Luster Tips - Florida Porcelain Artists

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Luster Tips

Various assortment of Luster Tips from various artists and manufactuers

  • The difference between Gold Thinner and Gold Essence: Gold thinner is used in small amounts to thin Roman gold to a smooth consistency before painting.    Gold essence is used to clean brushes, but more importantly to clean up areas of your applied gold that need to be corrected or removed before firing.  A dedicated brush should be used with the essence to clean up the gold on porcelain.   

  • Ruby, pink, violet, carmine and red which  MUST  be stored in the fridge to ensure longer shelf life!

  • Application:  Make sure that the ware is clean and dry before application of lusters.  Dust, fingerprints and water can adversely affect the decoration during the firing process. (wash pieces with dish washing liquid, rinse with clean water and dry with clean cloth or paper towel).  I have been advised NOT to clean with alcohol (which I've alwaya done), as it leaves a residue.  Denatured alcohol is fine.

  • Apply a very thin layer of luster either with a brush or a sponge. Leave to dry to the touch, then fire. If a deeper, more intense color is required, fire a first coat, re-apply and re-fire. Ensure that subsequent firings are at least 5 degrees lower than the previous firing.  With mother of pearl; if applying with a brush, use a cross hatch technique to break up the beams of light and avoid stripes.

  • Use a separate brush for each color to avoid contamination.

  • Cleaning brushes 3 dip method:  First, dip in a small jar of clean in white spirit (mineral spirits) and thoroughly dry.  Second, clean again in a different jar of unused white spirit (mineral spirits)  and dry again.  Finally, dip brush in clean denatured alcohol and dry.

  • Using White luster:  To lighten any luster, add up to 10% of white. In this way one can achieve many shades of the same color whilst keeping the viscosity the same. Do  NOT  use with gold, platinum or copper.

  • Firing:  Always kiln fire in a well-ventilated space. Get as much air into the kiln as possible and do  NOT  close any vents. Firing temp; 730 to 800 degrees Centrigrade  (cone 014-018). Fire quickly.   Do  NOT  over-pack the kiln. Make sure there is plenty of space between each piece.

  • Lavender oil can be used as a substitute for luster essence. Pure lavender oil is preferable to spike lavender oil.  It can be used for both thinning the luster (use only a drop at a time) and cleaning brushes.  The best place to get pure lavender oil is    A pint runs a little less than $40.

  • Citrus solvent and denatured alcohol can also be use for cleaning though not thinning. I usually use the method of separate cleaning bottles as described by Rimas, with the last cleaning bottle being denatured alcohol.  I then wash the brush thoroughly in a concentrated dish washing detergent such as Morning Fresh, rinse thoroughly under running warm water and blot to dry. It is usually best to keep separate brushes for different colors whilst painting to make sure that the colors don't contaminate if you cut corners in the cleaning procedure.  I would definitely advise to keep the brush you use for gold only for that purpose.  As a last note you should never use a brush for luster that has been used for any other purpose, eg underglaze, china paint.  It can spoil the luster and your expected outcome very quickly. Johanna

  • Clean surface to be painted with alcohol and let dry.

  • Work in a ventilated room as the fumes are strong.  

  • ALWAYS STORE Pinks, REDs, CARMINEs, PURPLEs in the fridge!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Keep the jar tightly closed except when in use; luster evaporates very quickly. Be especially careful to cap Halo lusters immediately after use, because they are chemically balanced to give the halo effect and cannot be thinned with solvent.

  • Always apply lusters in a thin coat. If you put on a thick coat, some material may brush off your work after firing.

  • Lusters can be patted with silk over cotton to get a smooth coverage. This does not apply to halo lusters, nor to opal, mother of pearl or other pearl lusters. The "pearl" lusters are best applied with your finger. If patted, some of the rainbow effect will be lost.

  • Most lusters are designed to fire out a good solid color with one-coat application. Halo lusters are the exception. You will get good results by applying 3 thin coats, (waiting about 30 seconds to one minute between coats), then dipping the Q-tip into the luster and touching where you want the "halos".  I find that a Q-tip as applicator for halos works better for me than a brush. The lusters will not go on smoothly, but will streak as you apply one coat over the other. Do not be concerned, and do not over-brush. These streaks will appear metallic or darker colored and are part of the effect you are seeking. If they appear as long streaks, or the pattern is not to your liking, just touch with your Q-tip and a circle will form, eliminating the under pattern. You also can apply only one or two coats and then touch to form the halos; however, you will of course get less color or metallic. You can get some very interesting effects from the halo lusters, especially the halo metallics. You can also use a base coat of solid color luster and then touch it with a halo. I do this with halo mother of pearl most often, but any halo can be used over a solid color. Apply only one coat of the solid luster color, then immediately touch with the halo.

  • Remember that lusters applied over an incised surface will have a matte finish versus the high gloss when painted over a glazed surface.

  • You can dry luster more quickly by placing the china on a hot plate, or in a warm oven. If drying naturally, try to do it in a relatively dust-free place, or you might put it in a cool kiln. Lusters do not have to be dry before firing. Once the luster is dry, you can handle the china easily, but do so gently, keeping fingers off the covered area as much as possible. You can pick up a jewelry blank or other small piece by slipping a palette knife under it, or slide the blank onto a tile using a brush handle to push with.

  • Firing: Bring the heat up slowly with the lid off, or cracked, to allow the fumes to escape. Close the kiln only after all smoke and odor have disappeared. I fire most lusters 018 to 017. Firing at different temperatures will produce different shades of colors. If fired to 014 or 015 the halos, and some other lusters, may fire to a violet color. Luster color is affected by many conditions besides firing temperature: where it is placed in the kiln, what is fired along with the lustered piece, etc. If you have a choice, fire your luster piece near the center of the kiln rather than against the side near the coils.

  • If you don't like the fired luster results buy Whink®, and Whink it off.  Carefully apply Whink®, wash it with soap or alcohol to stop the chemical action, and give it another go. Whink is diluted hydrofluoric acid and should be used with great caution!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Luster thinner and luster essence are the same thing. Hanovia made Luster Essence for thinning regular lusters, and Gold Essence for thinning the metallics, such as liquid bright gold, liquid bright copper and palladium or silver. Halo lusters and halo metallics can never be thinned, since the solvents are present in exact proportions. Keep your bottles tightly capped and in a cool place when not actually in use and you should have no problem. I have used luster dispersant on occasion, and have also used alcohol as a dispersant.

  • Hanovia says to add Essence one drop at a time to avoid over-thinning.  DO NOT ADD Essence TO THE BOTTLE,  you should be using a tile.

  • I'm often asked how to resurrect lusters that have jelled or become grainy. This is a real problem and just grinding with luster thinner or lavender oil doesn't really do a satisfactory job for me. I've had the most success by pouring (or scraping if it is really thick) the luster onto a clean tile, then adding some lavender oil to the bottle. Shake it to dilute the residue and add it a drop at a time to the luster while working it as best you can with your palette knife. When it gets soupy, discard any liquid in the bottle, and place a piece of silk over the neck. Poke it into the bottle to make a little cup and secure the silk with an elastic band. Now, scrape some of the luster into the cup and stir it to get as much into the bottle as you can.... Continue with the rest of the luster. When I do this I have a supply of freeforms I have made and/or incised pieces at hand. Use the saturated silk to pat luster on the back of the freeforms and to pat or rub over the incised work. If some grains get on the incised areas it only gives it more interest.

  • Add opal or mother of pearl luster to your empty gold bottles. You will get shades of opalescent blues, from iridescent light blue to midnight, depending on how much luster you add and how much residue of the gold remains in the bottle. You can add some opal or MOP to other empty luster bottles to get various and often surprising colors. If you apply the luster with your finger, you will have a lot of iridescence. If you want your home made luster, or indeed any luster to be a solid color, pat it with silk. Twist a piece of plastic food wrap, or a piece of a plastic bag over a cotton ball or sponge, then cover with a single layer of silk. Twist to make it tight and pat. The plastic wrap will prevent the cotton or sponge from soaking up your luster. Work quickly, and if the silk begins to pull, stop.

  • Add a drop of liquid bright gold to your opal or mother of pearl for more rainbow color.. you must be careful to add just a little or it will turn your pearl gray.. I'd stir a toothpick dipped in gold into the 1/4 ounce bottle. More of course for the ounce bottle.. dip your brush in some gold and scrape it on the rim of the pearl bottle.. shake well. If you do add too much and get a gray, I'd add a little more until it turned a bluish shade..

  • One more thing about lusters. If you like the way the halos bleed into the opal as on the 2 fire covered box, but don't have halo, use two colors, spotting them in the area you want the halo effect, then touch with a tiny bit of luster dispenser or alcohol. It will make them bleed into each other and the opal.

  • Lavender Oil can be used as an essence.

  • LUSTRE COLOUR COMBINATIONS: (A few tried and tested ones!! - By Jackie Halhead/2005/revised 2009/Updated 2011)
  1. Most shades of pinks and blues mix or work well together and will create pinky purple type shades, even soft shades of greens too.
  2. Mother of Pearl mixed with a little Evergreen makes a lovely Pale Blue type green. Put a little of each on a tile and mix with the brush as you apply. Mother of Pearl also works well with most other greens. Test if in doubt.
  3. Try firing a coat of Orange Lustre and then applying a coat of Deep Carmine over the top, you should end up with a lovely rich reddish/orange colour that you can’t buy.
  4. Blues and greens tend to mix well and the addition of a little yellow with greens also works well. .
  5. Shades of Browns, Oranges, Ivory or Yellows tend to look good together but often shrink back or repel each other somewhat, but persist as they look well together and the effects, despite the repelling, can look good as they give a textured appearance after firing. To alleviate too harsh an effect, have extra pounces ready and re-sponge and blend over gently as they colours clash.
  6. Dark Blue and a little Bilberry or Carmine mixed, will result in wonderful dark rich bluey purple colours. Paint them on and pull them together or mix in the brush as you work.
  7. Pale Blue Green, Mother of Pearl, Emerald and Apple Green all work well together. Touches of Pink can be added in with or amongst the colours, where they touch or mix you will probably get purply type colours.
  8. Mother of Pearl will turn blue if contaminated with certain shades of colour.
  9. A coat of Mother of Pearl over any fired lustre colour will create further enhancement.
  10. A coat of Mother of Pearl applied over Gold, Platinum, Copper or any rich strong lustre colour will result in a lovely iridised effect………somewhat like Petrol. Looks georgous and used it often.
There many combinations……………….too many to mention here, but have fun testing some out and experiment as much as possible.

A Little Gold Information
Fri Mar 22, 2013    Alice Wofford (aka Sam)

  • One of the subjects that scares china painters, old and new, the most is gold; the types, terminology, the applications, media used with it and the problems that occur with it. Most of the fear is caused because gold is a mystery to so many people. Once the mystery is solved then gold becomes just another tool used to enhance our art. Hopefully the following will help dispel gold’s mystique for you.

  • Gold is a luster, not a paint. As such it sits on top of the glaze and does not become part of it like our mineral paints do.

  • To add to the confusion, there is also a luster named Gold Luster. Plus such lusters as Halo Gold, Weeping Gold and Crackling Gold just to name a few. These are all much thinner in viscosity and have less gold content to them.

  • Golds and other lusters are also called metallics. This is because there are various amounts of metals in their composition. To add to the confusion, there is a paint we use called metallic paint but which has no metal in it. Instead it is made with finely ground mica and is called metallic because of its sparkle.

  • All forms of gold have gold in them but they vary in the amount in the content. It ranges from 10 - 24% for Liquid Bright Gold, Liquid Burnish has between 15 and 22%, Roman Gold contains approximately 30 - 45 % although most are between 35 and 40% and powdered gold is 40 - 45%.

  • Gold comes in liquid, paste, pat and powdered forms. The liquid form is either Liquid Bright Gold or Liquid Burnish Gold. Pastes and pats can be Roman Gold - both fluxed and unfluxed, White Gold, Green Gold, Rosy Gold, Lemon Gold and others. The powdered form is almost always Roman Gold. And there is a Gold Leaf which can be fired. I have used the Gold Leaf only once but not well so will not try to give instructions on this. Ricki Nishi of Atlanta, Ga, both sells and teaches how to use this products. If you are interested in learning this method her address is

  • Ricki Nishi 325 Fauna Ct, Atlanta, GA 30350, 770-650-6966 e mail lt


  • Liquid Bright Gold should NOT be shaken. Any settlement in the bottom should be left alone. If it gets in the gold, the settlement dulls and streaks it.

  • Liquid Bright Gold comes in the correct viscosity for pen work, but to apply with a brush or otherwise you need to let it thicken, not too much or it will be hard to apply. This thickening also helps to avoid runs when applying. To thicken the gold, set out a few drops on a clean tile and allow the suspension medium to evaporate a little. If your gold gets too thick you can thin it with a drop or two of Gold Essence, Gold Facilitator, Lavender Oil or Lemon Essence. Do not use Turpentine. I have seen some who can and do use turpentine but these are experts. If you do not know what you are doing you can make a huge mess with turpentine. Be careful not to thin it too much or you will starve the gold and it will look dull or in a lot of cases, it will have a purplish area develop after firing.

  • When applying gold with the brush be sure you have a good saturation on the brush so as not to leave streaks. As you brush on the gold, have your strokes slightly overlap for good coverage but do not go keep going back over what you have applied. It isn’t necessary to apply the Liquid Bright Gold in a perfectly even coverage since it will flow together in the firing. You just want a nice coverage without very thick or thin spots in it. Also, have a nice soft brush not one with acrylic hair or dried clumps.

  • Liquid Bright can also be applied with your finger for rims of cups, saucers and plates, sponged (also called stippled) or stamped.

  • To stamp gold, spread a little gold on your clean tile and allow it to thicken until tacky. To know if the consistency is correct you will feel a pull when applying the stamp. Try not to move the stamp as you work or it will leave a smudge. If you do it must be cleaned off and reapplied. To avoid smudging, after loading your stamp apply with a smooth even pressure then lift straight up off the china.

  • Sponging is done in the same manner as stamping. Any type sponge will work depending on the texture desired. You can also use steel wool and cotton to get different textures.

  • CAUTION: Liquid Bright Gold’s suspension mediums are Mercury Oxide and/or Toluene, the same as in all lusters. These are very dangerous and prolonged exposure should be avoided as they can cause problems. You will get a gold high first, then nausea and a headache. If you have respiratory problems, they can be affected. Use Liquid Bright Gold only in a well ventilated area. Also vent very well during firing and DO NOT breathe the fumes.


  • Liquid Burnish Gold is similar to Liquid Bright Gold in that it is a liquid, the amount of gold content isn’t as high as in Roman Golds, it is applied and thinned in the same manner and the warning about the suspension mediums should be observed here too.

  • However Liquid Burnish Gold must be shaken before and during application to keep the gold particles mixed and burnished after firing. Liquid Burnish Gold is easier to use for pen work, scrolling and making fine lines than Roman Gold.

  • You can make your own Liquid Burnish Gold by adding 6 - 8 drops of Liquid Bright Gold to a pat of Roman Gold.


  • Roman Gold is either fluxed or unfluxed. Fluxed gold is used on the blank china while unfluxed goes on over a painted surface. If your pat or jar does not have unfluxed written on it then it is the fluxed type. Fluxed and unfluxed gold look alike, are applied in the same manner, fired the same, look alike when they come out of the kiln and have to be polished after firing. Do not mix the two types.

  • Roman Gold is a heavy brownish paste - the darker the colour the more gold content - which fires to a dull yellow brown. After firing all the paste or pat golds must be burnished to bring out their gloss. It comes in pats, paste and powdered form. The powdered form can be obtained in Australia, Europe and Japan but must be imported to the U.S.

  • Pats are small amounts of hardened paste on a glass square which comes in a plastic case. To use this, add a few drops of solvent to the hardened gold and work it with your palette knife until it has a creamy consistency. You can also warm it a little to soften the pat before adding the solvent although this can cause it to even harder before working with it next time.

  • Paste gold is a creamy consistency which comes in small jars of 1/8, ¼, ½ and one once troy weight. The paste can be used straight from the jar for small areas but it is recommended to add a solvent and have it thinner for larger areas. The solvents used with Roman Gold are Gold Facilitator, Gold Essence, Luster Essence (these two are interchangeable except that the luster essence dries slower) Lavender Oil, Lemon Oil, Nitrobenzene and Nitroorthotoluene, which is a derivative of the Nitrobenzene. I do not recommend using the last two solvents as they are very dangerous to your health, causing breathing problems and tumors. If you should decide to use either, take all necessary precautions to avoid skin contact and limit the amount of exposure to the fumes. The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for both of these is available online

  • Roman Gold can be applied with the finger, brush or sponge. When applying get a good smooth coat on to assure that you have complete coverage. Some artists recommend warming your piece slightly before applying Roman Gold to make application easier. It also make for a better bond between the gold and glaze.

  • Remove the unburnished china from the kiln with a cloth. Avoid touching as much as possible since your fingers will leave oil spots. What your hands are clean? Ah, you forgot about your natural skin oils. And the warmer the china the more oil it will absorb plus this will not disappear...even with another fire. I have a pair of white cotton gloves I wear when removing and burnishing my gold.

  • Burnish with sand, baking soda, a fiberglass brush or fiberglass cloth. Rub gently in a circular motion until the sheen comes out. Do not rub too hard or you can get scratches or even remove all the gold. Be careful when using fiberglass as it will leave small particles of glass that can get in your skin. Always wash the china after burnishing to remover the excess materials. It is easier to burnish gold when the china is warm.


  • Powdered gold is loose particles of pure gold. It is mixed with fat oil and then a solvent is added until you have a creamy paste. Once it is in this state it is applied in the usual manner.

  • Powdered gold can be used added to Roman Gold to increase the content and make a stronger gold. It can also be dusted over tacky Roman Gold for the same reason. After dusting it must be brushed with a mop to remove excess powder. Allow to dry overnight or longer then gently remove any extra loose powder with a piece of cotton and denatured alcohol.

  • There is also a powdered gold that is imitation gold. When mixed and fired it will turn black. So always be certain which type you purchase. Normally this type is not sold by any of the china suppliers; it is usually found in estate sales or such. Also at craft stores


  • All gold can be fired immediately after application. However to insure that you don’t have any runs or skips it is advisable to allow the gold to dry first. If you allow your gold to dry before firing be sure it is in a dry and dust and lint free area.

  • Good results with your gold require more than just the correct temperature. The kiln must be vented to allow sufficient air flow for all the fumes and smoke from the solvents to be burned off. This is usually when all coils are red hot or around 800 F (300 C), although I usually wait until it is 1000 F ( 370 C).

  • Poor ventilation usually results in cloudy gold.

  • Another good reason to allow your gold to dry before firing is since many of us have our kilns in our homes and do not have good ventilation, by allowing the gold to dry we get fewer fumes since most of the suspension medium has dried out. There will always be some left in and that is what you smell as gold or lusters fire. I like to burn a vanilla candle starting about 20 minutes before I turn on my kiln to eat up the majority of these fumes. There is still an odor but not as much. I also run my air purifier before, during and after firing, no matter what I fire.


  • You can paint over both Liquid Bright Gold and Roman Gold. To paint over the Liquid Bright Gold, first fire the gold hot, paint your design with a heavier coat of paint than normal and fire at least one cone or at 50 degrees cooler then the gold. If you fire at the same temperature then the paint will melt into the gold and you will not see the design.

  • To paint on Roman Gold, you work the same as on the Liquid Bright but the difference is that you put on two coats of the Roman Gold first firing in between. Once you have your design painted and fired then take an Agate burnisher and polish the highlights in the painted areas. You can polish or leave unburnished the gold around the background on the rest of piece.


  • Always clean and dry your china with denatured alcohol or acetone before applying gold. If you prefer wash your china in dish detergent and warm water. Rinse very well, making certain you get all the soap off and dry completely with a lintless towel.

  • Keep your workspace as dust free as you can. Dust that gets in gold fires with little white spots. Moisture will also leave white spots so try not to breathe on the gold. And certainly don’t sneeze or cough on it.

  • Don’t buy cheap Liquid Bright Gold. It is slimy and quite often it will wipe off after firing, no matter how hot it is fired. It also doesn’t cover well.

  • Never put gold on over wet paint. Gold can be applied near wet paint as long as it doesn’t touch.

  • Gold can be put on next to any wet luster as long as the wet luster is dry. Again, it is next to but not touching wet luster.

  • Never put Liquid Bright Gold on raised paste. Use base for raised gold instead. Raised paste is only used with Roman Gold. Remember that base for raised gold and raised paste are two different products.

  • Never apply Roman Gold to bisque as it turns black. Use Liquid Bright Gold and it will look like Roman Gold on the bisque. If you want a shiny gold on bisque apply a coat of flux or base for gold and fire first.

  • Gold can be fired hot. It doesn’t start breaking up until a cone .010. Exceptions to this are when applied over the colour green. Some greens will accept gold some will make it crack... make tests.

  • The reason most people think gold cracks at a lower cone is the base substance. All base substances (raised paste, structure powder, base for gold, etc.) start to float at cone .017. Therefore the gold should only be fired to cone .018 when applied over any of base substances or it sinks into the base.

  • To keep gold from running, put a wax pencil line around the edge of your design, or pen in the outline of the design with gold first then allow to dry before applying the rest of the gold.

  • If you have a run, allow the gold to dry then scrape with a razor before firing. Clean the area with denatured alcohol on a Q-tip. Do not have the cotton too wet or allow it to touch the gold.

  • Clean smudges or finger prints off before you fire. Be sure to check the back of your piece, too.

  • Gold can be removed in three ways. One is Whink, a form of hydrofluoric acid, red iodine ....NOT the white type or a gold eraser. To remove gold with an eraser, don’t use the eraser alone. Scrape with a razor blade first then go over the area with the eraser. I have also found that rubbing with the red plastic sander will remove the majority of the gold then I can use either the gold eraser or the Whink or iodine to remove the rest. I much prefer to use iodine but once in a while much use the whink.

  • It is hard to apply gold to black china or any dark color. Either outline the design with yellow china paint and fire then apply the gold or take white carbon and make the design on the china.

  • You can use resist, Friskit, auto striping tape, contact paper or masking tape to mark areas you don’t want gold on. Allow the gold to dry completely before removing or you risk smudging.

  • On a very detailed piece you can get an antique look by patting on Liquid Bright Gold and firing to cone .022. Next take a scrubber and remove highlights then refire to cone .018.

  • You can get some very pretty effects by putting different coloured lusters over fired Liquid Bright Gold.

  • To make a thin, very intricate design with Base for Gold and not have to cover it you can take the base and mix it with glycerin then add a little powdered gold to the mix. Once it strings apply the design. It takes very little powdered gold and keeps from making a mess as you apply the gold over the base later.


  • Dull or smoky -- poor ventilation, sediment from the bottom was mixed with the gold or the china was not completely clean.

  • Purplish colour -- applied too thin, contaminated with oil, usually from fingers or the gold had too much solvent added.

  • Spotted -- lint, dust or moisture particles in or on the wet gold.

  • Breaking or cracked -- application was too heavy then fired wet, applied over the colour green, fired above cone .010, fired too hot for the base substance.

  • Wipes off -- poor quality of gold, too much solvent, under fired.

  • Burnisher turns black -- Roman Gold under fired.

  • Breaking or fuzzy edges -- applied over oil, grease or moisture.

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