Creative Commercial Glazes: Great Combinations for Interesting Effects

Create amazing surfaces with commercial glazes and underglazes!

commercial glazes

Some folks feel like using commercial glazes is cheating, but I say, hogwash! I have been using commercial glazes for the past couple of years because, with very limited time in the studio, I don’t have time for mixing and testing. I have discovered some commercial glazes that I am very fond of and if I can find any ways to maximize my time making, I am all for it. Plus, with a little experimentation, you can make them your own. In today’s post, an excerpt from the Pottery Making Illustrated archives, Deanna Ranlett explains some ways she has found to create great surfaces with commercial glazes. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

PS. Deanna’s book Off the Shelf | Outside the Box is available in the Ceramic Arts Network Shop and is an amazing guide for experimenting with commercial clays, glazes, and underglazes!

I often find there is a stigma surrounding using commercial glazes or a lack of confidence about what they can do beyond what the directions say. It’s important to remember that the directions are a general guideline, this means that you’ll need to test for success even with commercial products. Just because a jar says three coats of a glaze are needed, that doesn’t mean two, four, or even five coats might not work better for you.

Five Great Ceramic Glazing Techniques

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When using commercial products, many people struggle with the idea that their piece might look exactly like someone else’s who bought the same product. Others say they have trouble applying them in ways they like or that the glazes don’t look like the test tile. But hey, that’s why you have to test them on your clay body and in your kiln! Don’t just crack open a jar and expect perfection. So, how do you make them your own? I experimented with wax resist, stencils, slip trailing, paper resist, and underglaze to change the way the commercial glazes are commonly applied. This led to a lot of new ways to use the commercial glazes I already had in my studio.

Great Techniques and Recipes in Every Issue!

Whether you’re working on a new form or trying a new glaze, knowing how to approach a project means more success with your next masterpiece. The Pottery Making Illustrated staff is made up of potters and sculptors who understand this. That’s why each issue of Pottery Making Illustrated features the best techniques and the best instruction in step-by-step detail. Don’t miss an issue!

What’s in the Commercial Glazes Jar

Let’s look at what commercial glazes have going for them:

  • Teams of researchers and testers have already worked out the kinks. — A brand’s glaze line tends to be very compatible for layering, and using in combination with multiple techniques. —
  • Extra binders, brushing mediums, and additives are added to help adhesion, application, and even drying. —
  • Commercial glazes are very smooth—they’ve been ball-milled, sieved, and mixed better than we’re capable of in our own studios. —
  • Many glazes have a wider range than the directions indicate—low-fire products can often fire up to cone 6.
commercial glazes

Tile #1

Wax Resist Combinations over Commercial Glazes

Tile #1: I brushed two coats of Mayco Foundations Green FN-007 glaze, then sprayed wax super close to the tile and allowed it to dry. Next, I took ½ cup of Amaco Clear Transparent LG-10 glaze tinted with 1 teaspoon of PSH (The Pottery Supply House) Lilac underglaze and applied a single coat over the top then fired it to cone 05.

Stencil Applications over Commercial Glazes

commercial glazes

Tile #2

Tile #2: I applied two coats of Mayco Foundations Green FN-007 glaze. While the second coat was damp, I adhered paper circles onto the surface. Then, I applied a third coat of the Mayco Foundations Green FN-007 glaze. When that dried, I dry–brushed Mayco Stroke & Coat SC-88 TuTu Tango (coral) glaze over the top of the entire tile. Finally, I slip trailed tiny purple dots using PSH Lilac underglaze around the stencils. When those dried I removed the stencils and fired the tile to cone 05.

commercial glazes

Tile #3

Screen Printing and Slip Trailing Ideas over Commercial Glazes

Tile #3: I applied three coats of Mayco Foundations Deep Red FN-035, then slip trailed dots of Mayco Foundations Tan glaze FN-022. While those were still wet, I applied PSH Lilac underglaze over the tan dots and fired the tile to cone 05.

Deanna Ranlett owns MudFire in Decatur, Georgia (

**First published in 2014.
  • Janie V.

    Many Mayco glazes, such as underglazes and Foundations and Stroke and Coat will fire to ^6 or some, even to ^10, and are beautiful! I say this because I have done lots of experimenting with them! The Foundations Black is one that will go to ^10, and I have seen it fired in a wood kiln, so who know how much higher temps it survived! Amaco’s “Radiant Red” will also go to ^10, and it is BEAUTIFUL! I use almost all commercial glazes, and I would go crazy if I didn’t experiment to see what I could do that was different!`

  • Deanna R.

    @Sam – Several of these techniques were done with low-fire glazes – have fun and don’t be afraid to layer – paper resist and wax can help create amazing effects.

    @Irene – Mayco makes several greens in the Foundations line – the one I used happens to be a very bright Chartreuse-y green – you can do this with any color though and you can also mix Foundations to get new colors – I have blended custom colors by mixing them together wet – this also works well with Amaco’s Teacher’s Palette glazes.

  • Subscriber T.

    i have many jars of commercial glazes BUT they are only low firing glazes. Yes i am experimenting BUT it could take years! Any suggestions. i fire to 1170c. cheers i am in australia.

  • I love the concept! How do you know that your Mayco Foundations Green looks totally yellow? Just by experimenting?

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