I’m going to add photos to this post, but for now I’ll just write, so please check back to see samples of what I’m writing about.
I’m intrigued by placing my images onto unusual surfaces. Tiles are attractive to me because there are so many uses — they can be hung individually or as a set, displayed on a shelf, used in a backsplash, etc. I guess professional tiles are generally made by dye sublimation, but without that expensive technology, I explored ways to get my inkjet prints onto the tiles.
First about the tiles — I started out with plain white enamel tiles. I next tried the larger clay tiles, and then tumbled tiles, which were a little harder to find. Home Depots have some tiles, but I’ve found that different stores carry different products, so you’ll have to check. I once found a tile store pretty far from my house that had the most gorgeous marbled tiles. Click here to see a photograph of a naked lady lily on a marble tile. Lesson to me – when I see something I like and am pretty sure I’ll use, get enough! The tumbled and marbled tiles are slightly smaller but thicker than the normal enamel size, so you may not be able to fit them into some of the products made for the standard sizes, like boxes, ready-made frames, stands, etc.
Okay, now for the fun part. The best way to get an accurate image (one that looks nearly like it would on a piece of inkjet paper) onto most surfaces you can’t get through a printer is by using lazertran. It’s a great product, basically a waterslide decal. They make different kinds, but I use the inkjet. Much more about lazertran in another post, coming soon. And by the way, you can get a lot of information from their website.
A fun but less accurate method for transferring to tiles is by using heat transfers. I need to go back through my books to let you know where I learned about this. Please check back, because I always want to give credit to my sources. You can use the heat transfers made for t-shirts. I use the epson transfers, because they work best with my printer. I know you can get cheaper generic ones, but you might want to experiment to see whether the results are as good as the ones that are made by your printer manufacturer. You just print the image onto the heat transfer (backward if there’s type or you care about the original orientation of the image), and place it face down onto the tile (put the tile on a hard surface, not a soft ironing board). Cover the transfer with a piece of parchment paper to protect your iron from any ink that squishes out the sides, and hold the iron (highest heat) on the paper, pressing down hard. You don’t want to move the iron around because the image will smear. If you have a normal iron with holes, you should pick the iron up and move it so the holes are in a different place. You’ll need to hold it there quite awhile. The tile will get VERY hot so use an oven mitt or heat glove if you need to touch the tile. After a few minutes, pick the iron up and peel a tiny piece of the edge to see if the transfer has adhered to the tile (be very careful touching the hot tile). You can put it back down and keep pressing until as much of the transfer adheres as you want. There will be spots that won’t transfer, and I’ve found that a slight ghost image always remains on the transfer paper. You’ll have to experiment with the kinds of images that work best with this method. For myself, I like to use photos that I’ve softened for a dreamy effect. Details don’t transfer very well.
Here are some examples of the heat transfers onto the tumbled marble tiles. You can see that there are gaps in the image, which as I said works well with some images.