Polymer Clay Brand Review for Sculptors

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Polymer Clay Blocks

“I only use one brand of polymer clay.”

Has someone said this to you before?  Or have you said it yourself?  Maybe someone has said to you, “I only use Fimo Classic polymer clay.”  In either case, I call this the “polymer clay snob syndrome.”  I’ll be honest, I too prefer a certain brand of clay over others, however, I will use whatever I have and often times clay that I have found on sale or on clearance.  So why am I against “polymer clay snob syndrome?”

Definition:

The definition of polymer clay snob syndrome is this (as from Katie’s dictionary of course): Being so brand specific that one refuses to consider, use, or purchase other types of polymer clay brands.

Honesty:

Let me be honest, every kind of clay has good and bad uses.  While one brand of clay may be great for cane work, another brand may be best for sculpting, and yet another for jewelry components.  Here’s the bottom line: If you haven’t tried every polymer clay brand for every clay application then you have no right to claim one kind is superior to another.  And this is why I don’t like “polymer clay snob syndrome.”  Please don’t tell me how your choice is superior to my choice for what you do, when you haven’t tried another brand for that particular application.  

We all have brands of clay that we like, prefer, and use first for specific things. However … being familiar with all the brands of clay and their uses will not only help you to be a better artist, but it will help you to be more familiar with varieties of clay. This especially comes in handy when going to workshops and the instructor may be using a different kind of clay than the one you normally work with. If you at least have a basic understanding and familiarity with the clay they are teaching you with, the workshop will be much more enjoyable.

This being said, here’s a  brief review from me to you on some of the major types of polymer clay, what I’ve used them for, and what I’ve found works the best for me.  I have posted similar things before on polymer clay brands and their uses, feel free to check those posts as well.

My Picks:

Polymer Clay Blocks

I have tried every type of polymer clay available to me here in the northeast Ohio area.  I have my favorite (which I will share with you in a minute) but my studio is filled with dozens of bars of each and every kind from the major manufacturers and I’ll tell you why too.  The first reason is the easiest: I blend my own colors very often.  I rarely will use clay straight from the package.  

This is why Parker’s yellow is always slightly different.  Yes, I use a formula, but do I get it exact every time….no.  Is that okay with me?  Yes.  This being said, choosing to blend colors and brands (which I do ALL the time by the way) is a delicate area that many either won’t admit or won’t talk about.


Super Sculpey Trick:

I have done this for two years now…I’ve done it for so long, I don’t remember if I came up with it myself or if I read it somewhere.  That being said, for over 12 years I have blended Super Sculpey into every clay blend I make.  [Read more here] Why you ask?  Because not only does Super Sculpey bake up firm and rigid, but it also gives things a softer matte finish, or a ceramic-esque look and feel.  I like it because it makes me feel better about my items and their overall strength.  Is that a tested fact that I have proven….no, but it is the way I feel.  I prefer my items to look this way and to have this characteristic. You may not and that’s okay. Please note that this clay is not Sculpey III, is very different from Sculpey III (listed and shown below), and should not be confused with that brand. It should also not be confused with Original Sculpey which comes in many shades and variations these days.


A Note About Sculpey III:

Most clayers of any length of time will tell you to stay away from Sculpey III for most things because it is so soft and far too brittle.  This was very true at one point in time. It’s the one thing about this brand that I don’t prefer, especially for sculpting.  For me, when polymer clay is too soft, I find it horrible to work with and I get frustrated easily.  I prefer to sculpt with clay that is a little more on the firm side. [I also have a trick to keeping my clay firm – watch this video to find out]. This being said, Sculpey III’s huge line of colors and variations are fantastic to add to your blends.  Why?  Have you ever wanted in an in-between color and the brand you’re working with doesn’t have that color…you’d have to mix the color yourself, and then use the desired amount for your project.  This is where Sculpey III can often come to the rescue!  I have often needed an in-between color and didn’t have time/energy/resources to make it. Or I’m using a very firm clay that needs softened quickly … again … Sculpey III to the rescue. I will also often use Sculpey III as an armature for many of my clay projects. Sculpey III carries a bad reputation from years past but isn’t quite as bad as some would have you believe.


What I Use In My Studio:

Polymer Clay Blocks

My go-to brand of clay for most of my projects and the one that I use to teach with in workshops, my Club, and online courses is Premo polymer clay & Fimo polymer clay.

Premo is a great all-around clay for all kinds of applications; from sculpting, bead making, caning, to mosaics, and everything in between. It has very little color shift from its original in package color and is based on an artist’s color palette, making color blending very easy and a breeze to work with as well as yielding predictable results. It holds very fine details when used as a sculpting material and doesn’t warm up too quickly when being worked. It blends easily with other brands and bakes to a reliable, consistent, and predictable result every time. It comes in a 2 ounce, 8 ounces, and 16-ounce option (depending on color). The price is very decent for polymer clay and does not fluctuate by store as heavily as other brands. Because of its predictability, consistency, and ease of finding in my area both in-store and online this is my clay of choice most often for use in my polymer clay studio.

This being said, in recent years (due to the Claydemic of 2020 and continuing through the present day) Premo is not as good as it used to be. It is inconsistent in color across batches, it has problems during baking (including cracking that has nothing to do with your oven), and very poor distribution.

Reasons I Enjoy Premo for Sculpting:

  1. It bakes with a soft sheen to it, with when making sculptures it truly allows colors to pop without having to add glaze to the item.
  2. It tends to take the least amount of conditioning and doesn’t easily over-condition.

See All My Free Color Recipes Here


UPDATED: Feb. 13, 2021

Brands I use & What I Use Them For:

Original Sculpey

  • General craft applications
  • Kids ornaments for VBS projects
  • Large Vases (I usually mix with Super Sculpey)
  • Use this to “stretch” your other Sculpey brands of clay; especially your valuable white clay.
  • Downside:
    • Too brittle post-baking for anything long-ranging or permanent application.
    • Due to the Claydemic this polymer clay can be hard to source.

Sculpey III

  • To combine with my custom blends when a color I need is missing.
  • To make very hard clay softer and easy to condition.
  • Use this to “stretch” your other Sculpey brands of clay or soften a harder block of Premo.
  • This is a very good clay to use to mix with other Polyform brands of clay, especially to help brighten colors as this color palette tends to have extremely bright colors.
  • Downside:
    • Too soft for sculpting & caning alone; must be mixed with a firmer clay.
    • Is brittle after baking if not mixed with a firmer clay.
    • Due to the Claydemic this polymer clay can be hard to source.

Souffle by Sculpey

  • This is a good general all-around clay.
  • Many recommend this for caning, in the Pandora style.
    • I do not recommend this for Kaleidoscope or picture style caning as it is far too soft; however if you mix it with firmer clays (like Premo) it is easier to cane in a true Kaleidoscope style.
  • This is a great lightweight clay for bead making and general all-purpose sculpting.
  • This clay is lightweight and mixes wonderfully with Premo!
  • Downsides:
    • This is a terrible clay for color mixing. The results are unpredictable at best.
    • This clay warms up too quickly for sculpting and I do not recommend it for detailed sculpting work. It does not hold fine details and warms far too easily in your hands.
    • Due to the Claydemic this polymer clay can be hard to source.

Premo by Sculpey

  • My favorite clay (see above).
  • Premo is based on an artist’s color palette. This allows you to get predictable color mixing results.
  • This clay has a fantastic firmness and a sheen that I just love.
  • It bakes strong and resilient on its own without the use of any other clay additive.
    • Sidebar: I still however add Super Sculpey to this clay anyway, every time, with every color I make.
  • I use it for everything: caning, sculpting, buttons, mokume gane, unique effects and so much more.
  • Downsides:
    • Can get a “moon” effect with translucent bars alone if not mixed with a more opaque color.
    • Sometimes one color batch of the same color can be slightly “off” from the next batch due to pigmenting/dye issues from the manufacturer.
    • Due to the Claydemic this polymer clay can be hard to source.

Super Sculpey

  • This is a fantastic clay for sculpting.
  • It comes in multiple colors and “strengths.”
  • This bakes very hard and can easily add clay over the top of a preliminary bake.
  • There is no need to mix this clay with any other clay if you are painting your finished piece. It is hard and firm on its own.
  • Downsides:
    • The “beige” color always gets “moons” and the only way to avoid it is to add your own opaque clay to this.
    • This clay only comes in grey or flesh tones and will always need painted post baking.
    • Due to the Claydemic this polymer clay can be hard to source.

Super Sculpey Living Doll Clay

  • This is a fantastic clay for sculpting dolls, faces, and a variety of lifelike projects.
  • It comes in multiple light beige skin/rose colors, however no dark skin tones at this time.
  • This bakes very hard and can easily add clay over the top of a preliminary bake.
  • There is no need to mix this clay with any other clay. You can use it right from the pack.
  • Downsides:
    • There are no darker skin tones in this color range. If you want a dark skin tone, you need to make your own from a light base. This can be difficult at times due to the yellow pigments in the clay.
    • Due to the Claydemic this polymer clay can be hard to source.

Papa’s Clay

  • This is fantastic clay!
  • It’s newer to the market and doesn’t have as big of a following yet, but I am definitely a fan.
  • It holds details well and doesn’t “smoosh” as much in your hands as some of the softer clays.
  • It’s mixable with other colors in its line.
  • It has a wide range of color options that vary in opacity.
  • Downsides:
    • As with many other clays, this also ‘fractures’ if is it not sufficiently warmed before use. You will need to sit on it, warm it in your hands, or place it on a slightly warm (and covered) heating pad.
    • It is not available for purchase in big box stores yet, only online.
    • It has a substrate in it that makes it almost fluffy, which takes away the sheen that Premo, Kato, or other US clay-based companies have.

CosClay Doll

  • Great for sculpting pieces that you want to bend without breaking post-baking.
  • Conditions very easily.
  • Does not require a pasta machine; soft straight from the pack.
  • Downsides:
    • Extremely soft. Requires leaching for larger projects. Due to its softness, it is very hard to work with, in my opinion.
    • You can combine this clay 70/30 with other clays to help ‘firm it up’ but it loses some of its elasticity properties.
    • Only available online; sells out quickly.
    • Does not take all pigments as well as traditional polymer clay would.

Any Type of Fimo (Pro / Leather)

  • The hardness of this clay varies per bar & per type – As a general rule, it is hard to condition compared to other brands.
  • I use it to cover pens & in blends.
  • This is a great clay to use for stamping.  Makes great impressions and holds them well.
  • Fimo Pro is based on a true artist’s color palette allowing you to achieve a true tone color.
  • Downside:
    • It doesn’t like water. Many of the techniques that I teach (and use in my studio) use water, so this clay (until it’s baked) does not like water.

Kato PolyClay

  • Difficult to condition (to me it is very hard and takes much longer).
  • Ideal for caning as it retains its shape and lasts over time (years).
  • Absolute true artist’s color palette.
  • Has a distinct smell when baking, but this is not a downside, just something you need to know. [Note: All clay has a smell when baking. Kato’s (to me) is stronger.]
  • Downside:
    • Limited color palette that forces you to make your own color recipes. If you are not familiar with color recipes or color in general, this can be very intimidating.

Pardo

  • Nice soft clay.
  • Made with a different kind of material than traditional polymer clay.
  • I will write a full review after experimenting with it.
  • Downside:
    • Cost – this clay is the most expensive due to sourcing issues (see below).
    • It is also the hardest to find stateside as distribution in the US is limited from Viva decor.

Cernit

  • Superb for translucent clay. This is THE CLAY you want!
  • Works great for sculpting if you can get your hands on it; mostly has to be purchased online at the current time.
  • Conditions with a little work, but is wonderful to sculpt with once conditioned.
  • Downsides:
    • More difficult to find in box stores; in general, must be ordered online.
    • A lot of different “lines” to familiarize yourself with if you are new to the brand.

Thank you for being a part of the Kater’s Acres Family, Sculpt Your Dreams!

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23 thoughts on “Polymer Clay Brand Review for Sculptors

  1. Can you clarify any experience you have mixing different brands of polymer clay. Knowing that they are all basically similar but chemically different-I am apprehensive but may have to attempt this as I bought servers 2oz blocks of Cernit in an eBay auction & now having difficulty as Cernit is not very available.
    Any insight will be greatly appreciated! Thanks! Cecilia

    1. I buy polymer clay online all the time as finding the different brands I need, in the colors I need can often be a daunting and challenging task. Always bake your polymer clay to the specifications of the clay with the highest baking temperature. This ensures that your polymer clay will be fully cured.

  2. Hello!
    I am starting out, making the trendy (hate that word but yet here I am, haha) mid-century modern Art Deco earrings. I graduated with my BA in ceramics, so I’m not new to the clay game, but since graduating I have felt empty without my beloved clay. This has been an amazing way for me to get back into it!
    My question is:
    I am needing neutrals and earth tones for these earrings, with the occasional pops of colors of course, but not at all sure how to achieve these blends as you say.
    Do I start with white and add to that? I have seen someone just brush on pastel dust, do you ever do that?
    Also, this “conditioning”, is this the same as wedging the clay? Or would conditioning the clay just look like putting it through the press? I feel so silly asking these questions when I’ve worked with clay for so long, but this is all so new and there are so many new rules!

    1. To make earth tones, take your “color pops” as you call them and add the Premo color “ECRU” this will be the easiest way to get your Earth Tones. I do not use an pastel dust as those may rub off over time, especially when a jewelry is being worn. You want your color to be in your clay and not a topical finish. As far as conditioning, that can be done with a clay conditioning machine; that’s by far the easiest! Welcome to the polymer clay world. There aren’t many “rules” – think of them more as “guidelines” in order to get your best results.

      May I also suggest getting my Color Palette Worksheet which may help you understand clay color theory a little better as well; or at least how I use color to the best of my ability. https://katersacres.com/product/polymer-clay-color-palette-worksheet/

  3. Katie, Please recommend the best clay for adding textured facial features, nose and lips on driftwood faces. Would like to paint with acrylic when finished. Thanks

    1. I would use my recipe for Luminescent Skin, it’s a combination of 2 types/brands of polymer clay; texturization or non-texturization doesn’t matter. And you can certainly paint it if you’d like. That’s certainly what I’d recommend. You can read about it here & purchase the worksheet if you’d like.
      https://katersacres.com/polyclay/prompts/polymer-clay-color-recipe-luminescent-skin/

  4. I want to make my own polymer clay buttons. Which brand would be most durable for something like a button that would get a lot of use?

    1. I personally love and rely on Premo! I find that it is very sturdy, long lasting and I find is durable over time.

  5. I make jewelry and was wondering which clay is the best for beads. Thank you

    1. Premo is a great all around clay suitable for most techniques and makes gorgeous jewelry – it’s my clay of choice. If you are making large beads and just starting out, you might try Sculpey Souffle. It’s lightweight and very durable.

  6. I’ve been getting into making small animal figurines. However, I’ve been using Sculpey III and have gotten a lot of compliments and requests from people at work. But I want to try a “better” brand. I would feel horrible if one of the things I made cracked or broke just by sitting there. Suggestions? I want to get better and create better quality…

    But I also like the softer based clay and worried about trying others out.

    1. You will REALLY like Premo! Anne. Promo is much more durable, has a much nicer finish, and is still very easy to work with. I would try that. I would NOT continue to make your figurines with Sculpey III, it just doesn’t have the longevity.

    2. I want to make wind chimes .what clay should I buy that would be weather prove?

      1. The best clay (in my opinion) would be Premo. Do NOT add any paint or surface effects to the clay and it will last a long time.

  7. Can you recommend which clay would be best to make a pet’s paw print impression? I tried Sculpey Oven Bake Clay, but even after kneading, it was not soft enough to press my cat’s paw into. Please help

    1. I would try Bake Shop clay. It’s really soft and might work very well! Or try the original Sculpey, it also might work.

      1. Thank you! Maybe I will try both 🙂

  8. I just bought Pardo on sale, and it must have been old. While I love the Pardo primary colors, magenta, cyan and a neutral yellow (I think it is, at least)and I am able to make some wonderful color blends that I haven’t gotten with Premo,(I invested in that dark blue Premo, several one pound packages, unfortunately) the old Pardo, (I’m assuming it’s old) is a brute to condition. I’ve bought several 8 oz. bottles of liquid clay, and I’ve always got something Pardo marinating. Conversely, some of the clay is(must be) newer, and is easy to condition.
    I’ve never had a problem with Premo, it’s very easy. And the Kato is easy, too. I’ve not used Fimo, although I have some coming in the mail, or the other Sculpeys. Cernit, no, not that either.
    I think a lot depends on the age of the clay, and the environmental factors it has been exposed to. But, as the other commenter noted, it’s always good to read other’s experiences with their clays.
    Thanks for a great article!

    1. I’ve never had that problem with my Pardo. Mine is always soft. I wonder if it got partially cured while in transit to the store.

  9. This article is a couple of years old and Kato Polyclay has undergone a change in composition. As the article is still in circulation, it may be worth reviewing as Kato is not at all hard to condition now.

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      While I agree that it has undergone formulation changes, compared to the other brands (Fimo, Sculpey III, Premo!, Souffle, Pardo, etc) this is STILL the hardest brand to condition, hands down. The article is still in circulation because this is a blog, I will not remove it or my opinion on it. Thank you for your thoughts however.

  10. This was a great post, Katie! It’s interesting to hear what other artists use! For most of my career (spanning over 20 years) I used 90% Sculpey III in making my miniatures and ornaments. In the last couple I have discovered I like Premo better for lots of things, but I use a combination of them both. They have distinct color palettes and there are some colors in each that I prefer. For example, Sculpey III black is NOT black anymore, so I never use it anymore. I have to say, over the years they have changed their formulas and colors. I still use it, but am using more and more Premo. I’ve used Pardo, and its fine, but you’re right…..expensive.

    1. Thanks for visiting Lisa!!! I’m so happy you stopped by and shared your perspective on clays as well. THANK YOU!

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