English slipware dish by Thomas Toft of northern Staffordshire, c. 1680; in the Victoria and Albert elipsis
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A coating of white or coloured slip, known as an engobe, can be applied to the article to improve its appearance, to give a smoother surface to a rough body or mask an inferior colour, or for decorative effect. slips or engobes can also be applied by painting techniques, in isolation or in several layers and colors. Sgraffito involves scratching through a layer of coloured slip to reveal a different colour or the base body underneath. Several layers of slip and/or sgraffito can be done while the pot is still in an unfired state. One colour of slip can be fired, before a second is applied, and prior to the scratching or incising decoration. This is particularly useful if the base body is not of the desired colour or texture.
Some prehistoric and historic cultures used slip as the primary decorating material on their ware. These include most prehistoric cultures of the Middle East, cultures in many areas of Africa, most pottery-making cultures in the Americas, early Korean ware, Mycenean ware, the pottery of Ancient Greece, and pre-industrialized potters in some areas of Great Britain, most notably Thomas Toft in the Staffordshire Potteries. Later cultures combined the use of slip with the application of high silica glazes.