How to Paint Terracotta Pots

row of pots with plants inside
  • 2-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 30-100
What You'll Need
Terracotta pot
Water-based acrylic paint
Soft-bristle paintbrush
Sealer (liquid or spray)
Newspaper or sheet
Warm water

Painted terracotta pots can add charm to any home or garden. Plenty of landscaping and furniture stores know this too, which is why they sell pots that are both painted and dipped (for a high price). However, making this a do-it-yourself- job will not only save you a lot of money, but also let you stamp your personal artistic mark on the project.

Step 1 – Clean the Pots

To begin, lay some old newspapers or an old sheet where you will be working to catch any drips or paint spills.

Clean the inside and outside of the pot with a cloth soaked in warm water. Unless there is heavy dirt or grime that's built up, the cleaning doesn't need to be any more complicated than this.

Once it’s completely dry, sand away any loose clay particles or rough edges, especially around the rim, the base, and the outside. Sand gently; you want to make sure that the pot provides a nice even surface for the paint to adhere to, but you don't want to sand so aggressively that you'll actually score or mar the terracotta.

Step 2 – Seal the Pot

Similar to how terracotta tiles are often glazed to protect them, your pot should be treated with at least two coats of sealer before any paint gets applied.

Seal the inside of the pot with oil or water-based polyurethane before you paint. Allow one coat to dry completely and then apply another coat.

Step 3 – Apply the Paint

Once the sealer inside is dry, start painting the outside. Water-based acrylic paints are ideal for terracotta and are convenient to work with. Latex paints are also a good choice for similar clay pots.

Apply one coat of paint to the pot and allow it to dry completely before applying another coat. For best results, apply at least 2-3 coats. Terracotta is porous and will absorb the first few layers of paint quickly. Let your terracotta pot dry in the sun.

Another fun alternative is to apply two coats of dark gray paint and a final coat or two of chalkboard paint to make the surface of your pot endlessly customizable.

Step 4 - Additions

Attach any embellishments of your choice with glue, or paint on a design or pattern. Sketch the design onto transfer paper, place it on the pot, and paint it any color after outlining the image. Pictures, old wallpaper, or even tissue paper can be applied to the pot with decoupage. Allow the pot to dry thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Step 5 – Seal the Outside of the Pot

After reviewing your paint job, apply a few coats of clear acrylic sealant to the outside of the pot. The sealant protects it from moisture in the soil and prevents the paint from bubbling, cracking, and peeling.

If you used chalkboard paint, do not seal this. A seal defeats the purpose of the chalkboard surface as it creates a barrier for any chalk.

Let the pot dry for a few days to a week before you place any soil or plants in it.