Resistance is Not Futile: Great Decoration with Resists

Add depth to your work with wax resist and latex resist!


The options are many when it comes to creating decoration on your pottery with resists. While browsing the Pottery Making Illustrated archives, I found where Deanna Ranlett put several of them to the test. In today’s post, we’re sharing Deanna’s assessment of wax resist and latex resist. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

There are many types of resists available that are designed to work on both greenware and bisque ware, including wax and latex. there are also many options involving repurposing products and materials such as beeswax, stickers, tape, paper, acrylic medium, crayons, lipstick, Vaseline, and more!

The first thing to keep in mind when using any type of resist is whether or not it can be fired. Wax can be fired off in your kiln, while latex, paper, tape, etc., should be removed before firing because as they burn, they can carry and deposit glaze onto kiln shelves or other pots. Kilns must be well ventilated when firing any type of resist.

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Commercial wax resists are produced by a variety of manufacturers and are available from your local supply shop. For our experiments, we used Forbes wax resist. It takes colorant easily, can be thinned down to layer between glazes, pipes easily with a needle-tipped bottle, and brushes well.

Also common are peel-off latex-based resists. These resists are allowed to dry and then are peeled off of the pot. If your surfaces have many tiny details and you feel like you won’t find them after glazing, use regular wax resist.


Line resists, such as Artistic Line Resist (ALR), perform like a cross between a wax resist and a decal medium. These resists are oil based and can be used in a variety of ways. You must use these products in a well-ventilated workspace, wear a respirator fitted with a vapor cartridge, and use a fan to divert fumes away from your workspace.

Melted wax can also be used. Many studios used to keep pans of paraffin wax melting at all times, but not only are the fumes hazardous—especially when wax heats above a certain temperature—but it can also be a dangerous fire hazard. I advise against this type of resist unless heated in small amounts and closely watched.

Wax Emulsion Resists

Sources: Forbes (water based), Mobil (oil based), Laguna Mobilicer-A, Wax-On, Amaco Wax Resist, Mayco Wax Resist, Continental Clay Wax Resist, Aftosa black wax resist, Duncan Wax Resist

Pros: Wax was easy to brush, dip, pour, spray, pipe (had to use tiny tips on a squeeze bottle to avoid too much wax running), easy to wipe off the pot, resisted glazes beautifully, and is easy to spot.  We added food coloring to our wax resist to create a more noticeable mark on all clay bodies. Ceramic colorants (oxides and stains) can also be added to the wax to create interesting surface effects after the firing. To experiment with this type of mark making, try the following recipes: Mix 1 teaspoon iron oxide with 1 teaspoon Gerstley borate and a touch of water to blend. Then add 6 to 8 tablespoons of wax resist and thin as necessary to make a pretty brown wax. Mix 1 teaspoon stain (I used black Mason Stain) with 1 teaspoon Gerstley borate and a touch of water to blend, then add 6 to 8 tablespoons of wax resist and thin as necessary to make a beautiful black wax. Mix ½ teaspoon cobalt carbonate with 1 teaspoon Gerstley borate and a small amount of water to blend. Then add 6 to 8 tablespoons of wax resist and thin as necessary for a blue wax. Blends of oxides or stains can make some great colors: rutile and iron produce an orange surface similar to a soda firing.

Cons: When you make a mistake, the wax must be fired off in order to remove it, although some wax emulsions can occasionally peel off between glaze layers. Wax emulsions handle differently when doing tasks like screenprinting, slip trailing, or sandwiching (layering wax between glazes to allow patterns to be formed with overlapped glazes). It’s important to find a wax you like to work with and one that works for you.

Latex Resist

Sources: Amaco Rubber Latex, Ceramic Shop Wax Off, Liquid Frisket, Aftosa Liquid Latex

Pros: Easy to brush (depending on the brand), and easy to peel off. You can easily apply latex over bisque and peel off to glaze that area or leave it alone. This makes glazing in the resisted area possible, where with other resist methods, you might need to fire first. With latex, you can immediately start glazing with your next color.

Cons: Sometimes thick glazes will cover the latex, making it hard to find and peel off. Firing latex can result in glazes flaking during the firing. Flakes can ruin shelves or other pots. Piping can be a challenge because latex can form bubbles. Note: People with latex allergies should not use this product.


Artistic Line Resist

Pros: Brushes and screens well, and pipes very well. Very versatile and can be fired at a variety of temperatures. Useful for cuerda-seca style work. Similar to the oil-based decal mediums and makes a great decal when brushed or screened onto decal paper.

Cons: Doesn’t resist brushed, sprayed, or dipped glazes well. Surface is wipe-able  but not as much as a traditional wax resist. Stains the skin, has a strong odor, and must be used with a respirator fitted with a vapor filter, and preferably used outside or with a fan. When piping glazes, spreading occurred when we fired to cone 6. This resist is colored so you can’t use it if you want your resisted area to be the color of your clay—line work will be a metallic brown at cone 6, black at cone 04.

Clean Up

In general, clean up is time consuming with all of these products. Take care of your brushes, cleaning them as quickly as possible after resist use. Some people swear by dipping the brush in Murphy’s Oil Soap before using waxes and cleaning brushes with Shout or mineral spirits afterward. Use a separate set of brushes when using any type of resist. Clean your bottles, trays, and work area as soon as you finish—dried wax or latex in a bottle is no fun and any stray globs can easily find their way onto your pots.

**First published in 2013.
  • Subscriber T.

    Hi, I really love this technique! It worked whe I fresh mixed the stain, gertsley and resist, but the mixture solidified and could not be used again! Is that normal? Must it be mixed fresh for each application? Or is it possible to mix ahead? Is it possible that the solidification is due to a change in the fertsley borate? I understand that this chemical as widely available has changed in its composition somewhat? Any help would be appreciated, the results were phenomenal!

    • Teresa M.

      Hi, Did you eve get an answer or solve the solidification issue of the colored waxes? Just curious, studying the issue.

  • Deanna R.

    John – if you take a small amount out and attempt to thin – you should see no separation of wax and water – (ie…water is not beading up when you mix). If you can successfully mix in the water – give brushing the wax on a try – you should then be able to layer between glazes without the wax peeling up.

  • Rebecca C.

    Wonderful, straight-forward overview of resists. Thanks. Can you give any more information about silk-screening ALR resists?

  • H.

    Carola and Linda – The problem should be fixed now. Sorry for the inconvenience. eds.

  • Great post, thanks. Can anyone advise about thinning wax resist. I am not sure whether mine is wax or water based so would like instructions for both. It has only been used for waxing the bottom of pots and I have dedicated brushes for this function so don’t clean them. Supplies in South Africa are limited plus I live in the country, far away from ceramic supply stores. Any comments much appreciated.

  • I’ve also lost the right side of the text any advice on regaining it.I’m a hobby potter and find these posts really inspiring but I need all the details. Help please!

  • Carole F.

    Looks like your format has changed, and the right side of the text is severely truncated, making this unreadable.

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