10 Beautiful Brushwork Ideas for Ceramics

Brushworks on ceramics

The Spruce / Sara D'Souza

There are many different unique and beautiful decorating ideas and techniques for using brushwork on ceramics. By learning a few, you can easily liven up your pottery and take them from a basic piece to something more customized and meaningful. Below, see 10 ideas for adding a little extra something to your pottery.

  • 01 of 10

    Ancient Anasazi Technique

    Brushwork ideas for ceramics
    Buddy Mays / Getty images

    The Anasazi (meaning "ancient ones") period stretched roughly between 200 A.D. to 1300 A.D. and was found in parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. The pots were hand-built (usually using a coiling technique) with rough clay and grog from the earth. Post building, a slip was painted on and the ware was burnished (polished until smooth), and then marked with iconic Anasazi shapes and lines. Some potters still use a very traditional process for creating Anasazi style pieces by using paint made from a bee plant and brushes made out of yucca leaves to decorate the ceramics. You can of course also use a black underglaze to create your patterns.

  • 02 of 10

    Brushworks After a Bisque Firing

    Beautiful brushwork ideas for ceramics
    @sampadagurung / Instagram

    Potter and illustrator Sampada Gurung combines her skills by painting her brilliant illustrations onto her ceramics. For these brooches, she makes the ceramic shapes and bisque fires them, then uses a fine brush to paint on her characters and their expressions with underglazes. The next layer to go on is a transparent glaze before she puts them in a high firing. The transparent glaze gives a shiny finish.

  • 03 of 10

    Brushworks Before a Bisque Firing

    Beautiful brushworks ideas for ceramics
    @bridge.pottery / Instagram

    Potter Bridget Browne created these beautiful wares from a studio in London and uses brushes for her glazing. Bridget uses a different process from Sampada, as she paints her underglazes on when the pots are at the greenware stage (leather hard; before it's gone through a bisque firing). Sometimes she uses a pencil to mark out where she wants the glaze spots to go. Note that pencil marks burn off in the kiln during firing, so you won't see them afterward. Bridget then paints her transparent glaze on after the bisque firing and fires the ware again.

  • 04 of 10

    Personalized Plates Using Brushwork

    Beautiful brushworks ideas for ceramics
    Joanne Kernan

    Talented potter and illustrator Joanne K, from the blog Pompadour Press, combines the two mediums in her series of personalized pet bowls and plates. Joanne hand shapes the pieces from pure porcelain and then bisque fires them. She then hand paints her artwork onto the ware, using a series of different colored underglazes and a fine paintbrush. Here the beautiful brushstrokes are clearly visible. The final stage is a coat of transparent glaze before firing. 

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Full Brush Painted Underglaze

    Beautiful brushworks ideas for ceramics
    The Spruce / Sara D'Souza

    As a general rule, most underglazes fire a very similar color to the one you see them in the pot, and when brushed onto a bisque ware the colors can have a lovely painted effect, where you can see the brushstrokes. These bowls were roughly painted with an underglaze using a wooden-handled Hake brush with three coats of underglaze, followed by two layers of transparent glaze. 

  • 06 of 10

    Brushworks and the Wheel

    Beautiful brushwork ideas for ceramics
    Danita Delimont / Getty images

    The wheel isn't just used for creating pottery; it can also be used to help glaze your wares too. The biggest benefit of using a brush to glaze on a wheel is consistency and an even coverage. Dipping a ware in a bucket of glaze sometimes results in drips down the side of the piece or marks where you've been holding it. 

    Place your bisque-fired ware on the wheel (plates are a great place to start with this glazing technique) and center it. Then decant some of your glaze into a pot and pick your brush. A flat wide Hake brush (one where the bristles are soft and dense) works well. Load the brush and set the wheel at a gentle speed. After each turn of the wheel, move your brush slowly from the rim of the plate to its center, ensuring the entire plate is covered.

    If you don't want to keep dipping the brush in a glaze pot, you can fill a large syringe with your preferred glaze and keep it close to your brush on the pot or plate, evenly depositing glaze as the wheel spins.   

  • 07 of 10

    Small Details With Brushworks

    Beautiful brushwork ideas for ceramics
    The Spruce / Sara D'Souza

    Sometimes the devil really is in the details. And this is where using a tiny brush can be really helpful. These small bowls were hand-built using stoneware and then bisque fired. For the glazing, a green underglaze was used to paint the horseshoes. Once the horseshoes were dry, the whole ware was dipped in a white glaze.

    Note that you should separate out the glaze you need first, so as not to mix any underglaze in the full glaze bucket.

  • 08 of 10

    Splatter Technique With Brushes

    Beautiful brushwork ideas for ceramics
    The Spruce / Sara D'Souza

    A different technique to using brushes in ceramics is to splatter them onto your ware. This plate was dipped into a bucket of green glaze (after a bisque firing). A paintbrush was used to flick spots of oxide onto the plate when it was dry before firing. The result is an interesting take on splatter ware. 

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Easy Ways to Start With Brush Glazes

    Beautiful brushwork ideas for ceramics
    Ruth Jenkinson / Getty images

    It can be daunting to know where to start when you're looking at decorating your ceramic pieces and a great place to experiment with that is on a tile. Make a series of test tiles, (four inches by four inches is a standard size to cut them). Test out your brushwork from shapes to patterns. These test tiles are a great way to see how the color of your underglaze fires, and if they turn out well, can be used for coasters for mugs. 

  • 10 of 10

    Brushworks and Stencils

    Beautiful brushworks on ceramics
    Debby Lewis-Harrison / Getty images

    If you're not as confident with free-hand painting, then a stencil is a great option. Either hand-paint the main body of the bisqued (or greenware) pot or dip it in a regular glaze and wait until it's completely dry. Then take your stencil and use a brush to apply the underglaze colors of your choice. A transparent glaze applied before the final firing on top will protect the ware and give a high shine.