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Finishing Your Ceramics with Chalks
by Dolores Swaldi [c] 2004

When it comes to finishing your ceramic items you have a myriad of techniques that you can apply to produce many different finishes to your piece. The choices are endless and only limited by your imagination. We have many techniques to share; some have been passed down throughout the years, while some we have learned through experimentation. All are wonderful and when used in conjunction with each other; can produce some amazing results. From time to time we will be covering these techniques in amongst our other articles. Today we have chosen to spend some time covering the basics of finishing your item with chalks.


Chalks or "pastels" as they are sometimes called are an alternate way to finish a ceramic piece. When used they give a soft and subtle shading instead of the intense colors produced when using acrylic stains. They are inexpensive and may be purchased in individual plastic containers or with sticks of all colors together in one box. Because the colors tend to intermingle when using a bundled box we prefer to purchase all of our chalks individually.


Before you begin with this technique you must plan ahead. Think of what look you are trying to achieve. Image how the item will look in different color schemes. When you do finally start remember that this technique requires some patience, it sometimes takes many applications to achieve the look you had envisioned before you began.


The first step before you can begin chalking is to base coat your piece with a soft light color. White, soft yellow, tan, flesh, or peach are all good colors to start with. Each one will produce a different hue to the finished product. After you have base coated your item the next step is to antique your piece with walnut, brown, or pecan sparkle oil based translucent. Wipe it back well to remove most of the antiquing. (A good way to control the level of antiquing and prevent your piece from becoming to dark is to spray your item with porcelain spray sealer letting it dry thoroughly before wiping down your item with the translucent stain). Now comes the fun part.


You may use a worn down paint brush, a q-tip, an eye make-up applicator, or even your finger as a tool to apply your chalk. Rub your tool over your color choice and then apply it directly to the ceramic. You only need to rub gently to adhere the color to the piece. Keep applying color until you reach the desired intensity. If the tool you are using is not depositing enough color try a different one. When you reach the desired color on the area, blow off all of the extra chalk that has accumulated in places where it is not wanted. Now before you proceed onto your next color you must spray the area you have just chalked with either porcelain or super matte sealer to prevent the chalk from wiping off while you work on other areas. Allow the spray to dry thoroughly before proceeding to the next area.


Continue applying color and blowing off the excess, then spraying to seal until the entire piece is finished. At this point we like to dry brush any flesh areas with native flesh. We then paint in the eyes using stains. If the item is a figurine we then use coral red chalk to accent the cheeks and lips.


This process is time consuming but well worth the effort when you finally see your finished product. We have many other techniques to cover so please check back for future articles or sign up for our free newsletter and never miss an article.

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