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Polymer Clay Sculpting Tips and Tutorials

sculpting_tips

Do you need a little help with sculpting or want to get started with polymer clay?

Polymer clay is a wonderful medium for sculpture. You can create one of a kind sculptures without the need for an expensive kiln or messy mold materials. You can create everything from very simple animals made from basic shapes to detailed, complex, realistic human figures. The limits are only your skill and imagination.

sculpting_tips

What is Polymer Clay?

Polymer clay is a non-toxic man-made sculpting material which stays pliable until cured at relatively low temperatures, typically between 265 and 275°F (129-135°C).

Popular brands include Super Sculpey, Fimo, Premo, Prosculpt, and Kato Clay. Any of those clays is great for sculpting, try them out to find the one that feels best to you.

I really do not recommend Original Sculpey (comes in white and terracotta) because it's very chalky and brittle when cured. Some of the specialty polymer clay such as Sculpey Ultralight or Granitex have specific properties which may or may not suit your projects.

For more in depth information see the Wikipedia Polymer Clay article.

Do your newer clays feel different?

Due to concerns about phthalates and European Union regulations all the major brands of polymer clays have changed their formulas. Kato Clay was the first to roll out the new formula in the US.

Katherine Dewey explains more here.

Information on phthalates from Wikipedia.

Safety and Polymer Clay

Safety First

Sculpting tools should be dedicated to clay work and should never be used for food afterwards. That includes rolling pins, baking sheets, and knives.

Clean your oven thoroughly after baking polymer clay unless it is dedicated to polymer clay use or if clay was baked in a sealed container like a roasting bag.

Follow common sense when handling sharp or hot objects. Always wear safety glasses if using a powertool such as a dremel.

sculpting_tips

5 Quick Polymer Clay Sculpting Tips

1: Keep a wet washcloth or wet wipes (baby wipes) on hand to keep you hands clean while sculpting. Any little piece of dirt of pet hair your hands pick up will stick to your sculpt.

2: Get a lazy susan, it's a simple thing but being able to turn your sculpts easily is really helpful. I found a great 14" diameter bamboo one for $10, so not a big investment.

3: Mirrors are your friend. A great way to tell if you have something lopsided is to look at it reversed in a mirror, it really brings out any problems.

4: Smooth out your polymer clay using isopropyl alcohol. 90% will smooth more aggressively than 70%. I keep both on hand to use depending on what I need.

5: Get a pasta machine. They are the perfect tool for mixing clay and of course rolling out sheets of clay. Mixing clay by hand takes forever and leaves your hands too sore and tired to actually be able to sculpt.

Noadi's Gray Super Sculpey Blend

* 1 lb block Original Super Sculpey (translucent pink)

* 1 lb block Super Sculpey Firm (gray)

Mix with a pasta machine until a uniform color.

This mix is firmer than Super Sculpey without being too hard and the gray color makes seeing detail better. Best for sculptures that will be painted.

Polymer clay is perfect for making Christmas ornaments.

Polymer clay is perfect for making Christmas ornaments.

Polymer clay is perfect for making Christmas ornaments.

All the armature tutorials have been moved to my Building Armatures for Polymer Clay Sculpture lens.

  • Noadi's Sculpture and Misc. Tutorials
    Articles and tutorials on sculpting. Including a recipe for cold porcelain, making eyeballs, and breaking through artist's block.
  • Glass Attic
    Huge compendium of tips related to polymer clay. From sculpting tips, to baking, to inclusions, and color mixes.
  • Elvenwork Tips and Techniques
    Tips and Techniques Compiled by Katherine Dewey Over the years, Katherine has accumulated a wide array of techniques, some from constant experimentation with the medium, and some from interaction with the community of polymer clay artists.
  • Smellybugs Maquette Tutorial completed! - ConceptArt.org Forums
    Smellybugs Maquette Tutorial completed! 3D & SCULPTURE
  • Polymer Clay Fan
    Fairly new sculpting resource by Gerald Gore. Already has a number of great tutorials.
  • Online Art Magazine - Polymer Clay Basics
    I've always felt that learning happens fastest when you're actually doing the task as opposed to just reading tips so I'll do a demonstration. I'm going to make a miniature baby and show in-progress pictures. I enjoy making my baby gargoyles the best
  • Make and Mold A Polymer Clay Face
    Have you ever wondered how to create and use a mold made from a hand modeled polymer clay face? There are many ways to do it. Polymer clays, particularly the softer ones like SculpeyIII and Sculpey Bake and Bend, can be used to form hard molds using
  • How to create liquid polymer clay paints using it to create realistic miniature cake.
    In this two-part tutorial in making realistic looking miniature cake, you will first learn to create polymer clay paint and then use this to bake the cake. There is also a little bonus, creating a 1/12 scale stainless steel knife from steel floppy di
  • Quickie Face Tutorial by *No-Sign-of-Sanity on deviantART
    Art - community of artists and those devoted to art. Digital art, skin art, themes, wallpaper art, traditional art, photography, poetry / prose. Art prints.

Figure Sculpting Tutorials - All about sculpting the human figure.

Animal and Creature Sculpting Tutorials

Sculpting Tools Tutorials - How to Make your own Tools

There's lots more about sculpting tools on the Polymer Clay Sculpting Tools lens.

  • Making Texture Stamps
    Texture stamps are not only easy to make, they're kind'a fun too! I made the below for certain things I needed done, and some were just learning what I was doing.
  • Alan's Texture Tool
    This tool is designed to decorate clay, or any impressionable surface, with a pattern which builds into a finish which resembles fish, snake or dragon scales, feathers or even, with small adjustment, roof tiles.

Sculptor's Blogs - Take a glimpse into the thoughts of sculptors.

I know sometimes it can be easier to watch what someone does than to read descriptions of it so here are some videos by sculptors I admire and respect.

Get Feedback

One of the best ways to learn is by sharing with others. Participate in forums to get critique and feedback on your sculptures and what can be improved.

Sculpting Forums - Learn from other sculptors.

Leave a Note - Go ahead and and leave any comment or questions you have. If you like this lens rate it up at the top of the page!

bratty2 on October 26, 2017:

Glad I found this site, Been having problems with my sculptures breaking at thin points. Just found out its not me exactly, just need to use better clay. Thanks

GreenfireWiseWo on August 24, 2013:

Great ideas -thank you!

BlowDryBar on August 09, 2013:

I have a polymer clay snake sculpture that I love!

jennie-lee-372 on August 08, 2013:

Hi! Thanks so much for adding my website on your lens! My blog has tons of freebie information about sculpting a OOAK ONe of a Kind baby sculpt. Stop by if you'd like to learn too! :)

www.weebabiesnursery.com

Gregory Moore from Louisville, KY on March 28, 2013:

My son loves making creations out of clay, but we have not been using polymer clay. Will check it out. Thanks

anonymous on August 21, 2012:

Great lens! I love working with polymer clay!

floppypoppygift1 on August 14, 2012:

I used to play with Polymer Clay A Lot to make beads, candle holders and ornaments. It's very easy to use. My biggest problem was the size of my supply drawer & work area! It can be addictive!

RadaFrancis LM on July 08, 2012:

Sculpting sure is an art form!

Barbara2659 on June 23, 2012:

Incredible! I love this lens.

PaulWinter on June 01, 2012:

I will have to come back and read this lens again and look at some of the tutorials. This looks like a great hobby.

lillianjuares on May 31, 2012:

Thank for the tips, this is not easy to do, i need to share this with my friends thanks again great :)

Lori Green from Las Vegas on May 31, 2012:

had to come back twice. Thanks great lens.

DecoratingMom411 on May 14, 2012:

Great informative lens. Thanks for sharing these tips.

Kliedel on May 11, 2012:

thank your for sharing this wonderful lens, btw where did you learn this ideas? amazing!

Rickcpl on April 30, 2012:

How do you do this?

Rickcpl on April 30, 2012:

Nice.

JoyfulReviewer on April 23, 2012:

Thanks for compiling this extensive resource. Your examples look so realistic. Blessed.

Michelle Lacroix Toro from United States on March 23, 2012:

Wonderful tips, references, and inspiration for polymer clay artists! Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Lacroix Toro from United States on March 23, 2012:

Wonderful tips, references, and inspiration for polymer clay artists! Thanks for sharing!

utopia5230 on March 14, 2012:

Cool lens! Thanks for sharing

brynimagire on March 14, 2012:

Wonderful lens! Thanks for sharing.

goo2eyes lm on March 12, 2012:

i love the squids you featured. they look real. the best thing about this clay is you don't need to bake it. angel blessed.

MelonyVaughan on March 07, 2012:

Gorgeous lens! Thanks for sharing!

Delia on March 02, 2012:

Great lens...I use to make Fimo clay sculptures and jewelry, but sadly now I don't have the time.

kevingomes13 lm on February 28, 2012:

Cool lens. Thank you for sharing

myamya on February 22, 2012:

Very nice lens! thumbs up!

TheArtLibrarian on February 18, 2012:

Nice -- very thorough lens. Thanks!

Bash51214 on February 16, 2012:

Thanks For sharing .. enjoyed it a lot.. God Bless You.

Ram Ramakrishnan on February 11, 2012:

A serious understatement unquestionably, be it might

To say that Polymer Clay should be a sculptorâs delight.

The same could certainly be said of this impressive lens

That helps, from shapless clay, to make aesthetic sense.

jimmyworldstar on February 01, 2012:

I've never heard of polymer clay. The clay I'm used to is really malleable with water but once you let it dry or get into the hot sun it hardens quickly.

azD40x on January 30, 2012:

definitely going to try clay sculpting after reading your lens :)

nelsonkana on January 21, 2012:

Nice lens here. Am taking a tour of top lenses. This is one of them. I like it.

GreenMind Guides from USA on January 18, 2012:

Really skillful and smart lens -- I love the way you write and this topic is lovely. Thanks!

anonymous on January 11, 2012:

thank you !

kerryhrabstock on December 21, 2011:

Great job. I've always wanted to try this, but recently got addicted to Squidoo. Whenever will I find the time?

bradhughes on December 13, 2011:

I must try this too! I know it's not easy but I'm interested to learn.

MaartjeJepsen on December 13, 2011:

Thank you for interesting lens!

Quirkyart on December 08, 2011:

I've played around with polymer clay and never knew about the dangers. I'll keep it mind next time. Good lens

nigel7725 on December 06, 2011:

Interesting lens.

Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on November 27, 2011:

I do a lot of crafting, but have truly never given polymer clay a turn. Maybe it's time. :)

CrucialCulture LM on November 27, 2011:

Great Lens... Thanks

seosmm on November 27, 2011:

Great ideas. Very nice lens!

anonymous on November 24, 2011:

A great lens to share. Nice! Squid-liked!

nickirc lm on November 14, 2011:

Great stuff thanks.

nickirc lm on November 14, 2011:

Cute stuff thanks.

WildWilliams on November 08, 2011:

Silver clay is also amazing!

Sheryl Westleigh (author) from Maine on November 03, 2011:

@HuntAndFishGuides: I have no reason to believe they aren't complying. The major manufacturers of polymer clay (Sculpey, Fimo, Kato, Cernit) are all US or European based however.

HuntAndFishGuides on November 03, 2011:

Do you have any concerns that the Chinese manufacturers are not compling with the phthalates regulations? If so, would you recommend only purchasing from US / European manufacturers? Thanks

Showpup LM on November 02, 2011:

I've always wanted to try my hand at crafting with clay. The videos here are amazing! Wow!

anonymous on November 02, 2011:

Glad I stopped by again, this is a wonderful resource. Blessed!

anonymous on November 01, 2011:

Excellent lens! Thanks for taking the time to offer these tips!

One squid thumb up vote issued for this lens!

NTxWriter on October 26, 2011:

Great tutorial links! I used to make all kinds of beads with polymer clay years ago and it was lots of fun. The art has come a long way since then, though.

intermarks on October 24, 2011:

I like sculpting, I never use polymer clay to make the sculpture before but I use the plasticine. The weakness with plasticine is that is cannot keep the shape for long, if it is accidentally pressed, there gone it shape. I like this lens very much!

creativeinc lm on October 21, 2011:

Nice lens. I like sculpting too!

ilovehaagendazs on October 19, 2011:

nice! Wish to try it out myself but I just couldn't find the right time!

NellinShoppi on October 15, 2011:

Very nice lens! Loads of useful information here. Thanks a lot :)

tobydavis on October 05, 2011:

Fantastic lens! Loads of goodies and info! Very nicely put together, the time and effort put in comes through to create a very complete experience for the visitor - fab!

NidhiRajat on September 29, 2011:

amazing lens!!!

BillSimmons on September 28, 2011:

Sweet, cool this looks like stuff!

writer_villa on September 26, 2011:

Sheryl, It is a good lens!

katiecolette on September 25, 2011:

I have always been curious about sculpting and polymer clay, so I enjoyed the information and sculpting tips you shared. Your Squids are adorable :)

writer_villa on September 18, 2011:

Very good and informative! Thanks a lot!

anonymous on September 16, 2011:

Well done. Blessed!

BestRatedStuff on September 15, 2011:

Thanks so much for such an inspirational lens on sculpting. always loved it, but haven't done much recently, I think I am going to go back to it after seeing all these beautiful sculptures.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 15, 2011:

This is really interesting. I see this product but had no clue how to use it.

JeremyAce on September 14, 2011:

I may have to give polymer clay a shot now, but if nothing else you added to my reading list. Thanks again for the lens.

pd6914 on September 12, 2011:

Thanks for including the Flickr photos! I enjoyed reading your lens.

NidhiRajat on September 09, 2011:

I really love this lens and congrats a ton!!!

journey103 from USA on September 06, 2011:

Love this lens...will need to bookmark and learn more!

Rammelfirdaus on September 03, 2011:

I think i'm going to start a new hobby.

Close2Art LM on September 02, 2011:

love this lens, it is such and inspiration...:)RWJR

pheonix76 from WNY on August 29, 2011:

Nice introduction to polymer clay! :)

alsomelbel on August 26, 2011:

I have seen people make some pretty nifty jewelry with polymer clay. Thank you for showing ME how. :)

AngelDey on August 26, 2011:

This is very good information. I've always wanted to try polymer clay but have always felt a little overwhelmed. Thank you for such a good set of references.

anonymous on August 24, 2011:

How cool! I've always wanted to try polymer clay. Thanks for the great lens.

KiwiSanet on August 21, 2011:

I enjoyed looking at your lens and like the idea of polymer clay starter kit as a gift. I will be back for more visits.

shivnagsudhakar on August 18, 2011:

GOOD WORK

Mark Falco from Reno, Nevada on August 16, 2011:

Excellent lens with loads of really useful information. I'd love to try this some time.

TIRMassageStone1 on August 16, 2011:

My favorite art pieces have always been sculpted art. I am particularly found of sculpted clay that is bronzed.

Liz Mackay from United Kingdom on August 11, 2011:

Great tips and suggestions. Blessed by a squid angel.

catherinenbrooks on August 10, 2011:

Awesome lens!Good job by this lens.Nice...

YourBestFriend on August 10, 2011:

Thanks for the very good post! Easy to read even for those who are not familiar with polymer clay like me ;)

http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/YourBestFriend

Vivek Bhan on August 09, 2011:

Oh I Loved it !

HeatherTodd1 on August 06, 2011:

Thanks for the great post..Nice

VSP on August 03, 2011:

Are you familiar with Kathy Davis? She is a published sculptor in our guild. I like canning. Nice lens.

freaksfactory on August 03, 2011:

Excellent lens , love it

profilesincolor on August 03, 2011:

Rich reference! Thanks! :-)

hysongdesigns on August 02, 2011:

very nice, going to have to bookmark this one; I play with clay sometimes ;-)

Jeanette from Australia on August 01, 2011:

What a fabulous resource.

pramodbisht on July 28, 2011:

Nice Lens

VoodooRULEs on July 10, 2011:

Reading this is an education. First about polymer clay, but maybe even more importantly an education on how to pack a lot of great information into a easy and fun to read article. Thank you!

notaspaceship on July 03, 2011:

Thank you for this lens. I have never tried sculpting, but your article was interesting. I also took a peek at your Etsy listings, you're quite talented!

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on July 02, 2011:

lovely art page. thanks for the clay sculpting tips.

Judy Filarecki from SW Arizona and Northern New York on July 02, 2011:

thanks for a great tutorial and tips. I've spent many hours having fun with my grandchildren using polymer clay and now that they are a little older, they would enjoy more advanced stuff like you show.

TIRMassageStone1 on June 29, 2011:

Very cool projects!

Serj on June 27, 2011:

Very cool. I'd be interested in doing this, but I'm better with drafting, website design type of creative stuff... still looks like allot of dun. Great lens.

bikerministry on June 22, 2011:

I love polymer clay days with my sister. She's so creative. Great lens.

Linda Pogue from Missouri on June 21, 2011:

I have purchased some polymer clay and tools. Now I just need time to use them. Thanks for an inspiring lens.

nolinel lm on June 20, 2011:

Great information thank you. It has tempted me to try some amateur sculpting...

http://www.squidoo.com/human-anatomy-course-by-dr-...

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on June 18, 2011:

This is great information. I've done a little polymer clay sculpting. Love playing with it and tend to use molds and cutters. I need to get it out and follow some of these great tutorials!

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