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Lazertran and Polymer Clay

By Terry Lee Czechowski
Lazertran? Okay, what is this stuff and can it be used with polymer clay??? Those were the questions we tackled at Shrine Mont this year. The possibility of a new tool or technique is like chocolate - you can never get too much. I first heard of Lazertran through the internet discussions following the HIA show in January. Lazertran is a transfer paper developed by Mick Kelly for the art community. It enables you to transfer a color image onto glass, fabric, paper, metal, and... here it comes... plastic! Now we all hold our breath and say "What about polymer clay?"

Wilma Yost and I decided that, when we met up at the Shrine Mont retreat, we would explore this new medium. Will this product transfer to polymer clay? Will it transfer to raw clay? Can it be baked? Which of the Lazertran products, the regular or the silk versions work best? Does Lazertran enable us to do something with polymer clay that was either difficult or undoable before?

We had a ton of questions to find answers to, and the National Polymer Clay Guild retreat at Shrine Mont gave us the opportunity to play... er, I mean work, together without the usual 400 miles separating us, and without families and life distracting us. Let me just say here that if you ever have the opportunity to go to one of the polymer clay retreats - JUMP ON IT!

Wilma and I knew that this exploration was going to encompass a multitude of tests and attempts so we did our best to approach our task in an organized manner. We narrowed down some variables by using just one color of one brand of clay with copies from one color photocopier. Another retreat attendee, Tricia Echeagaray, a lab technician in real life, helped us keep in line with our testing procedures. We made a ton of test samples, brainstormed, took notes, more test samples, brainstormed again, and then, AHA! We started getting some exciting results.

Okay, you've patiently read all this just to find out how to use this Lazertran stuff. Well here are some conclusions that we came up with.

First some basic info:

  1. Lazertran is currently available in 2 forms: one is the regular Lazertran product the other is referred to as the Lazertran Silk. (It was designed to transfer to silk without any stiffness)


  2. Both products require the use of toner (carbon) based photocopies to put the image on the Lazertran products. This works with both color and black & white photocopiers. This apparently does not work with Hewlett Packard printers - something to do with the temperature inside the machines. These products do NOT work with inkjet printers.


  3. Both products are basically a type of carrier attached to a paper backing with a water-soluble adhesive. The regular is designed to work as a water-slip decal. The silk version was designed to be ironed onto fabric.


  4. These products produce vivid photo quality transparent transfers, not washed out images.
Although we still want to explore more uses for these products Wilma and I wanted to share what we have learned so far.

The toner image on the Lazertran Silk will wash away if you try to immerse it in water. You need something to grab hold of the image before you can remover the backing paper. The following techniques use TLS, Diluent, and some kind of adhesive with the Lazertran Silk. The image will also stick to raw clay on its own but the diluent seems to help.

Transparent Liquid Sculpey Decal:

To make a transparent decal that can then be incorporated into polymer clay in various ways, paint, or smear, a THIN coat of TLS directly onto the Lazertran silk image. Now use a piece of cardboard to remove almost all of the TLS. The goal is to make a whisper thin decal. Yes, TLS can do this. Bake for about 10 minutes at 300 degrees. The temp is important to make the TLS strong. After baking immerse in water for about 1 minute. The paper backing should float off leaving a clear TLS decal. No more scrubbing paper off TLS and fighting to get all those fuzzies off so that it is truly clear. This paper backing floats off completely without any bits remaining.

After drying, the TLS "decal" can then be applied to your polymer clay creation either with diluent, more TLS, or just direct contact with raw clay. Be sure that all air bubbles are removed.

Lazertran Silk Direct Transfer:

Your MIRRORED image can also be directly transferred to raw polymer clay (see picture at right). Trim your image to size, rub a tiny bit of diluent to the raw clay (do not leave it slick, but rather, rub it in to be a bit tacky), put the Lazertran - image side down - onto the clay, and smooth for full contact but do not recess the paper into the clay. Let this set for about 30 minutes. Then the raw clay can either be immersed in water, or use a water soaked sponge, and thoroughly dampen the paper backing. This will totally release the paper and leave the image on the raw clay. Gently blot the image and clay then allow to dry for a few minutes. The clay can now be manipulated without any smearing!!! I have curved transferred slabs into cylinders, pressed into molds and even crackled images in the pasta machine. After baking, the image is sturdy with no noticeable edge or thickness.

Transfer to Metallic Leaf:

Metallic leaf is not sticky enough to grab the toner, so something must be used to help out. The Lazertran website suggests the use of 3M Photo Mount Spray for use with the Lazertran Silk on unusual surfaces. Another option may be using the sizing adhesive for the metallic leaf. Just be aware that some of these release when heated. I think SOBO or a glue stick are better choices for use with polymer clay that will be baked. I found that I had more control as to where the adhesive was placed by using SOBO or a glue stick (my favorite is the Avery Glue Pen glue stick). I simply applied the glue to the image side of the Lazertran Silk. If you choose to use SOBO, make sure that you are using a tiny bit, just enough to make it tacky. It should be invisible, just rub it on with your finger.

Once the adhesive is on the LTS (not to be confused with TLS or LS, <G>) place it image side down on the metallic leaf. Let it set for a bit so the glue can dry. You can then pass the clay through the pasta machine to crackle the image as well as the metalic leaf, but you will lose a lot of the vivid color of the image. I prefer to first crackle the clay slab, and then apply the image. I also tested using a tiny bit of TLS or Diluent as the adhesive. The both worked but were a bit more fragile until after baking. I found the glues to be more reliable. Perhaps you will find otherwise.

Your Turn!

This stuff is just begging to be played with. The regular Lazertran offers a whole bunch of other possibilities that Wilma and I haven't finished playing with. Jeepers, we haven't finished playing with the silk version yet either! We just wanted to get the word out so that you guys can start playing with it, too. Let us know what you discover about this stuff. Our email addresses are tlc@tlc-creation.com and polymer@erols.com. Look for Wilma to be posting another Lazertran project soon at Polymer Clay Express. If you are ready and itching to try this stuff for yourself, you can get the supplies at that site as well.

I transferred an image onto a slab of clay and then eased it into a large face mold. After baking I have a face with a flock of birds flying across it. Very cool huh?
This beige hand transfer was made by transfering the image onto white clay, trimming away the excess clay and then making a dome-shaped pad of clay to put under the globe. The imaged slab was then gently shaped over the dome and then placed on the beige slab and the edges were all rounded over.
©2001-Terry Lee Czechowski

Click Here for the Lazertran Website and More Information and Projects!

Tips:

6/29/02

Tip: I thought I had better give you some information about copy machines. LAZERTRAN SILK can be put through any toner based machine, including HP, as it does not have the decal film to stick to the fusion rollers. LAZERTRAN, (with the decal film) is only to be used through color photo copiers such as Canon, Xerox, Minolta, Ricoh, QMS, Tektronics and Alps. HP runs too hot for regular Lazertran, as do a lot of black and white and desktop copiers. Soon we will be changing the Lazertran decal to go through all machines, the boffins are hard at work. To another point, on metal foil, you simply iron LAZERTRAN SILK onto the foil and put immediatly into water. Let the paper float off, allow to dry, then bake in a domestic oven to make sure the toners are properly fixed.
Mick Kelly


8/24/01
Tip:Question - You mentioned that Lazertran may be used only with carbon ink. Can I print an image on it on a laser printer?

You may be able to use a laser printer as long as it isn't an HP. Based on the wording on the packaging you can use laser copiers or printers. But then again, there is also a list somewhere that lists the machines that they tested it on, and I don't think any of them were computer printer sounding brands. Maybe it would be best to email the company. I believe you can get to them thru their website at You may be able to use a laser printer as long as it isn't an HP. Based on the wording on the packaging you can use laser copiers or printers. But then again there is also a list somewhere that lists the machines that they tested it on and I don't think any of them were computer printer sounding brands. Maybe it would be best to email the company. I believe you can get to them thru their website at http://lasertran.com. When I went to my local copy shop I brought along the packaging which showed that it was safe to use in their machine. Heat transfer papers make a real mess in color copy machines so you can't blame them for being shy about adding someone else's specialty papers.

Give yourself permission to spend a couple bucks and play with this stuff. Pick a bunch of different images (small) and go get one or two sheets printed. Then go home and play. I do recommend that you do a couple little tests for the proper time to let the image set on the clay before removing the backing paper. The copies that we played with at the retreat set for about 30 minutes. When I used my local copy shop, I think the machine put on more toner, or else it was just that I was using a much bolder, original printout (my computer printed on the special jet bright paper, which produces very strong colors, to make the original) and if I waited 30 minutes the toner transfered and started getting kinda wet, and then it tended to smear more easily. I found that waiting 10 - 15 minutes worked better. So play with a couple teeney images to test what works best for you. Please let me know how it goes.
TLC


Thank you, Terry. You can Email Terry at tlc@tlc-creation.com.

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