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A slip is a suspension in water of clay and/or other materials used in the production of ceramic ware.[1] Normally a deflocculant such as sodium silicate is added to disperse the particles and hence allow a much higher solids content to be used. The addition of a defloculant allows the water content to be kept to a minimum which reduces the amount of shrinkage when slipcasting. The mixing can be by hand or in a blunger or other electrical device.


A slip may be made for various purposes in the production and decoration of ceramics:

  • Slip can be used as a means of mixing the constituents of a clay body. After dissolving the ingredients in a water base, the mixture is allowed to naturally evaporate or forced to dry through the application of heat until all natural water is removed. The dried clay mixture can then be ground, and water again added to achieve the correct consistency for the project.
  • Slip is created preparatory to slip casting.
  • Slip is created to aid the joining of unfired clay additions such as handles and spouts. This is a common method, but not universal as other substances, including water and vinegar, can be used as a joining liquid.
  • Slip can be used decoratively when placed onto a wet or leather-dry clay body surface by dipping, painting or splashing, this is often described as slipware. Slipware may be carved or burnished to change the surface appearance of the ware. Specialized slip recipes may be applied to bisqued ware, then refired at higher temperatures. The shrinking qualities of the slip on bisque ware creates decorative textures and flakes.

Slip may be a different color than the underlying clay body or offer other decorative qualities. Colored slip, a thin mixture of clay, water and mineral based colorant, is often used in ceramic art in a manner similar to paint in other media. The artist applies the slip to the ware with a paint brush or other tool. Other methods of applying slip may be used, but "painting" is the most common.

Adding additional water makes the slip mixture runny, which may coat the object better. However, a thin slip sometimes has the disadvantage of failing to adhere to the base clay when the object is heated. A thicker slip mixture will adhere but may not coat evenly. Once the liquid slip is applied, the piece is 'fired" in a kiln and the slip becomes a permanent decoration on the art piece.


  1. ^ Dictionary Of Ceramics. Arthur Dodd & David Murfin. 3rd edition. The Institute Of Minerals1994.


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