More Ways than One

More Ways than One
Decorative Glass Trends in Imagery Creations
by Erin Roberts
ou know the phrase, “There’s
more than one way to skin a
cat”? This colloquialism is frequently used by a former boss of mine.
He’s the kind of guy full of inappropriate jokes and his own repertoire of sayings, so I could never be sure whether
the whole “skinning of cats” was his
own or a commonplace expression.
Thanks to Google, I determined that
this somewhat gruesome phrase is
widely used indeed and, fortunately,
doesn’t seem to stem from a vast population of people actually finding ways to
skin a cat. Additionally, there are some
handy (PETA-friendly) alternatives:
“there’s more than one way to peel an
orange” or “there’s more than one way
to bake a cake.”
Whichever phrase you use, the expression is intended simply to exemplify that there’s more than one way to
approach a task. As we look at trends in
decorative glass products, this expression has never been more appropriate—particularly in the area of glass
printing and digital art. From direct-toglass digital printing, silkscreening and
decal transfers, there’s no shortage of
options for bringing incredible glass
design concepts to life.
Below, you’ll find an introduction to
several digital art options as well as
suggestions for use and specification
tips. The content is just a sampling of
information provided by the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA)
decorative division’s presentation, “An
Introduction to Decorative Glass.” The
course provides an overview of the various types of decorative glass, application possibilities and tips for specifying
the various options. The division is currently exploring revisions that will re-
USGlass, Metal & Glazing | May 2015
Photo: Steve Hall, Hedrich Blessing Photography
The international terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport features
digitally printed glass fabricated by Goldray Industries.
flect growing trends and the wide variety of decorative glass options. The content will eventually be separated into
several different presentations.
Digital printing directly to the glass
is a relatively recent technology which
allows you to add colorful images directly onto the glass via a digital printing process. This process is similar to a
desktop printer, but rather than printing on a pliable sheet of paper, a largeformat flatbed printer is used to
transfer the image directly onto each
lite of glass. Direct-to-glass digital
printing is an excellent process to use
for high-detail or multi-color images,
short-run projects or applications in
which each panel is a different image.
Direct-to-glass digital printing can
be utilized in many interior applica-
tions as well as exterior if the coating is
not on the outermost surface and exposed to the environment. This product is typically used in projects where
screen preparation and set-up fees are
cost-prohibitive. Short-run and multicolor images are ideally suited to this
process. Interior applications include
office partitions, furniture, signage,
entry and shower doors, and custom
appliances. Some examples of exterior
applications are decorated insulating
glass units, facades, artwork, signage
and transit shelters.
To print directly onto glass digitally,
the lite is first registered on the flatbed printer and an image is selected
from the attached graphic computer.
The colors are chosen by the operator,
and the print heads then move back
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and forth over the glass depositing
inks onto the surface. After printing,
the inks need to be cured. There are
two main types of inks used in this
process: UV, which are cured in UV
light, and ceramic, which are dried and
fused onto the surface during the heattreating process. At this point, the
glass may also be backpainted, silvered, laminated and/or insulated.
Some considerations when specifying
direct-to-glass digital printing are durability from ultraviolet light and abrasion
resistance of the inks, the opacity or
translucency of the image, any special
maintenance instructions, as well as the
repetitiveness of the pattern.
Silkscreened or screenprinted glass
is created by applying inks to the glass
surface through a screen-printing
process. The ink can be applied in a
solid coverage or a decorative pattern.
Silkscreened glass is available in various colors, patterns and translucencies,
even metallics.
The many characteristics of
silkscreened glass make it a versatile
product for numerous applications including spandrel, signage and countless
interior applications. It’s cost-effective,
low-maintenance and highly durable.
This type of glass is made by applying inks directly to the surface using a
screenprinting process similar to what
is done to print on t-shirts. The print
may be a solid coverage or virtually
any pattern.
These products are suitable for both
vision and spandrel areas; however,
some coatings are not suitable for an
exterior application and should be limited to the interior of a building.
Many silkscreened products can
be used in an exterior application if the coating is not on the
outermost surface and exposed
to the environment. The type of
pattern and resolution should
also be considered. Some coat-
ings are available in standard colors,
while others are available in custom
colors that may provide a closer match
to the design.
Another way to apply a ceramic frit
image onto glass is through a decal
transfer. This process involves applying
a ceramic decal which is permanently
fused by heat-treating the glass. This
process can provide fine halftone detail,
consistent light registration and multicolor images.
This product can be used for many
interior applications as well as exterior
if the coating is not on the No. 1 surface
and exposed to the environment. If
your application requires the coating to
be on Surface 1, please consult with
your decorative glass manufacturer.
This process is best for highly customized or short-run projects or where
each glass panel has a different design
such as signage, railings, shower enclosures or corporate feature walls.
Decal transfers can be used in many applications such as retail, hospitality, corporate offices or donor boards. This process
is a cost-effective way of adding decorative
components to the glass in applications
where you have only a few pieces or where
a design runs across many panels. This is
also an excellent product for custom or
multi-colored images.
To learn more about the processes
used to create these incredible glass
products and varied options for applying these design elements, visit, the official
website of the GANA decorative division. There you’ll find a gallery of ideas,
a glossary of terms and other great
technical resources. ■
E r i n R o b e r t s is the
director of marketing and
communications for the Glass
Association of North America
in Topeka, Kan.
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