Polymer clay (also called "clay") is an affordable, manmade, plastic-based option to natural clays. Its only real resemblance to natural clays is that it's formed when hot and then softened for hardening; however, it contains many of the properties of both mixtures of clay. If you're looking for a natural, chemical-free alternative to pottery, you may be surprised to know that there are good alternatives. Read on for tips on choosing and buying polymer clay.
Since polymer clay mixtures can be formed into a variety of textures - from brittle, crumbly to shiny and baked - it's important to consider the texture you'd like before buying your project. For example, a 'baked' appearance is often achieved by adding a grainy, crumbly type of texture. Some baked finishes (such as 'oude').
In addition to the baked or crumbly texture, some polymer clays have an elegant, silk-like, satiny finish. This type of finish is achieved by either heating the clays to a particular temperature and then working them gently through the piece, or by placing them onto a heat-proof surface, such as a cookie sheet, and lightly heating them with a blowtorch or a stovetop oven. To achieve the satiny, smooth finish, you'll need to bake the clay at a lower temperature.
Choosing your color depends largely on what you plan to do with your polymer clay piece. Generally, bright colors are used for new pieces or for work that will show a lot of fine detail, while more subdued shades or colors in muted shades are used for more detailed or older pieces. For new pieces, consider using two similar hues, one slightly darker than the other. For older pieces, consider using one slightly lighter than the other. When mixing these two colors together, it's important to mix them by using the same temperature and applying the same pressure to make sure that they are uniformly mixed.
You can also use polymer clay on its own to create sculptures, but if you are planning to use it on its own, you must carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions. For best results, use polymer clay on its own with a trowel and a paintbrush. Use high-pressure or low-pressure air dry sprayers to clean surfaces, especially those with lots of fine detail. If the piece has paintable details, allow them to dry before you apply the first layer of sealer. Be sure to spray the air dry sprayer at least fifteen minutes before you start painting so that the sealer will be able to penetrate and set properly.
After the piece has been painted and dried, you are ready to mix your own acrylic paints with tap water. Always use water from a container with high-quality solvents. Using tap water will lead to an extremely soft clay piece and can lead to cracking. Mixing acrylic paints with polymer clay can be a little tricky, so it is always advisable to follow the instructions for mixing the two different types of paint with water. The mixing process is just a matter of rolling the liquid paint into small canes and applying them one at a time to the piece with the roller.
If you are using polymer clay as the main medium in creating your crafts, you may want to work with lighter colors of glaze and gloss. Use a lower temperature and less pressure when baking with these lighter colors, as this can reduce the drying time. Baking with too much pressure can result in cracked or chipped polymer clay, which is not very appealing to work with. It is also best to bake a thinner type of glaze and gloss at the same time.
These are just a few simple tips for working with polymer clay. If you need more detailed tips on how to bake with polymer clay, there are many resources available on the internet. Most of these tips will involve rolling out your work surface and applying the colorants and glazes separately, though some methods call for combining these two items. Once you have mastered the basic polymer-clay tips, you can begin to experiment with new ways to create projects and unique designs.