We’re back with the final tutorial from our latest R. Home column all about reinventing thrift store items on the cheap: painting terra cotta pots. You’ve may have already seen this makeover in the magazine, but here’s the step by step breakdown for all you clever DIYers.
- Terra cotta pots (we picked up an affordable assortment from our local Goodwill and Salvation Army)
- Thompson’s Water Seal ($4 from Lowe’s, it’s specifically formulated for sealing terra cotta pots so they can be painted)
- Exterior Latex Paint (we used Olympic Exterior in High Gloss)
- Sponge (optional)
- Plants (not optional, ha!)
1. Spray the Water Seal all along the inside of the pot (the sides and the base) to lock the moisture in so it won’t seep through and cause your paint to bubble or peel. A few thin coats should do the trick. It will look like the pots have just absorbed it all when they dry (they don’t appear to be darker or shiny afterwords, but don’t worry- they’re sealed).
2. Use a paintbrush to apply a coat or two of your exterior latex paint. We painted some of our pots pale yellow (Like Butter from Valspar) and some of them got a darker tone below the lip (Amber Pearl by Valspar). Ours took only one coat, so it was a 15 minutes job.
3. To add a striped pattern for fun, we just cut a sponge into fourths to create a strip that was perfect for stamping our yellow on yellow pattern (we used a paintbrush to gently apply the paint to the sponge). It was a really quick way to dress one up!
4. Once paint has dried, apply a coat or two more of your Water Seal both inside and out to further protect your paint job before adding your soil and plants
Here they are in all their glory. The hardest part of the whole shoot was finding flowering plants a few months ago (since magazines are shot so far in advance, anything seasonal is hard to dig up). But we managed to hunt down some festive foliage to complete the look. Total cost for this project: $35 for the $2 pots, the exterior high-gloss latex paint and the sealer.
If you have an hour this weekend, you can totally tackle this entire project. And now that flowering spring foliage is in season, it should be a cinch to perk up your front porch or your back patio. What colors will you go for?
Looking for another tutorial? Check out our How-To page for everything from concrete floor-staining instructions to fireplace painting advice.
Great tip on the water seal! I have done this project with the kids and we are always aggravated by the water seepage. I never would have thought to coat the inside with water seal! Thanks for a great post :)
I think I might do this this weekend! Fun and so cute, thanks guys!
Kellie Alkayam says
I don’t know if you guys have Michael’s there, but they sell terra cotta pots for just a couple bucks. By a couple bucks, I mean $2-4 for the sizes you guys painted.
Yes, the irony of the thrift store pots is that they were almost the same price as brand new ones, but since the theme of our column was rescuing thrift store finds, we decided to “recycle” instead of buying new- especially since we would be painting them anyway!
I’ve done this with the latex paints from Michael’s — you know what I mean– small bottles of any color imaginable from .59 cents to 99 cents! I spray them with poly after painting and they do fine. I’m sure exterior house paint will last longer, but for a few cents I can redo them as the mood strikes!
ALVN of WhisperWood Cottage says
I love how you painted each of them differently. They definitely add a splash of spring color to the decor!
P.S. I’m celebrating 100 posts with some giveaways: 3 signed photos and 1 large chandelier decal from Wilson Graphics. I thought you and/or your readers might be interested. :)
heather s. says
I’ve done it with the latex paint from Michaels as well. I have a large box full of those paints for small projects like this!
Painting my pots was on my to-do list this weekend! And no, I’m not kidding.
I did this last year with out the sealer though… But I just did the rims of all the pots in a black chalk board paint. That way you can write on each pot what is inside for my spices and veggies!
Sam & Jacci says
Someday soon we’re hoping to paint our exterior trim, shutters, and door. Maybe I’ll save this little project for the icing on the cake :) We still can’t plant annuals for a while – Mother’s Day is the recommendation here. So, I have time :) I’ll favorite this post as a reminder!
Just in time! I was wondering what I needed to do to paint some pots for our new home! Thank so much, you guys are great!
chelsea a says
I second the little bottles of paint. But they’re not usually latex, as one commenter mentioned, they’re Acrylic, which are water soluble. It would bring the cost of the project from $35 down to under $10 if you used those and sealed the pots afterward so the paint wouldn’t ever fade.
I would save the expensive paint for furniture! :)
ashley morgan says
Love the striped one! It reminds me that I need to get planting our annuals. We’re full into Spring in L.A.
MaryB in Richmond says
GREAT and wonderful idea (cute pots at Wal-Mart will run you $10, and here you’ve done it for almost nothing! Cool.
And I LOVE the idea of the chalkboard paint, but with my kids it might not be wise … although it would surely be funny!
I don’t usually paint my outside pots. I like the look of terra cotta but also because I can get all kinds of colored pots on the cheap at Old Time Pottery.
I am in the middle of a project idea to paint some terra cotta pots for the house though. I want to put me some little black pots in my kitchen to grow some herbs.
how lovely & easy!
SoBella Creations says
What a great way to get pots in the color you want without them costing a small fortune.
ann mcguire says
I love how your pots turned out! The “Like Butter” yellow is so cheery. You can really have fun playing up bright colors that work well with all the gorgeous flowers out there. I painted a few pots last year with Valspar’s “Grand Hotel Geranium Pink”. It looked so sweet on our brown deck with lots of white, pink and orange flowers in it. It’s a fun and cost effective way to brighten up your porch.
Just beware if your plants need the all-over evaporation that natural terra cotta provides – once you paint, the only place for water to get out is the hole in the bottom, and some plants need their soil to dry out more quickly than that. Painting your pots will keep the soil moist for longer, so pick your plants accordingly!
These are really cute, and I love the chalkboard paint too. Also if you do like the natural terra cotta but still want the cute factor, just paint the rims! Or paint stripes or other simple shapes onto the terra cotta without coating the entire pot!
Love this! Was in a garden center today despairing that all the interesting looking planters were much more than I wanted to spend- any reason why spray paint might not work on the exterior?
As long as you get the spray sealer for the interior of the pot, spray painting the exterior should work like a charm. Happy painting!
I can’t thank you enough for your great how-tos! I found this one just as I was thinking of heading to Ikea for some cheap pots. But it turns out that I have all the supplies for this project right here at home: various terra cotta pots, leftover Thompson’s Water Seal (from when we used to have a deck), and plenty of leftover paint! So glad I saved it!
Heidi B says
There are some GIANT terracotta pots with some fun textures on sale at our grocery (originally $59 now only $15) but the terracotta color doesn’t work with our house. My boyfriend was convinced that I couldn’t paint them and have good results, but now I feel confident that I can do a great job for not too much work or money! Thanks for the great tips!
Hi John & Sherry! I recently attempted to paint a terra cotta pot silver to house my little Christmas rosemary bush and I even used the Thompson’s Water Seal spray, but as I was cleaning up my Christmas decorations, I saw that water had indeed seeped through from the inside, causing my paint to bubble (and mold to grow on the pretty red ribbon I had tied around the pot– ewww!). I was wondering if y’all ever had the same problem? Maybe I didn’t put enough coats of the seal on? Thanks!!
Hmm, we actually haven’t had an issue with water seeping through after sealing those terra cotta pots. Maybe you’re right about not applying enough thin and even coats of sealant to keep the pot water-free on the outside. Or perhaps the paint that you used on the exterior wasn’t “semi gloss exterior paint” which is made to hold up to water and moisture better than any interior paint or something in a flat finish. That’s all we can think of off the top of our heads. Hope it helps!
Another option for terra cotta pots, although not to get fun colors, is to use dark wood stain on the pots. A few years ago, I got huge planters at Costco really cheap but I wanted to make them a darker brown color. I didn’t seal them at all (inside or out), but just brushed on a couple coats of brown wood stain on the outside. It soaked in well and has worn really well over the years. They look more polished and modern than plain terra cotta.
Thanks so much for the tip! It sounds like a great way to get a deeper and richer look!
Karen B. says
I have some terra cotta pots that I want to paint, but I’m curious about something. Would herbs, vegetables, or other edible plants absorb toxins from being planted in a pot that had been painted or sealed inside? For those plants, would it be better to leave the pot natural? Thanks for your help! Karen B.
Hmm, I probably wouldn’t paint anything that’s full of something you eat just in case. I’m one of those better safe than sorry people. Haha.
Virginia Smith says
Thank you for the tip! I found some darling planters on Pinterest that I made a few months ago for my children’s teachers using chalk board paint. After I finished painting, and planted the plants, the paint bubbled up all over and the planters looked terrible.
School is almost out and I want to make these again. I’ll try this before painting this time. Thanks again!
Hope it helps!
My daughter wants to use a large terra cotta pot as her guest registry at her wedding. Does anyone know how she can do this? Will the names stay on the pot? Does she have to seal it in any way?
Maybe just getting people to sign it with a sharpie? And then spraying sealer on it?
Interesting notes for pot painting.
As for edible plants in those pots, I wouldn’t eat anything that came in contact with chemical as the whole idea is to eat more healthy.
One way to prepare pots for painting is to soak the pots in water for a couple of hours so the pot absorb all the water it can.
Afterwards you will let them dry in the shade, be careful become they break much easier till they dry out.
Then you can just paint away and the decorations will last longer.
If it bubbles a little after a few years it’s probably time to update the colors and the design anyway.
Have done this for years as I try to use less chemical possible.
Also the pots will breath much better which is the whole idea behind Terra Cota pot versus plastic pots.
Keep up the great ideas. gc
Hey guys,I know this is an old post but still looking to do this. I finally bought all my pots and can’t wait to give my outdoor space some cheerful appeal. Quick question, no primer needed after the water seal? Thanks :)
Hmm. I can’t remember perfectly but I think if we didn’t mention it we didn’t use it :)
This is true-you guys are spot on! Thanks :)
greenie weenie says
I got several pots for $1 at a yard sale, and I have several cans of leftover paint. After I buy the sealer my total cost will be about $5. Gotta love re-purposing!
Thanks! Can I use acrylic paint on the outside instead? I have kids painting at school and the latex house paint would not be the best choice for us. Any insights me for me? Thanks again!
Hmm, I’m not sure if that will run in the rain/elements but if they’ll be inside (on a windowsill, etc) it would probably work!
Steph | glitter & goat cheese says
Hi Sherry! Question for you: How long did you wait in between coats of the WaterSeal? And then how long did you wait in between the final coat of the WaterSeal and the first coat of paint? The WaterSeal can says 24 hours between coats (boooooo) but doesn’t say how long it needs to sit before applying paint.
I would follow those directions if you can (I honestly don’t remember, but I’d just wait 24 hours to be safe and then let it sit another 24 and apply the paint. Hope it lasts a good long time!
Lois Ford says
I have three extra large pots infront of my home. They are full of soil. I want to know how to paint or stain them, without taking out the soil to coat the inside of the pot. any ideas?
Maybe just paint the outside and the inside rim up to the soil so you don’t have to take it out?
kate h. says
I was wondering if using polyurethane would be an okay substitute for the water seal. I had planned on having my nieces paint some with acrylic paint for my sister, then a coat of the poly to make it shiny. Any thoughts?
I haven’t tried it myself, but it’s worth a shot! Good luck!
Perfect! I love these thing. Going to do it for sure
This is an easy way to make pots become attractive.
Wow. I will follow your tips and try to make one. So excited!
Diana Glenn says
When painting the terra cotta pot should you paint the entire inside also or is this not necessary.
And after painting should seal again.
I have used Martha Stewarts Multi-Surface Satins, but doesn’t come out very shiny.
We didn’t paint the inside since it wouldn’t be seen. We did spray seal that though!
Hallie Michel says
I have two very large clay planters that need a facelift. Your process sounds good but will it hold up if the pots are left outside all year?