Printmaking on Clay Forms




Introduction: Printmaking on Clay Forms


In this Instructable, you will learn how to print onto clay with underglaze. We will go through the steps of creating a slab of clay, making a basic form, then two ways of printing onto the clay form. There will be many small steps within the large steps of this project. This Instructable is ideal for someone who has some basic knowledge of creating slab forms with clay but there are videos imbedded for anyone who would like to give it a try! I would use these techniques with anyone interested but ideal age would be age 12 and up.

I hope this lesson will empower those who would like to take a complex medium, such as clay, and make it their own by adding this personalized element. This process requires patience and involves themes of repetition, time, mark making, and translation.

Step 1: Create Slab of Clay


  • Working Surface - I am using a piece of drywall with the edges taped off with duct tape
  • Clay - I am using a low fire red clay
  • Basic Clay Tools - wire cutter, rubber rib, fettling knife

To Create a Slab:

  1. Cut a chunk of clay
  2. Either with a rolling pin or your hand, press it into a rectangular flat shape
  3. Use rolling pin or throw slab to desired thickness
  4. If your clay is really moist, you can let your slab set up for 15-30 minutes before using it (depending on moisture level)

Step 2: Create Desired Form From Your Slab of Clay


  • Mold
  • Slab of Clay
  • Fettling Knife
  • Sponge
  • Water

I am going to use the black plate pictured as a mold for my form:

  1. Cut an adequate piece of clay out of the slab with fettling knife, leaving about an inch around the edges for depth of mold
  2. Place piece of clay on the mold
  3. Take damp sponge and lightly press clay into shape of mold
  4. Cut off excess clay around the edges with fettling knife, hold the fettling knife straight up and down and let the edge of the mold guide your cut
  5. Set aside - you are going to want to ensure that your form stays wet and doesn't dry out so place it in a plastic bag or lay plastic on top

Step 3: Video Instruction for Creating Slabs & Forms

If you are not comfortable creating a slab or a form - Here are two great instructional videos for creating slabs and basic forms from clay!

Step 4: Create Ink Out of Amaco Velvet Underglaze


  • Bottles of Amaco Velvet Underglaze in desired colors (I will be using V-370 Velour Black and V-316 Light Pink)
  • Wide Shallow Pans
  • Stir Sticks
  • Jar with Tight Fitting Lid
  1. Gather your materials
  2. Choose colors of Amaco Velvet Underglaze
  3. Pour the underglaze into a wide shallow pan
  4. Stir periodically so that the contents evaporate evenly and a skin does not form on the surface
  5. Let the moisture evaporate and allow the underglaze thicken
  6. The longer it is left uncovered the thicker it will become, allowing you to use it for silkscreening or block printing
  7. Once the consistency becomes that of an ink, transfer your Underglaze Ink into a jar with a tight fitting lid (I am going to use the jars that the underglaze originally came in). If the ink gets too thick you can thin it with Amaco Gum Solution. I allowed mine to dry for about 24-26 hours but this greatly depends on how much underglaze you pour out. Just keep an eye on it and use your best judgement!

Step 5: Create Design With Underglaze on Newsprint


  • Strathmore Newsprint - Rough Surface 32 lbs.
  • Paintbrushes
  • Amaco Velvet Underglaze
  • Water

This is the first way we are going to learn how to print on our clay form! You can use one of these methods or both. The Underglaze Ink we created is for the second method but I wanted to introduce it because it takes a long time to dry and while it is drying we can work on this first method. This first method involves using the underglaze as is and newsprint.

  1. Gather materials, choose colors of Amaco Velvet Underglaze
  2. Paint a design on your newsprint with one color, I painted a pattern of eyes in back on mine - this will be in the foreground of your finished piece.
  3. After that color has dried thoroughly, add to your design with another layer in a different color - this will be in the background of your finished piece.

Step 6: Transfer Your Design to Your Clay Form


  • Your Clay Form
  • Newsprint with Design in Underglaze
  • Paintbrush
  • Slip
  • Plastic Rib

  1. Remove your clay form from plastic bag, it should still be moist
  2. Paint slip on top of your newsprint design in an even thick layer - I have purchased my slip from a local studio, Queen City Clay, but you can also make your own. The most important thing is that your slip is compatible with your clay body - my clay body fires at cone 05 and so does my slip!
  3. Allow it to dry for just 15 minutes
  4. Place the newsprint face down on your clay form and rub evenly over newsprint with a rubber rib to ensure that the design transfers to your form
  5. As you pull up the newsprint by the corner, the design and slip should be attached to your form but if there are spots that do not attach or rip, simply lay the newsprint back down and rub that area again

    ***I personally like the aesthetic of when the design looks imperfect and there are spots that do not attach but it does not have to look this way!

Step 7: Create Screen Using Organza


  • Embroidery Hoop
  • Organza Fabric
  • Pencil
  • Paintbrush
  • Speedball Screen Drawing Fluid
  • Speedball Screen Filler

This is the second way we are going to learn how to print on our clay form! You can use either of these methods or both.

  1. Stretch organza fabric inside embroidery hoop
  2. Sketch design on fabric (optional)
  3. Apply Speedball Screen Drawing Fluid where you want your ink to pass through then let dry completely
  4. Once the blue drawing fluid is dry, apply Speedball Screen Filler to entire surface on the same side that you applied the drawing fluid
  5. Hang fabric to dry completely
  6. Rinse your screen with cold water and gently rub with a sponge, the blue drawing fluid will rinse out and disappear, leaving you with a screen for your design to pass through

Step 8: Apply Underglaze Ink Through Organza Screen


  • Clay Form
  • Organza Screen
  • Underglaze Ink
  • Sponge
  • Water

This step can be used with wet clay, leather hard greenware or bisque ware! In my photos I am using bisque ware.

  1. Lightly dampen sponge with water
  2. Gather a small amount of ink on your sponge
  3. Apply to screen

Step 9: Fire Your Pieces in the Kiln!

I get most of my materials from Queen City Clay which is a local studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. They also fire my pieces for me! ( Here is their website ) I will update with pictures of the final outcome of my pieces when my examples used in this Instructable are done firing!

  • The first image here is an example of finished pieces I have made using these techniques in the past to give you an idea of what the finished pieces will look like!
  • The second image here is of my transferred design from newsprint. This piece needs to be bisque fired then I will apply a clear glaze and glaze fire it! My pieces are being bisque fired to cone 04 and glaze fired to cone 05.
  • In the third image here, I have painted over the design I made with my organza screen with a white glaze. Since I added my design after this piece was bisque fired, it just needs to be glaze fired.

Thanks for looking and happy learning!

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    Clever idea. I bet you could make some really interesting original prints using this.