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Adding color to your ceramic art can be a tricky proposition. Unlike working with paints, what you put on your prize pot or sculpture can be very different from how it looks before and after firing. As a general rule, ceramic stains and ceramic pigments look pretty much the same before and after firing while ceramic oxides like iron oxide, cobalt oxide, and copper oxide as well as cobalt carbonate and copper carbonate all look very different. In How to Add Color to Your Ceramic Art: A Guide to Using Ceramic Colorants, Ceramic Stains, and Ceramic Oxides, you’ll find a little help to better understand what, how, and why ceramic colorants work in a glaze. Enjoy!
Here’s a sampling of the great articles in How to Add Color to Your Ceramic Art: A Guide to Using Ceramic Colorants,
Ceramic Stains, and Ceramic Oxides:
Using Ceramic Pigments and Stains
by Bill Jones
Commercially prepared ceramic pigments, commonly referred to as ceramic stains, expand the potter’s palette with infinite color options. With ceramic pigments, you can color the clay, color the glazes, or color both. Ceramic pigments are easy to use and the simplest way to introduce a wide range of color into your work.
Depending on the use, pigments may be used straight and just mixed with water, but they are more commonly added as colorants in clay bodies and glazes. Some pigments are specifically formulated for clay bodies while some are not suitable at all. When used in clay, pigments are usually used in engobes and slips as a coating for clay rather than pigmenting the entire body. The exception to this would be using stains to tint porcelain for neriage work.
Use in concentrations of 10–15% in clay, using more or less depending on the intensity needed. Add the pigment to the slip and sieve through a 120x mesh screen to ensure adequate dispersion.
Pigments can be used in underglazes for brushing onto greenware or bisque. If used only with water as a medium, some glazes may crawl, so for best results, mix the stains with a frit (for example, Ferro frit 3124). Begin with a mix of 85 frit/15 pigment and test. Transparent gloss glazes applied over the top will heighten the intensity of the colors.
When using pigments in glazes, usually in concentrations of 1–10%, a little more care must be taken because some pigment systems react with materials in a glaze. Some pigments are affected by the presence, or lack of, boron, zinc, calcium, and magnesia. Manufacturers provide information on specific reactions. While most pigments can be used in both oxidation and reduction atmospheres, some are limited to certain maximum temperatures. Again, this information is available from manufacturer websites.
To achieve a wider palette, most pigments can be mixed to achieve even more colors. The exception is that black pigments cannot be used to obtain shades of gray because blacks are made from a combination of several metallic oxides. If low percentages are used, the final color is affected by the predominant oxide in the black pigment.
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