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Underglazes are basically clay-based materials with ceramic stains and metallic oxides added to create a full spectrum of color in your work. They’re the fastest, easiest, and most dependable way for you to add pizzazz to your pottery or sculptures for just an accent or an entire surface treatment. Like many other art materials, underglazes come in a wide variety of forms—liquid, dry, chalks, pens, and pencils—so no matter what your background, a ceramic surface awaits your colorful treatment.


Here’s an excerpt from the Underglaze Users Guide: How to Use Ceramic Underglazes to Add Color and Graphic Interest in Your Pottery Projects:


9 Artists Using Colorful Underglazes
by David L. Gamble


Commercial underglazes are basically clay slips containing colorants, and they’re a great way to add color to your work using a variety of application methods. And since they’re formulated to have low drying shrinkage, they can be applied to bone-dry greenware or to bisque-fired surfaces. In addition to being able to change the surface color of your clay body, underglazes can also be used to change the texture of the body.


When used to add color to surfaces, underglazes have an advantage in that they are composed mostly of clay with very little flux, so they’ll stay put and won’t run, which makes them ideal for detailed decoration. While most underglazes were originally formulated for use at low-fire temperatures, most, maintain their color in the mid-range and some even as high as cone 9 or 10.


Simple Application


Underglazes can be applied by brushing, pouring, dipping, and spraying—anything goes. Each application method has different requirements. If an underglaze is too thick for spraying or using as a wash, just add water to thin it down. If it’s too thin for silk screening or monoprinting, leave the container exposed to air to evaporate some of the liquid.


Platter with underglaze decoration, by RImas VisGirda

Platter with underglaze decoration, by RImas VisGirda

Underglazes work best with a clear overglaze, although other glazes of varying opacity and color may also be used. I’ve had success with whites and very light-colored glazes, but darker glazes seem to muddy or absorb the color of the underglaze. The overglaze can be anywhere from matt to glossy. You’ll find the clear deepens the value of the colors regardless of application method. If you’re sealing the surface of work that will come in contact with food, be sure to use a food-safe clear glaze that matches your underglaze’s and clay body’s firing range.


Applying an overglaze can be tricky. If you’ve applied underglazes on bisque, you’ll find that they’ll smear when brushing on a clear over- glaze because wet glaze moistens the underglaze. Use a fan brush and float the first coat on without going over the same area twice. Wait for the first coat to dry completely before brushing on a second coat.


I’ve recently used underglazes to create a watercolor effect by thinning them down and painting them onto a semi-white glaze that is layered over another colored glaze underneath. The colored glaze (sometimes gloss, sometimes matt) melts through the white and gives it a richer off-white look. The clay body is a red terra cotta that can handle a number of multiple firings if needed. I’ve been creating pieces from my travel sketches to permanently document places I’ve traveled to in a sketchbook-like manner.


To read the rest of this article and the articles below, download your free copy of theUnderglaze Users Guide: How to Use Ceramic Underglazes to Add Color and Graphic Interest in Your Pottery Projects…


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Underglaze Users Guide: How to Use Ceramic Underglazes to Add Color and Graphic Interest in Your Pottery Projects also includes the following great stuff:



UG-homemadeHow to Make Homemade Underglazes
by Holly Goring


Whether you want to make your own underglazes or use commercially prepared underglazes, this article will provide a valuable understanding of what underglazes are made of and how they behave. Regardless of which way you want to go with underglazes, knowing how they are made will help you know how to use them more effectively—and that means better chances for success in the studio.

  UG-KukkeeLaura Kukkee: Using Underglazes for Slip Trailing and Applique Techniques
by Anderson Turner


There is no shortage of application techniques using ceramic underglazes. Laura Kukkee creates her decoration with underglazes on newspaper then transfers it to a freshly rolled clay slab. She also builds up layers of differenct colored slips and underglaze decoration on newsprint to create a very thin slab. Then she cuts the slab into pieces and uses an applique technique to apply the decorated pieces to pots. She also demonstrates silk screened and inlaid applique.


murphyUnderglaze as Overglaze

by Courtney Murphy


Despite what the name implies, Courtney Murphy discovered that underglazes don’t just have to go under a glaze. After running extensive tests, she figured out that some of her underglazes worked in an overglaze technique similar to majolica. In this article she shares her process from beginning to end.



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About Ceramic Arts Daily:


Ceramic Arts Daily is a free online website and newsletter written and produced for the benefit of potters and ceramic artists worldwide. The newsletter features both renowned and emerging artists, their work, techniques and artistic perspectives. Regular features include tips and techniques designed to help every artist expand their skill set and widen their artistic horizons. Ceramic Arts Daily also delivers video tips, in which potters and ceramic artists demonstrate various projects and processes. Think of them as e-workshops!


Ceramic Arts Daily is designed to be interactive, inviting your comments and fostering a community in which each person can contribute to the growth of their own and others’ skills. You may be surprised at what you learn!


Ceramic artists on Ceramic Arts Daily know what ceramic art is all about – from functional pottery to abstract ceramic sculpture. This is about community. You’ll be drawn in by artists’ stories, inspired by their work and find
confidence to try some of their techniques. With Ceramic Arts Daily, you’ll learn a little bit of everything. Then you can choose the techniques you enjoy the most to create something new!


So start today by downloading our free Underglaze Users Guide: How to Use Underglazes, Slip Trailers, Ceramic Pens, and Underglaze Pencils. Then, get ready for Ceramic Arts Daily to introduce you to new artists and show you new techniques!


10 Comments on "Underglaze Users Guide: How to Use Ceramic Underglazes to Add Color and Graphic Interest in Your Pottery Projects"

  1. Michelle Monfort July 19, 2015 at 6:17 am -
    I have never used an underglaze before and have been watching videos. In the videos the pieces look unfired. So they still have that pale grey tone. Do you create the piece and let it dry then apply? Or do you still need to fire the piece after drying first? i can’t find the answer to my question. Thank you!
  2. Judith Stoudmann-Panczel April 14, 2014 at 2:14 pm -
    For decoration and to get a good colour, if you have porcelaine clay mix it with colour stain or oxides and you can apply it onto stoneware or porcelaine itself. If gives good colour results!
  3. Judith Stoudmann-Panczel April 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm -
    Yes you can definitely do that you just need to find out the percentage you need to add to get the right colour you want to achieve; and try anything you like. For decoration and to get a good colour if you have porcelaine clay mix it with colour stain or oxides and you can apply it onto stoneware or porcelaine itself. If gives good colour results!
  4. Charlotte Green June 4, 2013 at 2:32 am -
    I have been using Duncan’s CN line for some time now. It is called an underglaze but it is a glaze at ^04 with two or three coats. It fires well at ^5-6. You can splash or syringe it as design over a glaze that you are firing to ^5-6. When I mixed some in Bmix ^5 and used it as applique, it gives the applique a sheen. I discovered this when I did not apply glaze over it and fired to ^5. The CN line is a bit pricey so I would not recommend it as an all-over on large pieces.
  5. Charlotte Green June 4, 2013 at 2:19 am -
    dawn haley – There is a carbon paper-like graffito paper at which I use a lot. Write anything your way on a piece of paper. Place a cut piece of graffito paper on your bisque with your paper on top of the graffito. You can stick a piece of blue painters tape to the papers and bisque to stabilize them. Trace your lettering with a sharp pencil but don’t press hard enough to tear through. The graffito paper will stick to the bisque when pressed. When you peal it away it leaves a good crisp line. Bisque then glaze with a clear transparent. You can transfer your designs this way too.
  6. TERRI MILLER February 26, 2013 at 10:56 am -
    Try kneading a colored underglaze color or a one-stroke color into a white-based clay. Kneaded into the clay it will give it color. I have done this and it’s not too bad a result without having to go through a sophisticated mix of chemicals, etc. to get results. Try it.
  7. dawn haley February 23, 2013 at 10:32 am -
    Can someone please tell me if there is a fine tip marker that can be used to write on bisque? I want to write words and need something that will give me the ability to write in small letters. I have found several types on the internet but they do not appear to truly give the desired effect I am trying to achieve.
  8. Cindie January 30, 2012 at 11:13 pm -
    when using duncan underglazes on bisque is it fired first before applying clear glaze
  9. Cynthia January 21, 2012 at 11:38 am -
    Mason stain – up to 25%. Use a respirator and many people say to wear gloves as well.
  10. Caren December 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm -
    Can someone tell me if I can add something to cone 5 stoneware, knead it in, and make a colored clay to hand build with? I am not looking for a surface application.

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