How to Brush Glaze Pottery | Tips Tools And Ideas

a picture of a potter holding finshed glaze brushed mugs

Glazing is an essential step in pottery. There are many ways to go about it – one of which is brush glazing. 

So, what is brush glazing? Brush glazing is a glazing technique that uses a brush to place a finishing level of glaze on ceramics. It allows potters to create unique designs with multiple layers, exceptional versatility, and a lot of room for creativity.

This method requires exceptional attention to detail and practice to perfect. The nature of brushing often develops unevenness when coating pieces and Beginner Potters find it a bit challenging to create even surfaces with this technique. That’s why if there’s no requirement for intricate design details, potters prefer to use dipping glaze for their pieces.

The rest of this article will discuss the intricacies of Brush Glazing. To learn more, read on. 

Basics of Brush Glazing

Many Potters especially beginners prefer Brush Glazing because of the advantages that it gives them. Of all the glazing techniques that you can use in pottery, Brush Glazing gives you full control over the designs you create.

It’s not as simple as it sounds, though. There are specific steps that you need to do to be successful with brush glazing. Here are some of the basics that you need to familiarize yourself with before you brush glaze actual pieces:

Glazing preparation

You can use brush glazing for greenware, but it would depend on the design that you want to create and the type of glaze that you’re using. It’s best Not to Glaze greenware for a few reasons.

Bisque firing Benefits:

  • Greenware (Bone-dry clay) is at its most fragile stage of clay. The more you handle it the greater chance you will have of cracking or breaking your piece.
  • Helps prevent your ceramics from crazing, cracking, or flaking by releasing the organic gases from the Clay.
a picture of a bone dry sugar bowl

If you’re glazing bisque ware, it’s recommended to fire it with at least 1828°F (1000°C) Cone 06. It’ll create the ideal surface for glazing.

Before glazing, use a damp sponge to remove any dust on the surface. When working with narrow-necked pieces, you can use a clean, moist brush to wipe the interior. It would be best if you also kept it free from grease, because glaze applied on greasy surfaces may crawl or not adhere to your piece when fired.

Choose the Right Brush

Streakiness will always be an issue with brush glazing, but you can minimize it with the right type of brush. We recommend that you use specialized Brushes like Hake or Soft Fan. These are brushes that can load a decent amount of glaze and work on various colors.

a picture of glaze brushes for pottery

If you’re working on multi-sized pieces, it’s good to have Glaze Brushes Sets. It will help you cover enough areas to minimize unevenness, without compromising the versatility of the designs that you create.

Mixing the Glaze Correctly

When preparing to Brush Glaze it is important to Mix your glaze well. After all the time you spent creating and glazing your pottery only to have your glaze not turn out properly because you did not take the time to mix and strain it would be a terrible loss.

Every potter knows how it feels when you are waiting for that Kiln to cool enough to see your works of art and the feeling you have when it doesn’t turn out. It’s worth taking the time to put your glaze through a strainer or sieve to catch any clumps or debris that may be lurking in your glaze.  

a picture of glaze put through strainer

Even though bottle glazes are more stable, mixing your glaze before Brushing each piece is still a good habit to get into and ensures a nice even consistency in the glaze. Remember, Glaze likes to dry fast. You can also add water into the mix if the Glaze feels thicker than what you need for your pieces.

To get more information on good glazing habits, you’ll want to check out Glazing Tips for Beginners to improve your glazing skills and raise your success rate.

Although it’s possible to Mix dipping Glazes to make them suitable for brushing by using a brushing medium such as CMC to thicken and stabilize the glaze, it can be tough to mix and not feasible especially for beginner Potters. Most potters buy glaze in bottles that are ready to brush on.

Considering this factor, we believe that it would be better to buy Glaze in bottles or dry form that is ready to brush on.

Applying Glaze with Brush

Unlike dipping glazes that you put in separate large containers, brushing glazes are usually stored in pint or gallon bottles.

One of the biggest problems with glaze brushing is unwanted streaking. The main reason this happens is the glaze being applied too thin.

a picture of brushing glaze on a mug

After choosing the correct Glaze Brush that fits your piece load up your brush so the glaze floats onto your pottery.

When brushing on your glaze, it’s best to you change the direction of your brush strokes with each coat. For instance, your first coat can be horizontal and your second diagonal and the third vertical. It doesn’t matter which direction you start with. This technique evens out the thickness of the glaze and helps to get rid of steak marks on your pottery.

Glaze Brushing Ideas

The fun part of Brush Glazing is all different ways you can glaze with a good selection of Glaze Brushes to design with and can really capture your imagination.

You can float some heavy coats on indiscriminately with a Hake brush or make different color bands with Detail brushes.

You can also load up your brush and slowing spin your pottery wheel or banding wheel (turntable).

a picture of a potter brush glazing a mug
a picture of a potter brush glazing a merlot strip on a mug

Some potters want to create a streaking pattern on purpose. If you want your finish to be nice and smooth, load up your brush and apply 3 flowing coats of glaze. Allow each coat to dry before applying another.

Advantages of Brush Glazing

It’ll take a lot of time to perfect this glazing technique, but it has a lot of benefits, especially when working on unique pieces. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider brush glazing:

a picture of a potter holding brush glazed pottery
  • It allows potters to have the broadest range of colors and visual effects possible on ceramics. The exceptional control that it provides makes it possible to create design elements that are more intricate than dipping, bubbling, or sponging.
  • Using different types of brushes will give you the freedom to apply composite layers that create more depth with your pieces.
  • There’s no right or wrong way to glaze a ceramic with a brush, and since multilayering is possible, you can cover any imperfections or elements of the design.
  • Unlike dip glazing, brushing is cheaper to start because you don’t have to make buckets of different glaze to achieve multilayering on your ceramics.
  • There may be fewer imperfections with your craft because brush glazing uses thicker glaze.
  • Since you’re using different types of brushes, you can create more intricate special effects on your ceramics. You can use metallics, bright colors, or even layered effects.
a split picture of a before and after piece of multi colored pottery

With enough practice, brush glazing can give you endless potential when it comes to coating or designing your ceramics. Check out my selection of Glazes Here that are great for brush glazing.

However, you have to be careful when using this technique, because of a few of its disadvantages that may ruin your piece.

Disadvantages of Brush Glazing

Despite having complete control over the design elements that you can implement on your ceramics; some potters still avoid brush glazing. Here are some of the most significant disadvantages of this technique:

  • Unlike dip glazing, where you only need to make your glaze from powder, brushing glaze will require you to use a combination of DIY and commercial bottled glazes. It may cost more if you’re glazing a lot of ceramics, and you need to stock up on your supply.
  • When making your glaze from powder, you know what it contains, whereas bottled glazes are unknown. It can create adverse effects on your ceramics.
  • Brush glazing is a slow, meandering process. A brush-on glaze takes longer to dry than dipping. To get the best results when brushing, you need at least three coatings, and you should let the first coat dry out before applying the next layer. 

Conclusion

Brush glazing is more time consuming than dipping your pieces in the glaze, but it opens up different opportunities to create intricate designs. Seasoned potters use a combination of dipping and brushing to get the best finish with their ceramics.

Although it presents endless possibilities, brushing takes practice to perfect. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with brush glazing to use it in making your pieces look good.

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