Historical Overview


The history of printing on ceramics is an evolving story. Until recently, it had been thought that the process was invented in England.  Evidence has now been discovered that shows that it was first used in Italy. more




The earliest use of transfer printing in England was probably at Birmingham about 1751.  There it was initially used on enamels. Slightly later, at the Battersea factory in London (1753-56), which at one time was thought to have only produced printed enamels, it is now known that printing on delftware tiles, white saltglaze stoneware and Chinese porcelain was also carried out. more 


 The first English porcelain factory to use printed decoration on a commercial scale was Worcester, although some of the earliest printing on Worcester porcelain, dating from about 1754, may have been carried out in Birmingham rather than at the factory.  Many of the engraved copper plates used to print on early Worcester porcelain were supplied by Robert Hancock but his printing plates were also used to decorate Bow and Chinese porcelain. more


Underglaze printing, initially only possible in blue, was introduced at Worcester about 1757 or 1758. Subsequently, the process spread to other porcelain factories, such as Bow and Derby and a number in Liverpool.  By about 1775 underglaze printing had become the main technique for decorating blue and white porcelain and it was the basis for the success of the Caughley factory. The pearlware potters then began to undercut the porcelain factories as producers of blue and white ceramics. more

The Vauxhall porcelain factory produced some delicately printed pieces from  1755 or 1756. It also introduced a unique form of polychrome printed decoration.more









Liverpool was an early center for ceramic printing, beginning in about 1756. Initially, this was on locally made delftware tiles. more  



Later, Liverpool porcelain and some from outside the town were printed there. more


1The prin
ting of creamware in Liverpool, mostly on blanks made in other pottery centers was a major business in the later 18th and early 19th
enturies. more 


Printing on creamware did not remain a monopoly of Liverpool for long.  Craftsmen from Liverpool quickly spread the technology to Staffordshire.  Very shortly afterwards the Cockpit Hill Pothouse in Derby was printing on creamware, almost certainly based on the expertise of Richard Holdship from Worcester.  Further afield, the Leeds Pottery and potteries in the North East of England and elsewhere acquired the necessary techniques to print on creamware. more


Transfer-printing in more than one color was used from the earliest period of ceramic printing, initially at Battersea and soon after at Vauxhall.  A single copper plate was used and a glue bat was employed to transfer an oil impression unto the porcelain.  This was then dusted with two or more colors.  In the nineteenth century, a single plate process was introduced for the decoration of earthenware with multicolor prints using paper transfer and a hot press.  Later, a series of copper plates was used, one for each color, to achieve full-color printing. more




Although printing in underglaze blue was perfected on English porcelain by the late 1750s, it was almost 30 years before the Staffordshire potters adopted the process for earthenware. It was an obscure beginning which heralded one of the most successful phases of the British pottery industry.more




After its introduction in the 1780s, underglaze blue printing dominated earthenware decoration in the 19th century. more


The introduction of color into printing began slowly in the early 19th by the middle of the century full-color printing was underway. more