DIY Watercolor Mugs

You ever have a person on your Christmas list that you just can’t find anything ‘right’ for?
That happened to me this holiday season…and I decided to take the plunge and make the perfect gift instead of wandering around in multiple stores hoping that something will stand out to me.

I would consider myself a pretty crafty person, but quite often I don’t think through the entire process and what I will need. I usually just go to Pat Catans or Michaels and pick up what I think I will need without taking a look at what I already have or looking up the actual post that the Pin is linked to. (what did we do before Pinterest!?)

So because of that and the fact that I get pretty stressed out if the person will like it or think my crafts look like a five year old did it…I tend to not do DIY gifts. In fact, it’s been about two years since I did any major crafting, since I didn’t have sorority things to make anymore.
Needless to say, I was a bit rusty when deciding to tackle this gift the DIY way.

I had seen a Pin on watercolor mugs and thought, “Wow! Perfect! My friend Anne was an art history minor and owns some beautiful paintings, she would appreciate them! It doesn’t look too hard, I think I can do this!!”

This time, learning from a recent complete craft failure, I actually opened up the Pin and read the craft instructions. The pin opened up a post on Poppytalk that was simple and straightforward, but used nail polish. I wasn’t positive about that medium because I wanted the finished mug to be as durable and long lasting as possible!
No one likes being handed a gift that if used normally will break or fade….

I searched on Pinterest again and happened on a ‘watercoloring’ post from the Free People blog. This post didn’t use the “dunking” method that the other post used, but instead kinda dripped the paint on the mugs using porcelain paints!

Armed with my inflated sense of crafting ability and the duty to make, I decided to combine the two and “wing it!”
(Never a good idea)

I grabbed the acrylic paints for ceramic and glass that I had on hand from the previous failed crafting attempt, four white mugs, a plastic bowl, and clean up/extra supplies.

My work station on the dining table looked like this:
I had/if you want to do this you will need:
White ceramic mugs (cleaned/rinsed off and stickers taken off)
Acrylic paint for ceramics/glass
A bowl you don’t care about/can throw away
Warm water
Rubbing alcohol to wipe off mess ups
Cotton balls/pads
(Here is where I go into the common sense items you may forget)
Something to put the wet and painted mugs on that you don’t care about
Paper towels to clean up your mess!

I went with the first method from the Poppytalk post, but instead of using nail polish, I just used my acrylic paints.
I put three drops of light blue paint in the water and expected a beautiful swirling of color, but instead I saw the pain clump and drop to the bottom and a ball of blue.
I kinda sat there and went…hhmmmmmm.

So I grabbed my paintbrushes and squished the paint balls and swirled them around. Not perfect, but I went ahead anyways.


Using the “dunk method” I plunged the mug in the cloudy blue water and then raised it back up to see


I wiped off the paint with the rubbing alcohol and tried again.
Plop. Clump. Squish. Swirl. Plunge. Nope.

Time for plan B.

This time I was going to try the “drip method” from the free people post.

In order to do this I had to add to my supplies:
More paper towels.
A ‘palette’ to put paint on for me to dip into
Paint brushes


This time I dipped a paintbrush in the squeezed out paint, held the mug over the clean water, and dripped the paint on /over the mug. Then I just dipped the paintbrush in water and dripped water over where I had put paint.

I repeated the process of paint and then water on the mugs until I was happy with what it looked like.
Since this seemed to work I continued with all four mugs, alternating how and at what angle I was holding the brush so that the watercolor didn’t look the same for all four.

I also decided to add some pizzaz to each one: one of them I flicked the paint on to get a splatter look, one I put the paint on really thick in a few spots and then added water and let it connect, and on the last one I dripped the paint on and then just dipped it in water.
All four came out different, unique and much better than I thought!

Where there was paint in an area I didn’t like, and on the bottom of the mug, I put rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and just wiped the offending paint off.

The next step is curing and baking the paint on the mugs.
While there are instructions out there saying how long to do it and such and such, since I didn’t use nail polish and since my paint is probably not the same brand as what the free people blog used, I just followed the instructions on the bottle of paint.

Well, I kinda followed the instructions…
I was supposed the let the paint sit on the mugs for 4 days, but seriously…who has time for that!? And I have a cat who would probably have decided to investigate/knock them down during that time period.

I let them sit for about 24 hrs and then I put them in the oven and turned it on to 325 for a half hour.


After they baked up and cooled down in the oven, I pulled them out and let them sit for another hour or so-because I am paranoid.

I was worried the color would lighten and not look as vibrant as it did wet, but surprisingly they looked better! They looked shiny and opaque, and I was very proud of myself.

Here are the finished products from the front and the back:


Overall, not a super hard craft requiring a ton of skill, but it was a bit hard to figure out how I was going to go about it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you put your mugs down to dry before baking them, its a good idea to move them once the paint isn’t as wet or tacky so that it doesn’t dry and stick to the surface.
(I used thick cardboard from a picture frame we had on hand, and didn’t want pieces of cardboard stuck to my mugs!)

I enjoyed making these and will be making some more for myself and others! I want to try this with espresso cups…

Oh and my friend really liked them and another friend asked where I bought them! Guess they don’t look like a five year old made them!

Tell me about a time you had a craft turn out great! Or horribly!


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