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Engobes Tutorial: The Engobes Basics

Engobes tutorial: The engobes basics

Once you dive into the world of ceramics, the term engobe comes up relatively quickly. What that is exactly and what actually sintered engobes are you will learn here in this blog. In addition, I have a small mixing instructions for engobes in powder form, some application techniques, as well as the firing temperature and much more written together for you around this topic.

What are engobes?

Engobes are finely ground clays colored with pigments and/or oxides. They are applied to (unfired) leather-hard clay pieces. The result of the raw firing is a matte, slightly rough surface. Afterwards, the piece can be fired again with a transparent glaze to intensify the color of the engobe.

In the case of already raw-fired works, a – then somewhat thinner – layer of engobes can also be applied.

These two engobes have been applied on a white clay body with a brush 1-2 layers. Then glazed on the right side with the transparent glaze GG-71 or PG-1010. Firing temperature: 1.040°C with 20 minutes holding time.

Here you can find our selection of engobes.

What are sintered engobes?

Sintered engobes are like conventional engobes in that, above a certain firing temperature, they form a silky-matt to silky-glossy surface with the help of the glass formers they contain.

These two sintered engobes have been applied 2-3 layers on a white clay body with a brush. Firing temperature: 1.040°C with 20 minutes holding time.

Here you can find our selection of sinter engobes.

Mixing instructions of engobes & sinter engobes in powder form

In order to achieve the desired or required consistency during application, here is a small instruction for mixing the powder engobe with water and auxiliary material. The quantities always refer to a unit of the powder to be mixed (e.g. 1 kg, 500 g, etc.). In principle, these quantities apply, but individual engobes may deviate considerably from them.

Liquid engobes do not require any addition of water or additives, as they are already ready for coating.

When mixing the engobe & sinter engobe with water and auxiliary material, proceed as follows:

  1. Weigh the required amount of water
  2. Stir the aid into the water
  3. Add the powder while stirring constantly
  4. Now let the mixed engobe rest for a while

The instructions in photos, as well as the firing curve for the raw firing / bisque firing of the engobes and sinter engobes can be found in our download engobes.

Application techniques

Engobes are applied to the leather-hard, unfired clay body. Make sure that your work is not too moist, but also not too hard. You can test the whole thing by lifting your work and making sure that it does not deform, then it is leather-hard and ready for engobing. If you apply several coats or paint over another engobe, be sure to wait in between so that everything can dry properly (10 min., half an hour, depending on the size of the work).

Engobes and sintered engobes can be applied using various methods:

  • Brush

    When applying with the brush, you can create many different structures, depending on the texture. With a wide, flat brush, for example, you can paint large areas nice and even.

    A bristly brush creates a completely different surface. It’s best to try it out on a clay shard and only then decide which structure you like best and how you paint your work.

  • Painting bottle

    Depending on the size of the painting nozzle, you can apply lines and dots with the painting bottle. The correct consistency of the engobe is particularly important. If the engobe is too liquid, you will not be able to draw lines without them running immediately. Here, too, a test on a handkerchief/kitchen roll is advantageous.

  • Diving/Pouring

    To prevent your work from deforming completely during dipping or pouring, it should definitely be leather-hard. If it is, you can easily achieve a nice, even surface with this technique.

    When pouring from the inside of vases or tall vessels, use only enough engobe to cover the surface well. If you are too slow in spreading, you will soften the wall of your work again. So cover hard-to-reach areas quickly with the engobe and empty out any excess right away by turning your work upside down and swaying it back and forth a bit.

    Finally, it is important to thoroughly wipe the underside of the sinter engobe or the areas that come into contact with the base plate so that your work does not stick in the stoneware firing.

A traditional technique is to apply patterns with the painting horn, you can also work with stencils or masking wax. Here you can be creative and try out different methods.

Other techniques such as sgraffito – here you scratch or cut a pattern into the already engobed piece of clay -, or inlays – here grooves are scratched into the clay and filled with engobe – bring striking accents to your works.

Firing temperature

Engobes are fired at a temperature of 900 – 1,000°C (also according to the firing range of the clay type used) in the raw firing/rough firing.

Sintered engobes are also fired at approx. 950 – 1,250°C, depending on their firing range, firing color and surface.

The firing temperature for the glaze firing of both can be taken from the label, but most engobes or sinter engobes can be fired between 950°C – 1,200°C, some sinter engobes even up to 1,300°C, whereby changes and fading of the colors can also occur here.

And once again as a reminder: Please make sure that all products used can withstand the firing temperature you require – so that there are no nasty surprises when you open the kiln, but only nice ones 😉.

Why work with engobes?

Engobes, unlike glazes, are intermixable and also really good coverage. The thicker the engobe is applied, the less the color of the clay body is visible after the raw firing (3 layers are recommended). The higher you fire, the darker the engobe will be.

You can also paint patterns and lines on your work and do not have to worry that the colors will run later, because engobes combine with the clay body during the raw firing, but do not run.

You can also use engobes to enclose glazes by painting an outline with the engobe and applying the glaze inside. During firing, the glaze does not run further than the line.

Sintered engobes form a silky glossy surface after only one firing at the appropriate firing temperature, so no further firing is needed. Especially when working with children, sinter engobes are particularly advantageous, because you can simply skip a firing and that saves a lot of time and nerves! 😉

As always at the end of a blog, I would like to introduce a few more books that cover this topic:

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