Thursday, May 29, 2014

China Painting

I have recently been exploring the world of china painting. I was first introduced by a friend, Jill Egan, who creates the most incredible designs on porcelain. I’d always thought it was an old fashioned technique, used for painting flowers on plates, but if you take a look at Jill’s work you will see it can be used to create contemporary designs and beautiful scenes.

Boxing Hares

Zentangle Pendant

I’m always looking for new techniques and ways to add another dimension to my work, and china painting hits the spot. It’s a huge subject, which I have only dipped a toe in to, but in a nutshell, china paint powder is ground and mixed into paint with a mixing medium 

The paint is then used to colour your fired and glazed work. 

Blank glazed cabochon

After painting

The piece is fired again to fuse the paint with the glaze and make it permanent and waterproof.

I’m not a very skilled painter, but I really enjoy painting simple designs on my beads. Usually, designs are painted in layers with a firing between each one, but I’m far too impatient for that, and I like the rough finish of the single layer of paint… I call it rustic!

Just a single colour can really make your designs pop!

While glaze painting is unpredictable, with china paints, the colour doesn't bleed, so you get a good idea of how your work is going to look before you fire it to make it permanent. You can use tools to wipe any paint away that gets where it shouldn't before you fire, and you can paint detailed lines and know that they are going to stay put.

The colours do change slightly once they’re fired and become a bit deeper and more glossy, so I’ve created a palette of all my colours from a cheap white plate.

It’s a fun technique to try out and can open up a whole world of design possibilities, but as with all ceramics related techniques, observe the proper health and safety rules. The powder is very fine and should not be inhaled or ingested, and your kiln should be properly vented while firing.

If you’d like to learn more about the tools and equipment needed for having a go, Jill has a blog with loads of helpful information. Here’s one of my favourite posts on how she does pen work to create her beautiful zentangle designs.

And here’s a little more inspiration to finish off…

Thanks for reading!



  1. What a lovely suprise I got when I read your blog this morning, thank you. Overglaze is a great way to add that something extra to your beads. It can be fine art but you can lso do simple techniques like sponging so there's something for everyone. If anyone has any questions I'm happy to help if I can. Thanks Caroline for making my day :0)

  2. Some great work here - I'm lucky enough to own a piece by Jo Luckstead...You've already inspired me to give this a go Caroline and I have my paints at the ready as soon as a spare moment arises. Great post - thank you.

  3. Send them all to me right now!!! I love the softness! And yes I think you are an amazing painter!!!!!!

  4. Interesting and intriguing. The detail you achieve is amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Curses you! Another thing I want to do! Ill admit - I thought it was too fiddley, now it seems rather straight forward. I do similar things with underglaze... I love what you have done! What cone?

    1. It's really straight forward Jenny, you should jump in and have a go! I fire to around 700oC (cone 18ish)

  6. These are beautiful, I wonder if if would work on lampwork beads?

  7. I hope you don't mind me jumping in here, yes it will work on glass beads, I have a tute on my blog. You have to use glass enamels though, which mature at a lower temperature so you don't melt your bead.

  8. Here's a link to make it easy it find, there's a pdf to download f you wish. In the USA Kathy Peterson of The Good Stuff might sell glass as well as overglaze enamels.

  9. Thank you for this post! I so want to do that! Next on my list he he.

  10. Thanks all glad you enjoyed the post! And thanks for jumping in Jill! :)

  11. What lovely work, I have some hand painted porcelaine of small animals etc that a friend painted many years ago, it was unusual to see even back then, it is so nice to find this old skill is being taken up and not allowed to die like so many others have. I have recently started painting on a different medium Polymer and really enjoy it!

  12. Hi Caroline, Your birds are so cute. I think this would be fun to do.

  13. Love! <3 Will definitely be trying this at some point, I love painting! Now have to save some pennies to invest in some materials, I can never just have a few colours, need them all! Can the powders be mixed to create your own colours?

  14. I knew nothing about China painting before. Great post, love the results!

  15. Gorgeous! It is a different look from the glaze, I love the layered effect. So many more options!

  16. Oh, I love that boxing hares-plate! :)
    I'm a big fan of bunnies/rabbits/hares ♥

  17. very inspiring...thanks for sharing


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