How to Use China Paints 5 Outdated Rules

Want to learn to paint china and porcelain? Don't get hung up on these misconceptions.

China painting has been around for a long, long time and while some of the techniques and supplies used are the same, there is some outdated information floating around. We're going to clear up 5 misconceptions about china painting today.

Outdated Rule 1: China paints are fired at cone 019 and cone 018.

The powdered china paints that are on the market today can take the heat a lot better than the paints from twenty plus years ago.  Rarely do I fire below cone 017. And I wouldn't dream of firing below 018.  It's too cool and the paint will not fuse well with the glaze. Most of the time I fire at cones 015 and 016. Gold and lusters I go 017. There are a few sensitive iron colors that I keep at 017 soaking for 15 to 20 minutes to get them to shine and sink in.

If your china paints can't handle the heat of 017, in my opinion you need to find better paints.  They are out there.

Outdated Rule 2: Your work should be sanded between fires.

Nope, fire hotter or check that your paints are clean and mixed properly. The paints today are much less grainy and shouldn't feel gritty on the surface of the china. If they do either there is dirt in your paint that fired in and you need to mix clean paint. Your kiln may need to be vacuumed, or you didn't fire hot enough for the paint to sink properly into the glaze of the porcelain. 

Outdated Rule 3: Turpentine has to be used to thin paints and clean brushes.

Wrong again.  There are painting medium recipes with all sorts or oils and even water based mediums to use for thinning and mixing your paints. Can you use turpentine? Yep, but it wouldn't be my suggestion as many people have allergic reactions to it.  Turpentine also dries way too quick for many painting techniques. To clean my brushes I use Turpenoid Natural. A good rule or thumb, use a product that cleans your type of medium (oil vs water based) and is gentle on the brush and you.

Outdated Rule 4: China paint colors should never be mixed.

This one kills me. It is just plain false. I mean how do they make the different paint colors that we buy? They mix the paints. So obviously this is possible.

As artists we want to mix our colors. It's in our nature. Do some china paints react with one another in a not so pleasing way? Yes, but this is limited to some yellows mixed with iron colors and using cadmium colors. I brush mix my colors and mix powdered paint to create different colors all the time and don't have issues. I also test fire my colors to eliminate surprises. Can you mix all of the colors? No, but most of them you can. 

Outdated Rule 5: Your first fire has to be a very light coat of paint.

This seems like a waste of a kiln fire to me. There are plenty of porcelain artists out there who create one fire paintings with rich deep colors and depth. Really light work using a lot of oil is typically a telltale sign of a beginner who is afraid to get some paint on the brush. Believe me I know that was me when I started.

Now I'm not suggesting that you paint super heavy like impasto or anything.  But don't be afraid to get some color on there.  Just make sure you fire hot so the paint sinks in and doesn't chip off.

The piece in the photo below is an example of me breaking all 5 of the outdated rules mentioned above. I painted this porcelain cup with one color (a custom mix of paints that I created) and one fire at cone 016. I didn't need to sand it and didn't use any turpentine.

Glad we got that cleared up.  I hope this was helpful to you.

Do you have questions about china painting? Have a comment? And of course if you or someone you know might be interested in learning how to paint porcelain please contact me

Until next time....

Peace, love, and cookies :)

Angela Wisler 


1 Response

Marcia Crossman

Marcia Crossman

March 15, 2022

Hi Angels. Your 5 Rules article was very helpful. Especially the one about not using enough paint. Thanks for taking the time to compose it. Marcia Crossman

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