PAINT China paints are formed from ground mineral compounds and flux.The minerals vary according to the color of the paint, but most of the ruby and purples contain gold which makes them a bit pricey but the results they produce are worth it.
China paints are used in very thin washes, so a vial of china paint will last a very long time
...The second component of the paint is flux which is essentially a very finely ground glass which is very similar to the composition of porcelain glaze. When the paints are fired in a kiln, the flux melts and fuses the paint permanently to the glaze. This makes china pigment the only truly permanent pigment in existence. Once fired and fused to the glaze, it wont fade or discolor.
  China paints are generally sold in powder form and the artist mixes them with various mediums to a paintable consistency.

BRUSHES- Good china painting brushes, as with any high-quality brush, are expensive...but it is an exercise in frustration to try to paint on porcelain with cheap brushes. Good brushes properly cared for will last a very long time...
There are several different types of brushes used in china painting. The one used most often in what is called "American style painting", which means a generally impressionistic style with a softly blended background, is a Kazan squirrel square shader. The brush is flat and square across the top and is used to shape and form shadows and lights. The reason for the kazan squirrel is that the squirrel hair brushes are as soft as sable which allows you to softly filter and blend the paint on the china without the brushmarks that a stiffer fibered brush would cause...but yet it retains a wonderful liveliness and spring that you don't find with some less expensive sable brushes.
Soft synthetic bristle brushes are fine for "wiping out"...a process that will be explained in detail later, but which consists of applying a layer of paint to the procelain and then wiping back the highlights in the piece, using the white of the porcelain to create and maintain your lights in the same way that a watercolorist uses the white of the paper to maintain their lights.


Scroll brushes are long, thin brushes that come to a fine point. They can be synthetic or natural hair.

They are used for detail work on portraits, animals, scenes and florals and for decorative scrolling and cartouching. A fairly long bristle of about an inch or so is prefered over a short detail brush. It is a bit more difficult to control at first but, when properly loaded with paint, it can make a continous line of paint that is worth overcoming the initial difficulty...and it can do as fine a line if not finer than 10-0 brushes.

It is also helpful to have a small "round" brush (commonly known as a "berry brush" in china painting since it is often used to wipeout berries.)...This can be soft synthetic or natural bristle.


  There are also little helpful tools known as "wipeout tools" which are shaped rubber tips inserted into handles...The most commonly available one has a sharp point on one end and a wedge shape on the other. Also, a fine rubber tipped pick is usually available in the dental care areas of most stores. One of these stuck on the back of a brush handle makes a wonderful tool for wiping out fine detail.

MEDIUMS-The list of mediums available for china painting can be daunting to even an experienced painter...but it is easy to clarify the "medium confusion" if you remember one simple thing: THE ONLY PURPOSE OF A MEDIUM IN CHINA PAINTING IS TO HOLD THE PIGMENT TOGETHER AND IN PLACE ON THE PORCELAIN UNTIL IT CAN BE FUSED BY FIRING. There is a wonderful page in the PPIO library page written by Gene Patterson that breaks down the properties of the most common oils used in china painting.  
  There are oils that will never air dry (open mediums), oils that will air dry (closed mediums) and all sorts in between. There are also water based mediums available for those with allergies to solvents or oil or who just prefer a water soluable medium...Gene even experimented with the use of liquid soap and was quite pleased with the result.
I will tell you which mediums I prefer, but my suggestion is to possibly start with the oils I use and then from time to time, purchase different oils or commercially mixed mediums and try them. The painting mediums will all "set up" at different rates, allowing you more or less time to play around with your painting and all of the mediums have a somewhat different brush feel or drag. That feel is a matter of personal preference.Because of the slickness of the surface of the china, I prefer a medium with a slight bit of brush drag that doesn't dry completely but does set up somewhat after a while.
Again, after you've been painting a little bit, I do suggest you buy small bottles of several different mediums and experiment to see what works the best for you...Some painters like a brush that glides across the china, others (myself included) like a little bit of a brush drag on the surface ...still others like to use a medium that is thick, dries quickly and forces you to paint in tole-like brushtrokes with no blending. There is no right or wrong answer here.
  My personal preferences about oils are as follows:
  I like to MIX my paint with baby oil....any generic label is just fine...I dont enjoy mixing paint and as a result, I mix a large batch at one time, storing it in small covered plastic jars. Baby oil is refined mineral oil. Mineral oil is an open medium which means that it wont dry so the paints stay soft and pliable. Also, baby oil wont separate to the top of the jar like some mixing mediums do.
  I dont paint with baby oil, although some painters love it. It seems to attract too much lint for me and also tends to be a little too oily for my style of I generally paint with pen oil (any brand) or PINE oil which is makes a wonderful, all-purpose medium. I like using pen oil because it is formulated to let you thin down china paint to the consistency of pen ink without running or spreading. It also helps me to load my brush with a large amount of color that isstill thin enough to work fine detail.
  I also like the painting mediums by San Do and Jane Marcks and the motor oil recipe
(This can be found on the PPIO oils and mediums page)
SOLVENTSThere are many different solvents available to clean brushes and as we are becoming more educated in the areas of toxicity, we are using less solvents and tending toward safer ones.
I have found one I'm very pleased with called Turpenoid Natural made by the Martin F.Weber company.It is reputed to be non-toxic. It has a weird smell but it is a terrific brushcleaner (its the only thing Ive found that completely softens turp-hardened brushes) and some painters have even begun to use it as a painting medium. I've tried it and like it for some things but it is a little slick).
Another common solvent is turpentine (make sure it is fresh and not yellowed...yellowed turp has already begun to turn to fat oil and will not work well as a cleaner. It will leave your brushes very stiff.... however, you can leave old turp uncovered (put a layer of cheesecloth over the top to keep out dust) and let it sit out until it becomes as thick as honey. This is FAT OIL and makes a wonderful mixing medium for european style painting
(tole painting-like brushstrokes and white backgrounds)
Yet another solvent is alcohol. This is also used a lot for doing wipe out work since it evaporates quickly and lets you remove the paint without danger of running. And if you mix your paints with glycerin or a water-based mixing medium, then the solvent choice is water.
Pour a small mound of paint into the middle of a 6" ceramic tile. (If you want to pre-mix the entire vial of paint, then pour out nearly all of it, reserving about a sixth of it in case you accidentally add too much oil) ....Make a small well in the center of the pile and then dribble in a small amount of baby oil.(do this drop by drop as it is easy to add too much oil)...
Stop adding oil every so often and grind the paint against the tile with a palette knife...You should actually be smashing the paint against the tile with a circular motion...this makes sure that you are thoroughly mixing the paint, leaving no dry lumps that will cause problems later.
Keep adding the baby oil and grinding the paint until it is the consistency of toothpaste....firm but soft....You can then scoop it into a plastic container to save or else lay it out on a palette...(Wonderful professional palettes with spring loaded tops can be purchased inexpensively from any of the major china dealers...but all you really need for a palette is a piece of glass with whitepaper underneath (to be able to view the colors) and some type of lidded container to keep it in to keep it dust free.. (You can also use a large tile as a palette...but they are generally too small to lay out many colors)
If you accidentally add too much oil to the paint (it will be runny ), spread the paint out on a piece of newsprint and turn the paint over and over on the newsprint till it becomes the right consistency...The newsprint will absorb the excess oil.
  Once you have all your colors mixed, lay them out on your palette in an order that pleases you but take care to lay them out the same way every time... this way, you'll instinctively know where your colors are and wont have to search the palette...(I also label my colors on the white paper underneath... Its a good idea to do this since many colors look similar before they're fired.)
  One good first step to take to familiarize yourself with the paints and what happens when you layer color over color is to first make a test firing chart..(its also a good idea to test fire any new colors you acquire since the ONLY way to truly know what a color will look like is to fire it)
  Take an inexpensive plate (don't use a tile for this as the glaze is softer and the colors will fire differently) and paint stripes of each color on your palette across the plate, labeling each one (You can mix dark colored china paint with pen oil to the consistency of ink and scoop it up with a crow quill pen to write the names of the colors)...then fire it (I fire my colors to 015 )....and repeat the color stripes going across this time....again labeling them and firing....This will give you a good representation of not only what the colors look like fired, but also what happens when you fire one color over another and this will free you to experiment with your own color combinations on pieces and not be slavishly tied in to recommended colors on a piece.
CONDITIONING BRUSHES: China painting brushes come in two types: ferrule and quill. The ferrule brushes generally dont need conditioning... All you need to do with these brushes is, everytime you begin to paint (and after youve cleaned the brush in a cleaner ), swipe it thru a small dish with painting medium in it and wiggle the brush in the medium... Take care to keep the brush as flat as possible so you are not just loading the tip of the brush....then lay the bristles flat on an absorbent paper towel I like the blue shop cloth towels) or a cotton cloth and gently press on the bristles with your finger to remove the excess oil... (Just lay a finger on the flat of the bristles and press down....DON'T scoot your finger along the bristles in a pushing motion as this can pull out the brush hairs.)
Conditioning a quill brush is another matter: if you purchase a quill brush that doesnt have the quill already attached to the handle, you must soak the quill part in warm water till it softens enough to get it on the handle.. otherwise it will split. Dip the quill brush into a jar of cleaner (turp or whatever you are using) and hold it perpendicular to the jar for a minute and let the solvent drip off the brush. You will notice as you do that, that the hairs will naturally form into a sort of wedge shape and will be flatter on one side.That is the bottom side of the brush. You have to make sure that you are aware of the top and bottom of the brush as you paint.. because there is a tendency to roll the brush a little as you work and eventually, you will find yourself painting from what is intended to be the side edge of the brush and will wonder why the brush hairs are splitting (one teacher I know calls it "quacking" and its very descriptive.. because suddenly your brush will start to resemble a ducks open beak) and why you arent able t o maintain a sharp edge on the brush. If that does start to happen, simply dip your brush in a jar of solvent as in step one and let the solvent drip off the brush again, and it will reshape itself....
Once you have determined the top and bottom of the brush, lay the brush in a shalllow dish of painting medium and keeping the bristles as flat as possible, wiggle the brush in the oil, working the oil up into the heel of the brush....blot gently on a paper towel and repeat the oiling process.... do this once more , then with the brush loaded with oil, lay it flat against a tile and wiggle the brush while pulling it toward you......Do this several times, then blot and gently press the brush with your fingers into a sharp chisel shape. Your brush is now ready to use....(when the brush starts to become unruly, repeat the conditioning process)

LOADING THE BRUSH: In china painting, it is essential to apply the paint in thin layers. If its applied too thick, it will chip off, leaving an irreparable gouge in the glaze. You should get a good amount of pigment on the brush but it shouldn't be thicker than a film on the china. It should be like a watercolor wash or an oil painting glaze.

When you lay the paints out on your palette, lay down a blob of paint and pull a little bit of it toward you, forming a little valley of paint...To full-load a brush, dip in the painting medium (as if you were conditioning the brush), blot, then wiggle it in the "valley" of paint...Don't just "dab, dab, dab" ...Do what I laughingly call the "kitty-butt wiggle" ...(You've all seen the way a cat will crouch down low and wiggle his fanny before he gets ready to pounce) ...Really wiggle the brush in the paint until you have a nice load of pigment. Then test a brushstroke on a tile. You should have a good solid amount of color without seeing any actual thickness of paint.

You can adjust the actual lightness or darkess of the color by how heavily or sheerly you apply the paint. You can also shade a brushstroke by working paint into one side of the brush more heavily than the other...DON'T try to lighten a color by adding too much oil...that's a real temptation, but as you can see in the middle illustration, too much oil will make the paint run..also, if your stroke is mostly oil and not pigment, although it might look good befofe firing, during firing the oil will burn away and you will wonder what happened to all the color....
Always try to work with a well-loaded brush. You can lighten the color by easing up on the pressure of the brush on the china or by using a technique called "wiping out"..

To do this, you paint in the color, forming the leaf (as an example).....Then, blot the color out of your brush (it usually isnt necessary to clean the brush in solvent....altho sometimes you might want to wiggle it in the painting medium to get most of the paint out....make sure you blot the brush well to take out the oil...) ....Wipe back some of the color where you want to show highlights...these should be pretty light because you will come back over them on the next fire with a wash of color.....

Sometimes, if you are using a very dark color, you might have to clean the brush in solvent before you do the wipeout or if you want a very strong highlight (for example, the bowl petal cuts on a rose). Just make sure that you blot the brush dry before you do the highlights or else the solvent will run into the paint...

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