Ceramic Paints — Non-fired

Ceramic Paints are of two types: Fired and Non-fired.  We are Certified Duncan Teachers and use mainly Duncan products in our studio. Today’s post addresses the non-fired products.

Non-fired paints

These are acrylic stains that are applied to bisque and finished with a clear coat, usually sprayed on but there are also brush-on sealers. The sprays used in our studio provide a high-gloss finish. Use several light coats if preparing a piece for outdoor use. (Drips and runs are caused by spraying on too much at one time.) We also have a matt finish, both spray and brush on. Use spray-on sealers in a well-ventilated area. Take outside if possible (careful of the temperature), or use the spray booth with a fan or air cleaner running.

duncan stainDuncan has a large selection of water-based opaque stains in two-ounce bottles. One coat is usually sufficient. If streaky or if covering over a darker color, you may need a second coat. If trying to cover a dark color with yellow, first cover with white, then paint the yellow. When using reds, you may need several coats for good coverage. Reds in all media are a bit more tricky to use than other colors.

Use Taklon brushes or other inexpensive brushes for stains. Save your good natural bristle brushes for fired products.

Duncan Acrylic Stains

Painting Boxes and Figures

If you are painting boxes, make sure to paint the background color first. To me this is just common sense, but I recall a session where one person painted the flowers on her heart ornament and everyone else copied her since she appeared to know what she was doing. It was much more difficult to paint the background later, needing to go around all the flowers and leaves. If you do it first, just paint the entire piece, the flower colors will cover when you do them.

I usually find it easiest to paint figures as you would dress: skin tones first, and then clothing in layers as you would put them on. You can go back and touch up colors when finished. It is a waste of time to touch up as you go.


There are several ways to bring out the detail in your pieces when using stains: antiquing, lining, double-loading, floating, and dry brushing

  • Antiquing

small raccoon figure (CC)Paint the entire piece with whatever colors you choose. When finished, paint on a darker color (usually brown) that has been thinned to a wash, and wipe back with a soft rag or paper towel, doing a small area at a time. When we started ceramics in 1970 this is how everyone did it. It still works today and is a quick and easy way to bring out detail, especially in animals such as a rabbit. Some manufacturers have special products for antiquing, often oil-based. But you can use regular paints, just don’t let them sit too long before wiping back. On this raccoon we used brown to antique the animal and a darker green to antique the grass.

  • Lining

Mickey Mouse MC CCThis is where you use a liner brush and outline each section of the piece; between colors, seams, creases, etc. I sometimes use lining to bring out details such as shirt collars that are not otherwise easily seen. I always line cartoon figures. If you think about it, cartoons are made first with a black-and-white coloring-book picture, and then the colors are filled in. We do not shade or add texture to cartoon figures or they would not look natural.


  • Double-loading

rosy brown faceThis technique is used frequently with fired products such as Concepts. First load your brush with the basic color and then run just the side of your brush through a darker shade of the same color. Blend on a tile before painting. If you keep the printed side of your brush up when loading you will always know when the darker paint is located. Paint with the darker side in the details and along the edges of the area you are painting. This technique is taught in the Faces of the World brochure for painting various skin tones. You need to be careful to only load a very small amount of the shadow color. The shading on faces goes along the hairline, collar, under the nose, eyes, etc. think of where the shadows should be.

  • Floating

Old Woman blueThis technique is similar to double-loading, but instead of using two colors you use water. First load your brush fully with water, then side-load with color and blend on a tile. I sometimes use this method for shading where I have already painted a solid color. Say I want to shade between the legs on a pain of jeans, this works well and gives a Hummel-like effect to the piece. Each colored area is shaded with a corresponding darker shade of the same color throughout the piece. This Old Woman shows a combination of lining on the hat and neckline and floating on the dress.

  • Dry-brushing

essentials-iv-flower-bowl-dry-brush-cc-jaws.jpgWith this technique you start with a dark color and then add multiple layers of lightening colors until you achieve the desired effect. This technique is especially useful on pieces with lots of texture such as animal feathers or fun. You put a very small amount of color into a stiff brush that has not been put in water. Then you wipe most of that color off onto a paper bag, coffee filter, or absorbent paper towel. When applying to the piece you go perpendicular to the detail groves in the piece. This leaves darker color in the groves as shadows, and lighter colors on the surface. This technique is also used to add blush to the cheeks of figurines and dolls. The flower bowl shown here was used in Essentials to teach the dry-brushing technique.

All non-fired products are for decorative use only and are not food safe. The only exception is if you clear glaze the inside of a vase, decanter, or cookie jar and stain the outside. Non-fired finishes can be rinsed off with water and dried. Do not soak or put in the dishwasher.

Carol’s Carousel
Where having Fun is why we come!

More next time on non-fired products:
Granite Stones & Fashenhues

About carolscarouselcreations

I am a retired math teacher. My jusband and I have been pouring, cleaning, firing, and painting ceramics since 1970 and have been teaching since 1972. We are both Duncan certified and members of IADCCT (International Association of Duncan Certified Caramic Teachers) and MVCT (Mahoning Valley Ceramic Teachers), a local chapter in North East Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. We have a home studio where we teach Technique Workshops and have Open Class time. We also have a party van which we take to local nursing homes. A new addition in 2020 is our online Facebook Live classes/demonstrations. We have two Etsy stores AfAfKidsNFriends for our African-American pieces and CarolsCarouselShoppe for our carousels. Find us on Facebook at CarolsCarouselCreations or send us an email to CarolsCarouselCreations@gmail.com
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