Ceramic Sugar Skull Plates for Dia de los Muertos

Ceramic Sugar Skull Plates for Dia de los Muertos

(See my “new and improved” version of this project here.)

Dia De Los Muertos (or Day of the Dead, November 1-2) is one of my favorite holidays…. I love the colorful imagery and the focus on honoring loved ones who have died. So when one of my students requested that we do a ‘Sugar Skull’ project in ceramics class, I was all for it! I assumed I could find a plethora of Ceramic Sugar Skull projects online to choose from, but that was not the case!

After searching high and low (and coming up empty-handed), I decided I’d have to create a Ceramic Sugar Skull project myself. I’m still tweaking this one, so be sure to check back for updates! But my students loved making these and were very happy with the results!

You will need (in addition to clay, *kiln, some glazes, and brushes):

  • foam plates
  • newspaper (one sheet, approx. 12×12)
  • pencil, pen, or marker for drawing/tracing template shape
  • sponge
  • fettling knife (or a needle tool) for cutting extra clay from your slab
  • assorted stamps and objects for making impressions and textures in the clay
  • plastic straw for making a hole for hanging 


1. Roll out a slab of clay to about 1/4” thick. (You can sprinkle some cornstarch on your mat before rolling to help prevent the clay from sticking.)Rolling out a slab for sugar skull plate

2. Lay the slab over a foam plate (these can be used and reused many times). Use a damp sponge to smooth the clay into the shape of the plate.Lay slab over plate and smooth with sponge

3. Make a template from another foam plate. (The template can be shared between several students, as each will need it for only a minute.)

To make a template, trace your plate onto a piece of newspaper, cut it out and fold your circle in half. Then draw half of a skull on the fold, and cut. Open your paper, trace the skull outline onto a foam plate and cut away the two side sections.Making a Ceramic Sugar Skull Template

4. Lay your foam plate template on top of the clay slab/plate and use a fettling knife to trim away the two side sections.Trimming away the extra clay around the Sugar Skull template

Sugar Skull Reference Images

Students looked at reference sheets made with Google Images to get ideas for decorating their sugar skull. Putting them in sheet protectors makes it possible to reuse them year after year!

4. Now use stamps and/or found objects (like plastic caps, popsicle sticks, etc.) to make sugar skull impressions in your clay. Creating Ceramic Sugar Skull Textures

5. After drying, bisque fire your sugar skull plate, glaze it (see options below), and fire it again.Some Sugar Skull Glazing Options

*No kiln? No problem! This project can also be done with air dry clay and painted with acrylic paint!

You can find more of my Dia de los Muertos projects here!