Sugar Skull Kit Instructions
Important: when you touch the bisque, always make sure that your hands are CLEAN. You don't need gloves, but clean hands without lotions or oils are essential. Always.
Please keep the box, bubble wrap, and peanuts handy, you will be using them to ship the skull back for firing.
You will need a nice, fine brush, and possibly an exacto knife. The fine brush should come to a good tip. Something in the realm of a 10/0 to a 18/0 works great. The exacto is only for scraping off mistakes or cleaning up edges. You can use other brushes too, but you can do everything with one brush if you like, as long as it has a good tip. For this demo, I used only a 18/0 brush.
When you are ready, look through photos of Sugar Skulls. There are horse designs on the internet. I won't cut and paste them, for copyright reasons, but a search of 'sugar skull horse' will find them easily. Notice that sugar skull designs tend to run vertically, they are symmetrical on either side of the front line of the skull. Remember this as you set out your design. You are only painting one side. You might want to sketch a few designs on paper. Notice the traditional elements.... hearts, key holes, crosses, flowers, geometric designs. Look for elements that you like, and that will work with the area that you want to paint.
Your kit includes four colors of paint, plus black; glaze; a sponge; and a bisque or two. You will need a paint brush, a little cup of water, and possibly an exacto.
You cannot draw directly on the bisque with a pencil. If you do, when it is fired, the pencil lead will burn out, and the paint that you put over it will possibly chip off. You might be able to do it really lightly, but you do take that chance that the paint will chip off. Instead, use the black paint to paint the outline of the element that you are creating. Keep the line consistent. Thin the paint with a drop of water, if you need to. I often use the back of my hand, to test how the paint is flowing. Too thin, and it will spread and not make a good line. Too thick, and the line won't flow. You can also use the back of the bisque to practice. You can always sand it off later. Remember that it is easier to get an even line, if you pull the brush toward you in one stroke. Move the bisque in your other hand, until you can make one nice stroke the way that you want it. Then move it again. Practice is important. You can always wash it off if you get frustrated, but make sure to dry it completely before starting again, if you do.
Outline your design element with the black, then wash your brush with water, and go back and fill in with color. These paints are like water colors, they can be painted thinly, and several coats makes them more opaque. If you get some on the black outline, which you will, you can go back and outline it again later, to clean it up. The exacto can be used to remove excess paint outside of the area. Scrape it with the EDGE of the blade tip, not the tip. The bisque is soft enough that you can make holes in it with the exacto if you use the tip. Use the edge, and simply and cleanly scrape and stroke the paint off. If you want to start again on the whole skull, you can wash everything off under the sink, and let it dry again. Scrub lightly if necessary. It's important to let it dry before starting again. You can use a hair dryer on it.
Scrape gently to remove paint, with the edge of an exacto.
Keep looking at your design, to balance the colors. You can mix these colors if you like, what you see is pretty close to what you will get. Mix the purple with blue to make a different purple. Mix the yellow with green to change it. Only little amounts are needed. These kits contain enough paint to do several skulls. Use the lid to work with each paint, mix a little bit to exactly how you want it.
Be careful about touching what you have already painted. Try to hold it by the edges, or ears. A damp finger can smudge your paint. It will dry quickly, but can be rewetted quickly if it gets a drop of water on it.
As you fill in your design, look for balance. There should be no large white areas left, it should look filled in everywhere. I didn't complete my design, because it was getting washed off anyway. Yours should be complete before you go to the final step!
If you used the back for practice, lightly sand or wipe the practice off, or scrape it. Unless you don't care. The back will either get a pin back glued to it, or a magnet, or nothing, whatever you ask for. Sign it if you like. If you do sign it, one dab of glaze over the signature (see next step first). Otherwise, the back can be left without glaze until it gets here, and I will glaze it. I will even out and fix your glaze here, as long as all of your design is covered lightly. I can fix any gaps or inconsistencies. Remember, when I do them, I spray the glaze on. You only have to put on enough glaze to stabilize the design, and I will do the rest.
When your design is done, you will be dabbing it with glaze. This is important. SO IMPORTANT. Wet your sponge under the faucet, and keep squeezing it and wetting it until it is soft, but barely damp. Then touch it to the glaze in the cup, and do ONE DAB. ONE. Move to another area, and do ONE DAB. The main thing is not to re-touch any area that was made wet by the glaze, until it is dry again. You don't want a lot of glaze on your skull. A thin layer. If you dabbed on too much, try blowing on it to push it around. This will be the hardest part for you to get right. If it gets way too much glaze, it will get bubbles in the glaze when fired. If it is too thin, I can add glaze here. So what we want is for it to be covered in the peach colored glaze, but not thickly. One dab in each area. Be patient. Then let it dry. When it is dry, do another thin layer. Don't wipe, smear, or dab dab dab. That will keep your design from getting smeared when it is shipped. Please look at the photos for a better understanding of how this glaze will look when you are doing it.
The sponge is barely damp, after running under the faucet so that it opens up and softens. Then it is dipped into the glaze, that was shaken. The glaze is thin, on purpose.
You need to take your time, and let each dab dry. Use a hair dryer if you like, that will speed it up.
Once your dabs are dry, go back in and dab the surrounding areas. When the entire front and edges are dry, put on one more layer. If you signed the back, dab that too.
When the glaze is completely dry, you can use the bubble wrap to wrap up the skull, put it back in the box, and return it for firing.
Use First Class, it's cheaper.
If you have questions, ask me on FB, you are my beta testers, so I need to know what can be better explained or what you have trouble with. If you totally get in a pickle, you can completely wash off your skull and let it dry, and start again.