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How to Paint Unglazed Ceramic: A Comprehensive Guide

how to paint unglazed ceramic

Painting unglazed ceramic is a fun and easy way to add your personal touch to a variety of objects, from vases and plates to tiles and figurines. The best part about painting unglazed ceramic is that there are no rules so you can let your creativity run wild! 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know about painting unglazed ceramic, from choosing the right paint and surface preparation to applying the paint and sealant. 

So whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, read on for everything you need to create beautiful painted ceramic pieces.

What is Unglazed Ceramic?

Ceramics are a type of pottery that is made from clay that has been fired in a kiln. There are two main types of ceramics: glazed and unglazed. 

Glazed ceramics have a smooth, glossy finish, while unglazed ceramics have a matte finish. Unglazed ceramic is a type of pottery that has not been glazed.

What is Unglazed Ceramic?

Unglazed ceramics have a matte finish and are typically used for functional purposes such as flower pots or baking dishes. Unglazed ceramics do not have a glass layer, so they have a matte finish. Even though unglazed ceramics don’t have the same shiny appearance as glazed ceramics, they are still beautiful in their own way.

Before Painting Unglazed Ceramics, Discover These Facts

Which Ceramic is Best for Painting?

When it comes to painting on ceramic, bisque is the best type of pottery to use. This is because bisque ceramics are made from clay that has been air-dried before being burned in a kiln. 

As a result, they are incredibly durable and will not lose their integrity even if they are regularly used. Also, bisque ceramics are non-porous, which means that paint will not seep into the surface of the pottery. 

This makes them an ideal surface for painting, as the paint will retain its vibrant color and detail. Bisque ceramics can be found at most craft stores, making them readily available for anyone who wants to try their hand at painting.

What is Light-bodied Clay?

Light-bodied clay is a type of pottery that is made from a mixture of kaolin and quartz. This clay is incredibly strong and durable, making it an ideal choice for painting. In addition, light-bodied clay is non-porous, so it will not absorb the paint.

This type of clay is also light in color, which makes it easier to paint on. Light-bodied clay can be found at most craft stores or online retailers.

What is Lightfastness?

Lightfastness is the ability of a color to resist fading when exposed to light. This is an important consideration when choosing paint for unglazed ceramic, as some colors are more lightfast than others.

Lightfast paint is the best type of paint to use on unglazed ceramic.

One of the most important things to look for in paint is lightfastness. This refers to how well the color will hold up over time when exposed to sunlight.

If you plan on using your painted ceramics outdoors, it’s essential to choose lightfast paint. Otherwise, the color may fade over time. Luckily, there are a number of lightfast paints on the market. Just be sure to read the labels carefully to find the right one for your project.

How Long Does It Take for the Paint to Dry?

When you’re crafting with ceramic, one of the most important steps is waiting for the paint to dry. Depending on the type of paint you use, drying times can vary. 

For example, acrylic paint will usually take between 24 and 48 hours to dry completely, while enamel paint can take up to 72 hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can speed up the drying process by using a hairdryer or placing the ceramic in a warm oven. 

But, it’s important to avoid putting ceramic in the oven until the paint has had a chance to set; otherwise, the heat may cause the paint to run or blister. With a little patience, you’ll be able to create beautiful works of art that will last a lifetime.

How to Protect the Paint on the Ceramic?

Once the paint is dry, you can seal it with a clear sealer. This will help to protect the paint from chipping and fading.

You can find clear sealers at most hardware stores. Just be sure to read the labels carefully, as some sealers are intended for use on outdoor surfaces and may not be suitable for use on ceramics.

Once you’ve applied the sealer, you should allow the ceramic to cure for 24 hours before using it. After that, your paint should be well-protected and should last for many years to come.

Is the Paint Dishwasher Safe?

Another important consideration when choosing paint for unglazed ceramic is whether or not the paint is dishwasher-safe. If you plan on using your painted ceramics in the kitchen, it’s important to choose a paint that can withstand the high temperatures of the dishwasher.

Not all paints are created equal in this regard, so be sure to read the labels carefully before making your purchase.

What Kind of Paints Can You Use to Paint Unglazed Ceramic?

You can use a variety of different paints to paint unglazed ceramic vases or pots, including acrylics, oil-based paints, and water-based paints. There are a variety of paints you can use to paint an unglazed ceramic, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

What Kind of Paints Can You Use to Paint Unglazed Ceramic?

So you will need to experiment with different types of paint to find the one that best suits your needs. You may also need to use a primer before painting your ceramic piece to help the paint adhere to the surface.

Acrylic Paint

If you’re looking for the best type of paint to use on unglazed ceramic, look no further than acrylic paint. These water-based paints come in a wide range of colors and finishes, making them perfect for any project. Plus, they’re easy to use and relatively inexpensive.

When painting ceramics with acrylic paint, it is best to use paint in a variety of hues. As a result, a wider range of colors can be used, which will lead to a more personalized pottery piece.

One downside of acrylic paint is that it can be difficult to remove if you make a mistake. Also, it may not be as durable as other types of paint.

But overall, acrylic paint is a great option for painting unglazed ceramics.

Enamel Paint

If you’re looking for something that’s durable and chip-resistant, enamel paint is the way to go. It’s more expensive than other types of paint, but it’s worth the investment because it will last longer.

Plus, there are a wide variety of colors available, so you can find the perfect shade to match your décor. Whether you’re looking to create a simple design or something more complex, enamel paint is a great option.

Spray Paint

If you’re looking to add a pop of color to your home décor, you may be considering using spray paint on unglazed ceramic. However, it’s important to know that this is not an effective method for painting ceramics. The paint will not adhere to the surface and will likely just run off. This is because the paint needs something to grip onto in order to stick. With unglazed ceramic, there’s nothing for the paint to grab hold of. As a result, it just slides right off.

So if you want to successfully paint ceramic, you’ll need to use a brush or another painting method. While it may take a bit more time and effort, the end result will be worth it. Your painted ceramics will be beautiful and long-lasting.

Ultimately, individual needs and preferences will determine what type of paint to use on unglazed ceramic.

How to Paint Unglazed Ceramic? Let’s Start the Project!

Unglazed ceramic is a porous material that easily absorbs paint. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing, depending on the effect you’re trying to achieve. 

If you’re looking for a distressed look, then painting over unglazed ceramic is a great way to get it. The paint will seep into the pores of the ceramic, giving the piece an aged look.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to achieve a smooth, even finish, then you’ll need to take some extra steps to prepare the surface before painting. Here’s a quick guide on how to paint unglazed ceramic:

Supplies You Will Need to Paint:

Painting unglazed ceramic requires a few supplies that can be easily found at any local craft store. These are:

  • Unglazed ceramic piece
  • Water
  • Ceramic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • A small bowl of water
  • Paper towels


  • Stencils
  • Tape
  • Masking fluid

Steps for Painting Unglazed Ceramic:

Prepare the Unglazed Ceramic Surface for Painting

When painting on unglazed ceramic, the first step is always to clean the surface. This is because unglazed ceramic is absorbent and will absorb any dirt, grime, or oil on the surface.

To clean the piece, simply scrub it with a mild dish soap and water solution. If the piece is very dirty or greasy, you may need to use a stronger cleaner such as trisodium phosphate.

Be sure to rinse the surface well after cleaning to remove any residual cleaner.

Sanding the Surface

Once you have cleaned the surface and removed any old paint or varnish, the next step is to sand the surface. This will help the new paint to adhere better and create a smoother finish.

Sanding the Surface

You can use fine-grit sandpaper or a commercial etching solution to roughen up the surface. Once you have sanded the surface, wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove any dust. 

If you take the time to prepare the surface properly, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful paint job.

Apply Primer

Applying primer may seem like a tedious task, but it’s an essential step in painting ceramics. The primer helps to create a smooth surface for the paint to adhere to, and it also ensures that the paint will have a uniform color. When applying primer, be sure to use light and even strokes. Once the primer is dry, you’re ready to start painting!

Apply the Paint

Choose your paint according to the type of project you’re working on. For small projects, like painting a mug, acrylic paint is a good option. 

For larger projects, like painting a vase, you may want to use ceramic paint. Once you’ve chosen your paint, apply it to the surface with a brush or a sponge. 

Apply the Paint

Be sure to use even strokes and work in small sections so the paint doesn’t dry before you have a chance to spread it out.

Set the Paint

After you’ve applied the paint, it’s time to set the paint so that it will be protected from any damage. For acrylic paint, this can be done by baking the piece in the oven according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

This will ensure that your work of art will be enjoyed for years to come.

Seal the Paint

Once the paint is set, you’ll need to protect it from wear and tear. For pieces that will be handled often, like mugs or plates, you may want to apply a clear sealer. 

This will help extend the life of your design and keep it looking its best. For pieces that will not be used often, like vases or sculptures, you can simply leave the paint as is.

What You Should Do and What Not to Do When Painting Unglazed Ceramic?


  • Use a primer designed for ceramic. This will help the paint to adhere to the surface.
  • Use a paintbrush or sponge brush to apply the paint evenly.
  • Be sure to let the paint dry completely before using the item.


  • Don’t use regular paint on unglazed ceramic. It will not adhere properly and will likely chip off.
  • Don’t try to paint over glazed ceramic. The paint will not stick and you’ll end up with a mess.

Pros and Cons of Painting Unglazed Ceramic


  • The porous nature of unglazed ceramic can help your paint adhere better.
  • Unglazed ceramic provides a unique textured surface that can add interest to your painting.
  • Painting on unglazed ceramic can be a fun and challenging way to stretch your artistic skills.
  • Painted ceramics make great gifts for friends and family.


  • The porous nature of unglazed ceramic can also make it difficult to control the paint and get clean lines.
  • Unglazed ceramic can be fragile, so you’ll need to take care not to drop or chip your painting surface.
  • The textured surface of unglazed ceramic can make it challenging to achieve a smooth finish.

If you’re up for the challenge, painting on unglazed ceramic can be a fun and rewarding experience. Just be sure to take your time and have patience with the process. With a little practice, you’ll be creating beautiful works of art in no time!

The Best Tips and Tricks

  • Make sure that the surface of the ceramic is clean and free of any dirt or debris. 
  • Use a small brush for detailed work and a larger brush for painting large areas.
  • Work in thin layers of paint, letting each layer dry completely before adding another. Use light layers to avoid any dripping or running.
  • When you’re finished painting, seal the surface with a clear sealant to protect your work.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to paint unglazed ceramic like a pro!

Some Troubleshooting Suggestions

If your ceramic piece is not turning out the way you envisioned, don’t despair. Here are some troubleshooting tips to help you get back on track:

  1. If your paint is not sticking to the ceramic, try priming it first with a layer of gesso or white acrylic paint.
  2. If your paint is cracking or peeling, it could be because the surface of the ceramic is not smooth enough. Sanding the surface with fine-grit sandpaper should take care of this problem.
  3. If your paint is still not behaving as you want it to, special ceramic paints available may work better for your project.
  4. And finally, don’t forget that practice makes perfect. The more you paint on ceramic, the better you’ll get at it. So keep at it and don’t give up!

Let’s Get Started, Shall We?

Painting unglazed ceramic is a craft that anyone can do with a little bit of creativity and patience. All you need are some basic supplies, and you can turn an ordinary piece of pottery into a work of art!

The key to success is to take your time and allow the paint to dry completely between coats. If you rush the process, you run the risk of smudging your design or, worse, ruining the piece entirely.

But if you take your time and follow the instructions carefully, you will be able to create a beautiful work of art that you can be proud of. So go ahead and express yourself through your artwork!

How to Paint Unglazed Ceramic: A Comprehensive Guide

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