Technique of the week is Shading, more specifically, bringing out the detail in a piece.

Acrylic Stains

Byron 1912 Holly Hobby Doll with Quilt AmericanaThere are two ways of “shading” or bringing out the detail on a piece.

Here we see a blue cap and skirt. It is painted with a light blue, then shaded by adding a thinned dark blue, and wiping it back with a cloth so that it remains in the detail.

A similar effect could be achieved by painting the dark blue first, then drybrushing the light blue horizontally over the detail, To drybrush, use a stiff brush and make sure there is very little paint on the brush. Dab excess paint onto a paper towel or brown bag.

Usually one prefers the darker color in the detail. So paint light & wash dark OR paint dark & drybrush light.

Below we see a Santa beard painted white and washed with grey.
The Mill at the right was painted dark and drybrushed light. Notice that the shadows are all darker.

When sewing with my embroidery machine, I noticed that the best-looking patterns were the ones that used three shades of a color. For example a flower painted pink, washed or shadowed with rose, and drybrushed with light pink. Whether to do both depends on the effect you want and the amount of time you want to put into it.


If you think of a cartoon as a coloring-book picture, you don’t see shading within each section. To detail, simply outline and add detail with a liner brush, usually loaded with black.


Fashenhues is a technique where you base coat, then antique with a dark brown, and finally add the color. In other words, the shadows are painted first. There is another post on Fashenhues.


Both of these pieces were “antiqued” with a dark color. Notice the white background. If you want a light blue background on the cup, you need to paint and fire it before antiquing, Otherwise the background color would come off.


This is a term usually applied to painting detailed designs with underglazes. It can be done on bisque and glazed later, or done on unfired true matte glaze before firing. This technique is called majolica.

The leaves in the holly wreath were painted by fully loading the brush with light green, then side-loading in a medium green. When brushing, the darker green was kept to the outside of the leaves. Then a third, darker color, was used to outline and vein the leaves. This was painted on a white matte glaze.

The daisy eggs were painted on colors. Rather than double loading the brush, a light color was pulled in for the petal, then a medium color 2/3 of the way from center, then a dark color 1/3 of the way. Each color overlaps the one before.  Leaves were painted by double loading greens on the brush.


Some glazes are designed to fill in the detail as can be seen in these pieces. Look for “semi-translucent” or “semi-opaque” on the jar. Opaque glazes will tend to cover up the detail.


Shading is just one form of detailing. You can add facial features and add patterns to fabrics, even make a plain base into a flagstone walk. You can add specialty paints such as metallics, snow, and glitter. Also, accessories such as ribbons, bells, and jewels. The only limit is your imagination. The fine detailing is what makes a piece really special.

Carols Carousel Creations
Where having Fun is why we come!

So finish up those Christmas gifts… then
come learn some new techniques in the new year.


Here’s a thought —
why not give a gift certificate
to a friend or family member.

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
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