The Basics of Working With Polymer Clay

Tracey Wilson

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Polymer Clay is taking crafters to new artistic heights. It doesn’t matter what your craft is or your medium of choice- crafters are learning new ways every day to incorporate this versatile clay into their craft.

Polymer Clay comes in every color imaginable, including awesome metallic and pearlescent colors.

There are several different types of clays to choose from, some a little stiffer than others. So you’ll want to experiment to find the one you prefer to work with. If you want to get serious about using your versatile clay, several tools are available to help you design and make that perfect piece that you are after.

A smooth work surface and a rolling pin are a must! If you buy the stiffer clay, you’ll want to invest in a pasta or clay- conditioning machine. The embellishments you can use with polymer clay are endless: push molds, knives, sculpting tools, drill, sandpaper, paint, rubber stamps, needle tools, etc…

Be sure that no matter what type of clay you buy, that you condition (work with it, running it through a pasta machine, rolling, etc…) the clay thoroughly. This not only makes it easier to work with, but releases PVC particles that strengthen the clay during baking- keeping it from cracking during hardening.

Always follow the manufacturer’s directions exactly during baking.

Some great tips for polymer clay enthusiasts are included below:

  • Never attempt to work on a wooden surface. The texture and particles from the wood get mixed into your clay and affects the color. I always tape plain white computer paper down on my work area to work with the clay on.

    -Orange Kitty

  • I use an old wooden “Lazy Susan” covered with wax paper (taped securely on the bottom). The work in progress can then be turned easily without unnecessary handling or fingerprints on finished sculptures. Old dental tools, wooden toothpicks sanded down to a rounded edge and make-up sponges work well as tools.

    -Maggie Meyers

  • Empty egg cartons are great for storing small balls of clay. I wrap them in wax paper, they are easy to locate and the lid keeps them from drying out. To varnish small beads, I put them on toothpicks and stick them into a block of soft clay like Sculpy III. I use a rolling plastic container with 5 drawers that I purchased at an office supply store to store all my clay, beads, powders, etc. That way I can roll it into the family room and watch TV with my family without making multiple trips to my workroom. I covered empty small mayonnaise and jam jars with bright polymer clay designs to hold all my tools. To keep track of my colors, I keep a small notebook, which I glue a slice of each cane I create and also make a note of how I blended the colors. I also keep a photo album of each design in case I want to make it again. "

    -Mary Jenkins

  • I am a newbie to poly clays. I ran out of wax paper when I first discovered the clay about a month ago and I found that freezer paper works very well as a surface that can be moved around and even baked on. But I prefer to put the pieces to be baked on parchment paper. I can use it over and over and I don't have to worry about contaminating a cookie sheet!"


  • I use my pasta machine to do all of my blending. I set it to #1 and send each color through it until it's softer, then I add layers of the colors I want to blend together. As each piece rolls out, I fold it in half and send it through again. It takes about 20 times to completely blend the colors, but I'm not able to knead the clay without arthritis pain, so it's worth it. "


  • I have been using a coffee grinder (rummage sale stuff-about a buck!) to start to condition my clay. It works really well and is easier to clean than a small food processor. Makes crumbs that can be easily squished together and run through my pasta maker. “


  • I love using a stitch ripper. The round little ball end is great for making small holes, especially for nostrils! The pointed part is great for adding textures.

    -Kelly Reynolds

  • I had no tools when I bought my first box of clay. I didn't want to make an investment in tools, so I started making my own out of the clay. I used a clear plastic CD container to roll out various sizes of pencils. Some fat, some thin, some curved, with various size tips. After firing I sanded them to refine their surfaces if needed. I also rolled flat sheets of clay on different surfaces to make templates. I have acquired tools since, but the tools I make are my favorite.

    -Susan Schlyer

  • I found that clay won't stick to a quilter's cutting board, so I put a large one under a glass cutting board, leaving a margin of about 4" all the way around. This way I can easily measure the pieces of clay I need to cut, plus have all the space around the glass on which to place pieces of clay ready to cut, or that are already cut. The cutting board can be cleaned with alcohol when it gets dirty.

    -Connie Okdie

    Use these tips to enjoy and enhance your polymer clay experience. Remember, working with this versatile clay the sky is the limit . . . so do what crafters do best, be creative!

    Tracey Criswell Wilson is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Writers . Many of Tracey's writings which include: fiction, non-fiction and poetry can be found on this interactive site.

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