How to Paint a Terra-Cotta Pot

Jazz up your container garden or indoor plants with a painted terra-cotta pot.


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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Yield: Painted Terra-Cotta Pot

Unfinished terra-cotta pots give off an earthy vibe—and plenty of water too. (Terra-cotta pots are porous, so they can potentially damage the table or decking under your pot.) Painting terra-cotta pots—especially if you use a sealant or shellac—can help keep water from seeping through, and add another pop of color to your container garden or plant collection.

Fortunately, learning how to paint terra-cotta pots is pretty simple. So get your creative juices flowing, and follow these steps to paint terra-cotta pots that'll jazz up your home, inside and out.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Newspaper or tarp to cover working area
  • Paintbrush


  • Dish soap or diluted vinegar
  • All-purpose primer
  • Acrylic paint
  • Shellac or terra-cotta sealant
  • Rubber bands, painter's tape, or aluminum foil (optional)


  1. Clean your terra-cotta pot

    Even a brand new terra-cotta pot may have sticker residue from a price tag—while an older one might have dirt, dust or other signs of age. A microfiber cloth and either liquid dish soap or vinegar mixed with water will do the trick.

    (Vinegar is especially helpful if you're hoping to disinfect an old pot before planting something new in it.)

  2. Prep your workspace

    Put down newspaper, scrap paper, or a tarp to help protect your work surfaces from the paint.

    Open windows or run ventilation and fans to reduce your exposure to chemicals in the paint.

  3. Consider sealing your pot

    If you want to make your pot more water tight, now's the time to apply a terra-cotta sealant (like Plaid Clay Pot Sealer, The sealant can be applied both inside and outside the pot to reduce the porousness of your terra-cotta pot.

    For outdoor plants, a sealant may help protect your deck from water stains, but it also opens up the possibility that your plant could get overwatered in a rainstorm, since the terra-cotta will no longer be breathable.

    If you want to make it watertight, make sure that there's a drainage hole to allow water to escape.

  4. Plot out your terra-cotta pot design

    Figure out what kind of design you'd like—you might opt for a single color, a geometric pattern, or something more elaborate—and how much of the pot you'd like to paint. You can use painter's tape or even rubber bands to mark off where the paint will be.

  5. Apply primer

    Pretty much every paint project goes smoother—and lasts longer—if you apply primer first. Look for an all-purpose primer, and apply it to the areas where you'll be painting. Let the primer dry.

  6. Paint your design on your terra-cotta pot.

    Use acrylic paint and paintbrushes to apply the paint.

    Acrylic paint provides the most vibrant color when you're painting a terra-cotta pot, and helps reduce fading.

    For the most vibrant color, you'll likely need to apply three or more coats of paint to your terra-cotta pot. Just let the paint dry in between so your paint doesn't flake.

  7. Shellac or seal the terra-cotta pot

    Once you're happy with the look. protect the paint on your terra-cotta pot. Use painter's tape to block off unpainted areas that you want to leave porous, and apply a shellac or sealant to protect your paint and your pot.

    If you used self-sealing acrylic paint, you can skip this step.

  8. Plant your plants

    Add soil and your favorite plants to your terra-cotta pot, and enjoy!

  9. Protect your handiwork

    If you're using your terra-cotta pots outside, make sure to bring them in before freezing temperatures hit in your area, which can make it more likely that your terra-cotta pots could crack.

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