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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 from one of the great articles in How to Add Color to Your Ceramic Art: A Guide to Using Ceramic Colorants,
Ceramic Stains, and Ceramic Oxides:
by Robin Hopper
The potter’s palette can be just as broad as the painter’s. Different techniques can be closely equated to working in any of the two-dimensional media, such as pencil, pen and ink, pastel, watercolor, oils, encaustics or acrylics. We also have an advantage in that the fired clay object is permanent, unless disposed of with a blunt instrument! Our works may live for thousands of years—a sobering thought.
Because a number of colors can only be achieved at low temperatures, you need a series of layering techniques in order to have the fired strength of stoneware or porcelain and the full palette range of the painter. To accomplish this, low-temperature glazes or overglazes are made to adhere to a higher-fired glazed surface, and can be superimposed over already existing decoration. To gain the full measure of color, one has to fire progressively down the temperature range so as not to burn out heat-sensitive colors that can’t be achieved any other way. Usually the lowest and last firing is for precious metals: platinum, palladium, and gold.
For the hot side of the spectrum—red, orange, and yellow—there are many commercial body and glaze stains, in addition to the usual mineral colorants. Ceramists looking for difficult-to-achieve colors might want to consider prepared stains, particularly in the yellow, violet, and purple ranges. These colors are often quite a problem with standard minerals, be they in the form of oxides, carbonates, nitrates, sulfates, chlorides or even the basic metal itself. Minerals that give reds, oranges, and yellows are copper, iron, nickel, chromium, uranium, cadmium-selenium, rutile, antimony, vanadium, and praseodymium. Variations in glaze makeup, temperature and atmosphere profoundly affect this particular color range. The only materials which produce red at high temperatures are copper, iron, and nickel . The results with nickel are usually muted. Reds in the scarlet to vermilion range can only be achieved at low temperatures. The chart should help pinpoint mineral choices for desired colors (note that the color bars are for guidance only and not representative of the actual colors —Ed.).
Colors are listed with the minerals needed to obtain them, approximate temperatures, atmosphere, saturation percentage needed, and comments on enhancing/inhibiting factors. Because of the widely variable nature of ceramiccolor, there are many generalities here. Where the word “vary” occurs in the column under Cone, it signifies that the intended results could be expected most of the time at various points up to cone 10.
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