flexible to work with. This is when you would throw on a pottery wheel, use on a slab roller or hand build. Damp clay has the most moisture.

TIP: When using underglaze transfers on damp clay, do not add anymore water to the area before applying the transfer. Smudging will occur from too much water. This is the most common mistake.

  1. Cut out desired image and place the printed side (darkest) face down to the clay.

  2. Use your dry fingers to gently press down the transfer. The moisture from the clay will absorb the underglaze pigment from the rice paper.

  3. You can check to see if it has transferred by using your needle tool to slowly peel it back a little. I generally like to leave it on for five minutes, depending how much colour the transfer has. If it's a solid colour, I suggest you leave it on a bit longer. After five minutes, you should check to see if it has trasferred. It may need a gentle dab with a slightly moist sponge

  4. Peel back the transfer very slowly

  5. Roll the used transfer into a ball, so you don't use it again.


How to apply underglaze transfers to leather-hard clay

Leather hard clay can be defined as a stage when the clay has hardened, but has not fully dried out. This is the stage when you would trim your pot on a pottery wheel, add handles to cups or carve out textures etc. When transferring on leather-hard clay, use a clean sponge to wipe down the area that you intend to print on. We do this because at this stage, the clay has less moisture. We want to add a little moisture to the clay so the transfer absorbs the water and allows the underglaze image to transfer to the clay evenly. TIP: Your transfer image can smudge if you have too much water, so squeeze the sponge of excess water. If you notice that the clay looks too wet, just wait a few minutes until it dries out a little, before applying the underglaze transfer.

  1. Cut out desired image and place the printed side (darkest) face down to the clay.

  2. Use your clean, moist sponge to gently press down the transfer. The moisture will help the leather hard clay absorb the underglaze pigment from the rice paper. DO NOT RUB.

  3. You can check to see if it has transferred by using your needle tool to slowly peel it back a little. I generally like to leave it on for five minutes, depending on how much colour the transfer has. If it's a solid colour, I suggest you leave it a bit longer, like 10 minutes. Check to see if it has transferred. It may need a gentle dab with a slightly moist sponge if it has not.

  4. Peel back the transfer very slowly. You should have the perfect image!

  5. Roll the used transfer into a ball, so you don't use it again.


How to apply underglaze transfers to bone-dry clay


Bone-dry clay can be defined as when the clay has zero moisture and is ready to be bisque fired. This would be achieved by allowing your work to dry for a week, or even longer, depending on the size of your pieces, thickness and your climate.


Please note: When your work is bone dry, it is at its most fragile stage. It can easily chip or crack if you accidentally knock it. Believe me, it happens to the best of us!

TIP: Use a clean sponge, squeezing out excess water. Don't use a soggy sponge. Evenly wipe the area you want to print on. This is to add some moisture to the bone-dry clay, so it can absorb the underglaze pigment from the rice paper.


  1. Cut out desired image and place the printed side (darkest) face down to the clay.

  2. Use your clean, moist sponge to gently press down the transfer. The moisture will help the bone dry clay absorb the underglaze pigment from the rice paper. DO NOT RUB.

  3. You can check to see if it has transferred by using your needle tool to slowly peel it back a little. I generally like to leave it on for 5-10 minutes, depending on how much colour the transfer has. If it's a solid colour, I suggest you leave it a bit longer. Check to see if it has transferred. It may need a gentle dab with a slightly moist sponge.

  4. Peel back the transfer very slowly. You should have the perfect image!

  5. Roll the used transfer into a ball, so you don't use it again.


How to apply ceramic underglaze transfers to bisqueware


Bisqueware can be defined as when you have fired your bone dry greenware in a kiln to around 1000 degrees (cone 08, 1728F to cone 04, 1945F). This first firing changes the state of the clay by making it hard. Applying transfers on bisqueware can be difficult, so do some testing to get it right.


Some people like to rinse their bisqueware to remove any clay dust before applying underglaze transfers.

  1. Cut out desired image and place the printed side (darkest) face down on your bisqued piece.

  2. Use your clean, moist sponge to gently press down the transfer. The moisture will help the bisqueware absorb the underglaze pigment from the rice paper. DO NOT RUB.

  3. You can check to see if it has transferred by using your needle tool to slowly peel it back a little. I generally like to leave it on for 10 minutes, depending on how much colour the transfer has. If it's a solid colour, I suggest you leave it a bit longer. After five minutes, you should check to see if it has trasferred. It may need a gentle dab with a slightly moist sponge.

  4. Peel back the transfer very slowly. You should have the perfect image!

  5. Roll the used transfer into a ball, so you don't use it again.


Lastly, knowing just a little bit about the states of clay can go a long way in helping you achieve the best results when applying ceramic underglaze transfers to your work.




1 comentario


Kathy Oxborough
Kathy Oxborough
30 oct 2023

Have just completed my introductory course and I'm addicted.. Jasmine is so professional and so understanding with novices.. It E was such a pleasant day and am totally looking forward to the next course. 😍😍


Me gusta
bottom of page