The lobby of my apartment building has a table that we call the Bermuda Triangle. You put something on this table you no longer want, the next time you look, it’s mysteriously disappeared, or more likely, claimed by a neighbor. It saves perfectly good items from a trip to the dumpster, and as a lover of all things free, I’ve been known to grab a few things for myself. A vase here, a basket there, a pair of skis!!! So when a pile of white plates appeared I knew a craft project was brewing and grabbed them before they disappeared.
My first thought was to attack these plates freehand with a cup full of Sharpies. I had just been to Anthropologie, crushing on their colorful dishware, which no matter how much I adored, could never bring myself to spend $24 on one mismatching plate. Even with that inspiration I feared the outcome would be A) mediocre at best and B) not terribly helpful for others to give this a try. How could the artistically challenged still create intricate designs?
I’m happy to report that I have come up with a solution, using the trendy pages of Adult Coloring books. If you can trace lines and color within the lines than you, yes even you, can draw ANY design of your choosing onto plates, mugs, bowls, and anything in between.
The materials needed for this project include a rubbing alcohol, a pencil, Sharpies, a plate (or mug or bowl), oven, and a template. While I do have multiple adult coloring books (I’ve had them since before they were all the rage, thankyouverymuch) all of my books have two sided pages. I didn’t want to waste two perfectly good coloring pages on one plate so I instead searched online. I finally settled on this mandala from ColoringPagesForMom.com. When choosing your template keep in mind, the more details (and adult coloring books can be VERY detailed), the longer this project will take. I also wanted to do something colorful with words, so I created another image, Always Eat Dessert First. My personal mantra. You’re welcome to use this template!
Once you’ve decided on a design, cut it down to size to fit on your plate (you may need to adjust the scale of your image when printing to fit your item) To prepare the surface of your plate, wipe it down with rubbing alcohol to remove any dirt or residue. While that’s drying, apply a coating of graphite to the back of the page (the non-design side) by shading in the back of the design with the side of your pencil (a #2 pencil will do just fine). Once well coated, center the page on your plate and tape in place, design side up. Using the same pencil, trace the lines of your design. Applying this pressure will transfer the graphite on the back of your page to the surface of your plate. Tilt your plate into the light to see where you have drawn over the lines of your design. After ensuring all lines have been traced, remove the page. You should see the lightly penciled design on your plate.
You are now ready for your Sharpies. Note that while I trace my pencil lines with Sharpie, I used a scrap of paper for my hand to rest on. Resting your hand on the plate will give smoother lines and the scrap of paper will protect the plate from skin oils, which can smudge your pencil and/or prevent the Sharpie from adhering permanently. For the mandala design, I retraced all the lines with an extra fine black Sharpie because the black was such an important part of the design. Be aware that if you do black first, the black can bleed into other colors. To prevent this, either do colors first and come back for the optional black outlines, or let the black dry completely (over an hour).
After my initial trace was done on the mandala, I went back with a bigger black Sharpie to fill in the black accents. I found myself really digging the black and white design and decided to forgo the color, only continuing to accent and smooth lines with my black markers. I’m still digging the black and white. It makes me want to eat a very brightly colored cupcake off of it.
I did, however, go full on color with my Dessert design, only adding in the black after all colors were completely filled in. Black can help define and add depth, making the letters pop off the plate. Color outside of the line? If it can’t be smoothed over with a marker, dip a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol to remove the errant mark. Make sure there’s not too much liquid on your Q-tip, a pool of alcohol will turn your design into tie-dye, but it will remove mistakes if used sparingly.
Once designs are complete, here is the tricky part: making the Sharpie stay permanently. There is a lot of debate as to if/how this works and from what I gather it has a lot to do with the plate itself, so results may vary (my free plate may not be comparable to yours). After I made my final touches I put the plates off to the side for two days, drying completely. For the bake, I placed plates in a cold oven and turned on the heat to 350F. Once it reached temperature I baked for 45 min before turning off, keeping the plates in there to cool slowly. I left the plates in the cooling oven overnight and washed them in the morning. So far the designs have remained with hand-washing. As my apartment is not blessed with a dishwasher, I don’t know if they’re dishwasher safe. Got any other tips for Sharpie projects? Share in the comments below!