How to decorate a mug

Hand decorated mugs are easy to make, and make great gifts! Perhaps you could decorate one and give it to your Dad for Father’s Day? (sorry Dad, you’re not going to get one this year – they’re not very postable from Hong Kong!)

Here is one that I just made:

hand decorated cricket mug 1

What you will need:

  • A plain mug, preferably white (mine is from Ikea). I’d recommend that you wash the mug before starting to ensure that the surface is clean from any grease or residue.
  • Porcelain pens – a number of brands are available, I purchased mine from Hobbycraft
  • Your design on a piece of paper, either printed or hand drawn
  • A pencil
  • Sellotape
  • Scissors (not pictured!)

decorating mugs equipment

1. Choose your design. I find that silhouettes, block letters and simple patterns make great designs. I often do these designs in Word, choosing a fun font to use for any writing such as names and copying in pictures from the web.

I wanted to make a mug for my cricket-mad husband, and came up with this design which I took from a picture I found online. I played with the image and cropped various bits until it was the right size for the mug (the image quality isn’t great but should be enough to get rough outlines).


2. Trim your design to fit the mug. This makes it easier to handle.

decorating mugs image

3. Turn your design over and scribble over the back with pencil. I generally find that the darker your pencil scribbles are the better! As you can see, I have just scribbled where the design is on the other side – there’s no point doing it elsewhere as you won’t use it.

scribbled image

4. Using the sellotape, stick your design to the mug in the desired position. This is really useful as otherwise the paper keeps moving when you are tracing the design onto the mug! (I learned that one from experience) I have never managed to find a plain straight-sided mug and curved sides do make it tricky to stick down the paper. You might want to cut some slits in the paper at useful points to get it to fit better to the shape of the mug.

decorating mugs sticking image

5. Using a ballpoint pen or a hard pencil, trace over the outline of your design onto the mug (the pencil on the back will transfer the design onto the mug). I would recommend pressing hard and going over your lines a few times – the lines that come out on the mug are often very faint!

decorating mugs tracing imageI was quite pleased that this time the lines came out nice and clearly :)

decorating mugs traced image

6. Colour in your design using the porcelain pens. When doing solid shapes or block lettering, I find it easiest to outline the shape and then colour it in. My pens have quite a thick nib so I can’t really do fine detail with them, but I believe other brands have different shaped nibs.

One good design feature of these pens is that if you go wrong, you can just rub the pen off and start again, although of course this does rub your pencil lines off too! Oh, and be very careful not to rub your pencil lines off accidentally with your hand, this is very easy to do.

hand decorated cricket mug

7. Follow the instructions on the porcelain pens to ‘cure’ your design. The pens I have just require being left to dry for a day or two, although I know some brands require you to bake the mug in the oven to fix the ink.

Et voila! Your mug is ready to be presented to the lucky recipient! (or enjoyed yourself ;) )

If you need some inspiration for the design, typing ‘decorated mugs’ or ‘hand decorated mugs’ into Google Images will get you a whole heap of designs that other people have made. Also, here are a few of the designs that I have created for friends and family:

hand decorated chicken mug

hand decorated mr and dr mugs





Please let me know if you have a go at decorating your own mugs – I’d love to see what you come up with!

Thanks for reading!


4 thoughts on “How to decorate a mug

  1. Pingback: Handmade card tutorial – birthday candles | the Little Koo blog

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