Ideas for Painting Clay Pots

    by Ann Hudson

    About the Author

    Ann Hudson is a freelance writer who began her writing career working for a small community newspaper. While there, her work as a feature writer and a weekly columnist were honored. Hudson holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. She has been writing for more than 30 years.


    Painting clay pots is the kind of craft that can be adapted to fit a variety of skill levels. Basic terracotta pots can be decorated with paint using intricate folk art techniques or by utilizing the simplest tools and methods. Even small children can get involved in this type of project. Whether simple or detailed, brightly painted clay pots can add pizazz to any container garden or floral display.


    The supplies that are required for a project of this nature are very basic and inexpensive. In addition to a clay pot in the desired size, basic supplies include acrylic craft paint, a small detail paint brush, larger craft brushes and polyurethane finish. Other supplies will vary depending on what type of decorative painting is planned and may include sponges, paper towels, stencils, a small turntable, masking tape and a black permanent marker.

    Simple Techniques

    Some simple ideas for painting clay pots might include sponge painting or adding basic stripes using a turntable or lazy Susan. Sponge painting simply involves dipping one end of a small sponge into paint, dabbing off the excess paint on a paper towel, and dotting the pot with the sponge either randomly or in a pattern. You also can create a checkered pattern using small square sponges. Only one color or a combination of colors should be used.
    You can add stripes to your clay pot simply and quickly by placing the pot in the center of a turntable or lazy Susan and holding a loaded paint brush against the pot while slowly spinning the turntable. The stripes can be wide or narrow, solid or broken or a combination of choices. There is really no wrong way to accomplish these simple painting techniques.

    Higher Skill Level

    More intricate decorations can be created using stencils or folk art designs. Creating a stencil design takes a little patience and a reasonably steady hand. The stencil can be attached to the pot in the desired place using masking tape. A stencil brush or sponge that is lightly loaded with paint can be used to apply the paint inside of the stencil and out to the edge of the stencil opening.
    There are many sources of folk art or tole painting designs. These designs can be applied to the pot freehand with a permanent marker and painted using the appropriate tole painting techniques. Books that feature folk art and tole painting ideas will generally take the artist through a step-by-step process.


    If the clay pot will be used outside, it's a good idea to apply some kind of sealer once the paint is completely dry. This can be done by brushing on a clear polyurethane finish. To insure a uniform finish, the entire outside of the pot should be covered. A sponge brush can be used to avoid leaving behind any telltale brush marks. There also are spray-on polyurethane finishes that dry quickly and smoothly.