What Kind Of Paint Can You Use On Coffee Mugs? (Guide & Tips)

Last Updated on May 13, 2022 by John Moretti

We all have that unique mug that sits apart from everyone else’s; heaven forbid anyone should attempt to use your mug! Painting your mug with your initials, astrological sign, or a different design will ensure no one will ever use your mug again! Therefore it’s a good enough reason for every person in your family or office to have a customized coffee mug.

For ceramic mugs, acrylic paints are best. In some instances, craft paint is recommended, with under glazing also being suggested. Depending on the paint type, you can either air dry, heat set in a conventional oven, or a kiln. Hand-painted mugs are non-toxic and dishwasher safe.

If you are looking to personalize your coffee mugs or create unique one a kind gifts for friends and family by painting on them but are unsure what paints are suitable, then read on. The following article will assist you with any information you require on the paints best suited for your coffee mugs.

Coffee Mugs Suitable For Painting

All coffee mugs are made of ceramic. With very few exceptions, will you find porcelain coffee mugs? Ceramic mugs are further categorized into glazed or unglazed mugs. Should you purchase your plain, unpainted mugs from your local retail or homeware store, they will undoubtedly be glazed.

The store-bought mugs have either a matte or satin finish on them. In which case, the mugs are waterproof and ready for painting.  

Picture of different mugs

When you purchase ready-made mugs from pottery suppliers or craft stores, they are known as Bisque fired mugs. It is so named because all mugs go through two methods of firing. The first is known as the bisque firing, and the second is known as the glaze firing.

In Bisque firing, the mugs are turned from clay to ceramic by firing in the kiln. The second firing the mugs undergo, glaze firing, applies a coat of shiny waterproof glaze.

Ideally, you are looking for bisque mugs that are fresh and clean out of the kiln, just waiting for you to let loose your creativity and imagination! Bisque mugs are ideal because the clay is porous, thereby rendering the mugs absorbent to paints.

Paint Types Suitable For Coffee Mugs

Many crafters will suggest acrylic paints for painting coffee mugs. As much as acrylic paints are an excellent paint medium for coffee mugs, there are other variations you may wish to explore.

Underglaze For Painting Coffee Mugs

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Underglaze may be one example of paint used to paint on your coffee mug. You decide what your design should look like by the brush type used to apply the underglaze. Using a more delicate brush creates detailed designs, whereas, with a wider, thicker brush, you can blend in colors for a gradient or watercolor look.

However, you must be heedful that a single underglaze application is insufficient. You need to apply the underglaze a minimum of three times before the final glaze is applied to the mug prior to firing.

You may use various other under-glazing techniques to paint your coffee mug. It would help if you explored some of the following:

  • Sgraffito with under glazing
  • Marbling with under glazing
  • Bubble glaze with under glazing

Craft Paint For Coffee Mugs

Several craft paints are available at craft and hobby stores that are suitable for painting your coffee mug. Craft paints have been adapted, so their range of use is extended to cover everything from canvas, pottery, glass, plastic, and fabric.

  • Craft paint may be used on both glazed and unglazed mugs.
  • They are fast-drying, with almost no spillage or drip.
  • They are available in a broad spectrum of colors.

The mugs do not need to be dried in an oven or kiln with craft paints. Once painted, the mugs can be left to air dry. However, the drying time may take longer depending on the number of layers of paint you apply to the mug.

Your coffee mug painted using craft paints may also be dishwasher safe.

Craft paints are affordable to use on mugs meant for gifts. Show that someone special has your creative side!

Nail Polish To Paint Coffee Mugs

Yes, you read that correctly! Nail Polish can also be used to decorate your favorite coffee mug. Unfortunately, though, you cannot take your coffee mug to your favorite nail salon for a touch-up! Like acrylic paints, nail polish is non-water-soluble once dry.

Nail polish is oil-based and available in a broad spectrum of colors. You can also create endless patterns with a pointed needle or toothpick.

To paint on your coffee mug using nail polish, fill a large bowl with boiling water into the water, and drop in a few blobs of nail polish. Using a toothpick or a knitting needle also works well to create your designs.

However, this type of painting is not recommended for your everyday coffee mug. Nail polish can be used primarily for decorative purposes on coffee mugs.

Acrylic Paints For Coffee Mugs

Acrylic paints are actually quite versatile and suitable to use on coffee mugs. They are good for painting coffee mugs because acrylic paints are water-based with pigments suspended in an emulsion solution.

What makes acrylic paints ideal for coffee mugs is that they are fast-drying and available in a wide spectrum of colors, non-toxic, and dishwasher safe. With acrylic paints, you can explore various paint techniques from water coloring, oil painting, and even a gouache if you want!

Painting your coffee mug with acrylic paints, you will need to heat set the paint in your oven. Make sure you have glazed the paint a few times before baking it in the oven. Do not place the mug into an already heated oven, as this may cause the mug to crack or explode! Set the oven to about 350 Deg F (180 Deg C) and place the mug into the cold oven.

Another point to note is to use craft acrylics rather than artist acrylics on your coffee mugs. There is a differentiation between the two paints. Craft acrylics are specially made and suited for crafting projects. It is much thinner than artists’ acrylics.

It would be best if you remembered artists are painting over a thick canvas, and you are painting on a much softer, porous material.

Selecting The Right Paint For Your Coffee Mug

There are so many different paints available for you to try on your coffee mug. It can be unclear for a beginner or someone wanting to impress their family and friends with a handmade gift.

Here are a few suggestions to make your task of finding the right paint easier.

Curing Time On Painting Coffee Mugs

The curing time is the amount of time it takes for the paint to set once applied to the surface of the mugs. Look for paints that are fast-drying, like acrylic paints, for example. It is also good to find paints that can air-dry, preferably within 48 hours of being painted or cured by baking.

You will be painting multiple layers of paint and glaze and most certainly do not want to wait hours for the paint to set!

Paint Colors For Painting On Coffee Mugs

Photo of different paint colors

The whole idea of painting your coffee mug is to make it different from everyone else’s. So you want a paint that is available in a broad spectrum of colors. It can be very frustrating choosing your paint only to find it does not have the colors you want!

Therefore choose a paint that has a wide range of color selection.

Paint Fading On Coffee Mug

With constant use, the colors will fade over time which no person can avoid. However, look for paints that do not fade quickly. You will find this information in the product description and look for product reviews. You can learn much from what others have to say about a product.

Paints That Are Dishwasher And Food Safe

Dishwashers are simply a Godsend! You do not want your favorite coffee mug to chip or be damaged after you have spent so much time painting over it. Therefore look for paints that are safe for use in the dishwasher.

It would be best if you were looking for whether the paints are food safe. There are glazes and seals available that are food safe and applied after painting.

You may also need to avoid painting the area that doesn’t touch the food or, in your case, coffee. So avoid painting around the lip of the mug.

Pigments In Paint For Coffee Mugs

Suitable paints have fine pigments that provide the bold, vibrant colors we look for. You are looking for paint that will give you even coverage with bold colors.


Your mug is your canvas where you can release your creativity, making your coffee mug one of a kind, unique piece of art.

There are different types of paint out there that can be used on this surface. These different types of paints give different results when painted on the surface, so one must know beforehand which one to use. The good news is you can decorate coffee mugs with more than one kind of paint.