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Sgraffito Pottery Technique Step-by-step Tutorial

Manta Ray sgraffito ceramic bowl

How is Sgraffito is Created on Pottery

Sgraffito (in Italian "to scratch") is a decorating pottery technique produced by applying layers of color or colors (underglazes or colored slips) to leather hard pottery and then scratching off parts of the layer(s) to create contrasting images, patterns and texture and reveal the clay color underneath.

The layer(s) of color can be underglazes or colored slips. Below is an example of one technique and what can be achieved.

Tools and Materials

Tools: Wire stylus or loop tools or mini ribbon sculpting tools (Kemper Tools is a good source). Use rubber shapers or wooden tools to clean fine lines from debris. When complete, clean thoroughly with a dry brush.

Clay: Make sure the clay item is leather-hard and not too dry but hard enough to hold shape when pressure is applied.

Wire stylus tool: where to buy
kemper wire stylus sgraffito tool

Mini ribbon sculpturing tool
mini ribbon sculpture tools for sgraffito
Rubber shaper for clean up
rubber shaper tools for clay clean up
Leather hard clay (tile / coaster)
clay tile leather hard

Transfer design to tracing paper and then use sharp pencil and trace design to clay. Tracing paper is flexible and able to withstand the wet clay and multiple tracings. If using black underglaze, we like Amaco V-370 or LUG-1 (V-370 has slightly better coverage). Both perform well up to cone 6 glaze firing.

Design pattern on tracing paper
design pattern for sgraffito

Trace pattern on clay with pencil
applying design to leather hard clay
Lift tracing paper and verify
design on leather hard clay for sgraffito
Use underglaze or colored slip
amaco velvet black underglaze v-370

Apply 2-3 coats of underglaze, apply additional coats in alternate directions, and wait to dry before starting the scratching-off process. The tools and the pressure you decide to use are dependant on the affect you wish to see on the clay. If looking for rougher surface texture, push the tool a bit harder and take more material using more pointy tools. Scratches can have uniform or random patterns. NOTE: Only use a soft dry brush to remove debris to avoid damaging the colored areas.

Apply underglaze evenly (2 coats)
apply underglaze to leather hard clay

Insure tracings can be seen
underglaze on leather hard clay tile
Remove color where desired
using wire stylus tool to scratch clay
Unwanted colored areas removed
finished sgraffito design on clay tile

The cups below use a slightly different technique than above. Only the traced pattern is painted on and the outline and lines within the pattern are scratched off.

Same process applied on a cup
sgraffito technique on clay mug

Remove all debris with a brush
removing clay
Ready for drying and bisque firing
finsihed sgraffito on clay mug
Once bisqued, touch up underglaze
touch up bisque

Note: After your design is bisque fired, you'll have another opportunity to touch-up with underglaze before applying clear glaze and glaze firing.

Firing underglazes to cone 6 firing - Tips

Apply clear glaze without smearing **
applying clear glaze gently on bisque

Glazed mugs
glazed sgraffito mugs - black and white
Another example on a vase
sgraffito vase
Lizards & leaves design
sgraffito olive branch vase
** We use brush-on AMACO Sahara HF-9 cone 6 clear glaze. Use soft brush and be carful with 1st coat to avoid underglaze details smearing.

Finished Sgrafitto Pottery Examples
Salmon fish  sgraffito vase Olives sgraffito vase
Sgrafitto box with lid Sgraffito  crane vase
Sgraffito turtle vase Sgraffito  vase
Fish sgraffito bowl Sgrafitto octopus bowl
sgraffito salmon fish bowl front sgraffito salmon fish bowl rear
sgraffito manta ray bowl sgraffito salmon fish bowl front
Frogs sgraffito vase  sgraffito vases
sgraffito octopus bowl sgraffito lidded boxes
Sgrafitto octopus bowl sgraffito salmon fish bowl front
sgraffito bees bowl sgraffito manta ray bowl

Finished Sgraffito tiles:
sgraffito fish tile sgraffito lizard tile
sgraffito bees tile Sgrafitto frogs tile

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