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How to Paint Clay Pots for Planters

By Julie Hampton ; Updated September 21, 2017

Clay pots do not have to stay a rusty terra cotta color forever. Pots can custom match an interior’s color palette or theme by simply adding different colors and designs. Craft stores carry a broad range of materials that can be used to transform the ordinary clay pot. Decorating clay pots is a simple afternoon project. Use the pots to spruce up a room, front porch or give as them as a gift.

Clean the clay pot by scrubbing off any dirt and debris. Soak the pot in water for about 1 hour. Air dry the pot for about one day---the pot should not be cool to the touch, indicating the clay is still moist inside.

Use a clear polyurethane spray paint and spray the inside of the pot. Do not spray the very bottom of the pot. Mask off with tape if necessary to avoid overspray. Use two to three coats to ensure the interior clay is well coated. Remember, clay is an absorbent material and may absorb the first polyurethane coat.

Paint the outer portion of the pot. Apply an even basecoat using two to three layers of paint. Use a foam brush to quickly apply the paint. Do not cover the bottom of the pot with color; the plant will need to drain water through the clay and drainage holes.

Add a variety of decorative paint techniques using latex or craft paint. Use small, round sponges to create polka dots. Mix dark brown or black paint with glaze—a 1:4 ratio, and lightly brush onto the pot, and wipe back off, for an antique look. Add a very quick coat of a second color—while the second color is still white, wipe through it with a wallpaper brush to create a linen look. Create the look either vertically or horizontally. Use artists brushes or paint markers to add creative designs. Glue on buttons, metal charms and even rocks. A wide variety of decorative paint techniques can be implemented on any clay pot.

Lightly spray two to three coats of polyurethane onto the pot when finished. Allow the clear coat to dry between layers. Avoid spraying heavily to avoid the clear coat from turning hazy and dripping. Again, avoid painting the bottom of the pot.


Things You Will Need

  • Clay pot
  • Clear polyurethane spray paint
  • Painter's tape or masking tape
  • Foam brush or paint brush
  • Latex or craft paint in an assortment of colors
  • Sponges, artists' brushes, wallpaper brush and other paint tools


  • If painting the pot's saucer, only paint the outside surface that is visible. Do not paint the bottom of the saucer, or the inside of the saucer to allow for drainage.
  • Paint made especially for clay pots can be purchased at many craft stores. However, latex paint will also work well.

About the Author


Julie Hampton has worked as a professional freelance writer since 1999 for various newspapers and websites including "The Florida Sun" and "Pensacola News Journal." She served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and nurse for over six years and recently worked as the Community Relations Director for a health center. Hampton studied journalism and communications at the University of West Florida.