Painting ceramic items is a fun and inexpensive way to refresh old home décor or create a personalized gift or centerpiece. Read these steps to learn all you need to know about painting ceramic in your own home.
Painting Ceramic Dishes
Pick your paint. Depending on how you plan to use your ceramic, there are a few slightly different approaches to picking paint, each of which will yield a different result in terms of appearance, durability, and usability.
Using regular paint (such as acrylic) plus an acrylic clear coat will produce highly glossy dishes that are pretty to look at, but not safe to eat off of.
Using a no-bake ceramic paint pen will allow easy, quick designs on dishes that are safe to eat and drink from, but which won't last with sustained regular use.
Using bake-on ceramic paint will produce fairly glossy patterns that are safe to eat and drink from, and that in most cases should last for years.
Choose a brush or pen. Once you've decided on your paint approach, acquire a brush suitable for the pattern you want to paint, or consider a paint pen. A paint pen will allow you to “draw” the paint on like a marker, making it great for words and line drawings, but its applications aren't as flexible overall.
A small, pointed brush is perfect for painting flower buds and vines.
A flat-tipped brush is ideal for geometric work such as rims and straight lines, as well as for filling in larger areas of paint. If you plan to stencil in a design, a small flat-tipped brush is also probably the best choice.
Purchase any other supplies you need. Buy clear coat for decorative dishes; pick up some painter's tape or masking tape if you want to paint straight lines or angles. A smock or apron and some disposable gloves are also useful in many cases.
Paint your dish. With your dish thorough clean and dry, apply your chosen paint to it to create whatever design you want. The specifics of this step will vary somewhat between the different types of paint, but the basics involve brushing on designs with acrylic or bake-on ceramic paint. Using a small brush, paint your design on the ceramic dish.
To paint flower buds or leaves, use a pointed brush. Apply a tiny blob of paint to the dish where the base of the bud or leaf will be, and then drag and lift the brush in the direction of the tip of the bud or leaf. The tip will be created wherever you pull the brush away from the plate.
To paint straight lines across a plate or bowl, tape off the area on either side of where you want each line to be with painter's tape. (Use a ruler to ensure that the gap between the tape strips is evenly spaced.) Paint between the tape lines with bold strokes using a flat-tipped brush, then gently remove the tape to leave a clean line.
For an unusual motif reminiscent of the De Stijl art movement of the early 20th century, try blocking off rectangular sections with criss-crossed lines of painter's tape, and then filling in the sections with different colors of paint. Leave one or two sections unpainted for an eye-popping geometrical effect.
Know that acrylic paint can be reapplied after the first coat has dried to make it even brighter. This step isn't usually necessary for ceramic paint.
Draw or write with a no-bake ceramic paint pen, if necessary. These pens are available at many art and craft supply stores, as well as online. They're relatively mess-free, making them ideal for children's parties and other open group activity settings.
Draw, write, or doodle just as you would with a colored marker. The paint will dry quickly once applied. If a pen seems not to be writing, hold it with the point angled down and gently shake it for a moment.
Try drawing a background or part of a picture in one color, letting it dry for a moment, and then adding the next layer in a different color to build a bright, fun image.
Be sure to add a signature on the bottom of the dish so that everyone knows it's your creation.
Keep breathing. Be sure to paint in an open and well-ventilated area for safety, especially when using acrylic paint. Fumes can be unpleasant and aggravate any existing conditions, such as allergies, that you may have.
Sand your way to success. For dishes that seem too glossy to take paint, consider gently sanding them with an ultra-fine grit sandpaper, such as 1800 or 2000 grit. Don't apply much pressure, and try to sand evenly.
This works because the sandpaper creates microabrasions in the glaze of the dish, allowing paint to stick more easily.
Don't make the finish visibly rough or jagged. A gentle sanding is more than enough.
Gloss over acrylic paint. If you chose to paint a decorative dish with acrylic, let it dry thoroughly, and then apply clear acrylic topcoat to it. Let one layer dry, and then add a second to be sure it's completely sealed.
This dish will look very shiny and nice, but is not safe for food or drinks. Instead, display it on a shelf or give it is a gift. Be sure to tell the recipient not to use it for eating or drinking.
Bake any ceramic paint. If you chose to paint a dish with special ceramic paint, find an out-of-the-way place to let it dry for at least 24 hours. Once it's dried completely, bake it in a preheated oven according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Always yield to the manufacturer's instructions. If they tell you to bake it earlier than this guide, do so.
This dish will have a pleasantly glossy finish, and be safe to eat and drink off of. If you chose a high-end ceramic paint that's dishwasher-safe, you can even run it in the dishwasher! The design should remain there for many years to come.
As with any painted dish, consider hand washing it even if you can technically use the dishwasher. Hand washing is much gentler, and ensures the longest life for your dish.
Use your no-bake ceramic paint dish. If you chose to use no-bake ceramic paint pens to decorate your dish, it's ready to use as soon as the paint dries. No other steps are needed.
Your dish will be safe to eat off of, but this paint will scratch and chip over time from contact with utensils, teeth, and other hard edges. It's definitely not dishwasher-safe.