Are you tired of using air-drying clay that cracks and crumbles? Have you been searching for a more versatile and durable option? Look no further than polymer clay!
Polymer clay is made from a mixture of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticizer. The PVC – a polymer hence the name – gives it strength and durability, while the plasticizer makes it more flexible and easy to shape. which makes it more pliable and easy to work with and able to hold fine, delicate, details more easily than traditional air-drying clay. Read on for more reasons why it’s better.
The biggest advantage over air-drying clay?
For modelling, one of the biggest advantages of polymer clay is that it doesn’t shrink in the drying process. Air-drying clay contains water, which is lost in the drying process, so models and creations often shrink. If the size of the model is important, this can be a real challenge.
However, polymer clay doesn’t contain clay or water, and when baked in a home oven, it sets hard without shrinking. As I’ve mentioned, for miniatures and models, where the size of the final item is key, this is a huge advantage.
Another benefit over air-drying clay is the range of colors and types of clay available from popular polymer clay brands such as Fimo, Sculpey, Cernit, and Kato. Liquid, translucent, and effects such as glow, glitter, transparent, stone, metallic, pastel, gemstone, pearl in the case of Fimo are available. Compare this to the limited white and red of air-drying clay!
And you can mix the colours to come up so just about any colour is possible. With such a range of choices, it’s often the case you don’t need to paint.
And another great thing about polymer clay is its versatility.
Not only can you use it to make anything from walls and plants to small figurines and large sculptures, but it can also be used in a wide variety of techniques such as caning, mokume gane, and mica shift. Additionally, it can be worked on for longer. It is however more respectable to fingerprints but at least they’re easy to get rid of, as described here.
Longer working time
By its very nature, air-drying clay sets in normal room-temperature environments. This means it can start to set while you’re still working on it, which has happened to me on a number of occasions. While you can work around this, it can be frustrating. In contrast, polymer clay only sets hard once it is baked, so your creations can be worked on for much longer
And speaking of working with it, an unexpected discovery for me was that polymer clay is firmer. When carving or marking small details in air-drying clay, I often find that the clay surrounding the area I’m working on moves and bulges in shape. However, polymer clay holds detail and shape better when working with it and allows for far more intricate work.
Finally, and perhaps most useful for modelling in my experience, is that once baked, it can be sanded, drilled, carved, and painted, allowing for even more creative possibilities and correcting mistakes (which is always vital for my models).
So, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced miniature world creator, polymer clay offers endless possibilities for creating unique and intricate models. And with its ability to hold fine detail, a wide range of colours and types, and its versatility in techniques and applications, polymer clay is easier and more practical to work with than air-drying clay so give it a try and see the difference it can make.
For beginners, I recommend trying Fimo Soft polymer clay. It’s available in 11 colours so there’s bound to be something you can make with it.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.