I absolutely adore color and the more I can put on my pottery, the happier I am. I have experimented around with many different techniques to decorate pottery but there are two that I keep coming back to over and over. Underglaze painting on Pottery and Sgraffito Carving.

Many times it is a combination of both! 

Please note this post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you click them and make a purchase.  This is, of course, at no cost to you, and I only share products that I use and love myself.

I loves sgraffito carving mugs,  plates and bowls. 

It’s how I express myself creatively. It’s how I found my artistic voice.

Many of my designs lend well to the high contrast black and white from sgraffito carving, black from the underglaze and white from the clay but every once in a while I just feel the need to add more color to a piece.

Or Sometimes I look at the bare white clay piece of Greenware (Dry and Unfired) and just decide to paint on my pottery.

For both of these techniques, I use Underglaze.

If you want to read more about my Sgraffito work you can do so here.

Adding color to a sgrafitto carved mug with underglaze
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Let’s add some color

I prefer to do all my underglaze painting on dry greenware.

If I am adding color to a carved piece (I carve at a leather hard stage) I will let the piece completely dry before adding additional colors. I find that the colors stay brighter.

If I am just painting on a piece I let the piece get good and dry.

Opaque or Translucent Underglaze painting

How many layers of color I add are determined by how opaque or translucent I want my color to be, If I want a washed-out, watercolor effect I may thin down the underglaze with water. If I want opaque color I will add up to three layers of the color.

My Underglaze of choice is Amaco Velvets. I have tried a few other brands but I keep coming back to them. For my work, I have some favorite colors.

My Favorite Colors

  • Black (of course) – Jet Black V-361
  • Intense Yellow V-391
  • Baby blue V-325
  • Medium blue V-326
  • Chartreuse green V-343
  • Leaf Green V-354
  • Turquoise Blue V-327
  • Violet V-380
  • Red V-382
  • Bright Red V-387
  • Flame Orange V-389
  • White


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An Easy way to start your underglaze journey would be to purchase a kit such as this one. It doesn’t contain all of my favorite colors but it contains some pretty ones!!  These are 2-ounce jars and are perfect for experimenting with.

 

You can also get any color you want in 2-ounce jars (or pints) . See them on Amazon

I have a lot more colors than these but these are the ones that I use constantly. You have seen my work and you know I love color. These colors all blend so well together.

There are a few underglaze colors that I have lots of trouble with, like royal blue! For me, it turns too dark and many times it bubbles up during glaze firing so now I avoid it.

Greens also tend to give me a lot of trouble. They seem to burn out on me at cone 5 and turn brown. Making my own green by mixing yellow or chartreuse with a bit of blue seems to work better.

Making these tiny dishes was a fun way for me to test various underglaze combinations. I could see which colors looked great layered and which ones disappeared into each other.

Small trinket dish with vibrant underglaze color
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These tiny dishes are a wonderful way to experiment with various layers of underglaze.

Making a Color Paint Palette

Although Amaco makes an underglaze palette I decided that I would make my own so that I could fill it with the colors I use.

I wanted one that had a cover so that the underglazes would stay usable and wet. I bought this Airtight Watercolor palette on Amazon.

I really like it although my underglazes still dry out! (So much for airtight). The wells are not that deep so I can refresh them as often as needed. There is lots of mixing space too, which is really nice. When I start a new batch of underglaze painting I lightly mist the wells of dry underglaze and allow them to become workable again.

When doing the artwork, I prefer a more watercolor look. Amaco underglazes are pretty thick out of the bottle so I water them down a bit in the mixing tray. Experiment around to get your look. The more coats you use, the more opaque the colors become.

Once all my pieces are carved and painted it’s time to bisque fire, glaze, and fire.

I bisque my pieces to cone 04. After Bisque firing, if you see a spot that needs a bit of retouching, its ok to add some underglaze. You don’t have to rebisque!  I do this quite often on my sgrafitto work if there are some weird spots in the black.

Underglaze is not a “glaze” and if you are making functional pottery you should use a clear glaze to seal it. For the final glaze (cone 5) I currently use Kittens Clear which I mix up myself. If you are a potter, you can find the recipe on glazy.org. 

I love the matte look of Amaco Velvets that have been fully fired without clear glaze though and sometimes use that look in my coffee mugs. If I want to do that though I need to make sure I glaze the inside of the mug and always water-test it after firing. ( Fill it with water and let it sit a few hours to see if it weeps or leaks)

I hope I have covered enough to give you an idea of how I work and maybe inspire you to give it a try.

Feel free to comment or ask any questions in the comment field below

Follow Me

Dani Montoya - Potter
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My name is Dani and I am the potter behind this page! I am retired and having a ball being the artist I always wanted to be. My studio is located in NW Arkansas where I live a quiet life, on a lake with my husband, 3 dogs and two cats.

Have a look around!

Amaco Velvet Underglazes

AMACO Liquid Underglaze Decorating Colors #712 Class Pack
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I have tried several different brands of underglazes but I keep coming back to the Amaco Velvets. They may be a tad more expensive but they are worth it

View on Amazon

Mijello Airtight Watercolor 18-Well Blue Palette

Mijello Airtight Watercolor 18-Well Blue Palette
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This is the Watercolor Palette I use in my studio. I love that it has 18 wells so I can fill it with straight color or blends. There is also Lots and Lots of blending space in the tray and lid. My underglazes do dry out a bit but spritzing the wells with water brings then back to life!

Paasche Airbrush Kit

This  Airbrush kit is perfect for spraying Underglaze for a soft look. You can use it as a double action or single action. I also comes with  I often use it to add color to a background when I just need a hint of color. It comes with two plastic jars but I find the small cup perfect for the amount of underglaze I need.  It comes with 3 head sizes which is nice for thick liquid like Underglaze. I use the biggest one.

View on Amazon

 

Miniature Paint Brush Set

MyArtscape Artist Supplies Miniature Paint Brushes, Set of 12 for Detail & Fine Point Painting - use with Acrylic, Watercolor, Oil, Gouache - for Pinstriping, Warhammer 40k, Models & Lettering White
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I use these fine tipped paint brushes for all kinds of things in my studio. They hold their shape very well and with such a large variety I always have what I need at my fingertips.

9 Comments

  1. Debra Graham
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    I am so glad I found your blog! I too am retired and living my dream creating pottery. I use velvet under-glazes also, but I was surprised when you stated that after sgraffito, you add color when your piece is completely dry. Can you tell me how you keep your black lines crisp when adding more color? Are you just very careful? How do the small detail lines keep from getting covered? Thank you! And I love your blog and art.

    Reply
    • Dani Montoya
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      Hi Debra! Isn’t it great to have the freedom now to just play in clay and create to our hearts content!

      That’s a great question.

      It’s the craziest thing but I underglaze other colours over the black and somehow the black lines always come back in the glaze firing! It’s the coolest thing but I must admit, I worry about it each and every time!

      When I am adding underglaze colour to my sgraffito I wait until the piece is bone dry. I have added up to two layers of colour, covering the black. It always scares me just a bit but in the end, the black comes back with the clear glazing, it’s magic!

      Reply
  2. Lupe Baze
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    The kittens clear recipe you use , what kind of silica do you use, 325? Do add the optional 2% bentonite? And finally what kind of wollastonite, is it 325m (i am new to glaze making)

    Reply
    • Dani Montoya
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      Hi Lupe…. Great question. The Silica I use is 325 mesh and yes, I always put the bentonite in because the Clay level is pretty low. That will help with it hard-panning
      I tend to add 2% to just about every glaze i make!

      Reply
  3. Elaine Klein
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    Dani,
    I also live in NWA. I’m an art teacher and wonder if you could visit sometime this summer. I’d love to learn more about underglazes and scrafitto. I teach hand building in my class and have only used glazes after bisque firing. Let me know if you could show me this technique. Thanks
    Elaine

    Reply
  4. Chris
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    I took a look at the airbrush kit mentioned in your blog. Don’t see a compressor in the kit so what kind etc do you use? Love to try this! Thank you

    Reply
    • Dani Montoya
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      Hi Chris,

      Airbrushes can use any compressor with adapters. The hose is smaller than regular air compressor hoses. If you have any air compressor you might look to see if a kit like this one would work . https://amzn.to/4aodSvD

      I have a small airbrush compressor I bought about 40 years ago when I was airbrushing motorcycle!

      Reply
  5. Suze D
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    Hello, I am a Very Beginner here, so please forgive my questions…… Can I use the undergaze on green ware, then apply a clear undergaze before it goes into the kiln? Or must I fire twice, once with color and then once bisque clear glaze and fire again? I have to pay someone to fire for me at this point in my learning curve and the less fires the better savings for me. And what exactly is silica? Again sorry for my ignorance.
    Thank you for your patience!!

    Reply
    • Dani Montoya
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      Hi Suze D

      Underglaze can be applied to greenware or bisque ware. Underglaze is not a glaze however so to the best of my knowledge there is no clear underglaze.

      Although there are potters out there who do one fire work, if you are paying for kiln use my best guess would be that the owner wouldn’t allow it. Too risky.

      Most potters fire twice. The first firing (bisque fire) turns the clay more glasslike but porous enough to accept glaze. Then glaze is applied and fired again.

      The temperatures for these two firings are different, depending on whether you are using low or high fire clay.

      Silica is a material glaze and clay are made from. It’s a powder but essentially it is glass.

      Reply

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