Most porcelain doll parts are painted with “china paints”. These are minerals that are carefully mixed with specialty oils and mixing mediums then carefully brushed or pounced onto the porcelain ware. These minerals will adhere to porcelain like glue when fired at a relatively low kiln temperature. China paints are systematically applied in thin layers and fired between coats. Many coats of china paint and multiple firings will be needed to bring up the colors and details in a doll’s face.
Glazes can be applied ONLY if the glaze firing temperature is lower than any of the china paint temperatures. Otherwise, the china paint will burn off.
“Burning off” or over heating china paints, is intentionally done at times when an artist wants to remove all of the previously fired china paint. The whole painting process can then be restarted on a bare surface.
A few artists forego using china paints not wanting to bother with multiple kiln fires and potentially dangerous mineral dust. Instead, they use artist oil paints applied VERY thinly as a colored stain on the porcelain. The great benefit is that the painter clearly sees exactly the color and exact intensity of all colors immediately after the paints dry. After completely drying and curing, the oil painted porcelain is topped with a clear, matte varnish for protection. Please note: artist oil paint stain is not as durable as fired china paint on porcelain bisque.
Under glaze and glaze
If an item is to be glazed, then an artist might chose to paint details with “under glaze colors” which can take a higher temperature than most china paints. The over glaze firing temperature must be lower or compatible with the under glaze’s firing temperatures.
Wax over porcelain
Some artists like the matte glow that they can achieve when they use the “wax over porcelain” technique. A clear, very hard wax is melted and the fired, painted porcelain pieces are dipped in the melted wax. Then the parts are placed into a heated oven, supported so that all excess wax will cleanly drip away from the parts.
Only a very thin layer of wax is wanted for the best results – providing a slight waxy sheen to the surface. The features should not be blobbed up with wax and the colors shouldn’t be masked by too much wax.
Marlene paints the porcelain with watercolour and she covers this with a varnish as a protection.
Painting porcelain vs. Earthenware
Source: Pour Horse
Because bone and porcelain MUST be stilted, they cannot be painted while in greenware. The stilts would ruin the paint. Because earthenware does not require stilting, or the stilting can be done with a strong wire going up a hole into the body and resting on the back, earthenware can be painted before firing. The paints we use for earthenware can be applied right to the unfired surface, and will become part of the clay surface of the horse. These paints are tinted by oxides and minerals, basically ground up rocks and clay. Black is manganese oxide, blue is cobalt, brown is red iron oxide, etc. They attain their color during the firing, and are affected by the firing temperature. Some cannot go above a certain heat, or they disappear, and some are stable throughout a very long range of heat. Cobalt blue, for instance, is one that is very stable, and that is why it was commonly used for hundreds of years on Asian and European ware, both high and low fire. Reds are the most unstable, as anyone who has tried to achieve “nose pink” can attest. Jim Renaker called the less stable colors “fugitive colors”, or those who escape up the chimney. If you fire a brown horse over and over, you continue to lose the brown, and ultimately? Don’t know, never tried, but you sure would have a different color in the end.
Because high-fire ware cannot be painted before the firing, generally we see ware that has had a glaze applied, and “over glaze” paints or china paints are used. So the white piece that has been bisque fired is glazed, that is fired, and finally the paints are applied over the glaze. These paints have an oil base, and are sold as powders. You mix them as you use them. Anthony at Alchemy told me that when he started at Royal Worcester, in about 1964, he spent six MONTHS just grinding pigments and learning to mix the paints. Then they let him make brush strokes. (I worship at the altar of the master!!!) He makes it look easy, but it is really very difficult. The first layer of paint must be fired before the next layer is applied, to set it, and successive layers are fired slightly lower each time. This paint fires in the ranges of 016 to 020, or thereabouts, very low and cool, just enough to soften the glaze underneath so that the paints can sink in.
Actually, bone and porcelain can be painted with underglazes in the bisque state, and glazed as we “earthies” always do. Beswicks are in the middle ground, although they are earthenware they are actually painted over the glaze. Hence, always white front legs, where the painter holds the horse. Sometimes you can see the “wipe” marks where the painter wiped excess paint off of the glaze and left smears. See the flow chart in the front of the Beswick or Royal Doulton book, and you will see the little man unloading unpainted bisque…glazing…refiring…painting…refiring. They must use a tin based glaze or something, you can’t do that over our glazes and get consistent color after firing.
You can paint bone china with our airbrushed underglazes, refire to 04, and glaze as usual. And Alchemy can take our earthenware horses, glaze them, and paint them with china paints. It’s fun to share mud, and to try different things. As long as you understand the basics of your material, you will always get interesting results. Joanie from Pour Horse
Differences between Under glazes and China Paints:
There is a great difference in results between the two processes. It’s like day and night—the beautiful brilliant and intense coloring of overglaze compared to the duller tones of underglaze.
In the overglaze process, the painted decoration is applied on a glazed, blank, that is, a piece of clay ware which has a transparent and glossy, glass-like surface already baked on. Thus, it is literally overglaze.
In the underglaze method, a clay vessel is fired to remove its moisture content and solidify its shape permanently. Next, the pattern is painted on, and then a glassy surface is applied over the paint, and baked on permanently. Actually then, the paint is under the glaze.
Other differences are that overglaze employs paints mixed with gum turpentine and fat oil, and requires a higher firing temperature than underglaze, which uses watercolor paints mixed with water.
Learning to be a doll artist : an apprenticeship with Martha Armstrong-Hand.
Tools and Materials;
* Scouring sponges of various sizes
* Rubber scrubber
* Isopropyl alcohol
* Cotton swabs
* Tile with smooth surface on which to put the paints
* Terrycloth sheet or towel as pad
* Glass of water for cleaning the brushes
* Assortment of porcelain paints:
violet-brown for deep painting
(Paints are usually sold as complete sets.)
* Soft lead pencil
* Medium for lines (water-based)
* Medium for surfaces (water-based)
* Spatula for the powder paints
* Set of paint brushes:
large rouge brush (mop)
small rouge brush
brush with few long hairs
cat’s tongue brush
(Brushes are usually sold in stores as complete sets.)
* Sanding block (available in nail salons.)
When buying your paints and brushes buy the best ones you can,
even if they are expensive. You shouldn’t endanger your long,
hard work with painting materials of poor quality.
Choosing a Brush;
Setting Up a Painting Space;
Preparation of the porcelain pieces.
Your work area must be well lit and as dust free as possible.
After the high firing the surface of the porcelain will feel a little rough.
Clean all of the fired pieces. You will not be able to clean some of the
Clean all of the sanded pieces with a cotton pad that has been dipped in
Before beginning to paint you’ll need to imagine what you want your doll
For red-haired dolls:
For blond dolls:
For brown-haired dolls:
For black-haired dolls with light skin:
For ethnic dolls:
The same color, violet-brown, is always used for all accents.
The painting should be done in the following order.
First painting: Shading the face; first coloring of the eyebrows,
Second painting: Shading in the eyelids; shading over the eyebrows and
Third painting: Face rouge; lip creases.
Step-By-Step Face Painting;
Shading and Accents
Prepare your paints on one or more tiles. Put a knifeful of powdered
Leave enough room on the tiles between the different paints so they don’t
For the shading and accents you will need the small rouge brush, the cat’s
Begin with the hands and feet. Dip the roughe brush into the medium and
Spread the paint between the fingers on the outside and inside of the hand.
Now take some tissues and lightly wipe off the paint on the top surface.
Take a large mop and spread the paint lightly into the in-between spaces.
If the result is too dark and spotty, then the paint was too thick. Repeat
Contours are painted on the face, too. Using a cat’s tongue brush, paint a
With a large mop, rub the paint to create soft shading. If necessary, cotton
Eyebrows and eyelashes
For the eyebrows, you’ll need a long and short brush and a cat’s tongue brush.
On most doll reproductions, the eyebrows are too high, which gives the doll
Take a look at the head: Do the eyebrows sit right? Correct them until you
It is also helpful if you have a photo of the finished doll, or of the face
Begin with the lightest tone of brown and paint from the inner corner of the
After firing, paint over the wider part of the eyebrows with the darker tone
The eyelashes are easier to paint. Use the short brush. Dip the brush into
Do not paint all the lashes in the same direction. Paint them to within 1mm
Always use a darker tone for the eyelashes than for the eyebrows. One painting
The paint for the lips must have a somewhat thick consistency, approximately
With most dolls one can easily see the line of the lips. If you cannot, you
Use a tissue to blot the lips, just as you would do with lipstick. In this
Using a cat’s tongue brush, shade evenly at the edge of the lip. At the
Fingernails and toenails
I give a lot of attention to the care of the hands and feet. The nail painting
Using a cat’s tongue brush, put a little accent paint on the nail and spread
With an accent brush, paint a small moon in white. Under the borderline, paint
The pieces painted this way must be fired between paint applications.