How are Porcelain Portraits Made?

One of the questions most frequently asked by our clients is, “How are Porcelain Portraits made?”. In order to answer this question, this blog post will provide a step by step explanation of the entire process, start to finish, along with illustrations of each step. Here we go!

Step One: An order is received from a client, advising the shape and size porcelain tile they would like, with the image to be used attached. Prior to beginning the process, we first review the image the client has provided to ensure it will produce a high quality Porcelain Portrait.

Step Two: Everything we will be using throughout the process is prepared. A soaking pan is filled with warm water and placed on a warming tray, which is then turned on. After turning the printer on, we ensure there is sufficient specialized paper loaded to complete the day’s orders. The laminating machine is also turned on so that it will begin to warm up.

Step Three: The image is opened in PhotoShop in order to edit any problem areas. Once the image has been perfected, it is then cropped to the correct shape and size using the corresponding template. At this point, we check to ensure there is a 1/4″ border surrounding the image. This border will show as white on the finished porcelains. Although it is possible to bring the image all the way to the edge, the majority of our clients prefer the small white border instead.Image

Step Four: In order to prevent wasting the specialized paper needed to create the Porcelain Portraits, we place as many images onto one 8.5″x11″ sheet, while leaving enough space between each image to create the border. When making small porcelains, we can often fit several images on one sheet, whereas the larger porcelains typically require an entire sheet to themselves.

Step Five: Once we have hit the “Print” button for each sheet of images, we then move into the room in which the printer and laminating machine are located. The sheets are removed from the printer and inspected for any imperfections. If anything is found, the image must be discarded and reprinted. (When entering or exiting this room, we must ensue that the door is securely closed, as the temperature and humidity must remain at specific level in order for the specialized ink to work correctly. The required temperature and humidity levels are reached with the use of a heater and air conditioner, as well as a humidifier and dehumidifier. If the room is not kept at the correct temperature and humidity, the ink, which is colored minerals, will harden and ruin.)

Step Six: If there are multiple images on a sheet, the paper is cut to separate the individual images, again ensuring there is sufficient space for the border.Image

Step Seven: The protective paper is removed from the laminating paper. Holding the two sheets together and up to the light, the excess laminate paper is trimmed off, ensuring that the extra space for the border is maintained.Image

Step Eight: Once all excess is removed, we check the laminating machine to ensure the red light is on, indicating that it has been warmed up and is ready to use. Once the red light is on, we turn on the motor and begin feeding the image through the machine. As the image appears on the opposite side of the machine, it will now be laminated, as the heat has caused the laminating paper and the image to bind  together.

Step Nine: We then lie the tile(s) we will be using on the work bench and clean each tile with alcohol to remove any grease and dirt. This step is extremely important, as any grease or dirt will cause imperfections in the finished porcelain.

Step Ten: The paper is then removed from the image and the sheet without the image is discarded.Image

Step Eleven: Any excess border is cut away, as having too much extra paper will make it difficult to align the image correctly.Image

Step Twelve: The image is then placed in the warm water in the soaking pan. We allow the image to soak in the water for 15-20 seconds to ensure the entire image and borders are fully emerged.Image

Step Thirteen: Once the image has soaked for 15-20 seconds, it is lifted out of the water and placed on the tile. While applying gentle but steady pressure to the top of the image with the tips of our fingers, the bottom white sheet is pulled out. Once we do this, you will be able to see the porcelain through the image and border.Image

Step Fourteen: After we align the image evenly on the tile, we then take a folded paper towel and place it over the image. Using the roller, we begin rolling over the image, starting from the middle out to soak up any excess water.Image

Step Fifteen: Once we have rolled over the entire image, we lift the paper towel to ensure the image is still aligned correctly. If not, we gentle move the image until it is once again centered. Once it is aligned, we use the squeegee to slowly push out any air bubbles that may be trapped between the image and the tile, again starting at the middle and working our way out to the edges.Image

Step Sixteen: We then replace the paper towel back over the image, again using the roller to collect any water the squeegee may have pushed to the edge.Image

Step Seventeen: The tile is then placed in the kiln, ensuring that nothing is touching the top of the porcelain (where the image is) and that the tiles are not touching each other. The only thing they may be allowed to touch is the rack itself.

ImageStep Eighteen: The door to the kiln is shut and it is turned on. Our Porcelain Portraits will be ready for shipping the next day!Image

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