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Oct 27, 2016 12:40PM

Cheers to autumn: Easy DIY mugs to celebrate the season

By Laura Anderson Shaw
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Todd Mizener/tmizener@qconline.com
These fun, festive mugs were painted with multi-surface acrylic paint and oil-based paint pens.
More photos from this shoot
Autumn really is the perfect season. With mild temperatures and minimal bugs, you can spend your free time exploring the outdoors. Evenings can be spent huddled around a campfire, or snuggled up on the couch with a movie.

No matter what you decide, there is nothing like a warm cup of cider or cocoa on a chilly, fall evening. It is the proverbial icing on the cake. And what a better way to enjoy your beverage than by sipping it out of an adorable, festive mug?

I am a bit of a mug collector. They're both useful and decorative, and I have them in just about every color and size that you can think of. Some were purchased new, some are from thrift stores, and some were gifts. Some feature cartoon characters and drawings, and others, inspirational sayings. But some of my favorites are the ones that were handmade or hand-decorated.

Decorating your own mugs is a great way to personalize them. Plus, it lends the opportunity to give a facelift to old mugs or thrift shop finds, and makes for a fun project you can do alone, with friends or with the kids. All you need is a handful of materials, a couple of hours and a little creativity.

One thing I really like about this project is that you can make it as simple or complex as you'd like. You can paint anything, from a little scribble or an initial to a quotation, saying or a picture. You definitely do not have to be crafty or artistically inclined! Kids can go crazy on mugs of their own or for gifts for family members, and the clean up is easy with soap and water.

You'll need:
• Mugs, with a smooth surface (solid, plain colors tend to work best)
• Acrylic paint that is compatible with glass and ceramics (I chose white, black and gold Americana Gloss Enamels multi-surface acrylic paint. They're a couple of bucks each at area craft stores, and they offer baking instructions on the label to set the paint.)
• Paint brushes (I like detailing brushes because of their size)
• Rubbing alcohol
• Paper towels
• Cotton swabs

Before you start painting, brainstorm what you would like your mug to say or feature and plan it on scratch paper. This will help you determine how big to draw or write and where on the mug you should position your piece.

If you're working with kids, ask if they want to write words, draw pictures or both — anything goes!

When you have an idea of what you want to do, prep the mug by wiping it down with rubbing alcohol. This will get rid of fingerprints, oils, dust and such, and help the paint adhere to the surface. Then, start painting!

When you're working with the paint, keep in mind that less is more. Add a little paint to your brush and begin to sketch out your picture or word with the paint, then go over it with another layer. A couple of light layers of paint tends to work better than one thick layer.

If you make a mistake — fear not! Simply wipe it with a paper towel or cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. (Just be sure to completely wipe it away, or it will be set later when you bake the mug!)

Be sure to keep the paint away from any food or drink surface, including the rim of the mug where you'll drink from!

Once your design is set, put your mug in a safe place for it to dry for four days, according to the Americana Gloss Enamels' label. Then, flip the mugs upside down (for more stability), and place them on a cookie sheet, and follow the baking instructions on the paint label.

Dozens of DIY blogs recommend using oil-based paint markers (not regular permanent Sharpies or similar markers!) for this project. Many of the blogs instruct to place the mugs inside of the oven, set it to 350 degrees, bake for 30 minutes, and allow the mugs to cool inside of the oven. My niece made a mug with Sharpie oil-based markers, as many of the blogs called for — but the paint is beginning to chip off, and her designs aren't holding up. While many bloggers seem to have luck with this method, we aren't. Perhaps I will try to bake them longer to see if the paint will cure.

Once your mugs have cooled, they're ready to be used! They are safe to wash by hand, but do not put them in the dishwasher or the microwave.

Pour in some hot apple cider, and enjoy!

Laura Anderson Shaw is the editor of Radish. Did you try this project? Post a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #RadishCrafts, or email a photo to editor@radishmagazine.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming issue.

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