If you like to decorate surfaces with colour – underglaze, glaze or lustre, for example – it’s far better to have a real reference for the colours as opposed to a glossy picture in a catalogue. This simple panel shows at a glance how a colour will look on your work, and will save you the trouble of testing each time


You will need:
• Paper to make templates
• Cutting knife
• White firing clay – porcelain is best if making a colour panel for lustre, but make the panel from the clay you mostly use –       earthenware or stoneware
• Rolling pin, plastic sheet, 3-5mm roller guides
• Absorbent board
• Small texture stamp – can be any shape but a small rectangle is useful. The example shown was homemade from a small offcut of wood with lines cut into it with a saw
• Transparent glaze – suitable for clay type
• Colours – slips, underglazes, glazes, lustres, enamels – whichever you want to reference

Before you begin:
Measure and cut out two paper templates of identical size. The actual size will depend on how many and what type of colours you want to showcase, but the example shown measures 22 x 14cm.

Cut the second template into a 15mm frame with two dividing bars, as shown.


Prepare a block of clay large enough to accommodate both templates.

Working on your sheet of plastic, reduce the bulk of the clay by beating it with the side of your rolling pin. Work in measured, even strokes from one side of the clay to the other, to avoid making deep grooves in the surface.

Roll out the clay between your roller guides, making sure it will adequately accommodate your templates. You will find that periodically turning the slab will make rolling much easier and give you more control to achieve the approximate shape that you require.

Smooth over the surface of the slab with a rib to compact the clay once you have finished rolling it out.

Turn the slab onto an absorbent board then smooth over the surface again with a rib. Place the two templates on the slab.



Carefully cut around the templates using a ruler or roller guide, as extra insurance to ensure the cut is straight.

Very carefully cut out and remove the interior sections from the frame.

Keep all the offcuts of the slab under plastic for use later.



Place the paper frame template on the full slab section and carefully score the position of the windows with a pin.



Score the surround of the frame and the marked position on the full slab, using a serrated kidney.

Slip the scored areas



Place the frame on the full slab and press it into place firmly to squeeze out any possible trapped air and excess slip.



Clean away the excess slip from around the join with a suitable tool then work around the outer edge with a rectangular rib to neaten up.



Using the reserved offcuts from under the plastic, stamp and cut out as many texture samples as you think you might need for the panel. This will depend on how you want to arrange them but stamping and cutting out a few more than you might need won’t hurt.

The samples shown measure 3 x 2cm.



Return to the panel base and place the texture stamp on the surface to gauge the spacing for the sections. From this, you can mark the horizontal dividing lines – score the positions as shown, with two lines separating each row.



Once the horizontal lines are in place, use the texture sections and the stamp to divide the space equally into individual sections.

Grid out the entire panel in this way.



Working on the spaces between those where the stamped sections will be joined, score a diagonal line through each using a pin.



Now score the back of each texture section and the adjoining areas on the panel, then apply slip to each one and fix them in place. Press the sections in place lightly to avoid spoiling the surface.



Neaten around each section with an appropriate tool, then re-establish any of the lines that may have been blurred in the process of application.



Turn the panel over and measure a position on the two central sections of the frame, to make the holes for a hanging wire.

Use a short length of thick wire to push through the frame at the marked distance from the top, then wiggle it about to enlarge the hole.

Neaten the openings to each hole on both sides using a wooden tool.



The panel is now finished in terms of making.


Options for colour sampling:

If wanting to sample slips, apply them at the green stage. Paint them on both a textured area and one adjoining area.
After bisque firing the various colours can be glazed in part to show how they look matt, shiny and over texture, with and without glaze.
For colours usually applied post-firing – ie, underglazes, apply them to the bisque-fired panel in the same way as the slips, then partially glaze in transparent. Again, this will show the colours matt, shiny and over texture.


Glazes can be applied as required to show how they look over texture as well as the flat areas.

If the panel is to be used to show lustre colour, glaze half the texture and one half of the intermediate section in transparent then fire the glaze to its optimal temperature. Apply your lustre colours to the individual sections as before to show how they look matt, shiny and over texture. Fire the colours on at between 730°C and 750°C in a well-ventilated kiln.

Once your panel is finished, you can write the colour details below each one in marker pen. I like to do this in gold, to add a bit more bling!


See here for more projects

This project first appeared in issue 41





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