How to Paint Cups With Acrylic Paint


Cups or mugs are not only useful but make great gifts, keepsakes and souvenirs. That's why personalizing or customizing a ceramic cup or mug can be a fun project. You can make a set of cups to use for coffee every morning, or give them away to friends and family members. When you paint cups yourself, you add a personal touch that will not only make the finished result beautiful, but meaningful as well.

Things You'll Need

  • Unfired cups or mugs
  • Damp cloth
  • Pencil
  • Stencils (optional)
  • Acrylic paint suitable for pottery and ceramics
  • Paint brushes (various sizes)
  • Clear acrylic sealant
  • Choose your cups. They should be unfired ceramics, commonly called greenware. This means they have never been heated in a kiln. Acrylic paint will not adhere to fired ceramics, nor can acrylic paint be fired in a kiln. Choose sturdy pieces so they can withstand use without being fired.

  • Choose your paint. At a craft or pottery store, choose acrylic paints that are specially designed for use on unfired ceramics. You can also find these online if you prefer.

  • Clean the cups thoroughly. Using a damp (but not wet) cloth, clean any particles left on the cups, including pottery crumbs or residue. Greenware is rougher than fired pottery, so be thorough.

  • Prepare your work station. While the cups air dry, line a tabletop or counter with newspaper. Set out your paint and brushes.

  • Stencil your designs. Using a stencil cut-out or drawing freehand, mark the cup with your pattern or design with a pencil.

  • Paint your cups. Using your paint and paintbrush, fill in your pencil markings with color, being careful to cover the drawing. Let the cups dry overnight.

  • Cover the cups with a coat of paint-on or spray acrylic sealant. Be liberal, as acrylic paint has a tendency to peel off ceramics. The sealant will help create a protective barrier between the paint and outside air and liquids.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be liberal with the amount of paint you use. Acrylic paint can wear and peel, so more is generally better when using it on pottery.
  • Never put your acrylic-painted cups in an oven or dishwasher. The heat and water can ruin the paint.
  • Don't let unfired cups soak in water. Clean them quickly with water and then immediately dry them.

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  • Photo Credit Cups image by Dominik Tischner from
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