As you're crafting something amazing out of polymer clay, you may realize it needs an extra special touch to feel complete. Perhaps your creation would look perfect with a certain shine, texture or color variation. In that case, it helps to know how to create surface effects for polymer clay.

Polymer clay is a versatile tool for crafters and artists. You can use it as a medium to create unique shapes, beads, jewelry and any other projects you can dream up. Once you've formed your creation, clay becomes an excellent canvas for an array of surface effects. Learn more about surface effects for polymer clay below and discover how to create them in your future projects.

Metallic Effects for Polymer Clay

For a perfect shine in projects from jewelry to holiday ornaments, consider metallic effects. There are a few different ways to get metallic surface effects for polymer clay. Play around with techniques to create the results you want. Some creations call for a brushed metal look, while others suit a solid metallic finish. Find the material that works for your project based on these options:

  • Mica Powders: Select powdered pigments in metallic finishes for your clay projects. Apply pigments with a soft brush before baking the clay, and be sure to pick a powder that works for clay projects. Use a thin layer of pigment for a brushed look or apply a lot of powder for a solid finish.
  • Paint: Acrylic paints come in metallic varieties that add the color and finish you've envisioned for your projects. You can either paint polymer clay before or after baking. Apply multiple layers of paint for a solid metal look, or try a dry-brushing technique for a lighter coat.
  • Clay: Skip the process of adding paints and pigments to your clay by starting with Metallic clay. Select Sculpey Premo™ in metallic to get a solid shine for your metallic creation.

Whichever method you select for this surface effect, finish your clay creation with Sculpey glaze in a high-shine gloss. That'll emphasize the metallic look and protect your project and whatever you added to create the metallic finish.

Other Effects for Polymer Clay

If you want the look of a glazed ceramic piece but prefer to work with polymer clay, you can create a similar effect. Ceramic surface effects for polymer clay rely on a thin glaze. For this process, it's best to work with a white clay base. Bake your projects and let them cool before applying one of these options for ceramic effects:

  • Liquid clay: Mix Sculpey liquid polymer clay with your chosen pigment. Liquid Sculpey® also comes in various colors and transparencies to suit numerous projects. Whichever you choose, apply it to your project and bake again at a temperature between 275 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 30 minutes. Turn off your oven's convection or fan features to prevent ripples in the liquid clay. Lay the project flat so the liquid clay doesn't run off as it bakes.
  • Thin paint: Use a thin paint or add water to a thicker paint. Brush the thinned paint onto your project, letting it settle in the crevices. You can then either wipe the paint off raised surfaces and let it only sit in the cracks or leave all the paint to dry. Paint a thin coat to mimic a thin ceramic glaze or let it dry and add extra coats.
  • Alcohol ink: Alcohol inks provide a unique tint to baked clay creations. Work in thin coats to build up the color for opaque coverage and to avoid adding thick layers that won't dry properly. Note that if you want to seal alcohol ink on your clay project, you may have to use resin. Glazes and varnishes can cause alcohol ink to run.

A project with a stamped or carved surface will work well for this technique. The glaze or thin paint will settle into the clay's crevices, creating an antiqued look. 

Watercolor Effects for Polymer Clay

Softly blend paint colors together to create unique gradients. Transfer the delicate look of watercolor art onto your clay creations, such as jewelry, ornaments, sculptures and more. White clay creates the best base for the paint pigments to blend and show their true colors. Once you make, bake and cool your design, use these materials to create a watercolor surface effect for polymer clay:

  • Glaze: Glaze your baked and cooled creation before you paint it. One thin coat will protect the clay from water that you'll mix with the paint, which you don't want to let touch the clay. Consider Sculpey® Satin Glaze for a matte finish that paint will adhere to. 
  • Acrylic paint and water: Acrylic paints have a stronger pigmentation than watercolors, so use them for this process. Mix in a bit of water to create a blendable consistency or select a paint that's already thin.
  • A sponge: Use a clean makeup or paint sponge to paint your project. Work in thin layers, adding different colors while the paint is still wet to blend them together. Let it dry and layer with more paint if you want a stronger effect.

Once you get your watercolor effect how you want it, you can glaze the piece again. This time, you may want to use Sculpey® Gloss Glaze to add shine and enhance the look of the color variations.

Faux Glass Effects for Polymer Clay

Create the style of faux glass beads or sculptures using clay. A shiny finish is the perfect touch to create the appearance of sparkling glass on a durable material. Whatever you're making with a glass style in mind, you can achieve it with:

  • Clear or transparent Liquid Sculpey: Select Sculpey clear liquid polymer clay to get the clearest liquid clay on the market. With that clarity, it'll be easier to create faux glass surface effects with polymer clay.
  • Alcohol Ink: Color clear liquid clay with alcohol ink if you want to create faux stained glass or sea glass. The tint that alcohol inks create will help maintain the transparent appearance of a faux glass effect.
  • Resin or glaze: Add a glass-like shine to your projects with glaze or resin. Remember to use resin if you've colored your clay with alcohol inks. If you're using clear liquid clay with no coloring hit it with a heat gun to give it a high shine look.

Textured Effects for Polymer Clay

Stamp and press objects into unbaked clay to create unique patterns and textures. Roll out clay and create shapes with cookie cutters, textures with a clean toothbrush or indents with a clean stamp. Adding texture to polymer clay creates a unique surface that also hides any imperfections in the material.

To make uniform textures across a wide sheet of clay or create intricate patterns with ease, use Sculpey Tools™ Texture Sheets. Our texture sheets are flexible and thin, sized to use with a clay roller or pasta machine to create a uniform imprint. Because the material is transparent, it's easy to reposition the texture sheet in another spot and line up your design seamlessly.

To color baked clay with textured surface effects, use alcohol ink or thin paint. A more liquid material will allow intricate details to stand out, while a thick paint would risk covering them up. Once the paint or ink dries, glaze your project to protect the details.

Create Unique Surface Effects for Your Projects With Sculpey

Want to try these and other surface effects on your clay creations? Make your vision a reality with help from Sculpey! Our polymer clay is the best on the market, from strength and flexibility to available colors. We make creating with clay easy so you can bring whatever you envision to life. Craft polymer clay tiles with details from our textured sheets, create faux sea glass for jewelry or add watercolor gradients to other creations. Try out different surface effects for Sculpey clay to create something entirely new.

Shop our products online for everything you need, including our polymer clay, Liquid Sculpey® and texture sheets. With whatever you need, we supply the tools, you supply the creativity!