How to Make a Clay Color Palette

While you can always choose one of the diverse polymer clay colors and finishes from Sculpey®, sometimes you need a custom color that can’t be purchased. The great news is that you can make countless colors by mixing our clays! A clay color palette will help you keep track of the exact colors you can make by combining two or more polymer clay colors.

Benefits of Making a Clay Color Palette

Clay color palettes are handy crafting resources! A clay color palette helps you:

  • Save time: Spend less time figuring out how to make a specific color. With color samples and formulas, you can make perfectly color-matched clay in minutes.
  • Save money: You don’t need to buy all the polymer clay colors to bring creations to life. A palette shows you exactly which colors you really need — and you can mix many new hues from just a few!
  • Re-create colors: When you keep a record of clay colors and ratios, you can reproduce any color from the palette and duplicate previous projects accurately.
  • Prevent wasted clay: Sometimes, we mix clay colors that don’t turn out the way we imagine. The result might be too warm, cool, dark or “muddy” — when mixed clays turn a dull brown or grayish tone. A palette of pre-tested colors means you never waste any clay!

How to Choose Base Clay Colors to Mix

Do you remember combining different paint colors in school? We learned that blending two colors can create a new color, like mixing yellow and blue to make green. Mixing clay is like mixing paint! Before you start, it’s essential to learn color theory basics to understand which clay colors mix well together. The color wheel organizes the color relationships by dividing the color spectrum into 12 basic hues:

  • Primary colors: The primary colors are yellow, red and blue. These are considered “pure” colors — you can’t create them from other colors, and all the other colors are created from them.
  • Secondary colors: Orange, violet and green are secondary colors made by mixing equal parts of two primary colors. Red and yellow make orange. Red and blue make violet. Blue and yellow make green.
  • Tertiary colors: Blue-green, blue-violet, red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green and yellow-orange are tertiary colors created by mixing equal parts of a primary color and a secondary color next to it on the color wheel. For example, yellow and green make chartreuse (yellow-green), while blue and green make teal (blue-green).

How to Make a Color Palette With Polymer Clay

You can make an entire color palette with just three pure primary colors, including all the secondary and tertiary hues. Our Sculpey Premo™ 12 Piece Classic Mixing Colors Multi-Pack has all the clays needed to make a complete clay color palette.

1. Condition and Cut Clay Bars

For each color, slice and separate the 1-ounce clay bar into 12 equal pieces. Prevent clay distortion using our dual-end Sculpey Tools™ Clay Blades. Alternatively, make a clay sheet for every color and use one of our smaller graduated Sculpey Tools™ Cutters to cut equal clay pieces. 

Consistently using “squares” or “circles” as a unit of measurement will help you keep track of formulas as you mix new colors. Whichever method you use, all clays must be conditioned before use to create even blends and prevent cracks during baking. Condition quickly and easily with our Sculpey Tools™ Clay Conditioning Machine!

2. Start Arranging the Color Wheel

Looking at a color wheel as a guide, take one circle per clay color and arrange them on a piece of paper in their respective wheel locations. Create a triangle with the primary colors. The Sculpey® Red clay circle should be located across from the Emerald Green circle, and so forth.

Remember to space clay circles apart to leave room for more colors. On the paper next to each circle, write down the exact color name, clay style and brand. 

3. Mix Secondary Clays

Now comes the fun part — experimenting with color mixes! Take two primary color pieces and mix them in a 1:1 ratio. This step is a great visual to show how clay formulas can produce different hues of the “same” color.

The result of mixing two primary colors often looks different from the brand’s available-for-purchase secondary color. Make and compare the following mixes:

  • Orange: Mix equal parts Sculpey® Red and Yellow clays. This “orange” mix is less vibrant than Sculpey® Orange.
  • Violet: Combine equal parts Sculpey® Blue and Red squares. The resulting “violet” is darker than Sculpey® Purple.
  • Green: Blend 1:1 Sculpey® Yellow and Blue clays. Notice the difference between this color and Sculpey® Emerald Green.

Include both your secondary “mix” colors and the “pure” Sculpey® colors on your color wheel, clearly labeled, for easy reference.

4. Create Tertiary Clays

Now mix and condition equal parts of a primary color and a secondary color to produce each tertiary clay color. We recommend making two styles for each tertiary color so you have a guide for diverse combinations.

Start by mixing a 1:1 ratio of a primary color and a pure Sculpey® secondary color right out of the pack. Here are some examples:

  • 1 Sculpey® Red + 1 Just Orange = red-orange
  • 1 Sculpey® Blue + 1 Purple = blue-violet

Now make a 1:1 mix of those same primary colors with the secondary colors you created by blending two primary clays together. You’ll notice the results look slightly different, though they produce a hue of the same name:

  • 1 Sculpey® Red + 1 orange (made from the 1:1 mix of Sculpey® Red and Yellow) = red-orange
  • 1 Sculpey® Blue + 1 violet (made from the 1:1 mix of Sculpey® Blue and Red) = blue-violet

Finish making all the tertiary clays and add them to your growing palette rainbow.

5. Experiment With Different Shades and Mix Ratios

Sometimes you want to adjust the tone of colors by making them warmer, cooler, darker, lighter or toned down. Understanding how colors relate to each other will help you diversify your hues:

  • Lighter colors: To lighten and brighten your color, add value by mixing in white. Create pastels by adding white — add a touch of red to white to create pink, or mix violet with white to make lavender.
  • Darker colors: For a deeper, darker shade, decrease value by adding some black. Mix blue with black for a rich navy, or add a hint of black to red for a deep crimson hue. 
  • Complementary colors: To neutralize a color — to tone down the intensity to make the hue feel softer or more natural — add a hint of its complementary color. Complementary colors are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Tone down bold yellow with a touch of violet, or create an earthier green with a bit of red. 
  • Warm colors: One-half of the color wheel is made of “warm” attention-getting sunset colors, from warm yellow to orange to red-violet. 
  • Cool colors: The other half of the color wheel is made of calming, oceanic “cool” colors, from violet to blue to green. Many colors can be warm or cool, depending on the formula and undertone. A warm green has a yellow undertone, while a cool green has a blue undertone.

Experiment with various clay mixes of two or three colors. Remember to record your formulas! Follow these label examples and include clay measurements, brand name, clay type and project notes:

  • Cool greenish aqua = 2 Blue + 1/4 Yellow + 1/2 White (Sculpey III)
  • Earthy muted green = 1 Cobalt Blue + 1 Zinc Yellow + 1/16 Purple (Sculpey Premo)
  • Tickled pink = 2 White + 1/2 Red (Sculpey III, used for the rose vase project)

6. Bake Palette Clay Colors

Now it’s time to bake the clay! Because of the low baking temperature, it’s safe to transfer the paper with notes to the oven — no need to remove all those clay circles yet. Place the entire palette on our silicone Sculpey Tools™ Oven-Safe Work Mat and follow package instructions to bake.

After the clay cools, transfer the palette to a new piece of white card stock. Adhere your cured clay pieces to the card stock and rewrite your palette notes. 

Make a Clay Color Wheel With Sculpey® Products

Create your own color wheel with Sculpey® clays you already have, or try one of our Sculpey® Multi-Packs to mix unique color palettes of basic colors, neons, naturals, metallics, glitters and more!

Looking for color inspiration? Check out our New Color Tuesdays blog posts every week. Design squad member Sydnee Holt features exciting new clay mixes to try at home for your projects.

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