How to Personalize Your Ceramics: Ceramic Painting

A guest post by Helen:


Hello world, I’m Helen. I’m currently going through a period of my life where I have a lot of freedom to do what I want to do (ha), and have no real clue where I want to be in life (only where I don’t want to be). In short, as you might have guessed, I’m a student. I like to find new hobbies and pursue them intensely for a while; these phases took me through quilting, archery, knitting, baking, jazz vocals, tap dancing, jewelry making, and even an abortive attempt at model ship building among other things. I once paid a large sum for a stack of customized mugs with excerpts of a favourite poem written on them. Some years later, I began to wonder if there is a way to personalize ceramics without access to a kiln.

After surmounting the inertia of laziness, a google search came back with a surprisingly easy solution. Enter the Pebeo Porcelaine 150, which only asks for the assistance of your kitchen range. It is readily available at art supply stores in a variety of colors and all you need are some fine brushes, a suitable palette (I use an escargot dish), and a plate (or mug, or gravy boat, or your grandma’s best china). Markers are also available with fine tip options. And did I mention it’s water-soluble?

The process is simple: Make sure that the paint is compatible with the material of your item -> Paint the item -> Leave to dry for at least 24 hours -> bake for 35 minutes at 300°F. When selecting ceramics, choose those that are dishwasher/microwave safe because they tend to be more durable.

how to paint 2

As there are pros and cons associated with every medium, here are some tips:

  1. Painting: The Porcelaine 150 is thick, and dries relatively quickly. The upside is that you’re less likely to smudge your work. The downside is that the paint on your palette can quickly dry out. If you use the same brush for a while, the paint quickly stiffens the brush and renders it unusable. Fortunately, the product line offers a thinner, which dilutes the paint without compromising its quality or the resistance of the finished work to washing. The manufacture recommends using the thinner instead of water (no surprises there) but allows for a water content of up to 10% without loss of paint quality. Since I take great care in making my brush strokes perfect (but sometimes I also give up because really, I’m not making a living with this), I regularly add a drop or two of water to the palette to reduce the drying speed. It takes practice and patience to obtain the desired effect, but fortunately some projects are perfect for practice. Below is a strawberry creamer (Grace Teaware). It was originally entirely white; adding colors to the details makes the piece look so delicious!


  1. Colors: If you don’t want to buy every single color, the basic set I recommend consists of Ruby Red, Citrine Yellow, Ming blue, Ivory, Abyss Black, and the paint thinner. You can always buy other colors if you find mixing your own tedious or if you need the shade to be reproducible. The markers are perfect for writing or line art (but dry out easily); the 45mL bottles are great for creating texture. Shimmer paints are also available in 10 colors for some extra bling. The abstract piece below was done on a ZiiZ side plate (Maxwell & Williams) with only Ming Blue and Ivory. Such decorative plates can be used to hold keys, trinkets, or air.


  1. Corrections: Since the paint is water-soluble, it can be washed off with a scrub pad if you want to start over. For minor corrections, a Q-tip dipped in water is great, but you could also use a small knife to scrape off some uneven edges when the product is dry. Some favourite English authors were collected in the below demitasse set (Maxwell & Williams).


  1. Drying: If you bake the paint before it is completely dry, small air bubbles may appear in the paint during baking. If your project has multiple layers of paint, consider leaving it to dry for several days before baking or alternatively, bake each layer as it’s completed. I actually really like the texture provided by the bubbles, so I don’t worry about them. In the case of the mug below with a Moby Dick theme, bubbles became part of the overall effect. The mug is rotated from one side of the handle to the other in the photos. Please click onto the picture to enlarge it.


  1. Baking: Lastly, have your project in the oven during the preheating process to avoid thermal shock. Keep the project in the oven while cooling down afterwards for the same reason. Lint is your enemy, so try to remove as much as you can before baking.

I know what you’re thinking right now, and the answer is no, the paint is not food-safe. However, this shouldn’t stop you from painting mugs (well below the rim), teapots, tiles, or platters.

I had never dared to use those customized mugs for fear of ruining the writing on them. Now, I don’t care. I can fix them myself! If all this looks easy to you, it’s because it is*. Try it yourself!


Still hanging around? Go be creative! (Or click here to learn how to make a twig table).

*a steady hand required.

Please click here and leave a comment… Ich freue mich auch sehr über Kommentare auf Deutsch.

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