Glazing is a means to add colors to your pottery. It adds a touch of finesse to pottery pieces, giving them vibrant colors, eye-catching textures, and a smooth finish. Another fun part of the pottery-making process and there are many ways to apply glazes, some trickier than others.
So what are the different ways to glaze pottery? Typically, there are nine ways to apply glazes. These include dipping, dripping or pouring, brushing, spraying, splattering, stippling, sponging, glaze trailing, and glazing with wax resist.
Of course, you’re not bound to use these methods to achieve good results; potters who have mastered glazing art use hundreds of different techniques. These are just practical methods that give you the best results. Follow along as I familiarize you with these methods and the results they would produce.
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This is the easiest way to cover pottery in glaze and is very popular among amateur potters and experienced ones alike. If the glaze is finely sieved, dipping will give a smooth result and a fine texture.
Dipping has two practical applications. It can either be used to get the base layer done before decoration, in which case you may need to dip two times. Or applying a solid color that won’t be decorated on, in which case you may have to dip more than twice until your glaze has the thickness of a T-Shirt.
Just like other methods, you’ll have to start by properly mixing your glaze, sieving it, and stirring it again. Make sure the glaze’s consistency is right. Thinner glazes are better for dipping. Every product has a different consistency, so read the directions and follow them carefully.
Beginners should always test the glaze consistency on small pottery pieces like tiles. If the sample turns out perfect, use that consistency, and note it down for future uses. Discard the sample, so you don’t mix it with others.
There are a few tools you need to glaze pottery by dipping to make it easier for you. You need a bucket and mixer in which you can mix the glaze and a pair of tongs that’ll help you hold the piece.
Here’s a basic dipping method:
Before glazing, always clean your pottery with a clean damp sponge. I never skip this step.
- Start by grabbing the pottery piece with tongs. Place your tongs on the strongest area of your piece where you can place it into the glaze like a ladle (serving spoon). Make sure your grip is firm.
- Now slowly lower the object into the glaze, without causing any bubbles to form and without splashing. Don’t plunge into the glaze directly. If it’s a bowl or mug, move it like a ladle. If it’s a vase that can dip in one go, dip it base first. Dip for 3-5 seconds and then remove vertically. If it’s a bowl, pour the glaze out like a ladle.
- Once an object has been removed, shake it a little and make sure no excess glaze remains. Dry the base until it loses the wet sheen and then set the object down.
- If there are inaccuracies, drip marks, or tong marks, use a Q-tip, soft blending brush, or a very soft sponge and go over those parts lightly. All marks show up after firing, so get rid of the ones you don’t want.
For more information on Glaze dipping check out Dip Glazing Tips Tools And Ideas to help you get the best results.
Dripping or Pouring
This is a fantastic technique that can be used to cover the pottery piece with a layer of glaze and decorating. Dripping is usually associated with decorating while pouring, covering the whole piece in a solid-colored layer. But practically, dripping and pouring are the same methods, involving pouring of glaze on your pottery.
We’ll divide the guide into two parts. Firstly, achieving a single or base layer by pouring.
- You should start by glazing the interiors. Pour glaze into the pottery piece and let it sit inside for about 4 seconds.
- Quickly pour the glaze back into the bucket. Most of the interior surface would’ve absorbed the glaze, and you’ll see an even layer.
Moving on to the exterior layer:
- Fill a cup or small bowl with glaze. Holding the base of your pottery, pour the glaze all around until it’s covered.
- Turn your piece as you pour. Make Sure the piece is covered on all sides.
- Let it dry. You’ll notice a very smooth texture. You can get rid of extra drips with Q-tips or soft sponge.
Now let’s move onto decorating with dripping
It’s pretty similar, except you’re not trying to cover the whole piece. Once you have a base layer of glaze, either by Pouring, Dipping, Brushing, or Spraying, you can start dripping.
- Pick a contrasting colored glaze and fill it in the squeezable bottle. Squeeze along the rim of the piece, enough, so it reaches less than half-way through where you want the drips to end and let gravity take care of it.
- Dripping gives an eye-catching texture, especially if there are contrasting colors. You can make different dripped layers by doing multiple glazes.
- The dripping effect can also be achieved by brushing or dipping glaze on the rim. The glaze label will say either; creates separation, flows, breaks, or floats. These are glazes that move when fired and drip down your pottery.
Brushing is yet another method that can be used for both the base layer and decorating. Most brushing glazes are formulated to use on bisque ware. You can use glaze on greenware, but that can get tricky, especially for beginner potters. The organic material in the clay has not burned off yet. This can cause problems with the glaze as the gases from the clay to try to escape.
Picking the right brushes is also very important. Large flat brushes are good for bigger pieces. Small, round-tip brushes are best for patterns.
To help avoid streaking, it’s always best to use soft-haired brushes. Chinese brushes are good for the base layer and cause the least streakiness. For more information on glaze brushes, check out my Best Glaze Brushes page.
The brushing process itself is very simple:
- Load the brush with a good amount of glaze. You will want the glaze to flow off your brush onto your pottery.
- Try going over an area in a single sweep. Avoid correcting again and again as it can cause streakiness. Streakiness doesn’t matter when creating patterns.
- Once the first layer dries, go over again. This time in another direction. For example; If your first coat is horizontal, make the next coat vertical. You will want to apply 3 coats.
To read more about Brush glazing, check out How to Brush Glaze Pottery – Tips, Tools, And Ideas.
Spraying is another popular way of glazing pottery. It requires a spray gun or air gun and can be used to apply whole layers as well as decorating. You also need a banding wheel to rotate the pottery when you’re spraying as you can’t move your spray gun around too much.
Spraying is generally better for applying the base layer as designing with it can be difficult compared to methods like brushing, dripping, trailing, etc. It can create interesting textures when decorated with, but it doesn’t produce the finesse other methods can do.
Spraying may not be good for creating patterns, but it works well for creating gradient effects. You can also make desert, sea, and fog effects using the spray method. Spraying differently colored layers also looks pretty cool.
Here’s our guide on applying a glaze layer by spraying:
- Start by properly mixing the glaze. Only a well-blended glaze produces ideal results regardless of the technique. Once you’ve mixed the glaze, pass it through a sieve and then mix it again. You can use an electric mixer to make the job easier. Mixing glaze also helps get the right consistency. The glaze shouldn’t be too thick that it doesn’t pass through the nozzle, but not too thin that it streaks.
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- Place the pottery on a banding wheel. Keep the Banding Wheel rotating and hold the spray gun steady while you are spraying. If you need both the outside and inside of your pottery glazed, do the inside first. By doing so, you won’t have to touch the glazed part or leave any marks. You can do it by pouring, brushing, or spraying.
- Make sure to properly clean the nozzle after every two layers of glaze application. If you’re layering with different colors, clean the nozzle after each layer. Warm water works well for cleaning the nozzle.
- Wait before applying another layer. Your glaze will look much better if the first layer is completely dry before you apply the second. If you spray on a wet layer, colors can mix, and the top layer can peel.
- Don’t wipe wet glaze. Any mistake you make can be dealt with once it’s dry. Smudging just makes it worse. Use sandpaper or some cleaning tool to delicately remove drips and thick spots.
- Keep a check on the thickness of each glaze layer. No layer should be too thicker or too thinner than the thickness of a simple t-shirt. You can check the thickness of a glaze layer with your fingernail.
Check out my How to Spray Glaze Pottery article to help get a nice smooth coat with the spray glaze technique.
Splattering is another fun way to apply your glaze. The application is mainly used with a stiff brush. Splattering is a really easy process to get spore-like splatters of glaze or streak patterns.
Here’s a basic technique of spattering glaze:
- Dip the bristles in the glaze. A small amount of glaze for small splatters. Load up your brush for larger effects.
- Hold the brush near the site that needs to be splattered. 3 to 6 inches is good.
- Pull your thumb or a blade across the bristles. It would be good to practice on scrap paper first. This way, you will know how far away and hard you want to flick your brush. Also, how much glaze you want on your brush.
- Move the bristles towards the work at some points and away at other points to get more inaccuracy. What you’re trying to do is bending the bristle and letting it spring back, which releases some amount of glaze.
- This results in an uneven splatter. It may look unpleasant at first, but it gives a great texture and abstract look once you’re done.
You can decorate your pottery pieces through splattering with a single-color base layer then splatter the glaze of contrasting colors. Multiple vibrant colors on white look amazing. Gold, silver and white look beautiful in black and dark blue. Black splatter looks great on solid yellow, red, green, and white.
Another fun way to splatter is to slap the brush right on your pottery. This also gives a cool abstract look to your pottery.
This technique is the application of glaze by the tip of a soft brush. Stippling should be considered when a shading effect is needed, or you want to apply the glaze in a broken, bush-like texture. The ideal tool for stippling is the Duo Fiber Stippling Brush
Perhaps the most important technique you need to know when stippling is that you have to pick up little amounts of glaze on the tip of the brush. Glaze runs out and doesn’t give texture when the brush is overloaded.
Holding the brush vertically helps get a more stippling texture. Using colored underglazes for stippling makes the job much easier. You can then apply a coat of clear or slightly hued glaze.
Here are four simple steps that you can follow to stipple your pottery with glaze;
- Trace the whole pattern you want to draw on your pottery. Don’t just draw the stippling outline.
- Apply a coat of the base underglazes. If it’s a tile, you can add multiple colors. If it’s a pot, you might want to fire between layers.
- Grab a stippling brush and use a darker color than the base layer. Guide the brush using your thumb and forefinger. Angle the brush towards yourself and Pounce color onto the pottery piece using up-down motion.
- Outline the piece with a round-tip liner brush. Then apply a clear glaze layer (if you used underglaze) or overglaze layer (if you used basic glaze).
Using sponges as a medium of applying glaze can produce interesting textures. Both synthetic and natural brushes can be used for this. Sponges easily soak the glaze and help apply it to the pottery work quite fast.
Sponges can be used to create repeat patterns, like the ones around the edges of dinnerware plates, and create simple patterns quickly, like flowers, bushes, leaves, clouds, etc. Synthetic sponges have an advantage over natural sponges because they can be cut to create a particular shape or pattern.
The patterns you’re trying to make also affect the kind of sponge you need. Fine-grained sponges can create intricate patterns. Larger, firmer, and rougher sponges can be used to cover a large area. It’s possible to produce depth in the decorative patterns by overlaying the sponge marks with another layer.
Sponges are generally used to create patterns on already glazed pottery. However, you can use a sponge to make a base layer to create a cool texture for your pottery.
Make sure the sponge is damp before soaking it with glaze and test the glazed sponge on a piece of paper or plastic to see the amount of glaze and pattern it will make on your pottery.
To extend the lifespan of your sponges, properly wash them after each use. You can find out more about this great technique, check out Sponge Glazing | Tips Tools And Ideas to get more sponge glazing ideas.
Glazing trailing is a technique of making glaze-on-glaze and glaze-on-clay artworks by drawing. Glaze trailing is used to produce natural and abstract artworks on pottery pieces.
Glaze trailing requires a tool such as a slip trailer, which is a small, squeezable bottle that has an aperture tip.
The process is pretty simple, and all you have to do is fill the tool or dip it in glaze and start creating the pattern you want. Make the pattern on a piece of paper, so you have a reference to follow, making the task a bit easier.
Glaze trailing is easy for people who have done slip trailing. The only major difference is that slip-trailed lines rise while glaze-trailed lines melt into the surface. Because of this, you should always use contrasting colors for glaze trailing on a glaze base. You can test color combinations on sample pieces.
The process of glaze trailing can be a little tricky. Glaze-on-glaze trailing is a bit harder than glaze-on-clay. It may take a couple of tries to properly learn this technique. When you get the hang of it, you’ll enjoy this masterful way to decorate.
Read more about the glaze trailing in this article What Is Glaze Trailing Pottery | Glazing Tips and Ideas for more detailed information on this fun way to decorate your pottery. It will also help you to come up with different ways you could glaze trail.
Wax Resist and Glazing
Glazes can be applied in conjunction with wax-resist yielding great results. The actual purpose of a wax-resist is to repel glazes and underglazes. So in whichever part you apply wax resist, glaze won’t adhere to it.
Knowing this, you can get creative and use wax-resist in multiple ways. You can make inside-out designs, where you design using wax-resist and color the whole piece with glazes. Let them dry and then wipe with a soft cloth or sponge. The glaze will come right off the areas where you applied wax resist, showing a beautiful pattern.
You can make outlines with wax-resist to separate parts of the pottery, applying glaze, letting it dry, and wiping the unadhered glaze off. Apply wax-resist over an already dried and fired glaze design to protect it from the next glaze layer. You can also apply wax resist over an unfired glaze base, scratching through it, creating a design, and applying a different colored glaze.
You should always sketch your design on paper before applying a pattern. Wax-resist is an unforgiving material, so trial and error should be minimum. If you’re not confident, use a stencil.
Using a wax-resist that contains color will also help you to know where you have applied it. The clear wax-resist can get tricky. You can use different brushes to apply wax resist, but never use those brushes for glazes.
But perhaps the most popular use of wax-resist is to protect the bottom of pottery from the glaze. An even coat of wax-resist on the bottom of pottery will prevent dripped glaze from adhering to the base and can be wiped to give you a clean finish.
Here’s how you can do it in 6 simple steps:
- Grab a spare brush and dip it in the wax-resist. You can also buy several different size brushes for wax-resist ONLY. It’s good to have several sizes for the area you want to cover.
- Coat the base of the pottery piece evenly, not leaving a single spot. You can move the brush in any direction.
- If you feel your glaze will run, you can also apply wax-resist about 0.25 inches up on all sides. Apply to any area you don’t want your glaze to be.
- Let the wax-resist dry. Wax coats repel themselves, so only one coat is necessary.
- Now apply your glaze. Wipe all the glaze specs that have run down to the wax-resisted area with a clean damp sponge.
- The Wax resist will burn off in the kiln. If an error is made with wax-resist before you applied the glaze, you can save your piece by bisque firing it again and starting over.
Head on over to this article What Is Wax Resist in Pottery Used For to get more detailed information on its uses.
This article discussed The Nine Most Common Ways of Glazing Pottery; dipping, dripping, brushing, spraying, stippling, spattering, sponging, glaze trailing, and using glaze along with wax resist.
To help you apply any or all of these glazing techniques check out Ultimate Pottery Glazing Tools & Supplies Guide
Dipping is useful when you need a single layer to cover the whole piece. Glaze trailing, sponging, stippling, and spattering are useful when you want to decorate the piece. Brushing, spraying, and dripping are useful in both cases. Wax resist is different from all of these. It protects the parts that don’t need a glaze on.
Some of these techniques are harder than others. All of them give different results and textures. The method you choose to glaze your pottery ultimately depends upon how you want to decorate your pottery. No matter which way you choose, you will always create a unique piece of pottery.
Don’t forget the most important part of pottery glazing read 27 Glazing Tips for the chances of your glazing success rate going way up