Using Abbots Stains

Commercial stains are prepared from minerals found in nature, significantly modified for the use of ceramists. They are refined, blended with one another, mixed with silica and alumina, fired to bond the various materials, and ground to a fine powder.

Stains have created a whole new color palette for the ceramist. The colors are brilliant, safe to use, and very reliable. This will enable you to make a reasonable prediction of the way the piece will look after the firing. Stains are added to the glaze in varying amounts, usually 2–12% of the total recipe.

Using Stains in glazes

If you use commercially produced glazes or underglazes, you are already working with prepared stains

There are many stain types. Stains can be very sensitive to the glaze ingredients they are added to; their color is heightened or diminished depending on the materials in the recipe. Listed below are the color characteristics of some stain types. Here are a few common types that work well.

Stain Type

Colour result

Best results from this glaze type

Chrome/tin based

Burgundy, pink, crimson, purple if mixed with cobalt stains

Use in glaze recipes that are high in whiting and tin with no boron, zinc, Titania, or magnesia minerals.

Chrome/alumina based

Pink Crimson


Alumina/chrome/iron blends

Brown, amber

Use in high zinc, high clay with no whiting, dolomite or tin oxide.





Green, turquoise, blue green

Tolerant of most chemical environments



Use in recipes containing whiting and no tin. The presence of zinc will give browns.


Grey, black

Use in recipes with no Titania, rutile, or zinc.


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Decorating with stains.

Using stains for colourful brushwork decoration is very popular, and many people just mix the pure stain powder with water and paint it on using watercolour techniques. In general, a stain should be used under a transparent glaze. The ware can be decorated at the green or biscuit stage. However, under-glaze stains must have maximum chemical compatibility with the overlying glaze for correct colour development. This is achieved by dispersing the stains in a medium of clay, frits and fillers. When used as underglazes, surfaces coming into contact with food must be covered by a food-safe transparent glaze

Do not underestimate the sophistication and refinement of commercially prepared underglazes.