Painting terracotta pots is a fun way to add color to your home and garden, or to give someone a thoughtful handmade personalized gift.
The best part is that you can do whatever your creative mind thinks up. The options and possibilities for decorating them are endless. Plus this is a budget-friendly project for you or the kids.
In this tutorial you’ll learn what type of paint to use, how to prepare your terracotta pots beforehand for the best results, and how to seal them afterward so your design will last as long as possible.
What Kind Of Paint To Use On Terracotta Pots
I’ve used either acrylics or regular spray paint on my clay pots, and they both work great. In my experience, if you choose to use acrylics then it’s best to seal the pot, or the paint will probably blister or peel.
- Acrylics – These are the easiest to work with and most precise, and you can use regular paint brushes or your fingers to apply them.
- Spray paint – This tends to create a stronger bond on terracotta pots, works great as a base layer, and you can easily use stencils to spray on your design.
How To Prepare Terracotta Pots For Painting
The first thing to do before painting your terracotta pots is clean them, even if they are brand new. If there’s any sticky, oily, or powdery residue on the clay, the paint may look lumpy or it might not stick in some spots. Here are tips for prepping them:
- Brand new pots – If you’re going to paint brand new clay pots, wash them with soap and water, and scrub them with either a cleaning brush or a pot brush to remove any oil or powder first.
- Used pots – If you want to paint old, previously used clay pots, you need to remove all of the caked on dirt and grime first. So be sure to take an extra 20-30 minutes to follow my tutorial for how to clean terracotta pots.
- Ensure they are dry – After washing them, you should make sure the pots are COMPLETELY dry before painting them. Terracotta clay soaks up moisture, so it may take a day or two for them to dry. You can set them in the sun to help speed up the process.
Do You Need To Seal Terracotta Pots Before Painting?
You do not need to seal your clay pots before painting them, this is an optional step. It depends on how you want your finished product to look, and how long you want the paint to last. Here are your 3 options:
1. Waterproofing – Using a waterproofing sealer will help the paint last the longest, but it will also affect the breathability of the clay. This means that the terracotta will not wick moisture away like untreated pots do, so the soil won’t dry out as quickly.
2. Priming – Rather than sealing them, you could use a water-based paint primer instead. It won’t completely seal the pot, which will allow the clay to breath better. Primer can also help the paint last longer, but your pots will still get the aged look over time.
3. Skip it – The easiest option of course is to simply skip this step and leave your terracotta pots untreated. This is great if you want them to get that nice aged look faster, or if you don’t care about the longevity of the paint.
How To Paint Terracotta Pots Step By Step
Ok, now let’s jump into the steps for painting terracotta pots. Figure out your design and then gather everything you need ahead of time to speed things up.
- Clean terracotta pots, sealed or unsealed
- Foam sponge brushes
- OR regular paint brushes
- Assorted acrylic paint colors
- Drip cloth or newspaper
- Paint pallet or paper plate
- Water (optional)
- Decorations (optional)
- Spray sealer (matte or glossy – optional)
Steps For Painting Clay Pots
Total Time: 30-90 minutes (not including dry time)
Step 1: Set up your workspace – Lay down a drop cloth or spread out some newspaper over your workspace. This will protect the surface of your table from any accidental drips, and also help to keep the pots clean while the paint dries.
Step 2: Thin the base layer paint (optional) – If your pot is unsealed and you would like to apply a base layer before adding your design, then thin your acrylic paint with a little water first.
Unsealed terracotta tends to soak up the paint very quickly, and thinning it for the first layer makes it much easier to spread it on quickly and evenly using a foam sponge brush.
PRO TIP: You don’t need to paint the very bottom of your pot or the entire inside, since nobody will see those once you have a plant in there. But you might want to paint the top inch or two of the inside rim that won’t be covered by soil.
Step 3: Finish your base coat – Use non-thinned paint to finish applying the rest of your base coats until you achieve the opacity and color that you like.
The exact number of coats you use on your pot will depend on the color and quality of your paint, and whether or not you want the terracotta showing through.
You don’t have to wait for the paint to dry completely between coats. But it should be at least 75% of the way there before you add another layer. It can be tacky or sticky to the touch, but not wet.
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Step 4: Decorate your pots (optional) – This is where the project gets really fun. From using stencils or hand-painting a pretty design, to gluing on cute accessories – there are tons of things you could do to jazz up your pots.
Then I cut out some vinyl letters using my Cricut machine (a hobby/craft machine that cuts materials like paper, leather, and more) and glued those on too.
Step 5: Let them dry – Once you’re done painting and decorating them, it’s very important that you let your terracotta pots dry completely before moving to the next step. They should not feel sticky or tacky at all.
This might take longer than you think, so give them at least 24 hours before you decide they are dry. The thicker the paint, the longer it will take.
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Step 6: Seal the paint (optional) – It’s a good idea to seal your painted terracotta pot once it’s dry so your design will last longer, and it won’t easily chip or scratch.
I used a matte spray to preserve mine, but you could use one with a glossy finish if you like the shiny look better. Spray the pot according to the directions on the can, and be sure to cover your entire design.
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Share your tips or ideas for painting terracotta pots in the comments section below.