How to Make a Texture Board for Slab-Built Pottery


Texture can be addictive in pottery, and there are an infinite variety of tools that can be used to create texture. Of course, the best texture tools are homemade because you can really make your own mark.

In today’s post, an excerpt from the Pottery Making Illustrated archives, Larry Elardo demonstrates how he makes textured boards and uses them to make slab built pottery. I must experiment with this!

– Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

Modeling Textures

To create a custom texture board, start with a piece of plywood or tempered hard board; artist’s quality acrylic modeling paste, available at most art/craft stores; putty knife, trowel, and textured ribs, notched trowels or homemade texture tools. You can make your own texture tool by cutting step flashing (a light-weight galvanized metal used on roofs) with tin snips (figures 1). Spread the paste evenly on the wood with a putty knife or trowel. Then draw a design into the paste using one of the texture tools (figures 2). Allow the board 24 hours to dry before using.


Since the paste remains workable for only 15–20 minutes, Larry suggests readying all supplies before beginning. He spreads a layer of paste 3⁄16–1⁄4 inch thick, depending on the depth of the notch in the trowel. A design may be layered into the paste on top of a background texture (figure 3). Clean extra putty from the edges to leave neat borders or continue the texture to the edge of the board (figure 4).

Imprinting the Design

To use the texture board, roll out a slab of clay and smooth it with a rib. Spray WD40 or vegetable oil on the prepared texture board and use a toothbrush to work lubricant into grooves. This allows the clay to release cleanly with the most detail from the surface. Lay the clay slab on the board (figure 5) and, using a rib, smooth the clay down into the texture board.


“One of the tricks I’ve learned to get good, clean impressions is to work from the outside edges of the slab to the center, pushing the clay down into the grooves,” Larry says. “You want to get the clay attached so that the slab doesn’t move around. This way you don’t get a duplicated pattern in spots.”

Flip the texture board over and allow the weight of the slab to gently release from the board. Sandwich the slab between boards and flip once again, laying it gently, design-side down.

Larry Elardo teaches pottery at Essex Art Center and Two Rivers Ceramics in Massachusetts. To view more of his work, visit


**First published in January 2013
  • I have made ribs similar to what they show here but cutting an old gift card with Fiskars Paper Edgers, sissors similar to pinking shears but with many different designs. They cut the stiff plastic easily and it’s safer than the flashing.

  • Not sure why you would want to use a material for a texture that does not release naturally from clay. The thought of using oil as a release just sounds horrible.
    Why not make the textures in a slab of clay (with a layer of slip if you want that look), then cast it in plaster and then you have a great plaster slab that releases effortlessly. I use textured plaster slabs and yes, they are heavier, but besides easy release, the other great advantage i find is that they slightly dry the surface of the clay so that when you are working the form from your slab, the textured surface can take a lot of handling without the texture being damaged as it is that little bit dry (while the slab is still completely pliable).

  • Good thinking, Denise. I think for temporary patterns that Larry’s method is good, but you’re right on the use of plaster for designs you may want to keep and reuse.

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