Polymer clay is a fun, highly versatile medium. You can form just about anything with it, from beaded necklaces to unique picture frames. This medium is a popular choice for artists, sculptors, jewelry makers, crafters, movie makers and anyone who wants to relax and get in touch with their creative side. Polymer clay is also an excellent medium for kids, who love to roll the clay in their hands and build imaginary worlds.
If you've never used polymer clay, you probably have some questions. In this post, we'll answer common polymer clay questions so you can start claying with confidence. Don't see a question on the list? Give us a shout, and we'll be happy to help. We're all beginners at some point, and polymer clay is exceptionally user-friendly. Let's get started on your journey to fun and creation with polymer clay — you'll be amazed by the possibilities.
What Is Polymer Clay Made out Of?
Polymer clay is a manmade clay consisting of a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) base. PVC is an artificial plastic polymer and is one of the most widely used plastics in the world. PVC is in objects all around us, from children's toys to water pipes. Other components of polymer clay include resins, fillers and coloring. These ingredients give polymer clay its flexibility, soft texture and vibrant color.
Unlike natural clay, you do not have to fire polymer clay in a kiln — it cures at lower temperatures than earthen clay. Instead, you can use your home oven or toaster oven to cure polymer clay. You can bake polymer cure polymer clay at 275 F which is even lower than baking cookies!
Also, polymer clay will not harden when you leave it out at room temperature, which means you can set projects aside and return to them later. You also don't have to worry about replacing clay if you forget to put it away, as long as you keep it from heat and direct sunlight.
How Is Polymer Clay Used?
To use polymer clay, take the following steps:
- Condition your clay — Before you make your creation, you want to condition your clay to improve its flexibility. You can use your hands to roll, knead and stretch the clay, or you can use a pasta machine or a clay conditioning machine.
- Protect your work surface — Next, make sure to cover your work area with aluminum foil or wax paper. You might also work on a metal baking sheet or glass. It's essential to protect furniture from polymer clay because it can affect the finish.
- Bake — You only need a toaster oven or household oven to bake your creation. The clay packaging will give you precise baking instructions, but to give you an idea of what to expect, most polymer clays bake at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 30 minutes. BAKING TIME VARIES WITH THE THICKNESS OF YOUR CREATION
- Finish your creation — After you bake your clay and allow it to cool, you can sand and buff your craft, then paint it and seal it with a glaze. It's entirely up to you if you wish to take these steps. Polymer clay is durable and waterproof without a glaze, so you might choose to leave your masterpiece as-is.
- Store — Although polymer clay will not air-dry, you still want to properly store your clay to keep it fresh. We recommend storing clay in bags or containers made of polypropylene (PP) plastic. PP containers have a number 5 on the bottom. Keep the clay in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight. Don't store your clay in an environment above 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and you'll have fresh clay for a long time. During the summer, feel free to refrigerate or freeze your clay to extend its shelf life.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to how you can use polymer clay. Many jewelry makers prefer polymer clay over glass, because unlike glass, polymer clay is much easier to work with, does not require an open flame and produces gorgeous results. You can shape polymer clay to resemble gemstones, marble or glass using a variety of techniques and clay types. Also, polymer clay is less likely to chip or break than glass.
Another fun way to use polymer clay is to cover an already-made object with the medium. For example, you can decorate a picture frame with polymer clay letters to form a name or a heartfelt message. Or you can cover a pen with polymer clay"ice cream scoops" to make homework sessions much sweeter. There is no limit to the ways you can clay. Here are a few items you can make for inspiration:
- Holiday ornaments
- Doll jewelry
- Wall art
- Garden decor
- Keepsake boxes
- Journal covers
- Just about anything you can dream up
Are Modeling Clay and Polymer Clay the Same Thing?
Wax-based modeling clay and polymer clay are not the same. Modeling clay, like our Sculpey Non-Dry, does not dry out and cannot be cured. Modeling clay is meant to be re-used time and time again. It is a self-sticking material and a fun way for beginners to practice their claying skills. Crafters interested in clay animation might choose modeling clay to shape and reshape different figures quickly.
If you wish to create objects such as jewelry, clothing embellishments, home decor and the like, we recommend polymer clay because you can cure your creations for long-lasting results.
Is Polymer Clay Toxic?
Polymer clay is non-toxic, which means you can create with polymer clay and cure it in your home oven with peace of mind. However, it's still crucial to follow package baking instructions. Just as you would not want to burn a cake in your home oven, you wouldn't want to burn your polymer clay. All our polymer clay products are free of wheat, dairy, gluten, sulfur, nuts and latex.
Even though polymer clay is non-toxic, we do not recommend eating it or combining it with utensils or other items that directly touch food. Polymer clay is porous. If you try to use it as a food utensil, it will be difficult to clean sufficiently with dish soap, unlike other types of utensil materials.
What Is the Best Polymer Clay?
Sculpey® is the best brand of polymer clay you can buy. However, the best type of Sculpey to use depends on the project you wish to make. Here are a few recommendations.
- For kids: Sculpey Bake Shop, Bake shop Light, Sculpey III and Original Sculpey are all soft, easy to condition and great for school projects or making small figurines. Bake Shop Light is lightweight and squishy, which kids love to play with. It's also perfect for making water toys because it floats after baking. Sculpey Bake Shop and Sculpey III are available in a range of fun, vibrant colors, whereas Original Sculpey is available in earthen clay colors — ideal for painting later on.
- For beginners: Beginners can get a feel for polymer clay and explore their imagination with easy-to-use Sculpey III. Sculpey III helps beginners build their skills, is available in a variety of colors, including metallics, and is an excellent choice for home decor projects, simple jewelry making and more. Beginners can use Original Sculpey to create earthy objects that feel like ceramic clay.
- For professional crafters: Those who have experience creating with polymer clay might choose Premo Sculpey for precise color mixing and to hold fine detail. Premo is also available in specialty clays such as glitters, fluorescents and opals to produce jaw-dropping jewelry. Pros might also choose Sculpey Souffle, which is ideal for large projects because it holds fine details and it is a lightweight professional polymer clay.
- For professional sculptors, model makers, doll artists and movie studios: Pros who need clay to form imaginative, realistic dolls, masks or sculptures can bring out their talents with Super Sculpey or Super Sculpey Living Doll.
Can You Bake Polymer Clay?
Yes — that's one of the best parts about polymer clay! Baking is how you will cure your creation, so it hardens. After you bake your clay and allow it to cool, you can paint it, apply a glaze, add embellishments or leave it exactly as it is. The best part about being able to bake polymer clay is it allows you to keep your creations forever. Once the clay hardens, you'll have durable objects you can cherish and use to inspire your next clay project.
How Do You Bake Polymer Clay?
To bake your polymer clay masterpiece, we recommend you test your oven's temperature first, because many conventional ovens are not the exact temperature you set them at. Testing your oven will help you ensure your creation cures properly. You've likely put your heart into your creation, so an oven test is definitely worth the time. To test your oven, all you need to do is:
- Pinch off a small piece of clay.
- Form a disk about a half-inch in diameter and a quarter-inch thick.
- Check the temperature you're supposed to use, according to package instructions.
- Bake the piece accordingly.
- Remove the piece from the oven and check the colors.
- If the piece has darkened anywhere, your oven is too hot.
- If the oven is too hot, lower the temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit and try the test again.
Always use an oven thermometer to test your oven's temperature and make sure it's accurate before you bake your project. Oven thermometers are inexpensive and will help you produce the desired results. When you're ready to bake your creation, take these following steps every time:
- Preheat your oven according to the package instructions.
- Use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven reaches and stays at the correct temperature.
- Bake your creation on an oven-safe material such as oven-proof glass or a metal baking sheet.
- Make sure you follow the instructions, and do not bake the piece too long.
- Once the time is up, remove your creation from the oven and allow it to cool.
Can You Bake Polymer Clay in a Microwave?
No, you cannot bake polymer clay in the microwave. Microwaves are not designed to cure clay and can cause the creation to break down, emit fumes or burn. Microwaves cook quickly at high temperatures, and it's difficult to set a precise temperature on a microwave.
Microwaves also often cook things unevenly, which means part of the clay would harden in the microwave, while other parts would stay soft. After a few minutes, the clay would overheat and burn. Anytime something burns, even non-toxic materials, it produces smoke that can irritate the lungs and eyes.
It's always best to cure polymer clay creations correctly and with patience. After all, you want your piece to come out right, so you can enjoy it for a long time or give it as a gift.
Can You Bake Polymer Clay on Aluminum Foil?
Yes! Aluminum foil is often a companion of polymer clay during the baking process. It's an excellent material for lining cookie sheets or other baking surfaces you use for cooking. For example, if you plan to reuse a baking sheet for cookies after you bake a polymer clay project, it's best to lay down aluminum foil before you place clay on the baking sheet.
Can You Burn Polymer Clay?
Yes, polymer clay can burn if you do not bake it according to package instructions. Just like anything you would bake in the oven, if you bake clay too hot for too long, it will burn. That is not the ideal outcome for your beautiful creations. However, polymer clay does not burn easily. If you follow the instructions and ensure your oven is the accurate temperature with an oven thermometer, it's highly unlikely your creation will burn.
Also, try to keep polymer clay as far away from the heating element as possible. When you test the oven's temperature, make sure to place the thermometer exactly where you plan to bake your creation.
How Do You Firm up Polymer Clay?
To change the consistency from soft, squishy clay into a firmer clay follow these simple steps:
- Protect your work surface.
- Roll the clay into sheets about a quarter of an inch thick.
- Sandwich the sheets between sheets of clean, white paper.
- Place a book as a weight on top of the sheets of paper.
After about an hour, the paper surfaces will begin to look oily. These are the plasticizers coming out of the clay, which made it too soft. You may change the paper a few times and repeat the process until the clay reaches the desired softness.
How Do You Soften Polymer Clay?
If the clay is just a bit too firm or dry, you can add Sculpey Liquid Clay Softener to make it softer. You may only need to add about six to eight drops per four ounces of clay, or two to four drops per two ounces of clay. Add the softener to the clay and knead the liquid in. The clay will become soft as it absorbs the liquid.
What Do You Use to Glaze Polymer Clay?
You can use Sculpey Gloss Glaze or Sculpey Satin Glaze to create the finish you want. A glossy glaze will add shine to your creation and an extra protective layer to increase its durability. The satin glaze provides a smooth matte finish and can help prime projects for paint or added decorative details like glitter or metal leaf. Although you do not need to seal polymer clay with a glaze, a glaze can help make a project look complete.
You can also use compatible floor waxes, water-based acrylics or water-based fabric paints as sealers.
Before you add any glaze, we suggest sanding and buffing your piece first, then testing the glaze. To test the glaze, apply it to a hidden portion of the piece and allow the glaze to dry completely to ensure the materials interact well. We recommend applying two to three thin coats of glaze after baking, and always gently stir the glaze before use to avoid air bubbles.
If the glaze is too thick, try adding a few drops of water to thin it out, then gently stir. Put the cap back on and let it sit for about an hour before use.
Do You Paint Polymer Clay Before or After Baking?
You can use acrylic paints before of after baking, depending on the effect you're going for. However, it might be best to apply paint after the piece is done baking and has hardened. Imagine painting a delicate creation that is still soft — it could be a bit of a challenge.
When it's time to bake your project, we recommend using water-based acrylic paints and testing a small piece of the clay first to check the interaction between the paint and the clay. If you plan to seal the piece with Sculpey Glaze, you can use any paint. The glaze will also help preserve the colors, as long as you don't keep your project in direct sunlight.
Can You Air-Dry Polymer Clay?
No, you cannot air-dry polymer clay. Polymer clay has to be baked at the correct temperature for it to harden. That's why so many clayers adore polymer clay. If you leave it out in room temperature, you do not have to worry about it hardening before you're ready to bake. If you need to step away from your project for a few hours, no problem. Your creation will be ready for your creative magic the moment you return. However, as we mentioned above, if you store polymer clay properly, it can last many years.
Buy Sculpey Polymer Clay Today
Polymer clay will bring you many hours of crafting joy, whether you're a beginner or a professional. To start off on the right foot, treat yourself to the best polymer clay brand there is — Sculpey.
Sculpey is famous for quality, versatility and inspiring colorful ideas. Crafters, clayers and sculptors prefer Sculpey polymer clay because they know they will get a durable product that will foster their creativity and bring their artistic visions to life. Sculpey stimulates the imagination like no other medium and allows crafters to create anything they want — from stunning jewelry pieces to figurines straight from a fantasy novel.
Best of all, anyone can use Sculpey polymer clay and make something unique they can cherish forever or give to a friend. To get started enjoying the relaxing and fun world of claying with Sculpey, browse our online store today. Need inspiration? Check out our Create page, and you'll be crafting in no time!