In the above photo I have assembled most of my essential tools. These are the things I use with almost every horse I underglaze.
Underglazes and Glaze
These are the ceramic equivalent of “paints” and “sealants”.
1. Clear glaze. This particular type of gloss glaze is no longer available because it contains lead. Newer products do not contain lead and are safer, though many potters prefer leaded glazes when they can be found.
2. Underglaze – cover coat. This is the thicker, more opaque form of underglaze. Until it is fired under glaze, it tends to be less true to color than the translucent colors.
3. Underglaze – translucent. These underglazes are thin and translucent. They are also more true to their final color than the cover coats, but they do not produce the same deep, even coloring.
Areas without underglaze fire white, so it is not necessary to paint white markings or patterns onto the model. Instead, areas meant to be white are masked. Two other common tools—plastic wrap and masking tape—are not pictured.
4. Latex masking fluid. Sometimes marketed under the name Miskit, this is the masking material of choice for more complex white patterns. It thins with ammonia.
5. Rubber cement eraser. This is the best tool for removing the latex mask. I usually cut mine into smaller pieces so that I can get into tight areas.
6. Clay shaper. Although these rubber-tipped tools are made for sculptors, they are great for applying latex because the excess peels easily off the tip.
Most of the detail work in underglaze is not done by adding color, but by taking it away, although some hand painting is necessary.
7. Soft blush brush. A large, soft brush is important for removing the dust created by erasing or etching, without damaging the raw underglaze.
8. Eraser sticks. The white one to the left is an old typewriter eraser. The pink eraser is used by pencil artists, and is not as abrasive. Both types are useful.
9. Paintbrushes. I have a strong preference for liners, but any soft brush that still has a good point will work.
10. #11 Xacto blades. In ceramics, what a model horse artist would call etching is called scraffito. Most of my scraffito work is done with #11 Xacto blades. (I do not use handles with them, but that’s just a personal quirk.)
11. Hypodermic Needle. For really fine scraffito work, a hypodermic needle is useful. Needles can also be used to navigate tight spots where the back edge of an angled blade might nick the surrounding area. Mine is set inside a custom-made handle. (Don’t use a hypodermic without a handle!)
Because of the way underglaze behaves (more on that in the next post), it almost has to be applied by airbrush.
12. Iwata Eclipse. This is the brush of choice for most underglaze artists. Because they are gritty, underglazes are unsuited to the kinds of fine detail brushes favored by many acrylic artists.
In the next post, I’ll talk a little about how underglaze does not behave like paint, and how that is good and bad for someone used to traditional painting.