Frequently Asked Questions – Réponses à vos questions

What is porcelain art?

When people generally think of porcelain painting (other terms: china painting, on-glaze or over-glaze painting), what usually comes to mind are cups and saucers or platters and plates. However, the sky’s the limit when one considers the different techniques, approaches and subjects that can be painted with porcelain pigments on glazed or bisque porcelain blanks or even on glass. Today, this art form is not merely the domain of professionals. It can be enjoyed by many given the accessibility to materials at relatively low cost, coupled of course with the willingness of the individual to study and practice to perfect their skills.

Qu’est-ce que l’art de la porcelaine?

La peinture sur porcelaine est un métier d’art qui réunit les notions fondamentales de la composition, du dessin, de la peinture et qui en outre demande la connaissance des couleurs minérales et de leur cuisson. Aujourd’hui, cette forme d’art n’est pas seulement le domaine de professionnels. Elle peut faire le bonheur de ceux et celles qui décident d’apprendre et de pratiquer pour se perfectionner.

Lorsque l’on pense à la peinture sur porcelaine, ce qui vient généralement à l’esprit sont les tasses, assiettes et plats de toutes sortes. Toutefois, il n’y a pas de limites si l’on considère les différentes techniques, approches et sujets qu’il est possible de peindre. De joli et pratique à purement artistique, quoique les fleurs soient le motif de prédilection, tous les sujets tels que du portrait au paysage, du traditionnel au contemporain, à purement moderne, seront utilisés pour décorer la porcelaine.

Pretty and practical to purely artistic … while flowers are the most prevalent motif, any subject from portraits to scenes and any approach from traditional, art nouveau, naturalistic, impressionistic to abstract can be painted with mineral paints on porcelain or glass.

Today, this art form is not merely the domain of professionals.  It can be enjoyed by many, given the accessibility to materials at a relatively low cost, coupled of course with the willingness of the individual to study and practice to perfect their skills.


On-glaze painting is an ancient art form; its origins well documented, beginning in the Kao-Lin area of China during the Ming Dynasty.  During the mid-to-latter parts of the 19th century and early 20th century, porcelain painting was considered a refined and suitable pursuit for women.  It was a sophisticated hobby for middle and upper class women, a respectable occupation for women who needed to work out of economic necessity, and a creative outlet for women artists, who in general did not receive the same professional status as their male counterparts.

The First World War, 1914-1918, then the Great Depression (1929-1939), followed by the Second World War (1939-1945) had a tremendously negative impact on the development of porcelain art.  During the war years, supplies became difficult to obtain, and many women left on the home front entered the labour force.  For a variety of reasons, they remained in jobs outside the home after the Second World War.  The time available to learn the art of painting on porcelain was severely curtailed.  Furthermore, the improvement of transfer printing (decals) made it possible to have beautiful tableware which was no longer hand painted and could be mass produced at a fraction of the cost.

Fortunately, during this period there were sufficient numbers of painters practicing the art form to keep it alive.  Today, there are china painters and china painting clubs all over the world and in almost every Canadian province.  The Porcelain Artists of Canada Inc. (P.A.C. Inc.) is a national organization formed to bring modern porcelain artists together to preserve, support and educate today’s porcelain painters as they conserve the techniques from the past and develop new and creative concepts for the 21st century.


Porcelain art encompasses all the techniques of water colour and oils and more … enamels, various gold and lustres, glaze chipping, marbleizing, texture pastes, metallic finishes, airbrushing, pen work, and glass painting to name a few.  To master all of the various techniques used in the art of painting on porcelain is a time consuming, challenging and painstaking process but one that offers and endless range of creative possibilities.

Getting Started

The porcelain artist begins by transferring their basic design onto china blanks (blanks are undecorated glazed or unglazed (bisque) porcelain forms).  Blanks manufactured in a multitude of shapes and designs can be purchased from catalogues, general department stores, local studies, or directly from the companies producing them.

Over-glaze paints (special low fire mineral pigments derived from metallic oxides and flux) are applied in several steps.  The paints, generally supplied in powder form, are mixed with oil for painting.  Over-glaze paints are translucent and require numerous kiln firings to approximately 800 degrees centigrade to build up the desired colour and effect.  In the firing process, the colour might change slightly as the glaze softens and the colours bind and become permanent.  Being able to withstand such high temperatures is one reason why painted porcelain pieces are far more likely than canvas paintings to survive the ages.