Unfortunately I live in a very dry and hot climate in which air dry clay can literally dry up within five minutes. It’s just so difficult to work with, especially when you are interested in sculpting details. Then I came upon polymer clay – how have I not heard about this before? I instantly fell in love. Unlike normal “every day” clay, it doesn’t dry out in the air. The key difference: “air dry” vs “bake”.
The only real way that it will get “hard” is through baking in the oven. Depending upon the brand, it’ll take only 15-30 minutes to bake and it will emerge as hard as plastic. In fact you may very well think that it’s plastic.
I couldn’t wait to tell to mum about how wonderful polymer clay was. She loves working with clay and has made some wonderful little statues that sit around the house. I realised that I would have to recommend her what products she should buy to get the most out of her polymer clay experience.
*Note: this post has affiliate links to products that I have personally tried, tested and think work well. Affiliate links don’t cost you anything, but may help support my hard work*
There are plenty of different brands and types of polymer clay. I won’t go into details over each clay type in this post. TheBlueBottleTree has an excellent post What’s the Best Polymer Clay Brand? that compares different brands and suggests which brand to use based upon what you want to make.
Generally sold in 2oz (57g), 8oz (227g) and alb (454g) packets, polymer clay can be sold in a variety of colours. You can even mix colours!
If you are a beginner to polymer clay then consider buying a sample pack such as Sculpey III Polymer Clay Color Sampler, Multicolour for US$22. This pack comes with 30 assorted colours (that’s about 73 cents per 1oz pack). Some people don’t like this clay since they say it’s too soft and can be quite brittle after baking, but I haven’t found this issue so far. I did make a couple decorative items that aren’t handled regularly however…
Alternatively consider the Polyform Premo Clay Sampler Pack, Assorted Colors, 24-Pack for $22 (that’s about 92 cents per 1oz pack). The Sculpey Premo clay is great for jewellery making as it is much harder than Sculpey III after baking. Since it is slightly more expensive you can try mixing your own colors to save money.
If you are hesitant about starting with polymer clay (or just don’t want to spend much money) then this can be your only purchase.
Your Working Surface
You should use a smooth work surface to not get unwanted lumps and bumps in your designs. If you are starting out a baking sheet, dinner plate or ceramic tile works well. Be careful since some clay colors can stain work surfaces – especially wood!
I use a Ranger Inkssentials Craft Sheet (US$14).
This craft sheet is extremely thin – as thing as baking paper – so you will still need a smooth surface underneath. It’s also slightly slippery. However the clay does not stick to it and it doesn’t leave any bumps on the clay when you pull it up. In fact, you’re more likely to see my fingerprints or nail marks than marks from the Ranger craft sheet. It really does the job.
You will probably want to cut, shape and texture your clay. In that case, a clay kit will probably come in handy: just like this Makin’s Professional Clay Tool Kit.
There are other kits out there, but I found this one has most of the items in one collection – and it comes in a handy little carry box. Each tool can be attached to the pen-like holders, making it easy to use. They are double-sided, so you can have four “usable” tools at any one time. The items I use most out of the kit are the three different sized balls, the Stanley knife cutter that looks like a miniature spatula and the wire texture maker.
Another really handy tool is an X-Acto knife. If you are working with small details, you will be surprised as how often you will lift and place tiny bits of clay onto your creations.
Silicon Clay Chisels are perfect for smoothing and shaping your clay, especially when your fingers are too big. They also don’t leave behind fingerprints…
Finally a clay roller will be almost essential. I use a Polyform Sculpey Acrylic Clay Roller
Have a look at the Recycled Tools section below that includes some “home-made” tools that are often used as well.
Paints and Pastels
Your every day acrylic paint is excellent way to add blocks of strong colour to your creations. Many people use them for painting faces onto kawaii charms.
Pastels and a small soft brush is a great way to emphasise texture and colour. You can add blush to character’s cheeks .
Depending upon what you want to make out of polymer clay, you may need a variety of other accessories and tools. If you have any allergies (or you plan to sell your creations), consider getting hypoallergenic material such as surgical steel.
If you want to make rings, you may want to invest in some Metal Blank Rings. It’s possible to buy ring blanks where the flat top can be removed (with pliers) and others where they are part of the ring. If possible get the removable tops as they give you the option of more dainty and smaller rings.
If you want to make earrings you will need to decide what type of earring you want. The most common are studs, but you can get clip ons and hoops and so much more… If you get the traditional stud earrings, you will need to buy both the Earring Posts and the Bullet Clutch Earring Safety Backs (usually sold separately).
Some tools can be recycled products from home, saving you money. An old toothbrush can give clay a lovely subtle texture. Tin foil, or aluminium foil, can make creases and lined texture. Toothpicks can obviously make a very defined texture, or can be used to shape clay or hold it in place. Baking paper can be used to protect your work surface and can be used in the oven as well. Even a dinner plate can be a work surface!
Set your mind to it and almost everything can be used from products at home. Do you have any money saving tips or product suggestions?