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Paint and Decorate a Terra Cotta Flower Pot Bird BathHow to Paint and Decorate a Terra Cotta Flower Pot Bird Bath
by Patricia Petrat

You've seen them in magazines, on television and in books. Here are complete instructions for you to make your own Terra Cotta Flower Pot Bird Bath.

Your best bet for outdoor painting is Patio Paints. I know they are a little pricey, but they are fade resistant, non-toxic and are meant for outdoor use. Patio Paints also make a clear sealant that is also non-toxic. This would work as your sealant. You could also search for a water-based polyurethane. There are a few that are non-toxic, (baby crib safe as they say), that would work. Whatever you choose, it won't be permanent. It is likely that your bird bath will require refinishing and touching up every other year. After all, it will be outside in the elements!

For the saucer of your bird bath, your best bet is to find a waterproof type that won't require any treatment inside the bowl, (where the water will go). For the outside, Patio Paints are again preferred.


  • One each, 12", 14", and 16" terra cotta flower pots

  • One - 20" diameter clay saucer. If you can find a waterproof saucer, that's even better; you won't have to seal the inside of it. If you choose pots that are smaller than those listed above, just be sure your saucer is 4" larger than your largest pot. This will keep the bird bath base and bowl in proportion.

  • Paints in assorted colors suitable for your design. You can use Patio Paints or Plaid Durable Paints for the best resistance to fading. I have successfully used Sears Weatherbeater Satin or Flat as a base coat on many bird baths.

  • Patio Paint Clear Gloss Sealant or some other water based sealant. The instructions for Patio Paints and Plaid Durable Paints don't call for one. I have always used one in spite of this. A sealant helps protect against water damage. Ultimately, this is up to you.

  • Paint Brushes, Sponges, if desired, Stencils and Stamps

  • Liquid Nails Construction Adhesive-A small tube is around $2.00


  • Sand away any rough spots or loose clay particles on the rim, bottom edge, and outside of the pots and saucer.

  • Stack the pots, starting with the largest pot, upside down, on the bottom, then the medium sized pot, then the smallest pot on top.

  • Draw a line with a pencil, below the rims of the small and medium sized pot onto the pot below it. After you un-stack the pots to paint them, this will help you define the area that will be exposed when the pots are stacked. You don't want your design to be hidden!

    stackedbb2.jpg (31220 bytes)

  • Seal the inside of all the pots, (and the saucer if it isn't waterproof), with oil-based polyurethane -2-3 coats. I also recommend sealing the lower edge of the largest pot, (the edge that will rest on the ground), as opposed to painting it. If you can, apply the polyurethane in a sunny place. The sun will "bake" the polyurethane as you work, causing it to set-up a little quicker. Let the polyurethane dry completely before handling your pots to paint them. A word about Thompson's Water Sealant; many visitors have suggested using Thompson's Water Sealant in place of polyurethane to seal terra cotta pots. I have never tried this, so I don't know if it works!

  • Now that the pots are sealed inside, after they dry, they are ready to be painted with your choice of base paint. You can make each pot a different color, or they can all be the same. Paint them to match your house if you like! Soft, pastel colors will be best for painting brightly colored flowers and patterns. Remember, don't bother painting too far above the lines you have drawn which indicate where the pots will overlap. It is a good idea to go over your lines an inch or so, just to be sure of good coverage.

  • Now the fun begins! Decorate the pots to your taste. Flowers, lady bugs and dragonflies are obvious choices. You can also paint your bird bath with personal touches that suit your home. If you like cats, paint a cat on the bottom pot. If you live near a lake, sail boats and lighthouses might be suitable. This is entirely up to you and it's the best part of creating your own!

  • If you purchase Plaid Decorator Blocks to decorate your pot, they come with a pattern suggestion sheet and how-to instructions. You can also buy more than one set of blocks and mix patterns and shapes. You can use Decorator Blocks, stencils and stamps to help with your design process. Plaid does offer their products for sale at their web site. See below for specific suggestions.

  • When you're finished decorating/painting your bird bath, let it dry thoroughly. Then seal the entire outside, (even the unpainted areas that won't show), with at least 3 coats of water based polyurethane. There are several of these on the market, available at craft, hardware and paint stores. Check to see if the product you select is OK to use over a painted surface. I stress water based polyurethane because oil based products have a yellow tint and will likely discolor your design.

Next Page: How to Install Your Birdbath

About the Author:

Patricia Petrat is the owner of Patricia's Pots, a Michigan-based store specializing in decorating and marketing flower pots, tin-ware, and unique terra cotta pieces since 1997. Visit Patricia's Pots for great flower pot gift ideas.

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