Big Ceramic Store Blog

Tips On How To Use Underglazes

With the Holidays fast approaching, we have a tendency to shift our studios to "color mode." What I mean by this is, instead of doing the normal brushing/dipping of glazes, we decorate more pieces with under/overglazes .

We make snowmen, Santa's, trees and berries. The once simple plate, now has a corncob pipe, button nose, and two eyes made out of coal. There may even be a hat, and a scarf, with vibrant colors!

Although there are a gazillion ways to use these glazes, I personally have only begun to scratch the surface with underglaze, and I've yet to try the overglazes.

In this post, I'll show you some of the things I've tried, and talk about some of the things that didn't work out well. I'm also encouraging you to share some tips/tricks that you use. Don't be shy... jump right in and post your ideas in the comments section!Let's start with a few things to keep in mind...

  • When you brush on underglaze, let it dry between coats if you want to get a solid cover. If you want a watercolor look, thin it down a little, and only do one stroke.
  • Make sure the glaze you apply, over the underglaze, is compatible. I've ruined several awesome pieces by not testing compatibility. If  I want the colors to "pop,"  using a clear gloss glaze does the trick. Be careful though, if you don't use a zinc free clear, the colors may turn out different shades of grey.

Now, let's get to the fun stuff... a few ways to use underglaze.

  • Brush it on. Pick a brush, or brushes, that will work for the design you are going for. Use a paper plate, or extra slab of clay, to test your technique and pattern.  (If you use a flat head brush and push down, you can make some nice flower petals)
  • Use a stencil and sponge for wording and repeat patterns.


  • Use a rubber stamp. I sponge, or brush, the underglaze on the stamp instead of dipping it in the glaze.


  • Sponge it on. The density of the sponge determines the pattern. Denser sponges create a close pattern, while less dense sponges create a spaced out pattern. Layer color over color to create muted effects.


  • Cut a sponge in the shape you want, brush on underglaze, put the sponge on your clay and press.

sponge template

  • Try the Sgraffito technique. Apply underglaze to your piece, allow it to dry, then scratch it off with sgraffito tools, to create depth and design.

These are just a few ideas. Like I said in the beginning, there are a gazillion ways to use under/overglaze, try them out!

Do you have an idea or project you'd like to share, or would you like to try your hand at writing an article for us? Shoot us an e-mail at

Look for more great ideas on the "How-to" page of our website.



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