Personalize Your Pottery

Making pottery isn't just about form and function, it's also about personalization and decoration; making it your own. So how do you make a piece your own? Whether you want to use a name, a word, a design, a drawing or a photograph, there are tons of ways to personalize your pottery.

Mason Stains

Mason stains are coloring agents that can be mixed with clay, slip or glaze and are known for holding their color through the kiln. For best results – mix with a white slip the consistency of house paint and then paint on to white greenware. Painting with colored slip is very similar to painting with gauche (opaque water-colors) with similar results. You can also carve into the colored sections to expose the white clay body, a technique called “sgraffito.”


  • Vibrant colors that can be mixed and layered and will keep their color through the kiln
  • Low initial investment – start with the colors you need and add the colors you want later
  • Personal – nothing is more personal than something hand-painted


  • Requires painting or drawing skill
  • Steep learning curve

            Best For

  • Detailed drawings
  • Script and handwriting
  • Patterns and abstract designs

Screen Printing

Also known as silk screening, you may be familiar with silk screened t-shirts, but the technique can also be used on pottery, with some slight modifications. You will need a stretched screen, a design (and some means of transferring that design onto the screen - you can order screens with your design already on them), squeegee, newsprint, mason stain, white slip, plastic rib and brushes.

Using your screen and squeegee, print your design onto the newsprint with colored slip, like you would onto a t-shirt with ink, then cut the design out of the newsprint and paint white slip over the design and onto the pot where you want the design to go. Note: the pot must be greenware and relatively flat in one dimension for this to work, in other words it should be as close to a straight cylinder where you want to transfer your print as humanly possible.

Now stick the newsprint to the pot with the printed side facing in and the bare newsprint facing out. Use your rib to smooth out any wrinkles or air bubbles and let dry for a few minutes before removing the newsprint. If everything went well, you should see your design exactly as it will appear when the pot comes out of the kiln.


  • Easy learning curve – you will probably mess up your first few, so practice on slabs, but you should get the hang of it in no time
  • Easily reproducible
  • No drawing skills required – designs can be photographs or digital files, as long as they can be printed in one color


  • Limited colors – you can swap the white slip for colored slip, but you're pretty much limited to 2 colors.
  • High initial investment
  • Limited functionality – you can only print on a flat or cylindrical surface, which seriously limits your options.

            Best For

  • Black and white photographs
  • Logos
  • Type
  • Reproductions


There are several metal oxides that can be mixed with water, and sometimes a flux, to be painted on bisqued pottery that will result in colors ranging from rust-red to blue or black when fired. They can also be painted onto a pot that has had a design carved into it with a needle or trimming tool and then wiped off. The oxides will settle in the design and come off of the rest. One other way of using oxides is to mix them with wax resist, then when you paint them on, glaze won’t stick to your design and will create better contrast.


  • Traditional
  • High contrast
  • Versatile


  • Limited colors
  • Easy to make mistakes and hard to fix them
  • Inconsistent

            Best For

  • Silhouettes
  • Patters and abstracts
  • Simple drawings


Some potters turn their noses up at decals, but they are becoming more and more popular among hobbyists and professionals, due to their versatility, simplicity and cost. When applying decals, it is best to follow the decal paper manufacturer's instructions, but this is the basic method – print your design on special decal paper with a standard laser jet printer (as long as it uses an iron-based toner, not carbon based), stick it onto a glazed piece of pottery and fire it to a very low cone (usually between cone 020 and 06) the design will transfer on in sepia tone, which gives it a vintage look.


  • Inexpensive
  • Easy
  • Can be done one time or mass produced


  • Monochrome (there are specialized laser-jet printers that will print with a variety of metal oxides, like cobalt oxide, or copper oxide, in order to make color decals, but they are very expensive)
  • Same limitations as screen transfers

            Best For

  • Photographs
  • Typography
  • Personalizing mass-produced ceramics


EMRT LLC dba BigCeramicStore
New Hampshire Location: 12 Commerce Ave
West Lebanon NH 03784
Nevada Location: 50 E. Greg St, Unit 108
Sparks NV 89431

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