How to Paint Acrylic on Ceramic Figurines

Step-by-step example of figurine painting

When I start to paint a figurine for myself, I generally don't have a clear idea of the end product, but I let it evolve. I really liked this figure for her sassy attitude and knowing look, and I wanted to use my favorite colors: purple, green and orange.There's not a wrong way to paint with acrylics.  

My usual method is to block in colors, often metallic ones for myself since I like sparkly things, and then overlay with glaze, dry brush or antiquing...a thin wash that is wiped off the high spots to accent the grooves and bring out the highlights.

Most of this is painted straight from the bottle, with the layers creating the mix. I did use some medium in the black glaze to make it transparent without being runny, but the rest was thinned with water.

I use a nylon #2 round for most painting, and a #0 script liner for face details.Generally speaking, it's best to use the largest brush you can manage for more painting time and less loading of brush.

I hope this will give you some ideas for how to paint acrylic on ceramics. 

Witch bisque figure painted in acrylic

bisque ceramic witch with skull and cat in an Adirondack chair. Her face and hands are sealed with clear varnish. Next time, I'll use a bit of color in it and not paint her skin.
bisque ceramic witch with skull and cat in an Adirondack chair. Her face and hands are sealed with clear varnish. Next time, I'll use a bit of color in it and not paint her skin.
I painted the chair first with a flat coat for later antiquing and dry brush. I painted the skull with pearl white, hoping to get a crystal effect--hard to do with ceramic.
I painted the chair first with a flat coat for later antiquing and dry brush. I painted the skull with pearl white, hoping to get a crystal effect--hard to do with ceramic.
The next step was to block in some loud blue, green and orange for the dress, scarf,  and shoes that would be dry-brushed later.
The next step was to block in some loud blue, green and orange for the dress, scarf, and shoes that would be dry-brushed later.
Then I brushed purple over the blue, which gives a shimmering effect, more than with one metallic color alone. I decided to go green on her face and hands, the typical hag look.
Then I brushed purple over the blue, which gives a shimmering effect, more than with one metallic color alone. I decided to go green on her face and hands, the typical hag look.
I made a glaze of metallic black to brush over the purple-blue, partly for traditional coloring and partly to make the other colors stand out more. I dry brushed other colors on top of the black glaze until it looked almost like patchwork.
I made a glaze of metallic black to brush over the purple-blue, partly for traditional coloring and partly to make the other colors stand out more. I dry brushed other colors on top of the black glaze until it looked almost like patchwork.
She was looking good, but I just didn't like the metallic effect on her face--she looked too mean. She was cute, but her expression didn't show.
She was looking good, but I just didn't like the metallic effect on her face--she looked too mean. She was cute, but her expression didn't show.
I painted over the metallic with a flat peach tone, and changed her scarf to green to separate it from her hair and to match her striped hose. I made her hair purple rather than red, and darkened it quite a lot.
I painted over the metallic with a flat peach tone, and changed her scarf to green to separate it from her hair and to match her striped hose. I made her hair purple rather than red, and darkened it quite a lot.
Then I added face detail, makeup, warts and all. She's a happy girl--a dead ringer for Phyllis Diller.
Then I added face detail, makeup, warts and all. She's a happy girl--a dead ringer for Phyllis Diller.
Finished witch painted with Folk Art craft paints.
Finished witch painted with Folk Art craft paints.
Most figurines have little detail on the back side, but this one is pretty well rounded.
Most figurines have little detail on the back side, but this one is pretty well rounded.

Comments 4 comments

SVallie 6 years ago

This is a great piece. I just started doing this sort of work myself. I was wondering if you sell your pieces or if you do it for personal pleasure? I have considered selling my pieces [some of which you can see on my site].


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charlottebabb 6 years ago from Spartanburg Author

@SVallie,

It takes me too long to paint to make selling worthwhile--I don't like giving my work away. I also don't like painting the same thing over and over. So when I did sell some of my work in the ceramics shop where I bought the bisque pieces or in craft shows, I found that people wanted to pay me what I paid for the bisque.

Your mileage may vary. Good luck to you and happy painting!


Frankie 9 months ago

I started out first airbrushing and in painting bisque. That's been about 13 years ago and more and that didn't change much from what you're talking about. Now the problem is the price of shipping. Even when you try to buy bisque on line the prices can be up to $25 just for shipping one piece and when you add the shipping along with the price of the figurine you have to charge so much to even recoup your cost and people don't want to pay it unless you are an artist that is well known or famous or unique. I am just starting to get back in it with a few pieces and was shocked on the price of especially shipping. I question 1 seller who was selling a figurine and was charging $66 for the shipping. She said she didn't know why it was showing that unless it was putting in an overnight charge for shipping and she changed it back down to 23 or $25. Boy I sure hope I'm not making a mistake! I am hoping it goes well for you too! This is a true experience my mom and dad my husband and I were at a craft fair where you were in tents outside and after we set up there was some people in a tent next to us and he said when he came over to introduce himself he said you're not going to do well. And I asked him why and he said because he used to bring his sister in law along with them and set up her own separate booth alongside of them and she never made any money. And you know what he was right since most people want to just only pay garage sale prices. It's a shame they don't realize how much work goes into painting not a junkie piece, where they slap on paint but a very detailed difficult painting. I finally met a woman with a lot of money and she took a liking to my painting and bought most of my stuff which I have now seen ingest unpainted bisque and I thought wow, I saw them or so much less than they were worth now. Take care and wish you well!


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charlottebabb 9 months ago from Spartanburg Author

Thank you for your kind words.

I haven't tried selling or shipping any of my ceramic work lately. It's out of fashion for one thing, and the people who used to have these things mostly painted them themselves, as they do now at local come-and-paint-party shops.

Shipping is expensive, especially if you want to make sure that the item does not get broken along the way. I do some etsy things, but mostly lightweight crafts.

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