A while back, my friend and I went to a pottery painting studio so that we could paint a pair of cute fox statues that would go in their new nursery. I was a bit worried about how painting pottery with low vision would go at first but ended up having a lot of fun and creating a unique piece that my friend loved. Here are my tips for painting pottery with low vision in a casual setting
First, feel the shape of the item
One of the things that helped me with figuring out how I would paint the fox statue was feeling the shape of the item so that I could visualize where I could paint, the location/size of features such as the eyes and nose, and how I could alternate colors accordingly. We ended up choosing geometric foxes because they had sharp lines and ridges so I could easily alternate colors and distinguish the different sides of the fox.
Put the item on a high-contrast surface
When painting flat items such as tiles, it can be difficult for people with low vision to distinguish the off-white unpainted tile on top of the off-white table. For this reason, it helps to have a high contrast surface to paint on such as a colored table or a textured surface like newspaper or a drop cloth underneath the pottery item that is being painted.
Preview colors using large swatches that are easier to see
The small color swatches for previewing paint colors can be difficult to see, especially if they are glued down to a shelf. The pottery place I went to had larger color swatches available on request, either in the form of large tiles or showing the paint color on one of the example pottery pieces. Another option is to look up the paint colors online, though there may be some difference in the actual colors depending on how the device screen displays colors.
Use bright/saturated colors whenever possible
While pastel colors are popular, I find it much easier to work with bright, saturated colors that contrast against each other. While the paint colors will appear less vivid before varnish is added and the pottery is fired, the colors will still be easier to work with than the lighter paint colors, plus they will likely be easier to see in the paint tray.
Take note of how long it takes paint to dry
It can be hard to tell whether paint is wet or dry just by looking at it, so it helps to ask pottery staff how long it takes for paint to dry before doing another coat or adding another color. When my friend and I went to paint pottery, they told us to wait about seven minutes for paint to completely dry, so we would set a timer to make sure we didn’t touch the wet paint before then.
Use tape and other guides to assist with painting
One of the pottery staff members suggested that I use painter’s tape as a guide when painting the geometric fox, and I discovered this was a game changer for painting straight lines and avoiding unwanted color splotching, though I still had a small amount of splotching in some areas. I would put the tape around areas such as the face or legs so that I could paint straight lines, waiting for paint to dry before putting the tape on another area.
Make sure items can’t be easily knocked over
This may seem obvious, but when I attended a pottery camp when I was younger, it was difficult for me to see the unpainted pottery items on the table and I often came close to knocking items over just because they were difficult for me to see. For this reason, it’s important to make sure items are not too close to the edge of the table or in a place where they can be knocked over by someone washing a paintbrush or grabbing a bottle of paint
Other tips for painting pottery with low vision
- If painting with a brush is difficult, ask about doing a special technique such as the bubble technique to cover the entire item in an interesting pattern
- For people with dexterity issues, wrapping a hair curler around a brush can make it easier to grasp
- Since unpainted pottery can be difficult to see on a shelf, look up available pottery items at the studio online to read descriptions of different items
- Look at a color palette app like Coolors to find paint colors that will work well together