Barb's China Painting Gallery


Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5



T he Art of  Painting on China

Porcelain was first made in the eighth century by the Chinese who kept the method of its manufacture a closely guarded secret. European potters, seeing pieces brought back from the Orient, tried unsuccessfully for several centuries to copy this beautiful ware with its translucent quality. It was to be the Meissen factory in Germany which first manufactured porcelain in 1709 and, despite attempts to keep the secret it was not long before potters all over Europe were producing it. Some of the best early examples come from France, England and Italy, as well as Germany.

Bone china was to come a little later, in the eighteenth century. It is a softer type of porcelain to which is added calcified animal bone, hence the name. At this time everything was handpainted but with the introduction of transfers in the late eighteenth century, gradually less was done by hand. Today only a tiny portion of factory pieces are decorated by hand; almost all the china sold in the shops is decorated with transfers, even the limited edition pieces. The reason for this should become obvious when I describe the process, which can be quite lengthy for special pieces. One exception to the rule is figurines, which tend to be decorated by hand, at least in part.

   China paint is quite different from all other mediums although it does share some properties with oils and watercolors as the powdered colours are mixed with an oil-based medium, and they appear transparent  (like watercolour) on application. Here, however, the similarity ends.

The pigments used for china painting are manufactured from mineral oxides and precious metals and are called onglaze (or overglaze) enamels. These are made to fuse with the glaze on the china by firing at a temperature of approximately 1436F (780C). The glaze melts and absorbs the colours which, after cooling, are firmly sealed.

Usually, the pieces have to be painted and fired several times to build up a depth of colour. If colours are applied too thickly they can blister during the firing process and impair the beautiful translucency familiar to bone china. They are therefore applied in washes, working from the lightest to the darkest, rather like watercolour painting. If the painter tries to complete the piece by painting and firing once, the result will be a design which looks flat and uninteresting (except in the case of special techniques which require only one fire) For very special portraits, landscapes and complex designs, the pieces often need to be painted and fired several times.


      More Paintings:  Pages (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

   Links to china painting sites

               Australian Porcelain Decorator          

          Alexanders Fine Porcelain          

         Porcelain Painters International Online     


logo for The China Painting List

 Click the above logo: A great site painters. "The only online directory just for porcelain painting." This selected List includes personal and business sites from around the world; associations and museums; brush and kiln manufacturers; fine china and potteries; plus magazines, schools and suppliers. There is also a newsletter.