What Kind of Paint to Use on Ceramic Mugs

Whether you have recently bought a neutral ceramic mug or made your own out of clay, you might want to add color to bring it to life. So, what better way to do it than to paint it yourself? 

But here comes the tricky part. When you shop for paints, there are various kinds of paints available on the market. Even if you exclude other materials and leave only ceramics, you still have a handful of different paints to choose from. 

You have chosen the color to paint your ceramic mug. Perhaps you have even selected a lovely pattern to make it more unique. Now you are wondering how you can bring your idea to life. Well, I am here to help. 

I have researched all the paint for ceramics out there and put together this helpful guide. As a bonus, I have also included a section at the end that will tell you what to look out for when you go paint shopping. 

Different types of paints have distinct qualities and prices. It is up to you to decide which one you want that will make your mug look stunning. 

Types of Paints

Everyone understands what paint is since it is all around me. Everything from the top of your house to your favorite coffee mug is coated with paint. 

There are several types of paint to choose from, including oil-based, acrylic, and enamel. Learning about the different properties of each will help you make an informed choice for your ceramic mug.

One thing to keep in mind is whether the ceramic you are using is glazed or not since it will affect the kind of paint that will work with your mug.

Ceramic Paint Markers/Pens

Ceramic paint markers and pens are great if you are looking for cost-effective and easily applicable paint for your ceramic mug. These high-quality markers are oil-based and provide a smooth flow that does not flood, dry out, or jam. They are not as messy to deal with, making them an excellent choice for novices. 

Ceramic pens are available in a variety of colors. Their application is similar to that of a felt-tip marker. Hold the marker down gently on your mug. The paint will flow out of the tip, and you can begin to draw your desired patterns. After you have finished painting, simply allow it to dry. Afterward, place the mug in the oven to bake. This will make sure that the paint is permanent.

Ceramic Paint

As the name implies, ceramic paint is the most commonly used for ceramics. Due to its high durability, it also costs more to buy ceramic paints. 

This paint has several advantages over others since it is more resistant to UV rays and does not fade with usage or time. Their thick and smooth coating is easier to clean than nonceramic-based paints, and it provides a finish that does not diminish when scrubbed with a sponge. 

Ceramic paints use beads as pigment extenders. These are preferable to the organic beads used in common extenders. Ceramic-based paint beads are smaller and pack closer together, creating a smoother surface. It also allows the paint to survive the growth of mold and bacteria.

By comparison, other pigment extenders are made from organic material, which results in crookedness and a rough finish.

They are simple to apply to the surface of your ceramic mug with a sponge or a brush. When finished, allow it to dry before using. These are non-toxic, food-grade paints, making them ideal for ceramics.

Ceramic paints are specially designed for pottery, which is why they are more durable than the other paints. After coating your mug with ceramic paint, you can apply a pottery sealant.  This will further increase the durability of the paint. 

Acrylic Paint (Water-Based)

Water-based acrylic paint is also one of the many paints used for ceramic mugs. They are simple to apply and come in a multitude of colors. You can use acrylic paints to paint your mug a single monochromatic color or adorn it with a beautiful pattern.

Acrylic paints are wonderful because you can easily blend them. This means that you can make gradient color mugs at home! If a single coat of paint is too thin and you want to apply a second coat to make it thicker, acrylics make it really simple. Allow the first coat to dry thoroughly before applying the second layer.

Acrylic paints do not need to be cured or fired in a kiln to set. Just let them fully dry, and they will be ready to use. Acrylic paint may last a long time if you wash it by hand instead of in the dishwasher.

Keep in mind that only water-based acrylic paints are non-toxic and food-grade. Other varieties are not safe to drink from and may release cadmium, lead, and other heavy metals. Because you will be drinking from your ceramic mug, water-based acrylic paints are the optimal option.

Enamel Paint

Enamel paint is an opaque oil-based paint that will create a glossy surface when dry. It tends to work exceptionally well on ceramics and has high durability. It is also readily available in craft stores and is not as costly as ceramic paint.

Enamel paint provides a beautiful finish. It will not scratch or fade even when you thoroughly scrub your mug with a sponge. The enamel coating creates a scratch-free exterior, so you will never have to worry about your cat getting close to your ceramic mug again! It is also dishwasher safe, which is not true for all paints.

It is critical to remember that you must wipe the surface with alcohol before you begin painting your ceramic mug with enamel. Enamel does not adhere to the surface effectively if there is any residue present.

You can use your newly-painted mug once the enamel has fully dried. You can also cure it in an oven for 30 minutes for a long-lasting finish. Make sure you use the kind that is suitable for contact with food because some that are not. Just check the paint label to ensure you are getting the appropriate one.

Epoxy Paint

Food-grade epoxy paint is one of the most durable paints available in the market. Epoxy paint is used to coat industrial materials because of its durability. This is why, before you purchase paint to use on a ceramic mug, check the label to make sure it is food-grade.

Epoxy paint takes about 72 hours to fully cure because of its composition. It is made up of resin and a hardener to create a durable and chemical-resistant coating that lasts for a long time. 


Glazing is another option that is used interchangeably with painting. The difference is that the ceramic mug must be fired after the glaze has been applied. The mug has a glossy surface after firing.

One downside of glazing is that the color of the glaze might change after firing. In most cases, it lightens. That is why it is advisable to examine the color of the after-fire glaze or glaze an extra piece of pottery.

Compared to other types of glazes, the acid-resistant variety is the superior choice because it has been thoroughly tested to ensure that it is food-safe.

Things to Consider Before Choosing a Paint for Ceramic Mugs

Because there are so many paint options on the market, it might be challenging to choose one for your ceramic mugs. To simplify the process, here are some things you should know before deciding on one.

Color Collection 

You may have figured out the sort of paint to use. But choosing a paint that comes in a broad range of colors is just as essential. Some paints are only available in a few hues, making it difficult to make an informed selection.


You do not want the paint to fade too soon because it will be a bother to repaint your ceramic mugs after a while. Always choose paint after inspecting the product box to see how long it will last. It will be a shame if your hand-painted mugs will fade when you send them to your friends.

Curing Time

Another factor to consider when selecting paint is the curing time. The majority of the time, it is written on the back of your paint. You do not want paint that takes days to cure if you are painting many layers since it will be exhausting. Choose a paint that can be cured in an oven or air-dried in 48 hours or less.


If you want to make your life easier, use dishwasher-safe paint, so you do not have to bother washing it by hand every time. Some paints fade after a while, so double-check the details to ensure that your favorite mug will not fade anytime soon.


As you will be drinking out of your ceramic mug, it is critical to make sure that the paint is food safe. Because the outside of your cup will not come into contact with food, you could use non-food-safe paint. But it is still preferable to get one that is. You do not want any potentially hazardous components to seep out and cause toxicity.

If the paint is not food-grade, coat your painted mug with a glaze or sealer to make it safe.

All of the elements listed above play a significant role in deciding the quality of your paint. So, I recommend picking a paint with these qualities in mind.

Final Thoughts

You can use different kinds of paints on your ceramic mugs. Ceramic paints are the most popular, but they are also the most pricey. As a result, acrylic paints are considered an excellent substitute.

It is now up to you to select which one you like. All while taking into account the distinct qualities of each paint type.