How To… Make A Scratch Art Greek Vase


The Ancient Greeks were known for their incredible skill with pottery and created some of the most recognisable ceramic artefacts in the world. These beautiful pieces are in many museums around the world. Here’s how to make your own!

Two of the most famous styles of Greek vase are called black figure and red figure after the colour of the images that decorated the vases. Black-figure style (where the bodies and objects were painted onto red ceramic in black) was popular from the 7th century BCE, until it was replaced in the 5th century BCE by red-figure style, where the main figures were outlined and details were often scratched into the glaze to expose the underlying red, before the vases were finished by firing in a kiln. We’re going to use a similar method to make our own paper version!

You will need:

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Plain white paper or card
Crayons (we used red and orange)
Black Acrylic Paint
Washing-up Liquid
A toothpick, skewer or wooden stylus (for scratching)

Step 1. Choose Your Vase

Draw the outline of your vase on white paper. We’ve provided some examples of common shapes that ancient Greeks used. We chose an Amphora but you can invent your own. Be creative!

Step 2. Draw your outline

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Step 3. Colour it in!

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Colour in your whole base shape with crayon pressing very firmly so you have a thick shiny coating of colour. We used oranges and reds to imitate the orange colour of Greek pottery.

Step 4. Paint it black

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Mix a few drops of washing up liquid into your black paint. Use this to paint a layer of black over your vase and allow it to dry. Depending on your paint you might need two coats to cover the background completely – we did.

Step 5. Get scratching!

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Start decorating your vase! Use a toothpick or other pointed object to scratch away the black paint and you will be able to see the coloured crayon underneath.

Get inspired by photos of ancient vases, pick your favourite ancient myth, or make up your own story. Look at the different kinds of decorations that the Greeks used like; meanders, flowers, and spirals.  You can even write your name on the vase – lots of Greek artists signed their artwork.

Step 6. And here’s one we made earlier…

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For our amphora, we started with Greek inspired patterns… Then added our own extra archaeological twist!

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Anna van Nostrand

Written by Anna van Nostrand

One of DigVentures’ intrepid Community Archaeologists, Anna is all about spreading the good word of Archaeology. A big kid herself, her main focus is the getting young venturers involved.

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