Looking for a cute and quick, but useful Valentine’s Day gift? Decorating a ceramic mug for a friend or lover is doable for even the most craft-challenged artist.


Pull together the few materials you need:

Start with a clean surface. Wash mugs to remove tags, fingerprints, and smudges. Dry completely.


Take the simple approach. With a marker, write a loving message on the side that faces the drinker when holding the mug by the handle (if you don’t know if your recipient is right or left handed, it’s time to rethink the relationship!).

Before you apply the paint marker to the mug, practice your message a few times with regular marker on paper to get the spacing right. Play around with printing or cursive writing.

When you’re satisfied, remove the marker cap and press down lightly on the tip to start the flow of paint (it will come out quickly, so be prepared) and write the message.

Don’t spaz if you make a mistake (we made lots!). That’s what rubbing alcohol is for. Dip a Q-Tip into the alcohol, carefully wipe away your error, and start again.

Create happy hearts using contact paper for a stencil (this project was inspired by a tutorial on BrenDid.com). Our small mug has the perfect handle for half a heart so we traced the curve of the handle onto the contact paper and folded the paper in half along the straight side of our tracing. Following the lines, cut the half-heart shape out and unfold. Remove the paper backing and place half the heart on the mug handle and the other half on the mug body. Ink will try to seep under the edge of the contact paper so run your fingernail over the paper edge a few times to ensure a snug bond.

With the red marker, create a line of dots along the mug handle, then outline the contact paper stencil on the body with red dots. Add more dots close to the others and gradually lessen the density of the dots as you move outward from the stencil.

If you want, turn the mug and place the contact paper on the reverse of the handle and repeat the process. When finished, remove the contact paper and replace the backing to reuse.


Enclose a loving message inside a heart. Place your contact paper stencil in the center of the mug and run your fingernail around the edges of the paper for a good seal. Outline the stencil with a red marker. When dry (a minute or two), remove the stencil and write your message inside the heart.


Add some whimsy to a large mug with stick figure art. Our scenario takes its inspiration from Romeo and Juliet. Fill the mug with a bouquet of flowers and give with chocolates or baked sweets.


For a mug that works for any holiday or occasion, opt for heart-free artwork. Look for drawing inspiration in online clip art. We drew a free-hand floral decoration in black and added some touches of color here and there. Use a stencil if you want a more stylized image.


When your mugs are decorated, place them in a cool oven, close the door, and turn the oven on to 375°. When the oven has heated up completely, start the timer for 40 minutes. After that time, turn off the oven and allow the mugs to cool completely inside before removing them from the oven. Your designs are now permanent and ready for gifting.

© Caruth Studio

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