10 Polymer Clay Tips & Tricks

Posted on 14 Comments
Polymer Clay Tips from KatersAcres

As with all things in life, we pick some things up and get good at them…and yet with other things we need help.  I am a 100% self-taught polymer clay artist.  I have purchased several polymer clay books and use several very religiously.  Here are 10 hints, tips, & tricks for working with polymer clay that you may not already know or thought of that will help you in your own polymer clay jouney.

  1. Before you do anything else, put on hand lotion.  I have found that when working with polymer clay may hands dry out.  When my hands dry out, the clay colors get absorbed into my skin and transfer from one clay to another.  Stop the problem in its tracks and use any hand cream with silicone to help prevent this!
  2. Do you know that clay that’s just hard like a brick?  Soften it a little before you tear open the package.  Do this by sitting on your clay.  I know this sounds like an easy tip, but it’s often overlooked. And the best part is that it’s free. When you sit on your clay, it will automatically warm up and it will take far less time to condition.
    • Is your clay still too hard?  Never underestimate the power of your acrylic roller.  Bang on your clay.  This will align the polymers quickly and allow you to condition your clay more easily.
Kater’s Acres Clay box & Ed Street's Colors Pasta Machine
  1. Spend money on quality tools and a good variety of them. You might be able to get by using toothpicks and straws. However, you may also find that there are some really good tools for sculpting, caning, jewelry making, and more that will help you save time along your journey.
    • A perfect example is a pasta machine. Do not invest in a cheap pasta machine. Spend good money on a quality pasta machine. You will use it a lot and you need it to work for you and work well. I love my pasta machine from Ed Street and from Lucy Clay Tools.
  2. Don’t spend money on a particular clay mat to put in your oven if you don’t have to…Reuse your shipping labels.  You can use the glossy side to make your clay on, roll it, stamp it, etc.  And wah-la…it comes right off, each and every time! It was something you were going to throw away anyhow, but now it’s reused … and you can reuse these several times too!
Fluffy Clay Recipe Worksheet from KatersAcres
  1. It might be intimidating, but don’t be afraid to mix clays.  I’m not just talking about colors either. I mean brands too. Yes, some brands work better than others, but some are absolutely brilliant together. Experiment and have a little fun! If you don’t know where to start, try my Fluffy Clay recipe for some ideas.
  2. What happens when your clay is still too hard and you’ve tried #2 & #3…try one of many solid polymer clay conditioning bars on the market now.  Very quickly your clay will begin to condition and it doesn’t get slimy like when you add clay softener or TLS.
  3. If you don’t know what to create or how to create it, sketch it first.  This easy step will save you time & a headache later! BONUS POINTS if you keep a running list of ideas on your phone so that it’s always with you. This way when you have an idea you can type it into a note and you won’t ever forget it and you can come back to it later.
  4. Are you tired of things NOT sticking and staying where you put them?  Use PolyBonder.  Lisa Pavelka makes it and you can get it at Hobby Lobby or Michaels.  It’s the best thing I’ve found so far.
  5. RESIST THE TEMPTATION – Don’t just buy cheap clay!  Many of you buy cheap clay because you can “afford it” better.  This is nonsense!  Why would you buy cheap clay that you know won’t work or will give you issues, just to spend hours on a piece and have it break within hours of being out of the oven?  Don’t do this, please!  Try each and every brand of clay and decide for yourself which clay you like the best.
  6. Try anything and everything!   Many polymer clay artists have made a name for themselves, just by trying something new and having great success with it (Skinner blend, Pavelka Peel, Sutton Slice, etc).  Don’t be scared – polymer clay is the most forgiving art medium in the world, allow it to speak to you in a new and exciting way!

14 thoughts on “10 Polymer Clay Tips & Tricks

  1. Hi it’s me again, what polymer clay store/era do you recommend? I think that Aaron Brothers should be fine…

    1. Polymer Clay Store? I like Sunny Day Crafts. Also Sculpey Products is a good one. Poly Clay Play has a lot of products as well. Those are my online favorites.

  2. Hi Katie,
    I can’t find any good cupcake base molds at any stores! Plus, I don’t buy online. Also, getting the materials to make one are quite expensive, and I don’t know any near place to get any silicone. Can you recommend any great places to get a cupcake base mold?

    1. There are lots of places online, even Amazon you can get a cupcake mold. There are also sellers on Etsy who sell them. Personally, I would make a cupcake base and mold it myself. It will save you money and they aren’t that hard to do.

      1. Thanks Katie! Think this will work well for me 🙂

  3. I’m looking for a strong polymer clay to make teeth in a small crocodile I’m working on. I’m finding that the small teeth easily break off. Do you have any suggestions.

    1. I have had great success making small teeth with Premo & Souffle clays. Both are strong and durable post baking. You can also try kato clay for your teeth. I prebake ALL my teeth, then place them into my figurine before it is baked. This might help you too.

  4. Oh, are you saying that Sculpy is not good? It’s the only type of polymer clay that I can get in my country (actually, I don’t even get it in my country, I’m from Argentina and my best friend got me some Sculpey).
    Now I’m kinda afraid of using it…

    1. I’m not saying it’s bad at all … for what I do with clay it isn’t what I need. For figurines and things it is the most brittle clay and is not flexible after baking. But many artists use only sculpey, so the decision is truly yours. If it’s all you can get, then use what you have & enjoy your time in the studio!

  5. Teresa, You might try writing directly to the company ( Kato,Fimo or ?) Tell them what your situation is. At the very least you will probably end up with coupons that will help. After all the worst that can happen is they say no, but it would be worth a try. Put a request out on freecycle and see what happens

  6. Hi Katie! I was wondering if you would know how I could go about finding something out. I have MS. I started working with clay about a year ago as my own little form of therapy, both physical and mental. Recently, I mentioned it to my doctor and he confirmed my thoughts saying that he thought it was a great approach to therapy for several of my problems that I have to deal with. Now, I am disabled, of course, and live on a very tight fixed income. Whenever I can get the chance to save up a little money, I will go on E bay and try to find a large lot to bid on so that I can get my supplies affordable. This in itself poses its own set of problems. Nine times out of ten the clay I get it hard and I have to work on reconditioning it. I too have learned the mold maker trick to help soften it. And that leads me to this, do you know yourself or how I would go about find out if any of the clay manufacturers offer discounts on clay purchases for the handicapped? For physical therapy? I really love doing this and I’m dying to learn more from all of these tutorials that I’ve been getting. Unfortunately, I have short term memory damage from the large scar on my brain that was left after my last attack and, playing hit and miss with the availability of enough clay being on hand to try out these techniques more than just once, I can’t seem to be able to get it sunk into my brain enough that I can progress on to some higher level stuff 🙁
    I love you blog, by the way, and have linked with you on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. If you have any info that could help, I would really appreciate it.
    Thanks for your time, Terri

    1. Hi Terri,

      I know that several times of year Michaels & Hobby Lobby put their clay on say for $1.00 or as low as $0.75 per block. If this is still not feasible, I would try to contact the company directly. I am not aware of any programs that are currently available to help with this kind of thing. Thank you for the compliments on the blog! Hopefully some of the easier projects are just up your alley since they don’t require a lot of time.

      Let me know what you find out!

  7. >You're welcome Trina – thank you for stopping by!

  8. >Thank you for sharing these great tips Katie! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *