How to Paint Cups With Acrylic Paint

Updated April 17, 2017

Cups or mugs are not only useful but make great gifts, keepsakes and souvenirs. That's why personalising or customising a ceramic cup or mug can be a fun project. You can make a set of cups to use for coffee every morning, or give them away to friends and family members. When you paint cups yourself, you add a personal touch that will not only make the finished result beautiful, but meaningful as well.

Choose your cups. They should be unfired ceramics, commonly called greenware. This means they have never been heated in a kiln. Acrylic paint will not adhere to fired ceramics, nor can acrylic paint be fired in a kiln. Choose sturdy pieces so they can withstand use without being fired.

Choose your paint. At a craft or pottery store, choose acrylic paints that are specially designed for use on unfired ceramics. You can also find these online if you prefer.

Clean the cups thoroughly. Using a damp (but not wet) cloth, clean any particles left on the cups, including pottery crumbs or residue. Greenware is rougher than fired pottery, so be thorough.

Prepare your work station. While the cups air dry, line a tabletop or counter with newspaper. Set out your paint and brushes.

Stencil your designs. Using a stencil cut-out or drawing freehand, mark the cup with your pattern or design with a pencil.

Paint your cups. Using your paint and paintbrush, fill in your pencil markings with colour, being careful to cover the drawing. Let the cups dry overnight.

Cover the cups with a coat of paint-on or spray acrylic sealant. Be liberal, as acrylic paint has a tendency to peel off ceramics. The sealant will help create a protective barrier between the paint and outside air and liquids.


Be liberal with the amount of paint you use. Acrylic paint can wear and peel, so more is generally better when using it on pottery.


Never put your acrylic-painted cups in an oven or dishwasher. The heat and water can ruin the paint. Don't let unfired cups soak in water. Clean them quickly with water and then immediately dry them.

Things You'll Need

  • Unfired cups or mugs
  • Damp cloth
  • Pencil
  • Stencils (optional)
  • Acrylic paint suitable for pottery and ceramics
  • Paint brushes (various sizes)
  • Clear acrylic sealant
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About the Author

Kristen Radford Price began writing in 2005 for her campus newspaper. She has served as a feature writer for the life-and-style section of the "Daily Herald," a contributor to "Utah Valley Weekly," an editor for a small publishing house and now as director of communications for an Internet company. Radford has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brigham Young University.