5 Tips for Polymer Clay Beginners

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  1. Preparation and Tools
    Unbaked polymer clay can damage surfaces like plastic or wood so begin by preparing a work surface. You can use a silicone mat designed for polymer clay or a simple tile from the hardware store or a sheet of wax paper. There are tons of tools designed specifically for polymer clay (even pasta machines!) but for your first project don’t be afraid to use what you have on hand. A clean glass jar can act as a  roller, a wooden skewer will pierce holes to make beads and an X-acto knife can make clean cuts. However, don’t use anything that you use for cooking.
  2. Condition, Condition, Condition
    After you’ve chosen some beautiful colors of clay (or perhaps even a stone, translucent or metallic clay!) it’s time to condition. Many polymer clay artists use a (dedicated) pasta machine or food processer for this portion but it’s simple to do by hand as well. Slice off the clay you’ll be working with and knead it in your hands. Some clay like SculpeyIII is stiffer while Premo! is a bit firmer. The kneading action and the warmth of your hands will soften the clay and prepare it for use. You cannot over condition the clay but if it gets too soft set it aside or even pop it into the refrigerator for a few minutes to let it firm up before starting your project.
  3. Start Simple

    One of my first polymer clay projects were these faceted earrings. (I wish now that I’d used the metallic clay but I didn’t know about it back then!) It was a simple project that had a great result. In fact, I’m rather certain that someone who watched that video launched an entire Etsy shop from the idea! For more beginner project ideas check out the Sculpey website where you can sort projects by difficulty. When you are ready to bake your clay be sure to follow the instructions that are on the package. Normally it requires about 15 min at 275F for every 1/4” of thickness.

  4. Advanced Techniques
    If you are anything like me it won’t be long before you start trying to make everything out of polymer clay. It’s so versatile! You might start by picking up a few tools- I really like my pasta roller and blade and now I have my eye on some of the Mini Cutters and Alphabet Stamper. You can also add glitter or use molds. Polyform even makes jewelry bases to turn your polymer clay project into wearable art like rings, necklaces or even a purse holder. Then learn some new techniques like how to create an ombre’ effect with a Skinner Blend or make intricate designs by caning.
  5. Storage
    One of my favorite things about polymer clay is that it doesn’t dry out. So even if you get distracted by a phone call and forget to finish and clean up after your project you don’t have to worry that anything will be ruined. It is a good idea to wrap up leftover clay to prevent different colors from sticking together and protect it from dirt and dust. The only thing you do need to worry about is light and heat so choose a dark location where it won’t be subject to excessive heat. (Windowsills and on top of the radiator are out!) Follow these simple steps and you’ll be able to use this clay next year, if there’s any left by then.
Do you have any polymer clay questions? Leave them in the comments and we’ll help you out!

Alicia DiRago is the founder and CEO of Whimseybox. She has led DIY events across the country and been featured in the Wall Street Journal. Alicia is a lifelong crafter and former chemical engineer obsessed with making everything from bracelets to (homebrewed) beer! You can find her personal DIY, fashion and design blog at dismountcreative.com.

10 Comments

  • Reply February 10, 2012

    Tejae's Art Hearts

    Great advice for beginners in polymer clay. I know a couple of people who will find this very handy to know! Thanks for sharing.

    tejae

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  • [...] Polymer Clay Tips – Check out five tips that will prove to be very helpful in your polymer clay endeavors. [...]

  • Reply March 26, 2013

    Easy Wood Projects

    Hello, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this post. It was practical.
    Keep on posting!

  • Reply April 9, 2013

    Jeanne

    The floating tab asking for likes, pins, & tweets is annoying. Not convenient at all.

  • Reply April 9, 2013

    Alicia

    Hey Jeanne, thanks for the feedback. I just sent you an email to learn more about what device/browser you’re using so we can correct the problem.

  • Reply June 11, 2013

    Rachel

    just wondered if you could advise where to buy premo, as im a beginner. Many thanks

    • Reply June 11, 2013

      alicia

      You can find it at most craft stores such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Hope that helps!

  • Reply December 16, 2013

    Susan

    Great tips for beginner like me. :)

    • Reply December 16, 2013

      Alicia DiRago

      Awesome, so glad it’s helpful. Have fun – the possibilities with polymer clay are endless!

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