Paint inexpensive, plain ceramic mugs with a design from your imagination, a message or motif to make a loved one smile, or even to copy a set of overpriced mugs you might have admired in a store. Use the right tools and techniques, and plan your design in advance to make sure your crafty creations are long-lasting, useable and attractive.
Tools and Techniques
To produce durable, food-safe and dishwasher-safe painted ceramic mugs, use only ceramic paints and bake the painted mugs in the oven according to the paint manufacturer's directions. Ceramic paints are available in solvent-based and water-based formulas, and in bottles as well as paint pens. Other types of paints might be suitable for ceramics, and you can seal them with a ceramic sealant spray. However, these mugs should only be rinsed on the outside and washed by hand on the inside. If the paints do not state that they are food-safe, leave a 1- to 2-inch unpainted space around the rim to prevent contact with your mouth when you drink. Other tools you'll need to paint ceramic mugs include paintbrushes, sponges and cotton balls for applying paint; painter's tape and contact paper for stenciling; and tracing paper for transferring designs. Clean the ceramic mugs thoroughly with rubbing alcohol or paint thinner before you paint them.
Easy Geometric Patterns
Simple geometric shapes are easy to execute, even if you lack artistic skill, and they're very versatile and can be quite striking. Stripes, for example, can go horizontally around the mug, vertically, diagonally or in all directions. You can paint them freehand for an original look, or use tape for perfectly straight lines. They can be equally spaced or vary in width, and executed in many bright colors, a sophisticated metallic shine or in a single favorite color for a minimalist approach. Likewise, polka-dots couldn't be easier to paint, yet they give you a variety of design options depending on size, placement and color choice. Paint larger polka-dots and use a paint pen to doodle a different design inside each one. Triangles lined up around the base of a mug can become trees. Imperfect yellow stars on a swirled blue background are reminiscent of a van Gogh painting, while still being artistically achievable.
Mugs painted by children make thoughtful gifts for grandparents and a fun project for a rainy day. Help toddlers dip their palms in water-based ceramic paint -- which washes off easily with soap and water -- and press them against the side of a mug to create a hand print. You can write the child's name and the date under the print with a paint pen. Draw the trunk and branches of a tree on the mug with a pen, and have the children press their thumbprints along the branches as leaves. Older children can paint original designs directly onto the mugs. Otherwise, have them draw a design on paper and transfer the outlines to the mug with tracing paper. You can paint the outlines with a paint pen and have the kids fill in their images with colored paint.
Create a one-of-a-kind marbled mug in just a few minutes using solvent-based ceramic paints and a dish of water. Fill the dish with 2 to 5 inches of water, and drip one or more colors of paint on the surface. A few drops of each color will be sufficient. Trace a swirled design over the surface of the paints with a toothpick, and then immediately press a ceramic mug, bottom down, into the water. Remove the mug vertically and allow it to dry before baking. The swirls of paint will grab onto the sides of the mug and create a pretty marbled effect. Another way to achieve this look is to turn the mug upside down, squeeze ceramic paints directly from the bottle over the base to drip down the sides, and then blow gently through a straw in different directions to mingle the paints together. You can further blend the paints with a cotton ball.
Use chalkboard paint to make a mug that you can personalize as often as you wish with chalk messages, names and doodles. Buy chalkboard paint or make your own in any color by mixing ceramic paint with unsanded grout. Tape off the top inch or two of the mug, and either apply paint all over the rest of the outside of the mug, in the shape of a label or in a single wide stripe.
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