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Introduction to Polymer Clay

Thu Feb 16, 2012, 7:49 AM by Talty:icontalty:



Polymer clay is a modeling compound consisting mainly of polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticizes to make it pliable. As you can see it's easy to define polymer clay, but there's no possible way to describe all the variety of things that can be achieved with it.



In this article I will recollect some of the best resources and guide you through the basics of polymer clay, if there's anything I didn't cover here please don't hesitate to leave a question, I'm sure me or other polymer clay enthusiasts will be happy to help you :)

I will be referring to polymer clay as it's my medium of choice and expertise, but many of these resources can be used for other kinds of clay. You can even make your own clay, so there's no excuse not to start sculpting!

Why polymer clay?


There's many reasons to pick polymer clay, Snowfern made an incredible review comparing pros and cons of polymer clay vs air dry clay (scroll to the bottom for the comparison table).

Some of my reasons to prefer polymer clay are:
  • :bulletblue: It comes in many colors, pale and bright, matte and shiny, opaque and translucent. So it's easy to get the exact color I want.
  • :bulletblue: Since it doesn't air dry I can work on something for days or even weeks until it's perfect, or bake it and have a finished piece in just minutes!
  • :bulletblue: It holds textures and shapes beautifully. Also, it lets you make thin or tiny pieces.
  • :bulletblue: It can be sanded, carved or shaped in almost any shape you can imagine, and it allows the use of mica, acrylic paints or patinas for incredible results.
  • :bulletblue: It bakes hard and is very sturdy.
  • :bulletblue: Liquid polymer clay. We have a love/hate relationship, it can be very messy and ruin my worktable, but also it's extremely useful when making miniature food.

Start-up Tutorials


One of the most common questions I get is "how do I begin working with polymer clay?" well to be honest it's pretty simple, all you need is the clay and an oven (a toaster or conventional oven, but never a microwave). You can build up from there as you need it and as you branch into different options. These wonderful tutorials will help you decide what tools, setting and techniques may work best for you:

:thumb277846926: POLYMER CLAY Tutorial Part 1 by GrandmaThunderpants Sculpting Materials Tutorial by stirfryarcade Poly Clay Basics:Intro To Clay by sugaredheart Polymer Clay Tips and Tricks by Madizzo

  1. :bulletblue: Can't decide what brand of clay to buy? check out Battle of the Brands - The Polymer Clay Conundrum by monsterkookies.
  2. :bulletblue: If you don't know where to get polymer clay where you live, the polymer clay buying list by semi-sweeties may help you, it includes many countries and it's constantly growing!
  3. :bulletblue: Polymer Clay 101 also by monsterkookies is a great reference, also make sure to check out her article about polymer clay safety before you begin.

Beginner Projects


I always advice that you choose a simple project to begin, I've seen many people getting discouraged because they were too ambitious. These are some of my favorite fun projects that will teach you many of the techniques you'll need for more complicated pieces:

Chocolate Charm Tutorial by chat-noir Tangled Pascal Clay Tutorial by LightningMcTurner Clay Llama Figurine Tutorial by yingmakes:thumb45828570: Polymer Clay Waffles Tutorial by Talty PB+J Polymer Clay Tutorial by paperfaceparade:thumb87654366:
Chocolate charm | Pascal (Tangled) | Clay llama | Octopus charm | Mini waffle | PB+J | Cute bow

You'll notice that you can make a lot of things with polymer clay. Personally, I like to divide what you can do in three major categories: sculptures, food and jewelry. I advice that you try a bit of each and see what you like best, the tutorials above will give you a taste of all of them.

Sculpting Tutorials


You can sculpt pretty much everything from polymer clay, deviantART contains an extraordinary collection of sculptures and tutorials that will be interesting for the experienced and beginner alike.

Sculpting Tutorial by SgtMilenko Sculpting Tutorial - Textures by SgtMilenko Head Sculpting Tutorial by SgtMilenko Sculpture Base Tutorial by SgtMilenko
This wonderful tutorial series by SgtMilenko covers everything from clays, tools, armature, textures, sculpting the head and even the scenery.
Tutorial 1 - Mixing Sculpey by RennardX Tutorial 2 - Armature n Stand by RennardX Tutorial 3 - Head Sculpting by RennardX Tutorial 4 - Body Building by RennardX Tutorial 5 - Body Details by RennardX Tutorial 6 - Finishing Touch by RennardX Tutorial Summary by RennardX

RennardX wrote this incredible series of tutorials that guides you all the way from mixing the clay colors to the finishing touches of your sculpture. It's extremely detailed and extensive, definitely worth reading!

:thumb55889006: ChibiEdo's sculpting Tutorial by ChibiEdo How to Make a Tiger Fig Part 1 by TerraLove Unicorn Tutorial Part 1 by scenceable Quickie Face Tutorial by No-Sign-of-Sanity Hand Polymer Clay Tutorial by paperfaceparade :thumb167809431:
Some more amazing tutorials with useful information about sculpting the human body or animals.


Food Tutorials


Making food with polymer clay is very popular, it's mostly used for doll houses or novelty jewelry. Some artists have achieved an extraordinary level of realism, and many of them are also active on creating tutorials and helping others improve. This is only a small sample of the MANY tutorials about food making.



Jewelry Tutorials


Unfortunately there's fewer jewelry tutorials than the other two (hint hint!) but the ones that exist are very interesting!



Conclusion


That concludes this guide through polymer clay, there's many more tutorials, fields and aspects I would have liked to cover, but this is good enough to start or to expand your knowledge. Please don't hesitate to leave a question if you have any, and visit some of the many polymer clay dedicated groups in deviantART, many of them offer help and organize constant activities.

Extra resources


Painting polymer clay
Glazing
Smoothing, sanding and buffing polymer clay
Applying Pearl Ex Patina
Rapid Cooling to Harden Polymer Clay
Liquid Clay 101
Some more polymer clay tips



Add a Comment:
 
:iconmeganhess:
MeganHess Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
The pink rose by V-Eva is air dry clay
Reply
:iconeuphiemialibritannia:
I really want to try polymer clay. Unfotunately,we only have one oven, the one we're using for cooking and I can't buy a new one. Any tips? Thanks!
Reply
:iconkitiaramajere:
kitiaramajere Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2012
Making my fingers itch...
Reply
:iconmandarinmoon:
MandarinMoon Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Tons of helpful information! This is awesome! Thank you for including my journal. :)
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012   Artisan Crafter
You are welcome, I loved it! :D
Reply
:iconthinkpastel:
thinkpastel Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
This is not just an excellent guide for anyone who's unfamiliar with polymer clay; there's so many resources in there that even a tutorial-holic like me managed to find new, unknown informations :giggle:
Great job :clap:
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012   Artisan Crafter
yay I'm glad I could help you find something new! :dummy: I must be doing something right :P thanks for reading sweetie! :glomp:
Reply
:iconkirielsoleil:
KirielSoleil Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2012  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
this is amazing, thanks for putting all this together
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012   Artisan Crafter
You are welcome, thanks for reading it! ^^
Reply
:iconaburgess528:
aburgess528 Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2012  Student General Artist
Thank you
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012   Artisan Crafter
You are welcome :dummy: I'm glad you liked it!
Reply
:icontempasta:
tempasta Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2012
Now if only I had a proper oven to bake them in...

Thank you for the article! It is certainly very helpful!
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012   Artisan Crafter
You are welcome! ^^ you can use a regular oven, the same oven you use to bake your food is fine. Also, I've read about people that buy cheap toaster ovens second hand and they work just fine for years :D
Reply
:iconaburgess528:
aburgess528 Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2012  Student General Artist
you can use your regular oven just wipe it out with a mild degreaser afterwards and don't forget your oven thermometer. Thins are sometimes hotter than they seem.
Reply
:iconkingpuddi:
KingPuddi Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
because of this, I am now fairly interested in using polymer clay. :la:
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012   Artisan Crafter
yay I'm glad the love for polymer clay is spreading! :dummy:
Reply
:iconthetragedianscomic:
TheTragediansComic Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Student General Artist
I've been trying to find a good medium to make a venetian style mask out of and though I've never used polymer clay, but I'm wondering if it would be a good medium to use?
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012   Artisan Crafter
I've seen people using polymer clay to use masks, but I can't remember who made them :( I'm sure it would work, but my main concern would be the weight. If you're planning to make it too big or bulky, you could try to find light weight polymer clay so it's not too heavy ^^ I know that the same guys that make sculpey make a light weight polymer clay.
Reply
:iconthetragedianscomic:
TheTragediansComic Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012  Student General Artist
Thanks! I'll look into the light weight polymer.
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012   Artisan Crafter
You are welcome, good luck with that! :D
Reply
:iconcatluvr2:
catluvr2 Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I've made a :O keychain out of polymer clay, as well as some magnets and little sculptures. I've even made additions to my Christmas village with it and some paper clips.
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012   Artisan Crafter
Oh what a great idea, I should make stuff for my Christmas village too! :la:
Reply
:iconsorbetberry:
SorbetBerry Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Hobbyist
OMG! It's you! Talty!
I remember one time I saw one of your deviations on the front page and that led me to fav most of your gallery... o_o

great informative journal!
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012   Artisan Crafter
Really? :meow: wow that's really an honor, thank you so much! and I'm glad you liked this :D
Reply
:iconsorbetberry:
SorbetBerry Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012  Hobbyist
you're welcome!
Reply
:iconphoenixleo:
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012
I always wondered how these were done o_O
Thank you! :thumbsup:
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012   Artisan Crafter
You are welcome, I hope you learned something new! ^^
Reply
:iconmathness:
Mathness Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012
Excellent introduction. :#1:
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Artisan Crafter
Thank you! :dummy:
Reply
:iconwatergleam:
WaterGleam Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is wonderful and useful, thanks for creating this! And thanks for featuring me in it!

I'll redirect anyone who wants to know about polymer clay. ^^
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Artisan Crafter
You are welcome!! ^^
Reply
:iconanto009:
Anto009 Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012
I was wondering how much it costs in the US? In Argentina each 57 g piece is 25 pesos, which is a little bit more than 5 bucks. I always wanted to work with it but it's expensive in comparison with what I would want to do.
Reply
:iconaburgess528:
aburgess528 Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2012  Student General Artist
I always buy mine on sale for about $1.25 American for 2oz. Joann.com has it on sale right now until Monday. Maybe they ship to Argentina.
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Artisan Crafter
That's definitely too expensive, you would do better buying it online. Polymer Clay Express ( [link] ) is a good place to buy clay, the shipping is a bit expensive because the clay is heavy, but for $1.50 per block you'll surely save some money.
Reply
:iconnightlyre:
Nightlyre Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Great resource! I am definitely faving this to keep track of those lovely tutorials. Thank you!
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Artisan Crafter
You are welcome, and thanks for faving! :D I'm glad you liked it!
Reply
:iconlabyrinthcreations:
LabyrinthCreations Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012
excellent article! :clap:
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Artisan Crafter
Thank you! :huggle:
Reply
:iconenbi-to-miruku:
Enbi-to-Miruku Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Student General Artist
Extremely informative and useful. Love this <3
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Artisan Crafter
Thank you, I'm glad to help! ^^
Reply
:iconvesssper:
vesssper Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Artisan Crafter
Incredible! Very informative collection and lovely examples of polymer clay work! Thank you for including my work!
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Artisan Crafter
You are welcome, I'm glad you liked it! :D
Reply
:iconande-art:
ande-art Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Me le hungry!
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Artisan Crafter
I'm always hungry :(
Reply
:iconande-art:
ande-art Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Eat each other up?
Reply
:iconfairchildart:
fairchildart Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012
Wow, this is a phenomenal resource! I'm incredibly flattered to be a part :)
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Artisan Crafter
yay! :dummy: I couldn't have made it without including you :giggle:
Reply
:iconttfaa:
TTFAA Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is a fantastic article/compilation! I've been wanting to start using polymer clay for a while now, but I just wasn't sure how to get started. Now I have a stepping stone. :D Thankyou!
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012   Artisan Crafter
That was exactly the goal of this article, I can't tell you how happy I am right now :D
Reply
:iconttfaa:
TTFAA Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Yay! :iconbiggrinplz:
Reply
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