Polymer Clay Techniques Based On Experience Level
If you’ve ever looked at a polymer clay craft and wondered how they made it look marbled, sparkly or textured, you’ve come to the right place! Clayers use specific polymer clay techniques to add pizazz to jewelry and other crafts.
Learn how to work with polymer clay to produce unique details and faux effects in your next project.
Benefits of Working With Polymer Clay
It’s no surprise why crafters love working with polymer clay. Here are just a few of the fantastic benefits this versatile medium has to offer:
- Doesn’t dry out: Polymer clay stays workable and won’t dry out from air exposure, so you can return to projects whenever you choose.
- Is easy to cure: Unlike traditional pottery clays, you can bake your clay project at home in an oven or toaster oven!
- Is non-toxic: Polymer clay is a safe and non-toxic material you can use with kids, at home and in classrooms.
- Offers variety: Our clays are available in a vast selection of colors — natural tones, neons, metallics and glow-in-the-dark varieties.
- Is fun to use: Soft Sculpey® clays are fun to use! Working with your hands is a truly relaxing experience.
Different Types of Polymer Clay Techniques
If you’re looking for specific clay techniques, we’ve got you covered! Whether you’re a clay newbie or have years of experience with clay crafts, it’s always fun to learn different techniques to improve your skills and grow your creativity.
Beginner Clay Techniques
New clayers can start their clay-shaping journey and grow their creative confidence with these introductory techniques:
- Simple shaping and forming: Use your hands to pinch, roll, squish, smooth and form clay into basic shapes. Sculpting and clay-shaping tools improve the process by providing more control to add refined details. Our Sculpey Tools™ Essential Tool Kit has the starter tools you need to begin!
- Connecting and blending pieces: You can easily attach clay pieces, especially our softer Sculpey® Bake Shop and Sculpey® III clays. To join pieces with minimal contact, use a tool to drag a cross-hatched pattern into both clay pieces at connection points, then press together. Blend and smooth clay seams with a flexible silicone-tip shaper tool.
- Combining colors: Mix various clay hues to create new colors. Twist and swirl two or more clays to create striations and marbling patterns in the clay, or condition the clays together fully to make a solid color. Mix in metallic clay for a hint of sparkle or translucent clay for a colored glass effect. Check our New Color Tuesday blog posts each week for tips!
- Cutting and slicing: Cut out forms with cookie stamps and clay shape cutters. Sculpey Tools™ cutters come in graduated circles, geometric shapes and organic shapes. Use our dual-handled Sculpey Tools™ Clay Blades to effortlessly cut straight, decorative or curved sections from clay logs without distortion.
Intermediate Clay Techniques
Once you’ve practiced the basics, it’s time to elevate your project details with texture, clay mix-ins and faux effects:
- Texturizing: Press different objects from around the house into clay to create texture. Mark clay with crunched aluminum foil, plastic netting and leaves. Stipple stiff toothbrush bristles for an organic stone or grass look. Push one of our flexible Sculpey Tools™ Texture Sheets into your clay slab, or vice versa, to add geometric and nature-inspired details.
- Repeating patterns: Roll uncooked pasta, bottle cap edges and textured rollers over a clay sheet to emboss a repeated pattern. The interchangeable designs from the Sculpey Tools™ Texture Wheel Set create vine, feather stitch, rope and dotted pearl continuous patterns — perfect for adding borders to clay!
- Inclusions: Mix pigments, gold leaf, mica powder, fibers, and metallic flakes into polymer clay to add detail and sparkle. Inclusions are a favorite with jewelry clayers! Add sequins, glitter or even dried flowers to clear Liquid Sculpey® for one-of-a-kind earrings and pendants.
- Marbling: Roll three to four different clay colors into thin equal-length ropes for a classic marbled look. Twist ropes together into one multicolored log, then roll the log into a lollipop-like spiral. Flatten the clay with the Sculpey Tools™ 8-Inch Acrylic Clay Roller. Fold the clay onto itself and repeat the process until you’re happy with the marbleized effect.
- Faux effects: Create faux finishes that resemble natural and manufactured materials like wood, stone, glass and metal by mixing different polymer clay colors and types. Combine translucent and metallic clays to mimic opals and pearls. Mix blue, green, gold and black clays to simulate turquoise. Check our How To page to learn how to make sea glass, terra cotta, granite, amber and terrazzo effects!
Advanced Clay Techniques
Experienced crafters love to incorporate more intricate details in their claying projects. These advanced techniques are clayer favorites:
- Clay canes: A clay cane is a long tube of clay made by stacking clay layers to produce a design, rolling and reducing into a smaller rope, then thinly slicing to reveal the design inside. Use clay canes to make complex images and bull’s-eye, jellyroll, striped and checkerboard patterns for beads and other projects.
- Millefiori: Italian for “thousand flowers,” Millefiori is a unique cane technique used in glasswork and clay crafting. Little cane slices of flowers and other designs are arranged to produce a beautiful decorative pattern in trinket dishes, earrings and more.
- Mokume Gane: Add the organic texture of wood grain or feathering in your clay projects with the Mokume Gane technique, inspired by Japanese metalsmithing methods. Layers of clay are stacked, pressed and cut to expose different layer rings. Learn how with our Sculpey Premo™ Mokume Gane Jewelry Kit.
- Mica shift: Create the illusion of a raised or depressed design in smooth clay with the mica shift technique. Roll metallic clay in one direction, causing the tiny mica particles to lay flat. Press a stamp into the clay so the mica follows the stamp contours. Slice off the top to leave a ghost image in flat clay.
- Skinner method: To make a gradient sheet of clay, use the graduated-color blending method named after its creator, Judith Skinner. Connect triangular sheets of two clay colors at the diagonal to form a rectangle. Run the two-tone sheet through the Sculpey Tools™ Clay Conditioning Machine, fold the clay onto itself, pass it through the machine again and repeat the process 20-30 times.
- Bargello: The Bargello method imitates the unique style of mathematically patterned Bargello needlepoint embroidery by combining strips of clay in gradated colors. The method involves flattening marbled clay then dragging a needle tool across the surface to make parallel lines.
Polymer Clay Jewelry Techniques
Clay jewelry artists are always looking for new ideas to create professionally finished beads, necklaces and other adornments. Learn how to make polymer clay jewelry that turns heads with these quick-and-easy clay jewelry techniques:
- Jewelry molds: Fill our silicone Sculpey Tools™ Oven-Safe Jewelry Mold with Liquid Sculpey® to make beautiful earrings and pendants. Each cavity has a post included, so you can skip drilling holes after creation!
- Bead making: You can roll beads by hand or use the Sculpey Tools™ Bead Maker to create uniform round beads in minutes. Try our variety of bead-making tools to produce hollow beads, lentil beads and embellishments.
- Cabochon creation: Make triangle, donut, round and teardrop cabochons by pressing clay into our Sculpey Tools™ Oven-Safe Cabochon Mold, or fill with your favorite Liquid Sculpey® colors.
Discover New Clay Techniques
We’ve curated our projects and products by experience level so you can dive into the creative process with the best resources for the job:
- For the beginners: If you’re new to claying, start your journey off right with our beginner-friendly claying essentials and introductory projects.
- For the teachers: Our selection of kid-approved projects and classroom essentials support your teaching efforts and boost creativity in the classroom.
- For the artists: Find the perfect clays and tools for your art studio or craft room with artist-inspired Sculpey® products and crafting ideas.
- For the kids: Take family fun night up a notch with kid-friendly polymer clays and projects that let kids’ imaginations run wild. Young creatives love our squishy, colorful clays!
Start Claying With Sculpey®
For more than 50 years, Sculpey® has provided the materials and educational resources to help clayers take their ideas from imagination to reality. Shop our innovative polymer clays and tools to get started today.