Painting Clay Pots

Our ideas for painting clay pots for flowers, plants and gardens, and more... on this page.

Clay pots (or even plastic pots) are a popular craft item. Use these for yourself or to give with flower gifts, for a house plant, even an outdoor garden. Giving them along with a packet of flower seeds or a plant is always a hit too.

Tips on Painting Clay Pots

You can make the designs on them from basic to advanced. So these make excellent crafts for the elderly, resulting in a pleasing and satisfying item that can be kept, used as a decoration such as a centerpiece, or given as a gift or give-away. And if your group cannot use breakable clay pots, you can do the same painting process on nice plastic ones.

The easiest way to create your designs is to use a stencil template, such as a star, bird, duck, leaf, polka-dot circle, or heart, for instance. But we’re showing a sample here that can be painted free-hand very simply.

General Materials

  • 3-D paint in squirt bottle, formerly known as “puffy paint” (used to make the spiral flower centers and squiggles). Colors I used: white and blue
  • Acrylic paint, your choice of colors (I used Liquitex brand tube paint). Colors I used: white, medium blue, yellow, medium green
  • Clay pot with tray (any size)
  • Water based craft varnish
  • Small square of sponge, about 1 inch x 1 inch or so
  • Paint brushes, -- one with a wider round end; and one pointed
  • Plastic palette knife, if you are going to be mixing colors to make a new color
  • Plastic picnic plate to use as a palette
  • Rag
  • Water container
  • Paper towels

Painting A Base Coat

I first applied a base coat of paint over the whole pot and tray. However, some people prefer to keep the natural terra cotta color of the pot. (In this case, you’d skip the instructions for the base coat).

When painting clay pots, I think the easiest way to cover a surface quickly with a base coat is to sponge paint it on, as shown in the sample on the right, done in white.


Clay Pot Projects

Yellow and Blue Pot

For the flowered pot, I wanted my base coat to be light yellow, so I had to mix the paint to make a new shade. But you certainly can use the paint colors straight out of the tube or jar, if you want to.

On my plastic paper plate palette, I first squirted a blob of white paint about the size of a half dollar. Then about an inch away I squirted a dab of yellow, about the size of a dime.

 I wanted to mix the yellow in with the white to get pale yellow. Pick up a small amount of yellow on the palette knife, and mix it into the white... a little at a time, until you get the shade you want.

Using a palette knife is much like using a knife to frost a cake. When you get you shade, you’re ready to slightly dip in your moistened sponge square and start dabbing the paint onto the pot and tray, until it is all covered.

Let it dry. When painting clay pots, it's important to let each layer dry thoroughly. Then I also wanted a darker border around the top edges of both the pot and the tray. So I simply painted that on with a brush. Let it dry.

The Flowers

On my design, I have one small (on the upper edge) and two large flowers going down the side of the pot. Plus one on the tray. To make them, I first put a small dot of paint to mark where I wanted the center of each flower to be, so I got the spacing right.

Then I mixed my light blue paint (in the same manner as above) using white with a few dabs of medium blue mixed in. But again, you can use colors straight, instead of mixing colors with painting clay pots.

Dip the larger (slightly wet) brush into the paint and make a petal, starting at the far edge of the petal and drawing it in toward the flower center.

My flowers have about 8 petals. Then, using the side edge of the brush, dip it in green paint and make a few leaves at each flower. Let it all dry.

The Squiggles

Using the squirt bottle of 3-D paint, just squiggle on some wiggly lines going down on each side of the flowers. Then take the white paint and create a spiral for the middles.

On the tray, I made a simple scallop design. However, if it seems difficult to do, you can always just make a haphazard line of dots going all the way around.

The dots could also be squirted on with 3-D paint. Your design doesn’t have to be all perfect. Painting clay pots is supposed to look fresh and fun!

And voila – you have a lovely, colorful pot that you can use for artificial flowers or a real plant. Or fill it with packets of seeds and give it away as a gift, for someone to grow their own flowers. Or fill it with candy or treats when you give it away.

Finishing Coat

When everything is dry, apply a couple coats of water based craft varnish, drying between applications.

If you are painting clay pots right onto the original terra cotta surface without first making a colored base coat, then you only need to apply the varnish just over your designs.

Painting clay pots has many uses! There are more samples below as well. You can use your painted pots for such things as a bookend (even make a pair).

Bluebird Pot

Another good theme for painting clay pots is birds. The colorful pot shown can be done in whatever colors you like. The process is the same as other projects on this page. We have a template and more instructions on how to make this on our bird crafts page. (and other bird templates, if you prefer).

The branches are just jaggedy dark lines (marker or paint). Make them as simple as you'd like. I started the branches at the top left of the pot, then made them  go down diagonally. Just a few easy leaves and/or berries will do too.


Fiesta Pot

Fiesta painted clay pot

This bright and cheery pot is made very similarly as the yellow and blue project above, so I won't go into all the details here.

The paint colors  were bright yellow, blue, orange, hot pink, red, and green. A sponge-painted background was applied over the pot before making the flowers.

You'll see these flowers are very simple daisies. The center daisy has two layers, the back layer having been painted on first, and the top layer when dried. Along with some basic line stems, leaves, dots, squiggles,  and scallops on the tray, this make for an easy design.

You can also do this in any color scheme you'd like. As this is very sunny, it's a perfect craft for summer. Or for making a fiesta project. See how we use it in a centerpiece on our Make Fun and Affordable Centerpieces page.

Painted Pot Stands

I made a couple of strawberry “flowers” on short skewer sticks, with a bit of squirt frosting and sprinkles on top to give away (as shown in sample).

You can see that the pot is upside down in its dish (painted to match), so that the strawberries (or another decorative item like flowers) can stand up in the hole.

You can even give it away with a couple books. I've even turned mine upside down and used the hole for a slender taper candle holder. Depending on the size of your pot and its hole, you may have to carve out the bottom of the candle a bit though, to make it fit.

You can also use a little "sticky wax" that makes candles adhere to a surface. The sticky wax can be formed into a cup shape to better fit into the hole of the pot.

Holiday Pots

Painting clay pots is a perfect activity for just about any holiday or occasion. For example, a patriotic theme for the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Veteran's Day, or any patriotic occasion.

The patriotic pot to the right was made very simply with star stencils and a little 3-D paint for the squiggles. (See more patriotic themed crafts on our Fun 4thof July Crafts page).

Just switch out colors and designs for any holiday or season... greens and red for Christmas with a wreath or tree design; or blue and white with snowflakes. You get the idea.

Fall and Halloween are excellent seasons for painting clay pots, especially since terra cotta is a natural orange color -- one of the favorites for fall.

You really needn't even paint a colored base coat first. Just paint your design directly onto the pot, as done with the fall sample above.

The Cattail Pot

First, a simple round circle in a gold acrylic paint becomes the harvest moon. When dry, paint in dark brown over that basic cattails: lines and slender ovals for the tops, and a few curved leaves. The tray just has a simple rim of square dots, the width of the paint brush, applied in a loose and whimsical way.

See more fall crafts for the elderly (and for any age!) at the link.

The Halloween pot above is just as easy. Again, paint a loose circle in gold acrylic for the harvest moon. Over that, just a couple bats in black. The rims on the top of the pot and on the base, have easy stripe and line designs that are loosely and un-exactly applied with the width of the brush. Then just fill it with foliage, or a thick pillar candle.

See more fun and easy Halloween crafts at the link. We also have a bat pattern on that page.

And how about this...
We found this spectacular garden sculpture made all out of a variety of clay pots. There were lengths of rope run through the centers of the pots, sometimes with knots along the way, to string many of them together.

Do you think you could tackle something like this? Maybe a group effort - even a smaller one. Very cool!

Clay Pot Characters

Clay pots now come in all sizes, including mini sizes just for crafts. You can use your imagination to assemble the various kinds into creatures, characters and dolls of all types.

The black mouse to the right is perched upon a wrapped piece of cheese. It's made from a mini clay pot and Styrofoam ball that I first painted black, It's tail is made from a shoelace (the plastic end easily pokes into the styro with a little glue too). The ears are of felt, and added to the face are googly eyes and candy (or bead) nose.

Also check out our book -  Easy Crafts and Gifts and find out about lots more easy yet quality craft ideas (including lots more about painting clay pots, and crafts with clay pots). Plus a booklet of FREE templates to use for your projects. Two books for one!


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