Tips, tricks and advice

I will be adding to this as I go. Trying to get on here stuff that is not part of most lists out there on the internet - and it's all from my own experience.

Also, for the moment it's all mixed up, I will try to organize it better later


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Don't use cardstock for your templates. They do wear out in time. Get some plastic file folders from the dollar store and use that instead. They will hold much better.

Alternately, invest in a watercolor paper book (it's around $12-sh) and make sure it's a heavy weight one. The paper is way thicker than the regular cardstock paper. Then, after you cut your templates out of it, varnish it using Minwax or Varathane. You'll get a nice, stiff, resistant template.

You can use the plastic from file folders when trying to see how a new shape of bib necklace would lay on the chest. Cut the template, poke two holes and use a piece of string for the chain. The plastic is rigid enough and just enough heavy to show you how your piece would behave after being baked.

Use wax paper squares to work your pieces on. Also to cut various strips. It makes it much easier to clean and have some control over tiny pieces of polymer clay and not have them fall on the floor left and right. And you can bake your piece right on the wax paper, without getting a shiny back.

Buy a vinyl table cloth from the dollar store - the Dollar Tree sells them for $1 a piece. Set that on the floor in your work space. That way it will avoid small pieces of clay falling on the carpet or tile and being stomped on and flattened it.

Do not use baby oil to soften clay. It will make the clay too soft and much harder to "leech" to a proper consistency to work with. Also, you will never get a nice buff out of a clay that has been softened with baby oil.

Use parchment paper to print on your sheet of clay the shape or design of whatever you are planning to do. Do not press too hard with the pencil/pen, or you'll go through the paper.

You can cut polymer clay with your scissors - it's actually easier sometimes than using blades.

You can sharpen your cutting blades on the bottom of a mug.

One of the best investments you can make if you are sculpting polymer clay a lot is one of these wax carving sets. Your second best investment is a set of rubber tipped sculpting tools - those are excellent for smoothing. Just make sure you order the no. 0 or no. 1, those are the small ones. The rubber tipped sculpting tools work wonderful also on smoothing edges and blending on regular pieces of jewelry.

You can use water based polyurethane for glazing your pieces. Do NOT use any other kind of polyurethane that is solvent-based. It will destroy your clay.

You can make very thin pieces without fear of them breaking. It is true that some polymer clays are better for this, like Premo is much better than Kato or Cernit for thin pieces. If the clay is conditioned enough and baked enough, it will not break even if you fold it on itself. This technique of working with very thin clay is actually called "mosquito"

You can use many things for baking your clay. Old light bulbs, ceramic/glass/metal bowls, jars, coke cans (empty, of course), small bottles, glasses, etc can be used for giving rounded and/or domed shapes to your pieces. If your piece has a more unusual shape, you can always make a proper base for baking it out of aluminum foil packed and shaped as you need.

To avoid a shiny back on your baked pieces, avoid baking directly on shiny surfaces. You can use several solutions to avoid that happening. You can cover the surface with paper or batting. You can use salt or baking soda for flat pieces. You can cover the surface with crumpled aluminum foil if you want to create a texture.

Not sure what glues to use on polymer clay? Here's a good article about it
What is the best glue for polymer clay?

Do you find that your metallic clay is not metallic enough or your pearlescent doesn't have enough "pearl" effect but it's a pain to mix mica powder in it? Take some liquid polymer clay, mix the mica powder in it, then add the mix to the metallic or pearlescent. You might have to leech the clay for 15-20 minutes after that but it will be beautiful.

You can make any color of clay metallic or pearlescent using the above method, btw.

Do you want an iridescence effect on your clay? Alternate different colors of mica on the same spot. The best work gold+copper+green+blue, you can add some violet to the mix too.

Easy clay conditioning: cut the block in four on the thinner side, to get four blocks the same width and height but 1/4 of the thickness. Roll the pieces through the thickest setting on your machine. Look at the edges: if they're ragged, the clay needs conditioning, and lot of it. Run the same sheet through medium setting, then through thinnest. Then, working only on the thinnest, keep running it through, each time turning the piece 90 degrees and folding the edges in to meet in the middle. When your edges are clear of ragging and are nice and smooth, the clay is conditioned enough.

The degree of conditioning necessary for fairly new clay varies by the brand: Souffle usually barely needs any, Premo needs just a little, all the other brands need a lot.

Do not use Souffle to tint translucents. It will opacify them

Do not use Souffle for faux stones if you want to get a nice shine just by buffing. Souffle doesn't get lots of shine. The shinier and most "buffable" of all clays is Pardo (especially translucent), with Fimo Professional coming second best.

If you want your faux stone (or any other piece) to have an extremely glossy shine, sand properly and buff then varnish the piece. Then sand the varnish using 1000 and up grit of wet sandpaper with a little bit of dish soap mixed in the water. Buff. Then varnish again. Do that with 3-4 coats, for the last coat, after it dries, do just buffing. You'll get exceptional gloss better than resin.

If you have to work on the front of a piece and you've already set the back on it (with texture) but it's still raw, a way to protect the texture on the back is to set the piece on paper towels, 2-3 stacked should provide enough cushioning. Don't use toilet paper or pretty napkins, those might leave lint on your clay.

To smooth edges as close to perfection as possible on an unbaked piece, put a drop of TLS on the tip of your finger, and use that to gently rub the edge along its length. The TLS will slightly dissolve the raw clay and the very thin layer of softened clay will set in all the dents and cracks. This is especially useful on edges when you set baked clay on raw clay.

It might sound unbelievable, but one of the hardest things to do is to bake perfectly flat pieces  which, in case you want to resin your piece, is extremely important in order to prevent run-offs. Go to the hardware store and buy glass tile. Make sure it's the kind with the corners un-rounded (I'm talking about the corners of the top, not the edges) as the rounded corners ones have an oh-so-slight indentation in the middle. The best tiles to bake on though, in terms of flatness, are the marble ones. Unfortunately it's hard to find marble tiles small enough to fit in the small electric ovens most people use to bake polymer clay.
You can also get smallish un-polished slate tiles at the home improvement stores. Those are perfect to bake on in order to avoid "shiny back".
So, the best way to bake something perfectly flat is to put it between printing paper sheets and then between two tiles facing each other. That way the corners of the piece will stay perfectly flat.

Try to find a small square casserole dish that will fit your oven to bake your pieces in. The walls of the dish will act like "tenting" thus assuring a more even baking all around. Just make sure you line it with paper towels or something else to prevent "shiny bottom".

Always have in your stash a package of Fimo Professional: true red, true blue, true yellow. That way, in case you need a small amount of a specific color, you'll be able to get it from those, without having to go buy a whole package of clay.

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