Ten beginner tips for polymer clay

Hands holding polymer clayTen brilliant tips and tricks to get you started creating with polymer clay.

Polymer clay is a versatile medium that can be used to create all sorts of models from buildings on model train layouts and dioramas to plants for dolls houses. It’s also a fun material to work with and easy to make all manner of objects.

But if you’re new to working with polymer clay, there are a few things you should know to make your first experience a success. Read on for my top ten beginner’s tips.

Top 10 Polymer Clay Tips For Beginners

1. Polymer clay loves dust and dirt so keep your hands and working area clean and tidy. I use a sheet of glass when working with polymer clays as it’s easy to wipe down.  Clean your hands before and during your work sessions.

2. Polymer clay needs to be conditioned before you start working with it. Conditioning is the process of kneading the clay to make it soft and pliable.

This can be done by hand or with a pasta machine. Conditioning ensures that your clay is easy to work with, and will prevent cracking or crumbling.

3. Removing fingerprints. Fingerprints are almost a fact of life in polymer clay models but luckily they’re easy to remove.

Prior to baking you can use IPA (rubbing alcohol) such as this. If you don’t spot the fingerprints before baking they can still be removed using acetone. 1lt bottles are available from here for around £10 and can also be found in chemists such as Boots.

Whether you use IPA before baking or acetone after, the technique is the same. Rub a small drop of the fluid over the fingerprint in a circular motion, the print should disappear in a few minutes.

4. Polymer clay can be shaped and molded in many ways, from simple rolling and cutting to more advanced techniques like caning and mokume gane. If you’re new to polymer clay, start with some basic shaping techniques and work your way up to more advanced projects.

5. Polymer clay should be baked in the oven to harden it. Typically, it’s baked at between 129 °C to 135 °C for around 15 minutes although the exact temperature and time depends on the type of polymer clay you’re using, so whether you’re using whether it’s Fimo, Super Sculpey, Cernit or another be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

6. Invest in some cornstarch. I’d never used cornstarch for anything before a friend recommended it for working with polymer clay and now I always have a bag to hand. It has multiple uses when working with polymer clay including stoping it sticking to your worktop and tools (sprinkle some over the surface before starting work and tip tools into it) and protecting small objects from burning when baking.

7. Don’t assume your oven heats at the right temperature. Baking at the wrong temperature can result in your projects burning, scorching, ending up brittle or not cooked. Why risk your work, get yourself an oven thermometer – they cost between £5 and £20. I use this Chef Aid model although many others are available.

8. Once the clay is baked and cooled, it can be sanded and painted to achieve the desired finish. You can use acrylic paints or alcohol ink to add colour and details.

9. Store your clay for the future. While polymer clay isn’t expensive, why waste it. Putting scraps and opened clay in tip-lock bags will keep it usable and free from lint and dust. As an extra tip, labelling the bags with the brand and date helps avoid problems later.

10. My final tip isn’t really a tip for working with polymer clay itself but a health n safety warning. Many tools used for polymer clay can be found in the kitchen – a pasta maker, rolling pin, etc – and it’s tempting to use them.  But once you’ve used them with polymer clay don’t use them again for food preparation. Although it’s considered non-toxic, you really don’t want even tiny residue from clay in your food. Buy dedicated tools for your clay work.

In conclusion, polymer clay is a versatile, fun, material to work with and has a huge number of uses for model making. It takes time to master but with these ten tips, you’ll hopefully be up to speed soon and creating miniature clay masterpieces in no time.


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