PaintingPottery Painting with Acrylics - The Bent Brush of Cape Coral

July 15, 2020by Jeff Clapp

When people think about painting pottery, the first thing that usually comes to mind is using glazes and glazing techniques, and we do a lot of that here at The Bent Brush. But this month we’ve decided introduce you to painting with acrylic paints, because there are sometimes very good reasons to paint with acrylics instead of glaze. For example, sometimes people bring in family members who are here on vacation and they have to go back home before we can get them back a fire-finished glazed piece of pottery. We have acrylic paint in the studio, and you can take home your piece the same day you paint it. Another good example is our At Home Kits, if you don’t want to bring back your pottery to be fired. In both of these cases, painting with acrylics is a good alternative.

First, we need to point out that an acrylic painted pottery piece is not food safe, or dishwasher safe, so you should use this technique on pieces designed to serve only as ornamental art. One of the really fun things about acrylic paint is that you can use a dry brushing technique to get a very realistic look when painting animals or flowers or people. 

Acrylic paints are very quick drying paints that can be applied in thin washes like watercolors, or they can be used straight from the jar or tube like oils. Even though they are a water-based paint, (they can be kept workable by keeping them wet simply by adding water), once they dry they are permanent. You can paint over dry acrylic without disturbing the existing washes of paint you’ve already put on there. 

Because acrylics are water-soluble, you can mix them together to create new colors if you wish. Most acrylics are very concentrated right out of the tube or jar, so you can dilute them to produce up to three times their original volume. And if you have a pottery piece that has a lot of little details carved into it, then you definitely want to dilute your acrylic paint a bit, as thick paint will fill in the details too much.

When people paint with acrylic, they usually use a dry brush technique to pull out all the small details in the bisque piece they’ve chosen. And here is where this painting technique is a little different than the way you paint with glazes.

First you should use some water on your bisque-wear to remove any dust it may have on it, and also to get the bisque a little wet so the paint doesn’t get absorbed into it’s porous surface.

Next you should paint a base coat onto the piece in a color that is darker than your desired outcome. Then color in the piece the way you normally would. When that has dried, now you will begin the dry brush phase. You’ll want to use a fairly stiff bristled paintbrush for this part. Dip the end of your clean, dry paint brush in to a color that is lighter than your base coat of paint, and then dab it off onto scratch paper until the brush marks on the paper look like chicken scratch with no wet blobs.

Next you want to brush the paint onto the areas of your pottery that have a lot of raised details to make those details stand out. Maneuver the brush across the grain in a manner that keeps the bristles out of the crevices, allowing the darker base to stay dark. The small quantity of light paint creates the illusion of light being cast on the raised details, which gives them emphasis. If you want to change to a clean color without this blending affect, you need to use a new dry brush, or clean your brush and completely dry it, working it against a towel until it is dry.  This technique does not work with any added moisture in your brush.

Once your piece is dry, you simply spray it with transparent varnish or polyurethane to set the paint and preserve it. We hope you love this technique as much as we do and encourage you to try it out. You can come into the studio and there is always someone there who can help you try out a new technique. Or if you’d like you can grab an At Home Kit and we will give you a six-color paint pot strip of acrylics to use. If you already have acrylics at home and just want to pick up a piece of pottery to paint, we will give you a 20% discount on the At Home Kits.