In this article, you will learn all about what is polymer clay and what you can make with polymer clay. Polymer clay is a wonderful art medium that is suitable for all sorts of 3-dimensional creations. It comes in a variety of colors and is easy to work with.
What Is Polymer Clay?
Polymer clay is a synthetic modeling clay made from PVC, otherwise known as polyvinyl chloride. It hardens with heat and is plastic-based so lasts extremely well.
One of the wonderful properties of polymer clay is that it is also water resistant. It can be re-molded again and again until it has been baked, making it a versatile crafting medium. If you want to learn how to use this wonderful material, read my full polymer clay tutorial.
What Is Polymer Clay Made Of?
Polymer clay is a synthetic material made from a polyvinyl chloride plastic polymer base (PVC). PVC, one of the most widely used plastics in the world, is found in everything from medical devices to children's toys.
It does not contain clay minerals, but like mineral clay, a liquid is added to dry particles to achieve gel-like working properties, and the object made is then hardened in an oven, hence its name, clay.
What Is The Difference Between Polymer Clay and Real Clay?
Modeling clay is an oil-based compound, whereas polymer clay is a plastic-based material. Both materials come in a variety of colors, but polymer clay has more options in fake colors like granite or translucent shades.
Modeling clay only comes in shades of color, whereas polymer clay comes in all sorts of bright or glittery colors.
There are two types of modeling clay: air-dry and no-dry. Modeling clay is made in such a way that it can be used over and over again without drying out. Polymer clay hardens when baked in an oven, but it can be used and re-used multiple times before it is baked. If it gets too old, however, it becomes dry and crumbly.
Types Of Polymer Clay
There are many different brands of polymer clay. Some are easier to work with, some are stronger, and some are more flexible. You can buy polymer clay in basic colors, in textured form, which creates a fake leather look, and in translucent, pearly colors.
What is Polymer Clay Popular Brands
While there are many other cheaper and generic polymer clays on the market, below are the main high-quality brands. There are also a number of lesser-known polymer clay brands, such as Kato Polyclay, Pardo (which was originally called jewelry clay), Cernit, Papa’s clay, and Cosclay.
Fimo Polymer Clay
Fimo was the first polymer clay created (in 1954), and for a long time, it was the only brand available. Fimo has now extended its range to Fimo professional, Fimo soft, Fimo leather (which is textured), and Fimo kids.
Sculpey Polymer Clay
Sculpey is another well-known brand of polymer clay. They also have a variety of different types of clay within their brand. All of the Sculpey clays are soft and easy to mold, but they can become brittle once baked.
- Sculpey original, which is soft and easy to work.
- Super Sculpey, which is specially designed for creating figures and comes only in flesh tones.
- Sculpey III comes in a wide variety of colors and is soft and easy for beginners to work with.
This brand of polymer clay is very economical to buy, but it is rather soft and doesn’t hold details very well. It is a perfect choice for kids to work with, as it is inexpensive.
Souffle Polymer Clay
Souffle brand of polymer clay is extremely flexible and strong, but it has limited color choices.
Premo Polymer Clay
Premo is a versatile brand and is available in a lot of countries worldwide. It holds its shape and details well and is strong after baking. There is a good deal of color choice, including metallic, pearl, and translucent colors.
Supplies for Using Polymer Clay
Luckily, starting this hobby is relatively easy with limited tools. You will need:
- Polymer Clay (of course!)
- Working Surface - A ceramic tile or plastic cutting board to work on.
- Polymer Clay Tools - Some sort of rolling pin (you can use acrylic, plastic, or glass, but preferably not wood). An awl, or toothpicks for making holes. Plastic shape templates (you can even use cookie cutters). Ruler or measuring tool. A craft knife.
- Oven - An oven to bake your clay in.
- Optional- a tissue blade set, which is a set of flexible steel blades for cutting; sandpaper, varnish, and a paintbrush, if you want to seal your clay.
- Storage - plastic containers which seal well. It is useful to get the type with compartments to separate colors.
What Can I Make With Polymer Clay?
Polymer clay is such a versatile medium; there are endless possibilities for its use! Here are some examples of polymer clay ideas:
- Jewelry- such as polymer clay earrings, necklaces and pendants.
- Beads - to make jewelry or to use as embellishments on sewing projects.
- Buttons - make perfectly matching buttons for your clothing.
- Christmas Decorations
- Key chains
- Fridge magnets
- Hair accessories - add your sculpted creations onto hair clips.
- Small items for home decor - such as ring dishes, ring cones, and candle holders.
- Picture frames
- Figurines or dolls
Polymer Clay Earrings Tutorial
How to Make Polymer Clay Beads
Why Use Polymer Clay?
Polymer clay is a superb craft material for a number of reasons. Some of these are:
- It is soft, flexible, and easy to use.
- It is non-toxic.
- It dries faster than clay once your item is complete and has been baked.
- It doesn’t shrink or expand.
- The colors don’t fade.
- It doesn’t dry out.
- It is easy to clean up after working with it.
- Small bars go a long way.
- It is durable.
What is Polymer Clay Precautions
- Although polymer clay is non-toxic, it should not be ingested!
- Use dedicated tools for cutting and rolling the clay. Do not use kitchen tools that you still use for food preparation.
- Along the same theme, do not use it to make dishes that you will eat off. Dishes made from Polymer clay are really for display purposes only.
- Always wash your hands after working with it.
- Do not use nail polish, spray paint, or solvents with polymer clay, as they will dissolve it!
- Watch out for lint or pet hairs sticking to your clay. It seems to attract them, and they can ruin the look of your final product.
- Be cautious when baking it. If it is baked at high temperatures, it will burn, bubble, and discolor, and it releases toxic fumes if baked at high temperatures.
- Should you wear gloves when working with it? It is not necessary, but brightly colored clay may temporarily tint the skin.
- Avoid touching your eyes or face when working with it, and clean surfaces well after using it.
- Keep your clay cool, or it will dry out and become crumbly.
How to Condition Polymer Clay
Conditioning is the process of preparing polymer clay to work with. When your polymer clay is properly conditioned, it should be free of rough edges, have a slight sheen, and be able to bend in the middle without breaking.
Conditioning your clay is essential because it removes any trapped air and allows your ingredients to mix more evenly. Read more about how to soften polymer clay.
1. To condition polymer clay by hand:
Begin by cutting a clay block into quarters. Using just one quarter at a time, start rolling it back and forth in your hands. This motion will cause the polymer clay to warm up and smooth out its edges.
When all of the clay is warm, start rolling it into a ball, then a snake. Bend and twist the snake together. Repeat this process until the clay is completely conditioned.
2. To condition polymer clay using a pasta machine:
If you are lucky enough to have a pasta machine, it speeds up the conditioning process considerably. It is preferable to use this machine for conditioning clay only. Use a separate machine for making pasta.
First, cut only the amount of clay you'll need from your block. Make a piece of clay that is narrow enough to fit through your pasta machine. Check your machine's width settings and cut a section of clay that is narrower than that.
Gently insert the polymer clay into it. After running your clay through the machine, fold it in half and place the fold side down in the pasta machine. Repeat this process until your clay is completely conditioned.
How Do I Bake Polymer Clay?
Most brands of polymer clay will harden and cure with the heat of an oven. Many people have unsuccessfully tried other methods of curing their clay, such as heat guns, toaster ovens, cooking in an electric frying pan, and even boiling it. Baking is definitely the easiest and best method. Do not microwave your polymer clay! Read more about how to bake polymer clay.
In every case, check the packaging for instructions because different polymer clays require different temperatures.
- Preheat your oven to the temperature suggested on the pack. Do not make it too hot! The temperature will usually be around 275 F (130 C). An oven thermometer may be used to double-check the temperature is correct.
- Place your item onto a heatproof surface, such as a metal pan, heatproof glass, or ceramic tile.
- Bake for around 15-30 minutes for each ¼ “(0.6 cm) thickness of the object.
Overbaking will cause the darkening of your polymer clay, and burning will cause the bubbling and darkening of the clay.
How To Store Polymer Clay
Polymer clay needs to be stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Keep different colors wrapped separately so that there is no color transfer between blocks.
It can be stored in plastic or glass. It does not have to be completely airtight, just kept cool, as it is heat that causes the clay to harden.
It is better to avoid storing it in wood or metal boxes because wood draws moisture out of the clay, and metal is a heat conductor, which can cause the clay to start curing before you want it to.
What is Polymer Clay FAQs
What is Polymer Clay good for?
Polymer clay can be used in a variety of crafts, such as polymer clay earrings, jewelry, home decoration, pottery, doll making, and sculpture. It is an extremely versatile art and craft medium.
Why is polymer clay so popular?
Crafting with clay is a good way to get creative! It is easy to work with, even for people with no experience. You do not need a lot of equipment to start working with it, and it is easily cured in a home oven.
How long does polymer clay last?
If kept in an airtight, cool location, it will last indefinitely. In general, new clay is softer and simpler to work with. Never purchase clay that has been seen in a sun-exposed store window! Once it has been baked, it will last for many years. The only exceptions to this are if it is stored permanently in a sunny spot or if your pieces are very thin, they may become brittle.
Can you paint polymer clay?
Because polymer clay is made of vinyl plastic, the paint will not absorb into it like it does with paper, wood, and cloth. It simply sits on top of the clay. As a result, paint on polymer clay is very likely to peel, chip, and scratch off over time. When the paint is applied to raw polymer clay and then baked together, it often bonds better. If you really feel the need to paint your creation, possibly to create depth, for highlighting, or for ‘antiquing,’ acrylic paint seems to be the best choice.
Can you air-dry polymer clay?
No, because polymer clay is plastic, it will not dry completely unless it is baked, unlike other types of clay. If you leave it out for a very long time, it will stiffen and eventually just become crumbly; it will never harden up in its correct shape.
Do you have to bake polymer clay?
The answer to this is short and sweet - yes! It needs to be baked, or it will not harden. As mentioned above, this clay will not air dry. People have attempted using heat torches, hairdryers, and electric frying pans to harden their clay, but because it needs a constant low temperature, oven baking is definitely the best option.
What happens to Polymer clay if it is not baked?
Nothing! Polymer does not dry out; the only thing to be concerned about is that it will get squashed! I do recommend baking whatever you make to ensure it doesn't get ruined. You can, however, re-use the clay at a later date to make something completely different.
How to harden polymer clay without baking.
If it is absolutely impossible for you to bake your creation in an oven, polymer clay can be hardened by baking it in the sun for a few days. Another option is to place it in the freezer, which will harden it quickly but may cause it to crack. A third option is to use a hairdryer. None of these will give completely satisfactory results, however.
What is Polymer Clay - In Conclusion
I do hope this article has helped you learn something new about what is polymer clay and its many applications and uses. Polymer Clay is a popular art medium because of its versatility, pliability, and ease of use. It can be used by children and fine artists alike. Why not get a few colors and see what you can make with them?