Gifts for My Sisters


DIY cement bowl. A gift to my dear sister, Lorraine.

In this post I show how to make a large thin-walled colored cement bowl and how to create imprints in cement decor.

DIY candle holder and vase tinted with red latex paint. A gift for my dear friend Patty. To Uriel: Vuela alto con los ángeles.

I just got back from a trip to my sister’s house in Texas (from Ohio). She has hit a rough patch with some medical issues, and I went for a visit and to help her and her family where I could. Since I was away from home and my wood and tools, I decided to make some cement bowls, votive candle holders, and vases while I was there that she could enjoy.  I was happy because I didn’t need any tools, and I could get everything I needed at Home Depot and Dollar Tree. I made extra candle holders so she could give some to family and friends who are dear to her and who have helped her during this hard time. It’s not much, but it’s something I could do.

I have covered some of the techniques that I used in two previous colored cement projects:  Using Latex Paint To Tint DIY Cement Decor and Create Ambience with Colorful DIY Cement Candle Holders.  You might want to look at these posts for additional information, although I’ll cover the basics here.


  • containers to use as molds
  • measuring spoons (1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon)
  • dust mask
  • protective gloves (tight-fitting)
  • mixing bowl
  • Quikcrete anchoring cement, Rapid Set Cement All, or similar
  • 3 oz disposable cups
  • latex paint (for instance, most interior wall paint)
  • spray oil
  • water
  • sandpaper (optional)
  • pliers/scissors/mallet/hammer (optional)


The type of paint to use for coloring cement (and concrete) is latex paint.  Most interior wall paints are this type of paint.  Leftover paint and sample-size jars are ideal for this project because you don’t need much.  I used several brands (Behr, Pittsburgh Paints, Glidden) and didn’t notice any difference as to brand.  The paint tints the cement when added in the mixing process, giving a muted version of the color.

Paint used to tint cement decor, Behr, Pittsburgh, Glidden, etc


Quikcrete anchoring cement for DIY cement decor

You can mix the paint and cement in a cup, then add the liquid mixture to the dry cement and mixed thoroughly.  I used this method for this project: Using Latex Paint To Tint DIY Cement Decor.  This method tends to produce smoother cement, with fewer pockets and other “defects,” and more even distribution of color.

As I did in a previous project, Create Ambience with Colorful DIY Cement Candle Holders, you can put the paint, cement, and water in the mixing bowl and then mix, but not thoroughly, leaving the mixture somewhat lumpy and the paint not completely mixed in.  I call this mixing method “Chunky Cement Paint Mix.” This method produces a more rustic look, with more holes, “defects,” and uneven distribution of color. You can use either or both methods, or play around with the mix and see what you come up with.

A variation I used sometimes in these cement pieces entailed mixing a pourable cement batch thoroughly (with or without latex paint). After thorough mixing, I put a bit of paint into the mixing bowl on top of the cement and swirled the paint on the surface using my finger. I left the paint barely mixed in and poured the batch into the mold. The resulting cement has a streaked/swirled look.

Cement with Paint Colorant Recipe

Use the following general proportions:

  • 3 oz Quikrete anchoring cement (dry)
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons latex paint* (optional)

*Note that you can use 2 teaspoons of paint in a batch of cement this size, but the cement cures much slower, and the strength of the cured concrete may be decreased.  I haven’t had any problems with decor items, though.

DIY cement decor with latex paint colorant--mix ratio of cement, water, and paint

I use a 3 oz plastic disposable cup to measure the anchoring cement. If you want to make a larger cement batch, you can use the proportions given in the recipe above to scale up the batch size.

First add paint to the mixing bowl, then add 3 oz (by volume) of anchoring cement to the bowl.

Mixing latex paint with cement for colorful DIY tealight candle holders.
Mixing latex paint with cement for colorful DIY tealight candle holders.

Add the water to the anchoring cement and paint in the mixing bowl. If you are not adding paint to the batch, you can add more water.  Keep in mind that you have about 5 minutes before the batch sets up, so get your molds ready before you start to mix the cement/paint.  If you have added paint to the batch, it slows down the curing process, and you have a bit more time.  Also, thinner (more water) batches take more time to cure than thick batches.

I used two large plastic bowls (11 14 inch diameter) from Dollar Tree as molds. I used bowls that were the same size as molds because I wanted a cement bowl with rather thin sides so that it wasn’t too heavy.

Large bowls used as molds for thin-walled DIY cement bowl colored with latex paint.

Start by putting down one or more layers of cement to fill the bottom of the bowl up to about an inch of cement. Let this harden several hours and preferably overnight. Next, I dabbed some paint with my finger onto the bowl mold. This is an option if you want more vibrant colors in the finished bowl.

Adding paint to the mold of DIY cement bowl.

Then put in some rather thin, pourable cement, put the inner bowl on top of the cement, and push the inner mold bowl into the cement.  Weight the inner bowl with rocks or something else heavy.  Place weights gently into the inner mold to avoid movement of the bottom cured cement and cracking.

Making a large thin-walled cement bowl using latex paint as colorant.

Make one or more batches of thin, pourable concrete and pour it between the two molds. Mix your batches and fill up the molds fairly quickly because the cement can harden and block off subsequent cement that you add. You may need to tap the molds and add cement strategically to get the cement in all the nooks and crannies.

Making a thin-walled DIY cement bowl.

Wait overnight to take the bowl out of the molds. When I say overnight, I mean at least 12 hours. I waited only about an hour, and I managed to crack the side, breaking two pieces off altogether. I mixed up a little batch of cement and used it like glue to reattach the pieces. I also spread a thin batch over the entire inside of the bowl because I also had several large hairline cracks. It is holding together well, my sister tells me. The family even thought I cracked it intentionally to add “character.” 🙂 It’s all good!

DIY cement bowl tinted with latex paint. Thin-walled so it isn't that heavy. Tutorial.

I didn’t get any process photos for this one, but I think I can describe it well enough for you to do it yourself. I bought Pringles potato chips, ate Pringles potato chips, then used the container for the mold. I used red and white paint as colorants, but you can use whatever colors you want. I filled up the mold a few inches, then put the candlestick in and filled it up to about 3 inches from the top with various cement batches.  I really wasn’t thinking clearly when I added the candlestick.  I was thinking I could pull it out of the finished casting.  But later I realized that, because the candlestick is tapered, it wasn’t going to pull out.  Ugghh.  Well, the candle can be burned and hopefully a smaller candle can be used there, or it can be used as a vase.  Next time I’ll use a straight candle or a oiled wooden dowel for the inner mold.  This candle holder is a gift to my dear friend Patty, who lives thousand of miles from me in Mexico.  She is like a sister to me, and I’m so glad she likes my cement work.

For the cross design imprint, I bought a Puffy Foam Sticker at Michaels.  I pressed the cross against the side with the back toward the wall of the container and the design toward the inside.  I was prepared to glue the cross to the container with repositionable spray adhesive, but at the last minute decided to skip it, and it worked out fine.  I think it worked because I sort of held the cross sticker in position as I was adding the cement.  If you are embedding something lower out of reach, I’d try the spray adhesive.  After letting the cast sit overnight, I peeled off the Pringles container and pulled off the sticker, revealing the cross imprint.

Embedded cross in DIY cement candle holder.

I made the red vase by filling a cup mold about and inch.  I then made a very thick batch and molded it like clay on the inside of the mold.  Check out this post for more the full tutorial.

DIY gifts for my sisters. Colorful cement decor.

I also made many colored cement tealight holders for my sister and her friends and family.  Again, here is the tutorial for the tealight candle holders: Create Ambience with Colorful DIY Cement Candle Holders.

Easy awesome DIY cement gifts. Tealight candle holders for my sister.


Here are a few more photos.

Large DIY cement bowl tinted with latex paint.
Close-up of DIY cement bowl tinted with latex paint.
DIY cement candle holder. To Uriel: Vuela alto con los ángeles.
DIY cement bowls, candle holders, vases, and other decor. Tinted with latex paint. Tutorials.
DIY cement bowl, thin-walled, colored with latex paint.


Until we meet again, all my best,

In memory of Jonathan Uriel Lopez Orazco. Gone too soon. Vuela alto con los ángeles. Que son tiernamente amados por siempre.

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