Basic Tips on Using Fimo or Sculpey Polymer Clay
Polymer Clay is a highly versatile modelling material that is hardened by baking in the home oven. Once baked it is permanent and can be cut, sawn, glued, painted or added to and re-baked. These are some famous brands of Polymer Modelling Clay: Fimo Polymer Clay is the leading European brand and is sold by me. But I also stock Sculpey111 Polymer Clay and Sculpey Premo Polymer Clay
which are more competitively priced and every bit as good as Fimo. Premo Sculpey clay is the art clay preferred by professional modellers and jewellery makers.
Polymer Clay is sold in a huge range of colours and these can be mixed together to make further colours. All of the clays can be cross mixed. Most brands also produce a transparent or translucent clay which can be used on its own or mixed with colours to make delicate translucent pastel shades. There is also night-glow clay, pearl clay, metallic clay and fluorescent clay.
Doll makers are well provided for and all the manufacturers produce clays especially for dolls. The Fimo product is Fimo Doll and Sculpey produces Sculpey Living Doll. Sculpey also produces Super Sculpey which is very popular with sculptors and Doll makers as it is available in bulk packs.
Equipment Needed to Work with Polymer Clay
Most equipment will be at hand in your own home. The following items are the most useful:
A smooth melamine chopping board is ideal, or else a ceramic tile or a formica table mat.
Polymer clay modelling tools
A craft knife with a curved blade is the most versatile. Tissue blades are invaluable for slicing millefiori canes and cutting straight edges on sheets of clay. Sculpey offer a long thin flexible blade which is great for slicing polymer clay. You can buy polymer clay cutters to make heart, round, square and other shapes. You can also buy a multitude of push moulds from Makins, Sculpey, Fimo and others
An acrylic or nylon roller is best for rolling out clay but a small, strong glass bottle with smooth sides or a jam jar will do fine. Avoid wooden rolling pins which stick to the clay. A pasta machine is great fun to use with polymer clay and makes rolling sheets really fast.
Use a darning needle for piercing beads. Use blunt-pointed tapestry needles for texturing, making eye-sockets and indenting lines. There are lots of professional mixed packs of tools and machines for working with polymer clay in our Craftmill shop.
Covered with non-stick baking parchment or ordinary paper for baking the clay.
For de-greasing before glueing or painting.
For cleaning hands and work surfaces.
Useful if you find the clay getting sticky when rolling or using cutters.
Always work each piece of Fimo modelling clay or Sculpey modelling clay in your hands before use to soften it. Fimo Soft clay needs minimal kneading. Sculpey Premo clay needs more.
If the clay is too soft, press a pancake of clay between two sheets of ordinary white paper and leave for a few hours or overnight so that some of the oily plasticizer leaches out. Clay that is too stiff can be softened by kneading withpolymer clay softener like, Sculpey Clay Softener or Fimo Mix Quick.
Try to avoid poking and patting the object you are making. For jewellery making, once a piece of clay has been added, do not try to reshape it because the result will be messy. If you are not happy with it, remove the piece and start again. It is not necessary to squash pieces together to affect a join as they will fuse together when baked; gentle but firm pressure is all that is needed. Fingernail marks and dirty fingerprints on light colours will ruin your results so keep your hands clean, wiping them with wet wipes between colours if necessary. Some clays are more easily smoothed than others. This means that added clay can be smoothed in at the edges to leave no join.
Polymer clay colours can be mixed together to make new colours. Different brands can be mixed together but avoid mixing different brands of doll clay – there have been a few reports that these mixtures can deteriorate in time. Soften the two colours you want to mix first and then work them together, folding and rolling until all the streaks have disappeared. When making pastel colours, add only a very small quantity of colour to white: about 1 part colour to 8 parts white. If you roll both colours into equal diameter sausages, it is easier to estimate the quantities. e.g.1cm colour to 8cms white. You can mix most colours from a basic palette of blue, yellow and magenta or crimson red, plus black and white. Translucent clay can be tinted with small quantities of coloured clay.
For gluing jewellery findings to baked clay, or baked clay to baked clay, use superglue. Two part epoxy glues such as Araldite are the strongest to use for jewellery findings and recommended if you sell your work. Superglue is excellent for mending clay breakages. PVA glue is useful for gluing soft items to baked clay such as fabric or dolls hair.
If you want to add fresh clay to a piece already baked, a smear of transparent liquid Fimo or translucent liquid Sculpey will help it adhere better.
Metallic and Pearl Powders
These are brushed onto soft clay before baking and give wonderful effects simulating various metals. They are most effective on black clay but pearlescent powder brushed onto white clay gives wonderful pearl effects. After baking, you need to varnish with gloss varnish to protect the powder.
Fimo Polymer clay and Sculpey Polymer clay should be baked in the oven on a baking sheet covered with foil or baking parchment for about 20 minutes to 1 hour at 130ºC / 275ºF. The clay will not harden until completely cool. Clay that has not been baked long enough will be fragile and break easily. Items can be rebaked several times without harm. Beware of overheating the clay by letting the oven temperature go too high as it gives off toxic fumes when burnt. If you have problems with baking, your oven thermostat may not be accurate so check with a separate oven thermometer – some ovens can over- or under-heat considerably. Try baking a test sheet: a thin, baked sheet of any of the strong clays like Premo or Super Sculpey. It should bend into a U-bend without snapping after baking. Sculpey III modelling clay remains fragile.
Translucent Liquid Sculpey can be baked at 145˚C in order to make it more transparent (300˚F)
Gas Ovens Try baking a test piece on Gas mark 1/2 or 1/4. If the clay is discoloured, turn the oven down. If it is very fragile, turn the oven up.
Baked Fimo clay or Sculpey clay can be painted with acrylic paints. Craftmill has a huge range of hobby acrylic paints in both standard artist colours and a huge range of specialist colours. Do not use enamel paint as it will not dry properly. De-grease the baked clay by brushing with methylated spirits or nail varnish remover before painting. For more permanent results and particularly for doll faces, varnish before painting (with either matt or gloss varnish) and again, when the paint is dry.
Use only acrylic or alcohol-based varnish on baked polymer clays. Enamel or oil based varnishes which will never dry properly on polymer clay. Baked polymer clay does not need varnishing unless you want a shiny surface (use gloss varnish) or to protect paints or powders applied to the clay.
Fimo Mix Quick Polymer Clay Softener
Rescue old unbaked clay! Fimo Mix Quick Clay Softener is a softening agent, which will improve the texture of clays that have become dry and crumbly. Use sparingly by adding a small amount and kneading into the clay until it softens.