Greek Vase Painting

Ancient Greek art was an important part of the lives of the people.

Vase painting was important, and the pots would normally feature paintings of people or figures.

Vases were part of a way that the Ancient Greeks made money and artists would sell and trade vases to make a living.

Ancient Greek Vase

Vase Painting

The most popular vase painting was when the Ancient Greeks would paint a red or a black pot.

These vases were used mostly for holding wine and for holding water.

The vases were popular in homes, especially the homes of wealthy people.

They were considered pieces of artwork and were also practical because they held important things.


The shape of the vase was different during different times of Ancient Greece.

Some of the vases would be made as different sections.

There would be a foot, a neck and handles.  The sections were joined together and would be dried.

Each vase was unique and had a unique shape and a unique size.

The vases might be small, or they might be large.

Depending on what the vase was going to hold, the artist would decide what shape it was going to be.

The most common was wine holders and it was called a krater and it was used to mix the water into the wine.

A vase for pouring the wine would be called a oinochoai.

The cups that had stems were also considered vases and they were called kylixes.

To hold oil or perfume, the vase maker would make a lekythoi jar.

They were sturdy and had handles so that they could be carried easily.  Each one would then be decorated to the buyer or artists choice.

Ancient Greek Vase


The vases were made on a pottery wheel and they were made out of clay.

The handles and other shapes would be added with clay slip.

This would allow the parts to stick together and then the pot would dry.


The vase would then be decorated, and it would depend on the time as to what style was used.

The vase would be painted with black or other colored paint and the marks would be put on the vase with a small brush.

The brush would be made out of feathers or animal tail.

When a vase was painted, the painter would put on multiple layers of paint and the paint would eventually chip off.

Ancient Greek Vase


The vase would have to be put into a fire so that it would harden and last for a long time.

The pottery was considered softer than modern pottery and that is because of the lack of heat the vase would be put in.


The painter of the vases usually was considered an artist, or a specialist and they would paint the vases and sell them to make a living.

Each painter had their own style and design and people could tell if a certain artist painted a vase.

Painters painted vases in workshops and was usually considered a master potter.

The artists did not have any type of government control over them and they were allowed to paint whatever they wanted on the vase.

Most of the workers were paid the same as manual laborers or crafters and it would usually only cost the buyer a day wage to purchase a vase.

Some artists made over 200 vases.

Ancient Greek Vase

Facts About Ancient Greek Vase Painting:

  • Vases were mostly made and painted in Sparta, Crete and Cyprus.
  • Some of the popular paintings on vases were circles or geometric shapes.
  • Some vases were covered in triangles.
  • Many artists painted human figures, animals such as birds and cows or other figures.
  • At one-point, black figures were painted on vases and was a very popular vase painting.
  • Red figures replaced the black figures and the figures were outlined with black.


What Did You Learn?

  1. What was the purpose of vases in Ancient Greek times?  Vases were important to hold things and they were a way for artists to make a living.
  2. What shapes were the vases made in? Vases were made in shapes depending on what was going to go into the vase.
  3. What kinds of paintings were on the vases? The vases had paintings of animals, figures, black figures, red figures, triangles, circles and other geometric shapes.
  4. What were the restrictions artists had when painting vases? The artists had no restrictions when painting the vases.
  5. Why are Ancient Greek vases considered soft? Ancient Greek vases are considered soft compared to vases today because they did not have a way to fire the pottery to the right degree to get it hard.