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Can You Paint Clay With Watercolor Paint?

We love sharing non-glaze ways to add color to your ceramic projects. Kids (adults, too) can easily use watercolor paints to paint their clay projects

clay fish and watercolor paint pallette after being painted.

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Why use watercolor paint on clay?

  • Easily can get in the textures or grooves with different colors
  • Easy clean-up
  • Kids are able to see actual colors unlike clay glaze that has to be fired to see the real results
  • You can use different watercolor techniques like dry brushing on clay projects.
  • Transparent colors can easily be layered to create a painterly effect (some real ceramic artists will even water down glazes to get this appearance)
  • You can seal it or add a protective shiny coat to give a fun appearance
  • Paint can easily cover the whole project. If painting the bottom of a clay piece, you won’t have to worry about it sticking to anything since the paint will soak in pretty quickly.
brush painting ceramic fish with watercolor paints.

Other Types of Paint to Consider

  • Tempera Paints
  • Acrylic Paints
  • Spray Paint
  • Alcohol Inks
  • Fabric Paint
  • Rub and Buff or Metallic Acrylic Paint

Can kids use watercolor paint on clay?

Absolutely. Watercolor paints are some of the easiest ways to get young children to paint. Children love to make their own choice of paint color with a watercolor palette.

Giving kids choices is part of the creative process. A watercolor palette is an easy way to give them creative freedom.

Proper Modeling A Must

For best results, you do need to teach children how to not get muddy colors. If you teach them the proper way to use the palette, the sky’s the limit.

brush using watercolor paints.

Liquid Watercolors Also Work Well

Either give them liquid watercolor for strong colors or just a simple watercolor paint palette. Using watercolor will save you the time and expense of using glazes. You can add different clear coats once their projects are done to still get that glassy look.

Check out these fun fluorescent liquid watercolors. We see endless possibilities with these fun colors!

Biggest Con

The cons are similar to when you use tempera paint or acrylic paint on clay. Watercolor paint is unlike some glazes because it is not food safe. You would only want to paint ceramic pieces that are for decorative purposes.

supplies used to paint clay projects with watercolor paint.

Recommended Supplies

  • Watercolor paint palette (Scholarly is fine for kids)
  • Paintbrushes in various sizes: We love these brushes when doing projects with children.
  • Clear coat: Spray Mod Podge can work really well!
  • Water container
  • Clay project (air dry or bisque fired clay)

Can you use watercolor on air dry clay?

You can use watercolor paint on air dry clay. It is just important that you do not wet the clay too much and that you seal it afterward.

Bisque-fired or unglazed ceramic pieces that have been in the kiln will work best for painting with watercolor due to having a porous clay surface. However, we know everyone does not have access to a kiln so don’t shy away from trying watercolor on air dry clay pieces.

Tips For Using Watercolor Paint On Clay

In this example, we will show you how we painted a clay pinch pot fish project using a scholastic watercolor paint palette and Mod Podge spray for a shiny effect. 

  • Bisque fire clay fish project.
  • When watercolor painting, teach children that it is okay to leave the white clay body showing. This really the only way to have something appear white if you are only using watercolor paints.
  • Have two water containers for dirty and clean water. This will help kids keep the colors cleaner and become muddy. We also like these water containers for painting with large groups of children because they have two sides. You just have to teach children to only fill the container halfway up.
  • Use washes of colors to make your textures stand out. Layering like colors can really give a fun painterly feel.
watercolor paint in the grooves of a clay fish art project.
  • Encourage children to explore textures. Paint and water mixture on their brushes will help all their sculpture details stand out.
zoomed in clay fish art project with texture and watercolor paint on it.
  • Add a generous amount of clear coat spray if you are wanting your ceramic piece to have a similar effect to a glazed clay piece.
watercolor painted clay fish spray with clear coat.

Are you looking for another fun way to add color to clay projects?

If you haven’t seen how to use oil pastels on clay, then you need to check that out next!

Watercolor Paint vs. Traditional Glazes

The two fish projects below were both made from white ceramic clay and bisque fired. The orange and yellow ceramic fish was glazed with Mayco Stroke and Coat and Amaco glazes.

The cool-colored fish was done with watercolor and sprayed with ultra-glossy Mod Podge. Both animal clay projects are very cool and kids would love creating.

different ways to add color to clay fish projects for kids.

Follow us on Pinterest for more free art and craft ideas!

clay fish lesson for kids painted with watercolor paint.

Related Ideas

Watercolor paint is a great solution for when you don’t have the time and money of traditional glaze. Have fun using a watercolor technique on your future clay items.

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