How to Paint Terra Cotta Pots

Follow These Simple Steps For Long Lasting Outdoor Use

Maybe It Sounds Simple, But You’ve Got To Know How To Paint Terra Cotta Correctly If You Want Your Decorative Painting Efforts To Last

A few simple guidelines assure that your painted technique will continue to look attractive for years to come. And if you’re painting a garden art object … well, anything painted and left exposed to the elements can suffer premature aging and wear.

You’ll spend a good amount of time and effort painting your terra cotta accessory to look beautiful. Using or applying the wrong type paint or sealer can cause that accessory to look really sad in no time flat. Peeling or bubbling paint. Not a pretty sight and you’ll probably get irritated each time you look at it. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you!

It’s easy to be successful from the get-go. First, refer to the Terra Cotta Preparation Page to learn how to prep your object if it’s been used outside and is dirty. You definitely want to start with a clean surface.

I Like User Friendly Water-Based Acrylic Paint

Next, there are paint types to consider. I do not use oil-based paints as they are not necessary for the projects on my website, nor are they the easiest to use. What I use and recommend are water-based acrylic paints.

There are two types of acrylic paints: solvent-based and water-based. Solvent-based acrylics are soluble in mineral spirits. Water-based acrylic is water-soluble and very user friendly. Purchase water-based acrylic paint for easy soap-and-water clean-up. Water-based acrylic is what I use for all my paint projects.

Note: Acrylic paint doesn’t come out of clothes. If you get it on your clothing, wash immediately before it dries.

Water-based acrylic paint can be purchased in small 2 oz. bottles at craft stores, or if you’ve got a really large item to paint (or you just love the color and know you’ll be using a lot of it for other projects on-up-the-road) you can save money by purchasing quarts, even gallons at paint and “big-box” DIY stores.

Custom Colored Paints Are Readily Available

In case you aren’t aware, most stores with paint departments have the ability to scan just about anything you may bring to them to make a color match, such as a fabric swatch or colored photo. Hard to find colors that you really want to have on hand, and not have to try and mix yourself, are available from quart sizes on up.

I saw a beautiful purple-ish blue in a book that I couldn’t find in pre-mixed craft paints and knew I’d probably be using a lot of, so I took the book to the paint store, they scanned it for me and I left with a pretty darn good color match. I will say though, you ought to test out your new custom color before you dive into a painting project … sometimes the mixed paint color is not an exact match to the sample you had scanned.

For a little more money than basic acrylic craft paint, you can find paint that claims it’s especially formulated for superior water resistance and better adhesion in changing temperatures. “Patio Paint” is one brand name that comes to mind. I use regular water-based acrylic craft paint on my terra cotta pots and objects and have no problems.

Tips For A Long Lasting Finish

Let’s Make Sure Our Painted Pots Can Withstand The Outdoor Elements

So, how do you paint terra cotta for a good, long lasting finish? Here are some tips:

Once again, I’ll refer you to the Terra Cotta Preparation Page to make sure you’re starting off on the right foot. Then …

• Terra cotta pots should be painted on the inside. I highly suggest this. You can either paint the inside a solid color; the decorative technique you are doing on the outside; or as I often do, spray the inside with 2 coats of a clear acrylic sealer, like Krylon.

Not only does this help the painted finish on the pot’s outside resist peeling and bubbling from moisture coming through the pot’s interior, it also helps retain more moisture in the soil. I’m sure you know terra cotta is like a wick — it draws moisture out of the soil and into the pot itself.

• No matter what painted technique you choose for your object, keep in mind you should apply at least 2 – 3 coats of acrylic paint for best results.

• Make sure you finish up any project by sealing with 2 coats of a clear acrylic indoor/outdoor sealant such as Krylon spray. I personally use a spray sealer because it’s fast and easy.

Spar urethane sealers can be used — read the can — as some brands do cause a yellowing of any painted surface once the sealer is dry. It should be stated on the can that they dry clear. I have also used a urethane spray as a sealer coat with excellent results.

• Let your object dry thoroughly before placing outside or especially before planting. Many crafters will wait a few weeks. This can be especially important if it’s a container into which you will be putting soil.

• Applicators used to paint terra cotta needn’t be expensive. Whether it’s brushes, sponges, or whatever … you’ll find that moderately priced items will do the trick. Most of my brushes look rather sad and well-worn, but they apply the paint just fine. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, we’re doing craft projects, not fine art paintings! 🙂

So, there you have it. A good overview to bring you up to speed on all you need to consider on how to paint terra cotta. It’s easy. It’s not at all difficult.


  1. BirdyJane says:

    You don’t specify this but surely after cleaning the unpainted pots, they must thoroughly dry before applying anything to the surface.Or am I wrong, and there is no problem applying paint or primer or sealer to damp terra cotta?

  2. Claudia Brownlie says:

    Yes – you want your pots to be thoroughly dry before moving on to painting them.

  3. What happens if I already painted and potted my plants and the paint is now bubbling!?

Speak Your Mind


What is 10 + 24 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)