How to paint ceramics

How to paint ceramics

Painting ceramics is a fun and easy project. Ceramics begin in the form of greenware. Greenware is a delicate, unfired pottery, taken directly from a ceramic mold. Before you can begin to paint the greenware, it is necessary to clean it free of the seam lines created by the mold. Just a few tools are needed to properly clean greenware. They include a scraping tool and a sponge which are available at your local ceramics outlet.

Begin with your scraping tool. Hold the greenware very gently, and run the scraping tool down the seam line. Your goal is to entirely erase the seam line. Once you have gently scraped the line away, use your sponge to clean away the scraping lines. Dip your sponge into a shallow bowl of water and completely squeeze it free of water.

You want the sponge just barely damp. Run the sponge down the scraped seam line until the line has disappeared. You may need to rub the sponge back and forth across the seam line to make it completely disappear. Make sure you use only a slightly damp sponge or the greenware will absorb the excess moisture and become pliable. If this happens, allow the greenware to completely dry before proceeding.

Acrylic Paint

Once you have cleaned the greenware, you are ready to begin painting. Acrylic ceramic paints are available in almost any shade or color known. Choose the paint colors and purchase a small array of paint brushes to allow you to cover both large and small areas. Depending on the type of paint chosen, it is generally recommended to paint three coats of paint on the surface of the greenware.

Allow the paint to thoroughly dry between coats. Don’t be discouraged if the paint colors look extremely pale when applied to the greenware as the firing process will bring out the true colors. Now that you have applied three coats of ceramic paint to the surface of the greenware, return the painted item to your ceramic shop to be fired. The ceramic shop will fire the object and return it to you for glazing.


After retrieving the ceramic item from your ceramic shop, it is time to apply the glaze. Again, three coats of glaze is generally recommended for most type of glaze. Completely and thoroughly coat the entire object in the glaze. Don’t be alarmed that you are covering up all your hard work. The glaze, once it has been fired, will add the shine and depth to the colors previously painted. Once the glaze has been painted three coats thick, it is time for another firing at the ceramic shop. Leave the piece and after the second firing, your finished product is ready for display or use.

Staining Ceramics

Stains are another type of paint available for use with ceramics. Stains are not applied to the greenware like acrylic paints, but rather to the object after it has been fired once. To stain a ceramic piece, thoroughly clean the greenware as above. Take the piece to be fired. The piece returned to you will be a hard plaster instead of a soft greenware. Apply the stain to the plaster piece. Judge the colors one coat of stain will produce to decide if you want to add more layers of color. Spray the painted object with an acrylic spray to set the paint colors. A second firing is not necessary when using stains versus acrylics.

Tips and Tricks:

When painting the original three coats to your greenware, use a pencil and mark a small tick mark on the bottom of the piece to keep the count of coats applied. The pencil mark will disappear when the piece is fired.

Double-check with the clerk at your ceramic shop when purchasing the ceramic paint and glaze to determine the correct number of coats necessary.

Most ceramic stores will charge a minimal price for an item in its greenware form. The firing charge is generally charged as one half of the greenware price for the first firing and one half of the greenware price for the second firing. Check with your store at the time of purchase to help you determine the price of the finished object.

Most ceramic stores

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