Learning how to bake polymer clay the right way is a fundamental skill to master when crafting items using this versatile material. Baking polymer clay is the most crucial step of the process because it's what will make the clay hard and seal your project. This guide will teach you the polymer clay baking process and important considerations to keep in mind when baking your polymer clay.
How to Bake Polymer Clay Tutorial
When it comes to baking polymer clay, the three most important factors that will affect the result are:
- Baking Surface
In this step by step tutorial, I'll show you how to bake polymer clay the right way for beautiful polymer clay projects. There are also instructions for the best temperature to bake polymer clay, how long to bake polymer clay and what to bake it on.
How to Bake Polymer Clay at the Best Temperature
The temperature you'll use to bake polymer clay will significantly affect the resulting product. Too high a setting can scorch or burn the clay. Meanwhile, a too-low temperature can underbake it, leading to a less durable item.
Always ensure you follow the temperature setting the brand recommends, which you'll find in the packaging. In case you mix and use two different brands of clay, use the mid-point between the two brands' recommended settings.
To ensure that you have the right temperature, it's a must that you have a reliable oven thermometer, even if your appliance has a built-in thermostat.
Most brands range from 230°F (110°C) to 275°F (135°C). See the polymer clay baking chart below for the temperature of some of the common brands.
How Long to Bake Polymer Clay
Like with temperature, you'll usually find the recommended time on how to bake polymer clay in the packaging.
Generally, the baking time for most brands of polymer clay ranges from 15 to 30 minutes. Up to an hour is totally fine if the baking clay is really thick. As noted, the clay's thickness will affect how long you must bake it. It goes without saying that the thicker it is, the longer you should bake it.
The manufacturer will also note in the instructions the equivalent thickness of the clay per baking time.
Most brands and even experts suggest that the standard thickness of clay is ¼ of an inch or 6mm.
To adjust the baking clay time, just multiply the recommended time with every multiple of the standard thickness.
For instance, the clay brand recommends 15 minutes for every ¼ inch of thickness, but you used a one-inch piece of clay. Thus, you need to multiply 15 by 4 (4 ¼ inches), giving you 60 minutes.
However, it's always best to bake a test sample of clay, which we'll discuss below. It will ensure you don't underbake or overbake it.
What to Bake Polymer Clay On
Where you place your polymer clay craft will also significantly affect how your project will turn out. It's recommended that you use a flat surface when baking projects, such as candle holders, jars, and figurine bases or bottoms.
For best results, choose ceramic tiles, metal trays, or glasses. However, make sure you cover the tile with aluminum foil or parchment paper to avoid the development of unwanted sheen on your polymer clay pieces.
When baking round items, use bead baking racks, holders, or shaped aluminum foil. These surfaces will help maintain your project's shape while you're baking it.
Temperature for Polymer Clay and Time for Popular Brands
For a quick reference, here's a table summarizing the time and temperature requirements for a ¼" (6mm) thickness of polymer clay piece from some of the most common brands:
|Souffle by Sculpey
How to Bake Polymer Clay in an Oven: Step by Step
The best way to bake your polymer clay is via a clay oven, but you really don't need to purchase one. The best alternative is your regular kitchen oven. Ideally, it should have a glass window so you can see your polymer clay baking.
Here are the steps you need to follow when it's time to bake your polymer clay:
- Prepare Your Materials
- Pre-Heat Your Oven
- Prepare Your Polymer Clay Projects for Baking
- Bake Your Clay
- Take the Clay Out of the Oven
Step 1: Prepare Your Materials
Gather all the items that you would need, namely:
- Baking Surface (eg tray or tile)
- Baking Paper or Aluminum Foil
- Oven Thermometer
Step 2: Pre-Heat Your Oven
Like with baking food, pre-heating your oven is a critical step to ensure it's set to the right temperature before you put anything in the oven.
To pre-heat your oven, here's what you need to do:
- Check your clay's packaging and look for the brand's instructions on how to bake polymer clay.
- Put your oven thermometer in your oven's center rack.
- Close your oven's door and set its temperature to what the package states.
- Constantly check your oven's temperature without opening the door to trap the heat and maintain a constant temperature.
If you notice that the temperature is too high or low, adjust your oven's temperature setting. Note that some ovens are inaccurate; hence, the use of an oven thermometer.
Step 3: Prepare Your Clay Projects for Baking
Once the oven is preheated, start preparing your clay project for baking.
The reason you can't do this step while waiting for the oven to preheat is that baking paper will absorb the clay's plasticizers when left too long before putting them in the oven. This will lead to clay brittleness that will make it susceptible to cracking.
There are two different ways you can prepare your projects for baking, depending on the shape of your clay.
Baking Flat Polymer Clay Items
If you have clay projects with flat designs, meaning there is little to no elevation, here's what you need to do:
- Line your baking surface with baking paper.
- Carefully place your clay projects, with the pattern or top facing up, on the paper. Remember that the baking pan, tile, or any baking surface will absorb most of the heat, heating the clay part in contact with it more quickly than the rest of the clay.
- Get a good length of aluminum foil, enough to cover your entire project. Place it on top of your clay pieces to help dull the heating element's effect on your clay. This will prevent burning or scorching your clay.
- Place a baking pan or tile on top of it to act as a weight to hold the flat clay down and minimize or prevent air bubbles from forming.
Baking Polymer Clay Beads
If you have polymer clay beads, here's what you need to do:
- Cover your tile or baking pan with baking soda to protect your clay from rolling around, scorching, and flat or shiny spots. You may also fold a piece of baking paper and fold it accordion style. If you're using beading racks, skip this step.
- Place your clay projects on top of your baking surface covered with baking soda, on folds' valleys, or on the rack. Again, make sure that the pattern or top is facing up.
- Cover the top of your clay projects with foil to prevent scorching or burning them.
Learn how to make polymer clay beads in different shapes, including round, square, and oblong.
Baking Polymer Clay Projects With Rings
When you decide to make polymer clay projects attached to metal rings, here's what you need to do:
- Take a disposable aluminum baking pan.
- Turn it upside down and create small holes, ensuring they have enough space in between each other. The number and size of holes will depend on the ring you used.
- Gently slide the ring into one of the holes. Do the same for the rest of your items.
- Arrange the ringed clay projects in a way that they're positioned similarly and ensure the patterns or designs are facing up.
- Cover the top with baking paper for flat projects or tents for other shapes.
Step 4: Bake Your Clay
Now, it's time to actually bake your clay project!
When it comes to this step of how to bake polymer clay, you need to place your baking surface in the middle of your oven. Make sure it's centered and is as far from the heating elements as possible. Doing so will allow air to circulate around your clay projects, distributing heat evenly.
Set the timer to what the specific clay brand requires or recommends.
Step 5: Take the Clay Out of the Oven
Leaving your clay project in the oven longer than it should lead to overheating, even when you turn the oven off. Remember that the appliance's residual heat still bakes whatever is inside it.
Always open the oven door carefully and avoid any fumes.
When you remove your project from the oven, properly baked clay will be flexible and/or bendable because the clay still hasn't reached its final hardness. You have to wait for it to cool down completely before it hardens.
Overbaked ones will, of course, look burnt or scorched, while improperly baked clay pieces will snap, break, crumble, and/or shatter when you try to bend them. Of course, trying to bend your clay just to check if it's done can damage your project partially or completely.
Trusting the recommended baking time is advisable because no one knows better than the manufacturer itself. That said, baking a piece of tester clay before baking your actual project is highly suggested.
Running a Test Clay
Although the manufacturer has time and temp recommendations, and you can always test your oven's capability to maintain a temperature using a thermometer, baking a test clay piece is always the best way to go.
Here's what you need to do:
- Make a small ball of clay that's as thick and big as your project. Better yet, create a duplicate of your project.
- Follow the above steps on how to bake polymer clay.
- Once you take the clay out of the oven, check for darkened parts, indicating that your oven is too hot. You can also cut the clay with a sharp knife once you take it out of the oven to check for brittleness, crumbling, and more.
- If your test is not adequate, lower your oven's temperature slightly and run another test.
How to Bake Polymer Clay: The Alternatives
What if you don't have a regular kitchen oven? Or you do have one but don't want to use it in baking your polymer clay projects?
Of course, you have other options, such as:
- Convection Oven
How to Bake Polymer Clay Using a Convection Oven
The best thing about a convection oven is that it has a fan that allows sufficient heat circulation, preventing the occurrence of hot spots. It means that your clay will bake evenly without any discoloration.
The method is almost the same as when you use your regular oven, namely:
- Prepare Your Materials
- Pre-Heat Your Oven
- Prepare Your Clay Projects for Baking
- Bake Your Clay
- Take the Clay Out of the Oven
Note: In step 3, using a foil tent won't be one of your best options because the fan might blow them away. Instead, use an upside-down baking pan.
How to Bake Polymer Clay in a Toaster Oven
Baking your polymer clay in a toaster oven is more challenging than when using regular and convection ovens. After all, you'll find models without temperature control knobs. Additionally, there is not enough room for the heat to circulate, leading to a higher possibility of burning your clay project.
That said, you would need to run several trials before you even get the accurate time and temperature setting. Follow the same pre-baking test as above.
Using your portable oven thermometer, make sure you note the temperature corresponding to each number on your toaster's temperature knob. For instance, 1: 150°F, 2: 200°F, and so on.
Do the same if your toaster's knob has specific temperatures printed instead of numbers. Again, remember that those numbers are not accurate. It's always best to trust a thermometer.
You'll also expect that your clay will require a lesser baking time because you'll bake it closer to the heating element than when using bigger ovens. Lastly, we only suggest that you use toaster ovens for smaller projects such as polymer clay earrings and pins.
Once you established the right temperature and time, just follow the same steps as above.
FAQs About Polymer Clay Baking
We understand that there might be questions lingering in your mind when it comes to how to bake polymer clay or baking polymer clay in general. Thus, we answered some of the top queries about the procedure.
1. Can I harden polymer clay in my microwave?
Most, if not all, homes nowadays have microwave ovens in addition to full-size kitchen ovens, convection ovens, and even toasters. However, microwaves can NOT be used for hardening polymer clay. The heating element or principle used is different from the other appliances mentioned above, so it won't cure the clay correctly. Plus, you'll end up with a smoky kitchen because as the clay heats up, it will start to burn.
2. Can I bake polymer clay in my air fryer?
As a kitchen appliance that's almost comparable to a convection oven, it's possible to use an air fryer to bake your clay projects. However, you would need to do a lot of testing. That's because most air fryer models can't maintain consistent and accurate temperatures. Most of the time, you'll end up with burnt clay even if you tested the appliance. Therefore, we highly recommend that you avoid using it.
3. Can I bake polymer clay twice or more?
Underbaking your polymer clay isn't uncommon, so yes, it's okay to bake it more than once. Some experts even recommend that you bake your project in several stages, especially if you're still unsure of what properly baked or cured clay looks like. However, there are disadvantages to it. Your clay project might end up with uneven color. The thinner parts might be darker and more brittle than the thicker ones.
4. Should I adjust baking temperatures and times when I live in a place with a higher altitude?
If you're a baker or into physics, you're probably familiar with the fact that you would need to adjust baking temperatures and times when you live in an area that has a higher altitude. This isn't the case for polymer clay. Polymer clay is water-free, so air pressure won't affect the two important baking factors.
5. Can I bake my polymer clay later?
What if you suddenly need to be somewhere and can't proceed with the baking process? Can you do it later?
Definitely, you can do so as long you still haven't set the pieces of clay on baking paper. That said, you can wrap your project in cling wrap and place it in a cool, dark place to prevent drying.
Although you can store them for as long as a month, we highly recommend that you bake them as soon as you have time. Remember that the longer they're stored, the more changes happen.
Baking Your Polymer Clay Successfully!
Polymer clay crafting is fun and even profitable, so mastering all the steps is totally worth it. When it comes to how to bake polymer clay, just make sure you get to know the appliance you'll use. Doing so will ensure you won't make a huge mistake in setting the baking temperature and time. Good luck and enjoy!
More Polymer Clay Tutorials
- Polymer Clay Ideas
- How to Bake Polymer Clay
- Polymer Clay Tutorial
- What is Polymer Clay
- How to Make Polymer Clay Earrings
- How to Soften Polymer Clay
- Polymer Clay Jewelry Ideas
- How to Make Polymer Clay Beads
How to Bake Polymer Clay
- Regular Oven
- Baking Tray
- Aluminium Foil or Baking Paper
- Oven Thermometer
- Polymer Clay Project
- Check the packaging of the polymer clay for the recommended termperature and baking time.
- Pre-heat the oven and check the temperature of the oven is accurate.
- Place your polymer clay item on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Make a tent with aluminum foil and cover the project ensuring nothing touches the foil. If you don't have foil you could use a second baking tray placed upside down.
- Bake for the recommended time. Most brands bake for 15-30 minutes per ¼ inch of thickness.