Mary's Maiolica Arts

One Color Shading


Shading with only one color is common in Dutch Delftware but it was also common in Italy during the Renaissance. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the resulting color depends on the density of the pigment applied in any area of the design. The more pigment that is applied, the darker the color will be. Shading takes lots of practice in order to be able to visualize how the painted area will look after it is fired.

Shading Method One - Layering

One way to shade is by applying layers of a well diluted underglaze color. This type of shading will work with blue, brown or copper green. These instructions assume that a piece of ceramic bisque has been previously prepared with a maiolica white glaze and a pattern has been transferred onto the white glaze.

Step 1 -- Outline the areas following the lines of the transferred pattern. This is almost always the first step for decoration. One exception would be if the shading was going to be done using a banding wheel. In that instance, the outlining would be done after the banding because the friction from the banding would smear the outlines.

Step 2 -- If the pouncing method of pattern transfer was used, after outlining, brush the surface with a soft mop brush to remove the excess graphite or charcoal. The "pounce", the graphite or charcoal, will disappear during the firing but it can cause confusion during the shading process.

Step 3 -- Dilute the color -- for this example Colorobbia Celestial Blue -- to the consistency of a wash. That is, for every drop of underglaze, add two or three drops of water.

Step 4 -- Apply a light wash to the entire area that is to be shaded. Leave any area that should be pure white untouched.

Step 5 -- Give the damp wash a little time to dry. Slightly shift over the starting point and apply a second layer of color.

Step 6 -- Repeat the shifting and layering step to add more color and shading to the areas that should be the darkest.

Cons of Layering Method

The cons to this method of shading are:

  1. The white maiolica glaze may rehydrate and shift slightly if too much pressure is applied to the brush strokes or if the wash is too wet.
  2. Some unintended bleeding may occur to neighboring areas. When the piece is dry, small blips and bleeds can be gently scraped off with a curved bladed utility knife.


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