At any craft store you’ll find a huge variety of terra cotta. You know, the rust-colored, heavy, clay pots many people like to paint and decorate. When choosing a terra cotta pot it’s a wise idea to look it over to make sure it’s in perfect condition. Many people know to check for cracks or chips but those aren’t the only issues with clay pots. Run the palm of your hand over the entire outside of the pot to make sure there are no burs, bumps or other flaws. A granule bump in the exterior of the pot can mean all the difference in how the finished piece turns out. These bump flaws can seem insignificant when you purchase the terra cotta, but after painted, can stand out like a sore thumb. There can be granules on the bottom of the pot; that’s okay.
Terra cotta pots are sold alongside the saucers which are made to sit under the pot. These saucers act as a bowl under the pot to catch water draining from a plant or flower contained in the pot. As you water the plant excess water runs onto the saucer. If you plan to use the pot for a plant, you’ll want this saucer, but if you’re using the clay pot for a different purpose you might want to do without the saucer. Some people think the saucer comes with the pot but that’s not true. The saucers are sold separately from the clay pots.
Any time you buy terra cotta you can be looking at pots that are dusty or that have tiny granules of terra cotta which have been knocked off of damaged pots and are clinging to the pot you’ve chosen. Some of this is not noticeable until you take a cloth to wipe it. It’s important that you clean the pot well to have the best surface on which to paint. Run a sink full of really hot water and set all the terra cotta pieces in it for a few minutes. It’s best if you do without any type of soaps or cleaners. Remove the pots, rinse and allow to dry. Depending upon the conditions at your house, and the size of the pot, it can sometimes take days to dry completely.
When you’re sure the pot is completely dry you can begin painting it. Use regular artists’ acrylic paint. Choosing the wrong paint can mean that your design will peel away in no time or that the paint can bubble on the surface of the terra cotta. Apply one coat, allow to dry, then paint once again. It’s up to you if you want to paint the inside or bottom of the pot.
After the paint is dry you can choose the method you want to decorate it. Use rub-on appliques, stencils and paint markers, or even use decoupage adhesive to attach a paper image. When you have completed the design, no matter what mediums you used, spray a coat of clear lacquer on the pot to protect the images. The finished pots can sit indoors or outdoors and the designs will last for many years.