Paper Resist Decoration

As more and more people come into the studio, we start to see more creativity and get a lot of inspiration. One of the best ways that our members show off their creative talents is in how they decorate their ceramics. There is a lot of anticipation and patience when making the shape and form of a ceramic object, but decorating the object, is perhaps, the most rewarding aspects of working with clay.

Paper resist is one of the most basic decoration techniques, but can give you a variety of great results. You can give your ceramic object a unique flare and identity with this simply decoration technique where strips of paper are stuck onto the surface of the clay object to resist the application of slips or glazes.

A variety of material and media can be used to mask off areas of a surface to create a decorative effect. The form of resist chosen will make its own contribution to the decoration and can be combined with other decoration techniques. Paper, wax and a variety of materials have been used for resist work, and recently more sophisticated masking fluids, latex and glues have become more popular.

The resist technique can be used at any stage during the pottery process, but paper resist is more appropriate to the almost leather-hard stage. The clay should be a little wet, but dry enough so you can handle your object. The wet clay will help the paper stick and also as you apply a wet slip or underglaze, the two bodies will match and you will avoid cracking. Paper resist works best for slip and underglaze decoration, but it can also work just as well with brush-on viscous glazes.

What you need to make paper resist decoration:

  • Newspapers, Magazines or printer paper

  • A coloured slip or underglaze

  • Different size and type of brushes

  • A potter’s knife

  • A soft rubber kidney

  • Hair dryer

How to decorate with paper resist:

First, cut the newspaper into any shapes or patterns. You can also tear the paper to have a softened edge in the decoration. You can print images or stencils online or make your own decoration from your own inspiration. Next, press the cut paper into the almost leather-hard clay. Make sure the paper is in contact with the clay on all edges, event on round surfaces. Roll the paper down and avoid air pockets, then press is all around.

Now you can apply your slip or underglaze. Using a brush, cover the surface of your object and the paper, You don’t have to paint the slip over the whole paper, but make sure to cover all the edges of the paper. You can pour your slip into a flat or bowl shape object slowly to ensure you don’t move the paper design. Next, wait or use a hair dryer at this stage to ensure each coat is dry before applying another coat. How many coats you apply is up to you if it meets your decoration needs and doesn’t affect the structure of the objects you are decorating. You can build thick layers that will highlight details in the design you picked and give a raised feeling to your overall decoration.

Finally, peel the paper off to reveal your design. Use a knife or needle to lift the edges gently before you remove the paper completely. You can print few copies of an image stencil and cut each paper in different areas to give your decoration depth using different colours. Every time you apply the paper on top of the previous stencil you must be very careful when removing it. It is best practice to use the potter’s knife at an almost horizontal position.

When using multiple stencils of the same images, remember to build from the background up. The larges cuts of paper will go on first, following the smaller cut out paper. Also consider using the paper resist on different areas of your ceramic object and integrating it with other texture decoration techniques to make more elaborate designs.

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