Whether you make pottery yourself or not, painting pottery is a creative and fun way to spend some time.
Do you have any boring mugs or plates in your cupboard? Then let’s give them a lick of paint!
I’ve collected a long list of pottery painting ideas that hopefully will give any new potter some inspiration on what to paint next.
Pottery painting ideas for mugs
Let’s start with some pottery painting ideas for your mugs. Since mugs are pretty small, it’s normally best to stick to a simple design. And almost nothing is more simple than polka dots.
Covering your mug with these dots is super easy and fast. So you can paint all your mugs in no time. You can try some big dots, smaller dots, colored dots, or stick to the classic black dots.
For a design that looks slightly less symmetric, you can transform your polka dots into cow spots as well.
If dots are not your thing, how about some lines? You could use straight lines that run parallel or perpendicular to easy other.
Or for a more chaotic design, you can cover the mug with randomly orientated zigzag lines.
If you are painting a mug for a loved one, you can paint a heart patterns as well and write that person’s name.
The last two mug painting ideas are a little more advanced. But if you have some painting experience, you can try to paint a mini landscape on your mug.
The first example below shows some highly simplified landscapes, but they look amazing. The difficult part is knowing how to break down a complex idea into simple shapes.
Or for a real challenge, you can try to draw a complete landscape as well. Of course, this is much more difficult. And you’ll need some special paint, since standard pottery paint doesn’t make these smooth gradations very well.
Pottery painting ideas for bowls
When painting a bowl you have a lot more space to work with. So you can make designs that are way more elaborate.
But if you just want to start with something simple, you can give one of the dotted patterns below a try. Of course, the much bigger polka dots are also still a great way to decorate mugs.
Another simple yet elegant way to paint your bowls is with one these swirls. Use a (very) big paint brush and your favorite color paint, place the brush in the center of the bowl, and slowly twist the bowl while raising the brush.
For a slightly more complex design, you can also go with a repeating geometric pattern. You can read our article on drawing patterns for plenty of patterns to choose from.
Below you can find another example of repeating patterns that are a little more complex.
A fun painting idea to try with kids is are these fruit bowls. You can paint your bowl as you favorite fruit such as lemon, lime, orange, watermelon, etc. Don’t forget that you want to paint both the inside and the outside for the best effect.
Although you can often find simple floral patterns on cups or bowl, you don’t see tree branches very often in western countries. So if you want a more eastern style bowl, this could be a good option.
And as the final bowl painting idea we have these cute characters that seems to be jumping out of the bowls. These are a little more difficult as the previous ideas, so you might want to try drawing a few of them on paper before moving to your bowl.
Pottery painting ideas for plates
Among all ceramics, plates are the easiest to paint. You can paint almost anything you want because most plates have little to no curvature.
Like always, you could use dots to paint some easy patterns. But if you don’t want to make a repeating pattern, how about painting this heart below made almost completely out of dots.
Of course, you don’t need to make a heat. You could paint anything you like by using these colors dots. This art style is called pointillism and has been popular for centuries.
You don’t have to cover the entire plate with a pattern. Sometimes less is more. Take these plates below as an example, half the plate is a solid color and the other half is decorated with a simple pattern using circles or lines.
One type of design that has always been popular in pottery painting are leaves and floral patterns. The simplest variation on this is to paint a single per plate and make sure every plate is decorated with a different type of leave.
Before you know it, you’ll have a whole set of painted plates!
Painting a repeating floral pattern is a little more tricky, but if you already have some painting and drawing experience you can give it a try.
Here are some more examples of some plates with nice floral paintings on them.
If you want a more eastern style painting, you can go with a branch of your favorite tree. Especially paintings of cherry blossom trees are very popular in Asian countries.
When painting your plates, you don’t always need to use a ton of colors. Black and white also works great.
Pottery painting ideas for vases
Vases have a lot of surface area, so you can make really detailed paintings if you want. I personally prefer to stick to the simpler designs though.
Take these three vases below as an example. Each vase is decorated with 3~4 colored bands. Simple yet effective.
Since you have a lot of space to work with, you can also combine different patterns and ideas. The vases below use bands or circles of solid color, and combine it with the dots seen in pointillism.
Of course, most vases are used to hold flowers. So it’s not that surprising to find a lot of flower patterns on painted vases.
Below you can see a Delftware inspired vases painted with the typical blue colors.
For a more minimalistic approach, you could give these line drawings a try as well. This works especially well on square shaped vases, because every side can be used for a new drawing.
You can also choose to fill up the entire surface with paint. In that case, I would recommend sticking to a relatively simple design. Complex patterns like the vases shown below look great, but it will take you forever to paint.
A clever and fast way to paint the entire vase is to use a really big repeating pattern. For example, the vase below uses overlapping leaves that are quite big.
Imagine how much longer it would take to paint this kind of design if the leaves were only half the size.
Pottery painting ideas for cups
Finally, we get to the section on painting cups. But now you probably already have quite a few ideas that you could try out.
Mugs and cups are of course quite similar. So any ideas from before you could use here as well and vice versa. But I just wanted to show a few ideas that I thought looked pretty neat and might be used on other ceramics as well.
First are these cups and teapot with a nice colorful and repeating flower pattern.
Next is this simple but cute painting of flowers and plants.
And finally, I love these more abstract paintings of leaves on both the cups and the teapot.
More pottery ideas!
You can never have too many new ideas. So if the 29 pottery painting ideas above weren’t exactly what you were looking for, you can also check out some of our other pottery ideas such as: