How to Paint a Bright and Shiny Finish on Terracotta Pots

Brightly colored, glazed terracotta pots are really pretty, but they also tend to be a bit spendy. If filling your patio with glazed containers is not in your budget, don't fret. You can create a bright and shiny glazed look by painting unglazed terracotta with acrylic paints. Here are some tips for doing it.

Set up a work area in a well-ventilated space, ideally outdoors. Clean used pots and allow them to dry before painting. Spray the inside of the pot with pottery sealant. Let dry for 24 hours.

Using the foam brushes, paint the pot with a coat of acrylic paint. Let the paint dry for one hour. If brush strokes are evident, lightly sand the entire surface of the pot with 150 grit fine sandpaper, being careful not to actually remove the paint, and then wipe it clean.

Paint additional coats as needed to create an even, smooth finish. Darker paints typically need two to three coats, while lighter colors often require four or five coats. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying another. Optional: Paint a 3-inch band on the inside rim of the pot so it matches the outside.

To paint stripes on your pot, first paint the pot with two to three coats of a base color. Then use blue painter's tape to mask off stripes, being sure to firmly adhere the tape to the pot. Paint the stripes an alternate color. Allow the paint to fully dry before carefully peeling off the tape.

For circles, cut out a square of contact paper that is twice the size of the dot you want. Draw a circle in the center of the square, leaving at least 1/2 inch of space around the circle. Cut out the circle with an X-acto knife. Peel off the backing of the contact paper and stick the square to the side of the pot. Paint the circle an alternate color. Allow the paint to fully dry, then peel off the square of contact paper to reveal your polka dot.

Give the pot a shinier finish by applying three to four thin coats of clear acrylic gloss. Hold the spray can 12 inches away from the pot. Spray in a sweeping motion starting with one side of the pot, then continue spraying across the pot and off the other side. Let each coat dry for 1/2 hour before applying the next.


If you want to paint a used container, clean it first by scrubbing the outside of the pot with a stiff wire brush to remove salt buildup, moss and grime. Use a bottle brush and water to remove soil clinging to the inside of the pot. Then rinse the entire pot with water. Bring the pot inside and allow it to dry completely before painting.


I don't plant edibles in these pots because the pottery sealant smells so toxic. If you want to plant edibles inside painted pots, buy a plastic liner and plant the edibles inside the plastic liner, then put the liner inside the pot.

Things You'll Need

  • Terracotta pots
  • Pottery sealant spray
  • 1- and 2-inch wide foam brushes
  • Indoor/outdoor acrylic paint
  • UV-Resistant, clear, glossy acrylic spray
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About the Author

Willi Evans Galloway loves to read, write, talk about, and teach people how to garden organically and grow their own food. For the past five years, she has worked as the West Coast Editor of Organic Gardening magazine. Willi also recently created, a site that serves up gardening and cooking inspiration. Willi lives in Seattle with her husband, four pet chickens, a lawn-destroying labrador, and way too many tomato plants.