Tips and Tutorials:

Working with polymer clay


A handful of tips on working with polymer clay!

Pick your clay brand with care
The major brands I know of are Fimo, Sculpey and Premo. Fimo is strong and resilient but (relatively) heavy, Sculpey is light but brittle and more fragile. Premo translucent shade is much more see-through than either of the other two. As a general rule I always try to work with Fimo for strength.

Example: The 'V' shape in Yuna's necklace is made of Fimo, but I wouldn't have dared make it out of Sculpey as I think it would break if the chain gets tugged.

Working with translucent
Polymer clay comes in translucent shades which look great if you can make them work but are, frankly, an absolute bugger to bake. Put your translucent work in the oven cold, bring it up to temperature as slowly as you can bear (I go up in four or five five-minute stages), then bake, and ideally leave everything in the oven overnight to cool down very, very slowly. It's not perfect, but you'll get a much better finish than if you heat and cool quickly - the translucent develops little half-moon-shaped opaque imperfections that way. Once you've baked it once you're OK though! You can chuck baked translucent in the oven any old way and it won't mess up the texture.

Example: Translucent makes for the most realistic 'flesh' tone. I cooked Tsuzuki's head first of all, extremely slowly, and then built the rest of the model around it before re-baking.

Work the clay after it's baked!
People always seem to forget that the clay can be worked with afterwards. You can grind it, sand it, cut it with a sharp craft knife, and generally do a lot to improve the basic shape. This is where my trusty little drill and its umpteen interesting grinding/wirebrush/polishing drill bits come in. ^_^ (Note: DON'T use a wirebrush drill bit on a clay surface that you want to be smooth! Your piece will end up looking like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it ain't pretty.)

Example: Varnish won't look good unless the surface underneath is really smooth. This pendant gets a lot of sanding and polishing before the gold design is added, and then the whole thing is varnished afterwards.

Be careful what you put on your finished item
The plasticizer chemicals in polymer clay can do really interesting things to paint and varnish. Acrylic paints work fine: enamel paints DO NOT DRY EVER! You will end up with a sticky/tacky paint sludge on your clay item which will never come off. Trust me, it's happened to me. >.< As for varnish, I strongly recommend the own-brand varnish of whoever makes the clay you're using. Theoretically, any old acrylic varnish should work, but I've tried it and it dries very soft and scratchable.

Example: I nearly ruined a different one of these lockets completely by slathering enamel paint all over it. BIG mistake. Fortunately, I managed to get it off. ^_^;;;

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