What Paint To Use for Pottery – Quick Guide & 5 Best Paints

Several pieces of unpainted, handmade pottery on a table.

If you’re into arts and crafts, you’ve probably thought about pottery at some point.

After firing your decorative bowl or plate, you might be interested in painting it to give it a more personal touch, and that’s where you’ll be wondering about what paint to use for pottery.

What kind of paint do you use for pottery? You can use different types of paint with pottery. While ceramic paint as well as stains and glazes are great for pottery of all types, acrylic is the most commonly used paint for pottery thanks to its versatility and excellent ability to adhere to the surface.

If you’re curious about painting pottery, what you need to know before doing it, or the top paints on the market to consider, keep on reading this guide!

Here’s a quick peek at our top two selections:

Apple Barrel PROMOABI Acrylic Paint Set, 2 Fl Oz...
  • CONVENIENT SIZE & FUN BRIGHT COLORS - This versatile acrylic paint set includes 18 - 2 oz bottles of...
  • MATTE FINISH - Each of these bold and bright colors dries to a brilliant matte finish - perfect for...
Caliart Acrylic Paint Set, 24 Colors (59ml, 2oz)...
  • Artist Quality Acrylic Paint Set. Premium paints glide on smoothly, dry quickly and stay as...
  • High Quality, Rich Pigments, Certified Safe & Non-Toxic: No need to worry about toxicity with our...

Painting Pottery – What To Know

In this section, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about painting pottery, including types of paint, the ideal time for painting, and any extra preparatory steps you need to take before painting.

Do You Need Special Paint To Paint Pottery?

Different types of paint will adhere to pottery well if it has good sticking properties.

For that reason, acrylic paints, epoxy, ceramic, glazes, stains, and latex will work well with surfaces like pottery and ceramics.

However, just because a specific type of paint can be used on pottery, doesn’t mean that it will hold on well if it’s exposed to the elements.

Not only that, but the quality of the finished product will also depend on the type of paints used.

Typically, acrylic paints will give the most vibrant results, so they’re usually the best option if you’re mainly making decorative pottery items.

Additionally, if you’re going to use special paints like acrylic in pottery, you’ll also need to apply a few coats of a good acrylic sealant to preserve the colors.

Can You Use Normal Paint for Pottery?

The most commonly used paint for surfaces and walls are latex and acrylic paints, and as previously mentioned, they can be used to paint pottery once the surface of the clay dries completely.

High-quality acrylic paint pens can also be used if you only want to do some fine detail work on your pottery. 

When it comes to normal paints like acrylic and latex, it’s important to apply these coats after firing the pottery in the kiln because they can only withstand temperatures up to 300℉. 

Do You Paint Pottery Before or After Firing?

The answer here depends mainly on the type of paint used for pottery. Some paints can be applied before firing while others can only be used after firing pottery.

The temperature inside a kiln (pottery furnace) can reach up to 2,124 to 2,264℉ (1,162 to 1,240℃), so most types of normal paints can’t withstand such temperature, even when they’re not dry.

Additionally, normal paints like acrylic and latex paints are extremely flammable.

On the other hand, you can apply glazes prior to firing the pottery, which are available in many different colors.

However, glazes and stains will melt in the kiln, so the decorations you’ve painted might look wavy or sagged after firing.

You can also use special bake-on paint with ceramic prior to firing because it can withstand high temperatures in the oven.

Do You Need To Prime Ceramic Before Painting?

Priming is essential for helping the paint stick better and also to provide an even coat of color throughout your pottery. 

Although ceramic has a glossy surface, acrylic and epoxy paint can adhere to its surface without any problems, so you don’t necessarily need to prime it.

However, if you’re going to rough up the surface for better stain absorption, it’s important that you apply a coat of primer for better results.

A woman painting a light-blue stripe around the top of a pottery bowl.

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Stoneware?

Stoneware is made of special non-porous clay, which is slightly different from the types used in ceramics, but luckily, they share similar properties when it comes to painting.

For that reason, if you want to paint stoneware, your best bet would be with high-quality acrylic paint.

Acrylic paint is also food safe when properly sealed, which is another reason it’s a good option.

Will Paint Stick to Glazed Ceramic?

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for paint to properly adhere to glazed ceramic because it’s extremely smooth. Although acrylic paint may work, the color will be quite faint and chip away easily.

You can solve that problem by roughing up the surface using coarse-grit sandpaper followed by fine-grit sandpaper. 

The buffed surface will allow the paint and stains to stick better, but you’ll need to seal the paint once again.

How Do You Paint Unglazed Ceramics?

Painting unglazed ceramics is pretty easy because the rough surface will help acrylic paint to adhere. Here’s how to get it done:

  1. Start by cleaning the ceramic piece to remove dust and reduce imperfections.
  2. Apply shellac-based or alcohol-based primer to the ceramic surface to help the paint stick better, and allow the primer to dry.
  3. Use spray-on or brush-on acrylic paint to apply the first coat of paint, and leave it to dry.
  4. Repeat the previous step if the paint color isn’t vibrant enough, and make sure that you let the paint dry between runs.
  5. Seal the acrylic paint with an acrylic sealant spray and leave it to dry for a few days before use.

Can You Spray Paint Unglazed Ceramic?

Unglazed paint is quite porous and rough, which makes the paint stick easily to it. For that reason, you can spray paint this type of ceramic.

If you’re using water-based spray paint, make sure that you seal it after use to prevent the paint coat from washing off when exposed to water.

Does Acrylic Paint Wash Off Ceramic?

Acrylic paint is water based, so it’ll wash off ceramic when not properly sealed.

However, after applying an oil-based sealant, you won’t have to worry about water washing off the acrylic paint coat.

Acrylic Paint for Pottery – 5 Best Options

Now that you know more about painting pottery and the types of paint that suit it, here’s a quick look at the top 5 options that you should consider:

Apple Barrel Acrylic Set

Apple Barrel PROMOABI Acrylic Paint Set, 2 Fl Oz...
  • CONVENIENT SIZE & FUN BRIGHT COLORS - This versatile acrylic paint set includes 18 - 2 oz bottles of...
  • MATTE FINISH - Each of these bold and bright colors dries to a brilliant matte finish - perfect for...

Kicking off the list with one of the excellent acrylic color sets that you can find out there, the Apple Barrel Acrylic Set features 18 different colors that adhere very well to a huge range of surfaces.

In addition to regular pottery, you can also use them with plastics, glass, plaster, Styrofoam, canvas, and much more! 

The colors have a matte finish and spread very well. The set is also decently priced when compared to the value it offers.

Caliart Acrylic Set

Caliart Acrylic Paint Set, 24 Colors (59ml, 2oz)...
  • Artist Quality Acrylic Paint Set. Premium paints glide on smoothly, dry quickly and stay as...
  • High Quality, Rich Pigments, Certified Safe & Non-Toxic: No need to worry about toxicity with our...

If you want a top-quality acrylic set that isn’t too expensive but still gets the job done and adheres to a variety of surfaces including pottery, you should consider the Caliart Acrylic Set.

Besides being the most affordable set on the list per color, this set also has the largest collection of colors, which is ideal for those who like to experiment with new color combinations and patterns.

The set uses high-quality pigments, so the colors are noticeably vibrant. It’s also very easy to spread and dries up pretty quickly, although the color bottles are a little flimsy.

Arteza Acrylic Set

ARTEZA Iridescent Acrylic Paint, Set of 10...
  • Brilliant Chameleon Colors: Enjoy 10 unique, illuminating colors of iridescent acrylic paint with...
  • High Viscosity Paints: The water-based acrylics have a thick consistency and hold their shape well....

If you don’t mind spending a little more on a unique acrylic color set, you should try the Arteza Acrylic Set.

Unlike the previously mentioned options, this one features iridescent pigments, so the colors can shift in shades depending on the angle, which looks very nice on pottery.

The paint comes in sleek squeezable bottles with snap-on top lids that makes them very easy to use, even for beginners.

Delta Creative Ceramcoat

Delta Creative 04020 Ceramcoat Select...
  • Plaid:Delta-Ceramcoat Select Multi Surface Paint
  • Use on almost any surface including glass, ceramic, wood, tin, fabric, rigid plastic and much more!...

The Delta Creative Ceramcoat is a ceramic-specific paint with nontoxic features, which is ideal for handmade pottery. 

The paint comes in a wide range of colors, although it can be a little pricey when compared to other options. 

Although the formula is water based, the paint is resistant to weather. However, it can fade away with time when exposed to water, so you have to keep that in mind.

Artistro Paint Pens

Paint Pens for Rock Painting, Stone, Ceramic,...
  • Premium quality & Elegant design. Artistro Paint Pens utilize vivid, water-based ink that dries...
  • Multi-Purpose. Enjoy creating art projects on a variety of surfaces like rocks, stone, metal,...

Lastly, if you prefer paint pens and you’re looking for one that can work with pottery, you should consider this one.

Of course, this one is not ideal for relatively large painting projects, but it’s ideal for fine accents and details on pottery.

The set includes 12 or 16 colors, depending on the tip thickness. The paint pens leave an opaque glossy finish and dry up pretty quickly.

The Bottom Line

In the end, we hope that this guide has provided you with all the necessary information about painting pottery and the suitable type of paint for it.

As you can see, acrylic and enamel paints that are designed for ceramic use are the best for painting pottery. 

The Apple Barrel Acrylic Set is our top recommendation because it comes with a wide range of vibrant colors and sticks pretty well to tons of materials, including pottery, canvas, plastic, glass, and more!

Last update on 2022-05-18 at 12:59 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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I'm a hobby enthusiast with a real love for painting miniatures. I also happen to run this site and write the majority of its content!