Create the look of an Italian garden by painting terra-cotta pots

Shades of Siena
Thomas J. Story
With a little creative painting, you can bring a touch of Tuscan elegance to your home. Start with a purchased terra-cotta pot that has a relief (a raised pattern), then cover it in muted colors of sage, saffron, and creamy yellow using special ceramic paints and glazes from art and craft stores.

The raised motif will stand out from the background best with contrasting and tone-on-tone color combinations, such as darker and lighter shades of green. Always start with a completely dry pot; paint won’t adhere to a wet surface.


TIME: 2 hours, not including drying time COST: About $10 for paints MATERIALS
  • Terra-cotta pot with relief
  • Spray paint for base coat
  • Foam brush
  • Water-base polyester paint for relief
  • Stain and color wash
  • Artist’s brush
  • Glaze

1. Apply the base coat. We used spray paint in a mustard color. (If you intend to place soil in the pot, use a plastic liner or coat the inside with a sealer and do not paint over it.)

2. Paint the relief. With a foam brush, apply a polyester paint to the relief.

3. Add depth. We applied Delta Color Mist in leaf green over the entire surface. This nonaerosol spray paint is a transparent stain and color wash that gives a light glaze without completely concealing the underlying colors. If you can’t find this product, use a diluted solution of polyester paint as a color wash.

4. Apply highlights. Use an artist’s brush to trace the raised motif with a decorative glaze. Paints

Delta Technical Coatings (800/423-4135): Air-Dry PermEnamel in light khaki, crocus yellow, dark goldenrod, and adobe clay (for the peach-colored fruit); Delta Color Mist sprays in tea dye brown, fruitwood, and leaf green. Plaid Enterprises (800/842-4197): decorator glazes in Tuscan sunset and lilac.

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