How to... Decorate china
Friday, 01 June 2012

How to... Decorate china

Queen of the vintage scene, Angel Adoree reveals how to cheer up your crockery

I’ve often compared buying china to buying a dress. Sometimes I like the shape of the dress and sometimes I like the pattern of the fabric. Luckily, when I’ve found that perfect dress shape and not liked the pattern I’ve dyed it. But for quite some time I didn’t know there was a ceramic paint available for china that would set in a domestic oven. Genius and life-changing? Nearly. So next time you are in a charity shop or raiding your granny’s cupboard, don’t be put off by an uninviting china pattern. Get your brushes out and be creative!

You will need:

  • newspaper
  • old china
  • cleaning cloth
  • ceramic paints (in a range of colours, including white; metallics work especially well)
  • plastic gloves
  • paint sponges or brushes (in varying thicknesses)
  • masking tape
  • scissors


Step 1 Lay out newspaper on a clean, dry surface so that you have a good-sized work area and won’t ruin any furniture. Clean your china, using a cloth, to remove any dust or dirt.

Step 2 Begin by whitewashing each piece using white ceramic paint and a sponge. You may find it easier to wear plastic gloves and hold the china while painting so that you can ensure an even coverage. Don’t be tempted to apply the paint too thickly as it will clot and drip when drying. Sponges work better than brushes because they will not leave streak marks.

Step 3 Apply a second layer of whitewash if needed in order to block out any pattern on the china. Wait for the pieces to dry thoroughly before continuing; this can vary, but takes approximately 20 minutes. If you whitewash all the pieces together, you can start the next stage with your first piece while waiting for the others to dry. 

Step 4 Choose a design. This could be stripes, checks or freehand. Consider your colours carefully – you may only want to use one colour over the whitewash or a few more.

Step 5 Using masking tape, block out any areas that you don’t want to be exposed when painting the second colour. If you cut skinny strips of tape, the scissors may leave wobbly edges which will create an uneven paint line. The Vintage Tea PartyIn this case, use the outside edges of the tape and overlap two strips to form one final strip so the edges will be clean. It is important to ensure the white paint layer is completely dry before using masking tape, or the white will be lifted when you attempt to remove it later. When ready to paint, use a sponge for large sections, and a thin paintbrush to fill in smaller areas.

Step 6 When this layer is dry, carefully peel off the masking tape. If lots of paint has dried on top of the tape it can leave a strange peeled-off section attached to the china. You can either try to trim the excess, or fold it back on itself on to the coordinating colour, so that it will not be visible.

Step 7 To seal your paintwork, preheat your kitchen oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 and bake the painted china for 45 minutes, but keep an eye on it after 30 minutes and remove if the colours start darkening.

The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree, published by Mitchell Beazley, £20,

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