How to Paint Ceramic like a Professional? Learner’s Guide

Have you ever looked at a plain ceramic plate or vase and thought, “I could make this so much more attractive”?

Well, you’re absolutely right!

With the right knowledge and a splash of creativity, you can transform any ordinary ceramic piece into extraordinary art.

In this blog, I have broken down every step of ‘how to paint ceramic’ so you can enjoy a quality time, resulting in a great masterpiece for your home.

How to Paint Ceramic by Hand?

Painting ceramic can be a fun leisure activity that will also refresh your home decor with newly painted crafts and show pieces.

Let me show you how it is done then:

Step 1: Choose Your Paint

  • Decide on the type of paint you need.
  • You can use latex, acrylic, or epoxy paint for ceramic tile or larger pottery.
  • Latex paint is softer and better for non-walking areas, while epoxy offers a durable, glossy finish but is pricier.

Required Tools

  • Appropriate paint

Step 2: Prepare the Ceramic

  • Clean the ceramic piece thoroughly with water and a liquid cleaner.
  • Scrub ceramic tiles or wipe down pottery until they are clean and dry.
  • You can also use a wet sponge to remove any dirt or stains gently.

Required Tools

  • Water
  • Liquid cleaner
  • Wiping cloth
  • Sponge

Step 3: Remove Gloss

  • If the ceramic has a glossy finish, sand it lightly to remove the gloss.
  • Use steel wool for pottery and 180 or 220-grit sandpaper for tiles.
  • After sanding, wipe away the dust with a wet rag.

Required Tools

  • 180 or 220-grit sandpaper
  • Rag

Step 4: Apply Primer

  • Put on two light coats of primer.
  • Let each coat dry between applications.
  • If the primer feels gritty, lightly sand it with steel wool.
  • Allow the primer to dry for 12-24 hours.

Required Tools

  • Paintbrush
  • Liquid bonding primer
  • Steel wool

Step 5: Paint in Zigzag

  • Paint small sections of the ceramic at a time in a zigzag pattern.
  • Dip your roller or paintbrush into the paint, removing excess on cardboard or a tray.
  • Apply the paint in diagonal lines until the surface is covered.

Required Tools

  • Roller or paintbrush
  • Cardboard or tray

Step 6: Lightly Sand Again

  • After the first coat dries, gently sand the paint using 220-grit sandpaper for tiles or steel wool for pottery.
  • Make sure the first coat is entirely dry before sanding to avoid smearing.

Required Tools

  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Steel wool

Step 7: Apply a Second Coat

  • Add a second coat of paint using long, vertical strokes.
  • Apply it in small sections, first with zigzag lines, then vertically.
  • This creates an even, smooth finish for the paint.

Required Tools

  • Roller or paintbrush
  • Cardboard or tray

Step 8: Allow to Dry

  • Let the painted ceramic dry for 2-3 days before using it.
  • Even though it may feel dry after a day, wait to ensure it’s fully cured.

Required Tools

  • Drying space

Step 9: Add a Glossy Finish

  • If you want a glossy finish, apply clear urethane in two coats for an easy option.
  • Use 1-2 coats of clear epoxy for a more durable but costly finish.

Required Tools

  • Clear urethane
  • Clear epoxy
  • Paintbrush

How to Paint Glazed Ceramic?

Glazed ceramics are created by firing in an oven or kiln, producing a glossy, shiny texture.

However, glazed ceramic can be more challenging to paint than regular ceramics.

Step 1: Prepare Your Ceramic

  • Grab a sheet of 220-grit sandpaper and rub it gently across your glazed ceramic.
  • This step eliminates some of the previous glaze and creates a better surface for the paint to adhere to.
  • After you finish sanding, use a clean cloth to wipe the dust off.
  • This ensures a clean canvas for your artwork.

Required Tools

  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Clean cloth

Step 2: Apply Primer

  • The primer and the sanding method help the paint on your ceramic last even longer.
  • Choose a primer suitable for ceramics, and apply a thin, even coat to the prepared surface of your ceramic.
  • Let the primer dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • This usually takes around 30 to 60 minutes.

Required Tools

  • Paintbrush
  • Primer

Step 3: Paint Your Piece

  • Select your desired enamel paint color and a clean paintbrush, as enamel paints are best for glazed ceramics.
  • Apply the paint using smooth, even strokes in the same direction for a consistent and beautiful paint job.
  • Start with broad sections and then add details once the base coat dries.

Required Tools

  • Paint
  • Paintbrush

Step 4: Let Your Ceramic Dry

  • After painting, allow your ceramic masterpiece to air dry for several hours.
  • Store it in a safe space where it won’t easily get knocked over or damaged during drying.

Required Tools

  • Drying space

Step 5: Reglaze

  • After your ceramic is painted and air-dried, apply multiple layers of glaze and fire the item in an oven or kiln.
  • This additional step can provide extra durability to your beautiful creation.

Required Tools

  • Glaze
  • Oven or kiln

How to Paint Unglazed Ceramic?

Unglazed ceramics are ceramics fired without a shiny coating called glaze. Painting these types of ceramics is an easy and fun DIY painting project.

Step 1: Prepare Your Ceramic

  • Before you start painting, make sure your ceramic is clean and dry.
  • Use a moist cloth to wipe away any dust or dirt from the ceramic.
  • Cleaning ensures that your paintbrush glides smoothly, preventing unwanted textures on your piece.

Required Tools

  • Water
  • Clean cloth

Step 2: Paint Your Piece

  • Select your desired acrylic paint colors, as they are the best choice for unglazed ceramic.
  • Place a small amount of paint on a palette to conserve paint.
  • Use a paintbrush or sponge for unique textures on your ceramic.
  • Let each coat dry before adding more paint.

Required Tools

  • Paint
  • Palette
  • Paintbrush or sponge

Step 3: Seal Your Design

  • To protect your beautiful artwork, use a clear acrylic spray to seal your piece.
  • Acrylic paint can’t handle high temperatures, so avoid using a kiln.
  • The spray sealant ensures your paint lasts a long time.

Required Tools

  • Clear acrylic spray sealant

How to Paint Ceramic Figurines?

Painting ceramic figurines can be a delightful craft project. Follow these simple steps to create beautiful designs on your ceramic pieces.

Step 1: Apply the Stencil

  • Place a mesh stencil on the ceramic piece where you want to paint.
  • These stencils are convenient because they have a sticky backing, eliminating the need for tape.
  • You can reuse them for multiple projects.
  • Choose a stencil design that suits your figurine.
  • When working with curved surfaces, like mugs or bowls, make small slits at the bottom of the stencil to allow it to “wrap” around the piece.

Required Tools

  • Mesh stencil
  • Scissors

Step 2: Mark the Center

  • Find the center of your ceramic piece for precise placement of your design.
  • This ensures that your chosen quote or design is in the right place.

Required Tools

  • Pencil

Step 3: Apply the Ceramic Paint

  • Utilize a squeegee to apply the ceramic paint over the stencil.
  • You don’t need a lot of paint; a little goes a long way.
  • One coat of paint should suffice; there’s usually no need for a second coat.
  • Gently scrape the paint across the stencil for a light, even coat.
  • Fewer strokes over the stencil result in cleaner lines once the stencil is removed.
  • Get creative by using multiple colors or blending two colors for an ombre effect.

Required Tools

  • Ceramic paint
  • Squeegee
  • Scraper

Step 4: Touch Up Any Paint

  • Ceramic paint is forgiving, so if you make a mistake, don’t worry.
  • Use a small artist’s paintbrush, your finger, or a paper towel with a little isopropyl alcohol to wipe off any errors.
  • Any painting mishaps can be easily corrected.
  • Wait for the paint to dry slightly before removing it to avoid smudging.

Required Tools

  • Artist’s paintbrush or paper towel
  • Isopropyl alcohol

What Paint to Use on Ceramic?

When it comes to painting ceramics, choosing the right paint is key to achieving the perfect finish.

Latex Paint

First, we have latex paint. It’s a great liquid paint for ceramics.

Latex paint is relatively thin, so you will need to apply more paint to achieve a stronger finish.

The good news is it dries quickly and comes in various gloss options.

So, latex is a solid choice if you’re working with ready-to-paint ceramics.

Enamel Paint

Now, let’s talk about enamel paint. It’s oil-based and gives it a unique long-lasting finish.

It can also withstand high temperatures when baked in the oven or kiln.

If you’re aiming for a nice shiny glazed cabinetry, enamel paint is your option.

Remember that it can be a bit expensive due to its complexity and sophistication.

Acrylic Paint

If you’re looking for versatility, acrylic paint is your friend.

It is one of the best ceramic paints and can be used on various surfaces, especially unglazed pottery.

Acrylics are water-based with chemicals, and most brands are non-toxic.

What’s neat about acrylics is their natural elasticity, which helps make them look great over time.

Spray Paint

Lastly, we have the spray paint.

This paint is popular because it doesn’t create that pesky brushstroke that can sometimes show up when painting ceramic.

Spray paint works like a charm on both glazed and unglazed pieces.

Plus, you can choose a glossy or sheen finish for a stunning design on your ceramic creations.

Bottom Line

Ceramics have been a canvas for artists for centuries.

Whether you’re a professional artist or just starting, painting ceramic items can be a rewarding and therapeutic experience.

So, gather your painting tools and embark on this journey today!


What kind of paint do you use on ceramic?

Acrylic paints are the most suitable ones to paint ceramics as they are water-based. But you can use latex, enamel, and spray paints as well.

Is ceramic paint permanent?

Yes, ceramic paint is permanent. They won’t wash away if the ceramic gets wet. However, some brands offer semi-permanent finishes so you can repaint your pieces.

Does spray paint stay on ceramic?

Yes, spray paint provides a permanent finish on ceramic.