What is Sgraffito Pottery?

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Pottery emerged into the world of creativity in ancient times, as people felt the need for it. Nevertheless, it has eventually grown vastly. There is a myriad of pottery types, which are available all over the world. These various pottery styles differ from one another due to the origin, culture, and habits of the people of that very place. Thus, pottery is the obvious specimen of the creator’s creative mind and artistic abilities.

Sgraffito pottery is one of those famous types of pottery styles. It is widely popular for its use of a different kind of decoration, which includes the application of a plaster layer on the pot surface with contrasting colors. So, if you want to know more about this particular kind of pottery, then this article is just for you.

Here we are going to talk about what Sgraffito pottery actually is. So, let’s get started.

What is Sgraffito Pottery?

Sgraffito is a type of pottery decoration, which is done by cutting away the parts from the pot surface to expose different colored underlying layers. The word Sgraffito has been derived from the Italian word graffiare, which means ‘to scratch.’ Therefore, the technique dates back to the 15th-16th century.

Sgraffito is a form of visual pottery art that includes the art of scraping off layers to create a very detailed design on the pot surface. The design is carved out by scratching on the upper coats to bring out the colors of the underlayers.

How to create Sgraffito?

Though it is an intricate way to create Sgraffito art on a pottery piece, one can easily do it with intense practice. So, the following are the easy steps on how to create Sgraffito in a simple way:

Choosing the right clay for the job:

The type of clay plays a pivotal role in giving the best results for Sgraffito pottery. Ensure that the clay you are using is extremely flexible, making it easy to shape and offering improved durability. Choosing a pliable clay will enhance your workability with it. You can use AMACO White Air Dry Clay for a  brilliant working experience.

Create your pottery:

You can do Sgraffito on any kind of pottery. Whether it is a bowl, vase, cup, tiles, or tub, all will serve as amazing options to decorate your pottery. However, before starting with Sgraffito, you need to make sure that the pottery surface is evenly smooth. A minute amount of undulation is okay, but it is better to avoid rough-textured surfaces to highlight the Sgraffito art. Form the pottery you want, and prepare its surface properly by making it smooth. You may clean up the pot surface using a rib tool.

Leave your pottery for becoming leather-hard:

Once you are done with creating the shape of your pottery, leave it for some time to become leather-hard. It is vital to make sure that the clay body has the proper texture for performing the Sgraffito art on it. If the clay is extremely soft, it will cause a lot of trouble while carving.

On the other hand, if the clay is very dry, it will flake and crack the underglaze. A leather-hard clay is not as rigid as bone-dry clay, and neither is it workable enough to remold. It looks apparently hard, but when you touch it, the clay will feel cold due to the presence of a minimal amount of moisture.

Apply the underglaze:

After you have completed making your clay body leather hard, it is time to apply the underglaze. You can use a mop brush to apply the underglaze mixture on the pottery surface. You can also opt for other methods like dipping, spraying, or pouring to cover the leather-hard pottery thoroughly with the underglaze mixture.

In this process, you need to add the desired color for your Sgraffito pottery design. Opt for some more layers to add more variety of colors to your pottery piece. To create variation in Sgraffito, it is recommended to add 2-3 layers of underglazes. However, you can also opt for 5-7 layers for more diversity in your art.

Leather-hard clay usually absorbs more moisture than bisque-fired clay. So, to achieve the perfect color and opacity, it is recommended to add on the number of underglaze layers.

Create a rough Sgraffito design:

Now, this is the most intricate part of the entire process. If you are a beginner, it is better to make an initial sketch on paper. Then, by using tracing paper, you can sketch it on the pottery surface before carving.

Choose the right carving tool for your project:

To land your Sgraffito properly on the pottery surface, you need to make sure that you are using the right kind of carving tools. There are multiple tools that you need to use during the process. Any kind of sharp tool is going to help you with scratching the parts on your clay body to create the perfect Sgraffito with varied layers.

Here are the types of tools that you can use for your Sgraffito process.

Tool name Usage of the tool
Mini Ribbon tools These are used for detailing and trimming the pot surface.
Stylus tool It is a dual-ended wooden pottery tool for making dots and blending the surface of the Sgraffito design.
Mop brush This tool is utilized for applying the underglazes.
Clean up tools These are used for smoothening, trimming, and slicing the clay to clean it up properly before crafting Sgraffito.
Needle tool These are used for smoothening, trimming, and slicing the clay to clean it up properly before crafting Sgraffito.

Create the Sgraffito on your pottery:

Sgraffito is like making a drawing on your pottery surface to create an attractive design with carved layers. You can draw anything that you want. Incise out the outlines that you made previously on the pottery surface with the help of the Stylus tool and Mini Ribbon tools. You need to press the tool with light pressure to carve it out or make a scratch.

However, don’t put too much pressure as it will ruin the entire process. Once you are done with carving your Sgraffito, you can coat over the little damaged patches using a layer of underglaze to make it look well-finished.

After that, allow the piece to become bone-dry and opt for bisque firing. Thus, end it up with a tone of transparent glaze on it and pass it into the kiln to get your wholly finished Sgraffito-designed pottery piece.


Sgraffito is a kind of intense pottery design; however, you can easily do it by following some simple steps. Not only the method discussed above but also there are many other techniques of doing Sgraffito design on a pottery piece. It’s all about finding the right process and adding up your own experimentation to create a unique appearance.

Happy sculpting!

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