How Do I Paint Pottery?

Rebecca Harkin

It is fairly easy to paint pottery. The basic steps to paint pottery are to clean the ceramic surface, apply a base coat of paint, and then paint your design on the pottery. Finally, you will need to apply a a protective glaze and fire the piece in the kiln.

Any bumps in the paint can be smoothed out using a unfolded paper clip.
Any bumps in the paint can be smoothed out using a unfolded paper clip.

The first step to paint pottery is to remove all blemishes from the surface of the pottery by smoothing any seams that may have been created when the ceramic pieces was constructed and by cleaning the dust away from the surface of the pottery. To smooth out seams, unfold a paper clip and then re-bend it into a loop. Gently run the loop over any seams to smooth away bumps or ridges. Next, slightly dampen a sponge cut into a 1-inch (2.5-cm) square and then clean away all the dust and fragments of pottery from the surface of the piece. Let the pottery dry completely for 10 to 20 minutes.

Pottery must be completely smooth and dry before painting.
Pottery must be completely smooth and dry before painting.

Once the pottery is dry, you will need to plan the design you want to paint onto the piece of ceramic. If the painting you plan to do is detailed, you will want to sketch a blueprint of your idea onto the pottery with a pencil. The pencil lines will fade completely when the piece is kiln-fired.

Ceramic glazes require firing in a kiln after painting.
Ceramic glazes require firing in a kiln after painting.

Next, select the acrylic ceramic paint colors that you want to use for your project. These will either be provided by the ceramics studio, or you will need to purchase them ahead of time at a craft store. Ceramic paints change color slightly when they are fired in the kiln oven. Most ceramics studios will have examples of each kiln-fired paint color, or the true color will be shown on the paint bottle.

The next step to paint pottery is to add a base coat of one color all over the selected piece. The best brush to use for this is a wide, fan brush. Ceramic paint is fairly translucent, so you will want to paint two or three coats, allowing the paint to dry completely in between each coat.

Now you can use narrow, fine brushes to apply the colors you selected to the design you sketched on your pottery. You will need to apply several coats of each color in order for the colors to be vibrant. The pottery should completely dry between coats.

The final step to paint pottery is to apply glaze to the piece, which will protect the pottery, and then fire the piece in a kiln. If you are painting in a pottery painting studio, these last two steps are usually done for you. When painting pottery at home, you will need to apply the glaze yourself and then find a ceramic studio that is willing to fire your piece for you. Most studios will require a week to fire a piece of work.

Ceramic paints are safe enough to use around children.
Ceramic paints are safe enough to use around children.

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