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Polymer Clay Primer and Tips

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Polymer Clay Primer & Tips



This deviation acts as a series of reference notes for myself and others, as a refresher on the best way to deal with clay. These reference notes detail my observations into clay, and my current readings into it. If you have advice or disagree, just comment below! I would love to hear it!

As with anything craft-related, don't be afraid to make prototypes first! It's always been better for me to try first and make a prototype, and have my second attempt come out so much better. Don't be afraid to make mistakes!

Materials

So, this section is the biggest reason why I made this deviation. My first clay pendant N's Pendant v 1.0, was made rather fast with ready accessible materials, but ended up breaking 20 minutes after Anime Expo ended. Great timing to break, but I don't want things to break on you. Fortunately, super glue fixed it,(or even more clay, as ~rainbow-penguins points out) but still, I can't guarantee that the materials I used for it, will not break on you.

There's a trade-off between, readily available, cheap, accessible materials, and more expensive, slightly harder to get materials. To help you out the most, I made two lists for paints and clays, one for the fast, easy-to-get materials for those last minute crafting endeavors, and another for a more durable craft.

This list was compiled from the research I did.

------------------Accessible/Inexpensive----------------------------Durable/Expensive/Harder-To-Find

Clay------------Sculpey/Generic craft Brand------------------------FIMO, Premo

Paints----------Nail Polish(varying results)-------------------------Polyurathane Varathane(glaze), acrylics,
------------------------------------------------------------------------------Minwax varnish, gloss finish

Sometimes, nail polish works great, other times, it makes the clay kinda sticky. If you really want to use nail polish in a durable way, glaze your clay with a durable material first, then coat it with a nail polish.

Preparing Your Workspace

First, get a solid table. Then, you need some way to protect your table from clay mayhem.

I use aluminum foil to cover up my table. Since clay can permanently stain stuff, I'm usually careful. I also don't want dirt/debris from other clay to mix with the current clay that I'm working with, so I use a new area in the aluminum foil for every clay color I use.

It doesn't haveto be aluminum foil, but something that's clean, inexpensive and easy to crumple and toss.

Tools

Note: Once some tool touches clay, it can't be used for food again. Clay isn't edible! So the tools I use are cheap, if not free, and are readily available.
  • Plastic kitchen utensils: The fork and knife are especially useful.
  • Food can as a roller: Readily available
  • Disposable muffin pans: I don't really dispose these, I reuse them.
  • Latex Gloves: These gloves are the kind that come in a box of 30 in the cleaning section of your supermarket. Super inexpensive, and I found it as a great way to prevent fingerprints/fingernail prints to go on the pieces. The alternative to prevent prints was sanding it, and I didn't want to buy multiple grades of sandpaper and spend much time sanding the piece. So, gloves are an inexpensive, time-saving way to prevent fingerprints!
  • Spare small metallic wire: Make sure you don't mind clay getting stuck to this. I used a spare eye pin.
  • Spare circle shape-thing: I use a broken jewelry charm, that is already in a shape of a circle, as my template for circles. Be creative, you can find circle shapes all around.
  • Super glue: Especially good to have around if you used more inexpensive materials like I did.


Working with your Clay

I start by rolling a piece of clay, in a clean area of the table, by molding it into a circle, and rolling it around with one hand. So, my hand makes a horizontal circular motion with the clay underneath it. I keep on doing this until I see few "seams", that is, fold lines, in the clay itself. I hate fold lines, so I try to minimize it by rolling up the clay in this manner.

Sometimes, when I want really fine strokes or detail on the clay, I use my own fingernails! That's right, my own fingernails! Other people use flathead screwdrivers. Use your kitchen utensils too!

To make a spherical, ball-shaped bead, just roll it up! Use an eye pin, or small wire, to poke through the bead. Then, if you desire, wiggle your wire around the bead, to make the hole bigger.

Baking

I use the muffin pans as a way to get multiple pieces in the oven. I'm sure you can make your own trays from the aluminum foil.

I also fully wrap my piece in aluminum foil. The reason for this is that my baking is one in an oven also used for cooking. I don't want the smell of of polymer clay affecting my cooking, so I wrap up the pieces, bake them, and when they're done, unwrap them outside the oven.

I read that in order to make a piece durable, simply double the baking time. My pieces got a smidge browner though, and talking to a chemical engineer, polymer clay does release chlorine.

So, to be on the safe side, my recommended baking time is approximately 1.25 times the recommended amount.

Painting?

You have the option to add paints to your creations. You get a nice matte finish without paints.

If you like a wet, shiny look, or you decide to paint, I always recommend a layer of polyurathane varathane(or nail polish, though not guaranteed results) first. That way, in case you have scratches on the clay, there's a nice coat that covers it.

If you do decide to add additional paints, I recommend 2-3 layers.

Storage

I keep clay individually by color, in a separate zip-lock bag. I don't want the clay to dry up, so I figure it's a good place to keep clay.
Related tutorials:

N's Pendant: Metallic + Shiny
Katara Pendant Tutorial - pending

Since I’m planning on doing two polymer clay-related tutorials, some of the information between the two may be redundant. So, to be efficient, I’m giving you some basic tips and recommendations on various clay-relevant tasks. (I’m coding this HTML by hand, very hard core!)

This deviation acts as a series of reference notes for myself, as a refresher on the best way to deal with clay. These reference notes detail my observations into clay, and my current readings into it. If you have advice or disagree, just comment below! I would love to hear it!

Feedback:
~rainbow-penguins: suggested using more clay to fix things
~Dixxy: suggested Minwax varnish - gloss finish as a good gloss
© 2011 - 2022 craftysorceress
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ShinigamiEdo's avatar
for making your pieces durable you can shock them with ice water. Bake them the normal time, then when they are still kind of warm drop them in ice water. There is a tutorial/walkthrough somewhere on here. I'll try and find it for you :).

I do not recommend overbaking them as polymer clay emits harmful gases when burnt.