Creating Etching decals for Ceramics (using Akua water-based etching Transparent Base)

The Chinese have been making ceramic etching decals for centuries, but they will not give up the formula, though I have had a spy or two try to obtain it. There were hints at gum Arabic and honey, which I tried, but this is the formula I settled on.


  • 1.5 tsp powdered gum Arabic
  • 0.25 tsp Gerstley Borate or Laguna Borate [flux to help the mason stain melt and stick]
  • 1 tsp mason stains [powdered color for cone 10 ceramics]
  • 1 tsp Akua transparent etching base

You’ll also need these materials:

  • Cheap American tissue paper
  • Newsprint
  • Etching burnisher
  • Soft paintbrush
  • H2O
  • Etched or solar plate for image
  • Greenware pot

Creating a Decal

placing decal on greenware

Decal sticking to pot before lifting

Mix the ingredients together. Wipe the plate as usual for intaglio. Place the plate on the press and set it to etching pressure. Place tissue paper on plate. Wet and blot newsprint. Place this over the tissue on the plate (Akua does dampen the tissue a little, but more moisture is necessary for a good impression).

Run it through the press and you now have a decal. Decals work best in the first few days but can be saved and used weeks later.

Printing the Decal on the Pot

Cut or tear off the portion of decal to be transferred. Wet the pot with a paintbrush to moisten clay. Wet the back of the decal tissue. Place on the damp area of the pot, jelly side down, wetting back slightly to stick tissue to pot. Thoroughly burnish decal. Remove decal. Clean edges if necessary by scraping gently with end of burnisher.

Use a little Akua blending medium mixed with the ink and a small brush to fix slightly mussed decals.


etching decal - ceramic pots with tar gel etchings

Finished pieces with fired decals and Tar gel etchings


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