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How to Paint Greenware

Updated on May 28, 2014

Greenware is an unfired clay piece after it has been molded. It is very fragile, and the term comes from not the color itself (it's not actually green) but from the fact that it has not been fired, 'green'. Before you can paint greenware, it must be cleaned and all seam lines must be removed.

Things Needed:

  • Greenware, piece of unfired pottery
  • Scraping tool, such as an X-acto knife or scalpel
  • Insribing tool, if needed
  • Water, if needed
  • Sponge, if needed
  • Brushes, for both painting and brushing away fine dust
  • Nylon sock or very fine file or sandpaper, if needed
  • Paints and glazes
  • Pencil, when necessary


Take your casting and gently scrape along the seam lines to remove them. Do this in soft back and forth scraping motions so that the seam lines are not chipped. Very delicate pieces may be 'sanded' by lightly rubbing a nylon sock that has been placed over your finger. Larger pieces may require a gentle sanding with a fine paper.

Use a sponge that is very lightly wetted to smooth any lines that have been dug into the piece from scraping. Just rub it back and forth, gently, until the line is gone. The greenware will absorb moisture, so use as little water on the sponge as possible. Wetting it may not be necessary, and if it did get too wet, allow the piece to completely dry before continuing.

Since the greenware is so fragile, you can etch details on the piece. Use a finger, a stylus, an inscribing tool, or another sharp and pointy instrument, to gently and carefully add the details. Your initials or signature with date can be inscribed at this time on your piece, too. Clean any jagged edges to any openings on your piece. Sometimes cracks can form during firing if the edges are not cleaned and smoothed.

Using a gentle brush, remove all the dust that has formed by the scraping or filing. Any dust will by permanently on after firing.

After the piece is smoothed, you can begin to paint. For most applications, two to three coats of the paint will suffice, but allow the coats to completely dry before painting the next.

Fire the piece, which can be done at ceramic shops for you, then glaze it. A final fire for the piece after two to three coats of glaze renders the piece ready for display.


  • To keep track of all the coats when applying the first coatings of paint, make a line for each coat in an inconspicuous place not painted (like the bottom). This is helpful if you have several pieces and are doing them in different stages.
  • If you don't know exactly how many coats of paint or glaze your piece needs, ask the ceramic professional where you made your purchase; he or she should point you in the right direction.


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