Before using polymer clay for crafts, structures, figurines or jewelry, it's essential to learn how to condition it. Always condition your polymer clay straight from the package to ensure maximum softness and flexibility. You can follow these simple tips to condition polymer clay and bring your crafting ideas to life.
What Is Conditioning?
Conditioning is the process by which you make polymer clay ready to work with. Conditioning your clay is essential because it removes air that may be trapped in the clay and helps mix your ingredients more evenly. It also ensures the particles within the polymer clay are adequately aligned.
1. How to Condition Your Clay
You can either knead polymer clay in your hands or run it through a pasta machine for the desired effect.
Condition Polymer Clay by Hand
To condition polymer clay by hand:
- Start by sectioning off one-fourth of a block of clay.
- Begin to roll it back and forth in your hands. This motion will cause the polymer clay to warm up and its edges to smooth out.
- When all the clay feels warm, begin to roll it into a ball and then a snake. Repeat this step until the clay is fully conditioned.
Condition Polymer Clay Using a Pasta Machine
If you'd like to use a pasta machine to condition your clay, here are the proper steps to follow:
- First, cut off only the portion of clay you'll use from your block. Be sure to cut off a piece of clay that's narrow enough to fit through your pasta machine.
- Try checking the width settings on your machine and portion off a section of clay that's narrower than that.
- Gently insert polymer clay into the machine instead of jamming it.
- Once you put your clay through the machine, fold it in half and position the fold side facing down in the pasta machine.
- Repeat this process until you fully condition your clay.
Your polymer clay is finished when it's free of rough edges, has a slight sheen and can bend in the middle without breaking.
2. How to Condition Stiff vs. Soft Polymer Clay
You can easily fix polymer clay that's too stiff or too soft. To best condition stiff polymer clay, try mixing it with a soft clay to soften it. A small amount of mineral oil may also help. Other methods to soften up your clay include:
- Pre-warming it under a low-wattage light bulb for about five minutes and rolling it between your hands.
- Using a mallet
- Warming the clay with your hands prior to rolling it.
- Using a clay softener or thinner.
If you're trying to condition soft clay, try leaching some of the plasticizers from the block to stiffen it. To do this, roll the soft clay into a sheet and place it between two pieces of absorbent paper for 30 minutes. Always practice this method with caution as removal of the plasticizers can lead to brittleness. Some more ways to stiffen your clay are:
- Cooling the clay before working with it by placing it in the freezer for several minutes.
- Mixing it with older clay to distribute the excess plasticizers.
- Lowering the temperature of your workspace or crafting during cooler times of the day.
3. How to Smooth Polymer Clay Designs
Fingerprints and bumps can add a unique, personalized charm to your creation. However, you might prefer a smooth, uniform appearance for your projects. Here are some effective techniques and tools you can use to smooth polymer clay and create the even texture you want:
- Texture sponges: Texture sponges are handy for covering up any dings or air bubbles while giving your piece an appearance like that of sand or stone. You can also camouflage any residual fingerprints and bumps with Sculpey Tools™ Texture Sheets.
- Alcohol or acetone: You can use alcohol, acetone or uncolored nail polish remover to smooth your clay design. This method also doubles as a way to keep your clay clean!
- Parchment paper: Parchment paper is a simple, gentle way to remove leftover fingerprints and other remaining textures. It provides a smoother finish than sandpaper or a sponge.
- Mineral or baby oil: If you're looking to erase fingerprints, a few drops of mineral or baby oil will do the trick.
- Sanding polymer clay: You can sand polymer clay to smooth out any rough edges and fingerprints. This technique also creates texture, making it easier to paint your piece. If you choose to sand your design, be sure to clean up any dust before you begin painting.
4. How to Finish Your Clay Pieces
You can think of finishing as one last conditioning for your creation before sharing it with the world. Polymer clay is naturally durable and beautiful, meaning your piece will look great right out of the oven. Finishing your designs lets you enhance your piece for more stunning, professional final results. There are multiple ways to improve the look and feel of your project, including:
- Buffing: Buffing your creation makes it stand out for the right reasons. This technique is great for giving your piece a subtle glow without highlighting any rough surfaces.
- Sanding: You can sand polymer clay after baking, too! Sanding as a finishing technique provides the same benefits and works well on clays that contain mica or are translucent.
- Varnishing: Varnishing is another way to make your creation sparkle — perfect for glittery projects! You can even use polymer clay as a coating. An excellent choice for this would be Liquid Sculpey® Clear.
- Sealing: Sealants offer additional protection for your design. Our Sculpey glazes provide a glossy or matte finish and preserve any intricate details.
Order Sculpey® Clay Today
We want to help you bring your creations to life with ease. Conditioning your polymer clay will improve its strength and longevity and allow you to create with confidence. If you have questions about how to condition your clay, feel free to reach out today. We love helping clayers and crafters get creative!
We offer the best polymer clay on the market in a variety of vibrant color palettes. Order your polymer clay online and check out our Sculpey® Clay Conditioning Machine today!