Polymer Clay Glossary

Whether you’re new to the world of clay crafts or a seasoned clayer, it’s helpful to recognize all the unique words polymer clay crafters use. This glossary will improve your vocabulary so you can easily follow tutorials and make reading about different claying methods a breeze. 

We organized this list of the best polymer clay terms to know so you can boost your clay lingo. Discover the secret language of claying and have fun making crafts, jewelry and home decor with ease!

Polymer Clay Terms and Definitions

Learn to speak “clayer” like a pro with this at-a-glance list of common polymer clay crafting terms. We break down both popular and obscure polymer clay words to know so you can easily follow tutorials and understand the definitions of these clay-specific words:

Acrylic rod: Smooth acrylic rod used to roll flat sheets of clay without absorbing oils. Clayers love our Sculpey Tools™ 8-Inch Acrylic Clay Roller!

Adhesives: Glues or other formulas used to bond clay to surfaces. Sculpey® Oven-Bake Clay Adhesive adheres raw or baked clay pieces to each other, and it can adhere baked clay to wood or other porous surfaces.

Armature: Wire support structure, or “skeleton,” that reduces weight and creates a framework on which clay is added. 

Baking: Process of using heat to harden polymer clay in an oven, also known as “curing” the clay.

Ball stylus: Smooth, round ball-like tool used to emboss, add dimpled textures and blend clay.

Bargello: Claying technique used to imitate the bargello style of needlepoint stitchery by combining clay strips in gradated colors.  Bargello is a great way to use up leftover clay!

Bead roller: Tool used to make perfectly round, uniform beads by rolling clay between two tube-like pieces. Our Sculpey Tools™ Bead Maker makes 13 mm, 16 mm and 18 mm beads in minutes!

Buffing: Using cloth, friction and heat to smooth and shine a baked polymer clay surface, often accomplished with a buffing machine, wheel or rotary tool.

Bull’s-eye: Clay cane design of circles that radiate out from a center, like a target.

Cabochon: Domed, flat-backed polished stone or clay embellishment.

Cane: Log of polymer clay created by stacking clay rods in two or more colors, revealing a design when sliced. Canes are popular in millefiori and repeat-pattern techniques.

Card thickness: Measurement to describe clay sheet thicknesses using stacked playing cards as a guide — “2 cards” thin or “8 cards” thick.

Clay blade: Thin, long blade evenly pressed down with two hands to cut clay. Our dual-handled Sculpey Tools™ Clay Blades cut straight, decorative or curved clay sections.

Clay softener: Plasticizer to soften old, hard or crumbly polymer clay. Our liquid Sculpey® Clay Thinner & Softener and solid-form Sculpey® Oven-Bake Clay Softener transform clay to a supple consistency.

Clayer: Anyone who works with polymer clay.

Clear clay: Transparent liquid polymer clay. See-through clear liquid clay cures to a glossy, glass-like finish when you hit it with a heat gun after baking.

Conditioning: Kneading and warming up the clay to prepare it for shaping. You can condition clay by hand or use our Sculpey Tools™ Clay Conditioning Machine.

Cure: To bake and harden polymer clay so it sets permanently.

Deli sheets: Waxed, baking, parchment, deli or patty paper, placed on work surfaces to protect them. Sheets like baking and parchment paper can go under clay projects in the oven.

Diluent: Another term for clay softener.

Extruder: Tool used to push polymer clay through a shaped disc to make clay snakes in various shapes. The Sculpey Tools™ Clay Extruder creates clovers, grass, ropes, hair and other unique extrusions. 

Faux: An artificial imitation of a real material or surface. Polymer clay can replicate various faux finishes like metallics, glass, tortoiseshell, marble, granite, malachite and sandstone.

Finish: Smoothing, protecting or adding a sheen to the surface of clay by buffing or adding a clay-compatible glaze, sealer or varnish

Glaze: Water-based clear topcoat medium for baked clay. Add a low-sheen matte or satin finish with Sculpey® Satin Glaze, or dial up the shine with our Sculpey® Gloss Glaze.

Inclusions: Any materials added to clay to add color or texture — pigments, mica powders, glitter, fibers, spices, gold flakes, crushed crayons, dried flowers and more.

Jelly roll: Two-tone spiral clay cane rolled and sliced like a cinnamon bun.

Leaching: Process of removing excess oils and plasticizers from too-soft clay by placing it between weighted sheets of paper.

Liquid clay: Polymer clay in liquid form, available in squeeze bottles. Liquid Sculpey® can be used with molds and solid clays, or it can act as a coating or glue.

Log: A long cylinder of clay. This term is sometimes interchanged with the term cane.

Millefiori: Italian for “thousand flowers,” a technique used in glasswork and polymer clay crafting where cane slices are arranged to create floral and other designs.

Mokume-gane: Technique inspired by Japanese metalsmithing that adds organic texture like wood grain or feathering. Clay layers are stacked, pressed and cut to reveal rings of different layers. Learn how to use this method with our Sculpey Premo™ Mokume Gane Jewelry Kit.

Needle-end pointer: Pointed tool used to texture, detail or pierce holes in clay. Clayers love our Needle-End Pointer, available in our Sculpey Tools™ Clay Tool Starter Set.

Plaques: Moon-shaped marks in polymer clay formed from gasses that collect during the baking process, most commonly seen in translucent clay.

Reduction: Squeezing the cane to compress, lengthen and stretch the clay, often used to make a cane design smaller in scale.

Rope: A long, narrow clay cylinder thinner than a log. Roll ropes by hand or use our Sculpey Tools™ Clay Extruder.

Sculpting tools: Clay-shaping tools traditionally used for pottery projects that are also helpful for cutting, detailing and blending polymer clay. Our Sculpey Tools™ Sculpting Tool Set includes a variety of classic sculpting tools.

Shape cutters: Any shaped tool that cuts repeated designs when pressed into clay. Use cookie cutters or our Sculpey Tools™ Cutters to make geometric, organic, graduated and whimsical shapes perfect for jewelry and other projects!

Sheets: Thin, flat, even layers of clay produced by rolling the clay with a rod, rolling pin or conditioning machine. 

Skinner blend: A graduated-color blending method designed by Judith Skinner that creates a gradient sheet of polymer clay. Triangular sheets of two different clay colors are folded and repeatedly run through a pasta roller or conditioning machine. 

Snakes: Long, thin rolled-out strands of polymer clay with a round diameter.

Sutton slice: A method introduced by Lisa Pavelka that involves pressing clay into the lowest recesses of a texture sheet or stamp, leaving the highest points of the texture sheet design exposed. A different clay sheet is pressed onto the first layer of clay as a background color. The texture sheet is then rolled away, leaving a raised pattern. The clay can be sliced to expose the design in unique ways.

Texture sheet: A large, flexible stamp sheet that can be pressed into polymer clay, or vice versa, to add texture. Incorporate geometric and nature-inspired patterns with our Sculpey Tools™ Texture Sheets.

Translucent clay: Clay that allows some light to be visible through it, but not detailed images. Translucent clay is available in different colors, like amber and turquoise, which are more opaque than clear clays.

Work surface: The surface on which you shape your clay projects. Because unbaked clay may stain or damage furniture, it’s best to work on a clay-safe surface like silicone, glass, ceramic tile, aluminum foil and deli sheets. The best polymer clay work surface is our non-skid silicone Sculpey® Oven-Safe Work Mat, designed to transfer from table to oven with ease!

Commonly Used Phrases by Polymer Clay Crafters

You may have seen or heard some of these short phrases used by clayers in how-to videos and guides. Let’s break down the meanings for popular abbreviated terms for polymer clay crafts: 

  • Cab: Short for cabochon.
  • Moonies: Another term for plaques.
  • PC: Abbreviation for polymer clay.
  • PM: Abbreviation for pasta machine.
  • TLS: Abbreviation for Translucent Liquid Sculpey®, the first brand name for our Liquid Sculpey® Translucent product. Many clayers still refer to translucent clay as TLS as a nod to the original stuff.

Begin Your Polymer Clay Journey With Sculpey®

Learn how to make one-of-a-kind crafts, jewelry, gifts and more with Sculpey®! For more than 50 years, Sculpey® has helped beginner clayers take their ideas from imagination to reality. Shop our polymer clays and tools online to get started today!

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