Image collage with ceramic tile, colored pencils, and caption about the subject - using fluid acrylic paint as a cold finish

First – what IS cold finish as it relates to ceramics?  A cold finish is anything that is NOT glaze/underglaze. Only to be used for sculptural items – yes, jewelry can fall under this category.  It is relegated for sculptural items ONLY because it is NOT food safe.

Cold Finish Medium Used

As it says in the title of this post, this tutorial is all about using fluid acrylic paint by Golden– as a cold finish on sculptural ceramics.

Golden is the actual name brand of the fluid acrylic paint that I use.  There are other name brands that produce an acrylic paint in a similar viscosity, and those I will be testing in the future. From their website:

“Fluids are created by loading an acrylic polymer binder with concentrated levels of quality pigments for a wide selection of permanent and lightfast colors. No fillers or extenders are added to achieve the desired consistency, nor is the fluid quality achieved with additional water. GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics have the same pigment load as the Heavy Body Acrylics, but in a viscosity similar to heavy cream. Fluids allow for smooth flowing applications while retaining color intensity, tinting strength, film integrity, and adhesion…. useful for dry brush application, fine details, pouring, spraying (particularly when mixed with GOLDEN Airbrush Medium), staining techniques and many others.”

The best way to use this product is in thin layers as the website mentioned.  Not many of the colors are opaque so several layers are required to create an opaque coverage if desired.  My favorite part and biggest reason for using the Golden Fluid acrylics in my own work is how well they do layer without detracting from my sculpted texture.


Variety of paint brushes – you do NOT need the expensive ones

Golden Fluid Acrylic paints – choice of colors

Bisqued Ceramic Item (I make carved relief tiles to use as test tiles)

Paper towels or rag

Paint palette / plate

Palette knife works well for mixing colors – useful, not needed

My Process

In the image above, you may have noticed that one side is white and one side is off white.  The white side has been primed with gesso while the off white side is bare stoneware clay.  In my cold finish exploration, it’s not just about the mediums that can be used.  It’s about finding the best combination to create the best results. I’m testing all my current materials on tiles that have been primed with Liquitex Gesso . Once I complete this round of testing, every medium will get tested again with a different priming material.

Image collage of a carved ceramic tile and paints

  1. Prime half the test tile. Let sit overnight.
  2. Decide on color scheme. Use small flat paintbrush to apply larger areas of color to the tile (or sculptural piece).
  3. Use a smaller/pointed brush for detail work and touch ups.
  4. Apply sealant.

I know… seems way to simplistic, right?  Well it is EASY, but I’m saving the more in depth and time intensive tutorials for those in my member group. This process/tutorial page is definitely geared for folks who just need a little prodding, to know the basics, and like to explore the DIY approach. If you’re interested in the more in depth tutorials, check out the MEMBERS ONLY tab at the top and look at all the different subscription levels. There’s something for every budget. 


Calla Lily Ceramic Tile - Golden Fluid Acrylic Paint

I mentioned earlier that you don’t need to use expensive high quality paint brushes.  If you read the tutorial about using Pan Pastels as a cold finish, you can see how the roughness of the bisqued stoneware clay eats up the sponge.  It has the similar affect on paint brushes.  My most commonly used brushes are from my local art store – Fiddlehead Artisan Supply in Belfast, Maine – and cost $1.

Calla Lily Ceramic Tile - Golden Fluid Acrylic Paint

When comparing the gessoed versus non-gessoed side of the tile, I personally prefer the non-gessoed side.  If you look closely, you can see the brush strokes more.  While this is a desired trait depending on what I’m working on, more often than not, I would rather it all blend together. The non-gessoed side allowed the acrylic paint to absorb into the clay a bit more, which appears to have affected the vibrancy/saturation ever so slightly. Both sides blended well as long as the acrylic paint was still wet.

In the next picture, you can see the differences in using a variety of different sealants.  For this iteration of experiments I’m using ModPodge.  I’ve used Krylon as a sealant but have found that for my preference (a matte finish), Mod Podge Matte provides that better than some of the other sealants I’ve tried.  As with the primers, I will be doing these same sets of test tiles with a variety of sealants in the future.

You can clearly see the different at the bottom, between the brushed on glossy and matte ModPodge.   There is little discernible difference between the matte ModPodge and the non-sealed acrylic paint.


  • When using Golden Fluid Acrylic Paint, keep in mind that it will dry quickly IF you apply the paint in thin layers.
  • If you want to blend 2 different colors into a gradient as I tried in the test tile, apply the paint a more heavily/thicker layer. This keeps the paint workable a little longer.
  • If you are trying to accomplish a gradient affect, it is best to be working with 2 different paintbrushes. This allows you to apply the paint and work with it while still wet without having to rinse out your brush to load a new color.
  • Golden Fluid Acrylics ARE artist grade/quality paints.  You do not necessarily NEED to apply a sealant unless you want to change the finish from matte to glossy or vice versa. I apply one as a precaution and to make cleaning my sculptures easier.


I hope that these basic pictures, tips, and brief instruction were helpful.  At the very least, it should give you a starting point to launch your own exploration into this medium as a cold finish.  For more information about additional cold finishes, check out the COLD FINISHES page under the RESOURCE CENTER tab.  To be notified when I publish new tutorials or blog posts, sign up for my newsletter or RSS feed and check back often.

Have any questions?  Please ask!

cold finish technique exploration and resource page funded in part by a project grant (2018-2019) from the Maine Arts Commission