Slip Techniques for Painting With Clay

Written by kim blakesley Google
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Slip Techniques for Painting With Clay
Clay pot with texture ring (clay pots image by Andrey Ivanov from

Slip, a mixture of clay and water, connects two pieces of clay when constructing a clay item. You can use slip to decorate the outside or face of the item using the technique of painting on the slip. The slip is painted onto the surface in several different ways. Each application has a unique name and style.


Slip painting involves applying slip to the outside of a wet or leather hard clay item. This is one of the oldest techniques for applying slip. You can do slip painting with a paint brush, sponge, rag, crinkled paper and fingers. Slip consistency ranges very thin to thick. The opening of the application determines the thickness of the slip. Fine detail to complete coverage is attainable. It is important to allow the piece to dry slowly so the clip does not crack or flake.

Slip Tailing

Slip tailing is the process of applying slip to the face of a clay item using a container that has an opening such as a squeeze bottle or turkey baster. You must use wet or leather hard clay projects for this process. Slip tailing designs include dots, lines, zigzags and other patterns. Shake, turn or flip the clay item to achieve runs and swirls of slip on the clay object. Another variation is drawing an item through the slip and pull it across the surface of the piece. Use slip that is made from fine clay to avoid clogging the nozzle.

Terra Sigillata

Paint a very thin coat of slip over the entire surface of a bone dry piece of greenware to begin the terra sigillata technique. Burnish the entire surface after the slip has dried and again after the piece has been fired. The result creates a smooth soft surface on the clay item. This is an ancient Greek technique that is still used today.


Apply resist to the surface of either a wet or leather hard clay object. The resist will prevent the slip from sticking in a particular area. You can use any of the slip painting techniques in this process. The slip will not adhere to the areas with the resist. It will dry and fall off. The resist will then burn off the exposed areas during firing. Resists to use include wax resist, paper resist, and masking tape.

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