MODELING POLYMER CLAY
In this article we are going to talk about how to model polymer clay in the most effective way, don’t miss some essential tips to keep in mind. We will give you some tips on how to work with this modeling clay and you will see what mistakes to avoid if you are a beginner.
FIRST TIPS BEFORE MODELING
This type of clay is a very special material with which you can achieve incredible results (remember that you can also consult our guide with all the basics about polymer clay).
Our first tip is to choose and adapt our “work area”.
Sometimes this clay will require some strength and pressure for modeling, especially if for some reason, for example, if we are at a low ambient temperature, it is harder than normal. To do this, it will be necessary to lean on a firm surface.
In addition, this area must be completely smooth, without irregularities, clean of traces of other materials such as grease, as well as clean of traces of clay of other colors, we must be careful that the piece does not adhere to this surface.
A table with a smooth surface, such as glass or any other polished material could be suitable. We can also rely on a silicone plate.
The hands: To be able to model they must be clean, obviously. Some artists use wet cloths to remove the remains of each color putty. Some use gloves, not so much for the colors, but to avoid leaving fingerprints (if the clay is very soft or hot) and a completely smooth finish is sought on the surfaces.
HOW TO WORK WITH THIS CLAY
The most suitable and comfortable will be to work a putty that has the appropriate hardness or malleability.
If some time has passed and it has hardened, it will be difficult to knead and mold it, having to use too much force and it will be difficult to achieve the right result.
If our polymer clay is too soft, it may stick to our fingers and the surface we are working on.
Well, let’s take a look at the solutions to these two problems, without forgetting that we must be careful not to go from one extreme to the other.
How to soften polymer clay:
Adding other material:
Depending on the brand, one material or another will be suitable to make the putty more malleable.
We can add a specifically manufactured softener. Many commercially available thinners can be purchased with the dough to soften it (it is also sometimes used to join pieces together).
Some oil may also be useful in some cases.
Another option is to surround it with wet wipes or even place it directly in water.
Add liquid polymer clay.
A few seconds in the microwave can be useful, also use a stove or a hot water bottle. This will soften the clay to the point we need.
Softening by mechanical methods:
If they have simply hardened a little, it will be enough to knead them with the hands, raising their temperature a few degrees, which will soften them.
If it is too hard to use our hands, we could use a roller or a rigid block to put pressure on it.
If not, something more drastic will be to wrap it and beat it carefully using some rigid object until it can be kneaded.
How to harden polymer clay:
Leaving it wrapped in paper will make it absorb the water and the fatty elements that the clay has, giving it greater hardness, although losing too many fatty elements may not be very good. It is like any other method, it is necessary to use it in the right measure. It will depend on the brand the necessary time, between 12 and 24h can be enough. We can always check the state of our putty regularly, before overdoing it.
If we are in a hurry to start modeling, we can always knead it between two layers of paper, stretching it for example with a rolling pin, thus making a kind of draining.
Just as heat softens it, conversely, polymer clay can be hardened by placing it in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes.
HOW TO MODEL POLYMER CLAY
Once we have our clay in the right state, neither too soft nor too hard and we are on the right surface, we can start working it.
First of all, we must be clear about the shape or figure we want to create, in order to plan what structure begin from.
The basic thing would be to familiarize ourselves with kneading it with our hands, giving it the right roundness, eliminating possible air bubbles by stretching it, pressing it again, creating a ball, and so on. We have to “get to know” this material.
On the table we can stretch the spherical shape we have and create a more elongated roll or cylinder by rolling it on the surface.
From this shape we can return again to something spherical, then we can flatten its faces on the table or with our hands to form something like a cube.
Whatever shape we make we can flatten it again on the table with our hands. Now if we want to make a flatter shape we should flatten the polymer clay a little more using a rolling pin.
The roll or cylinder shapes can be used by combining them together, making spirals or joining them at one end, because in the future, for example, they could be two legs.
Well, this would be a first idea of modeling some basic polymer clay shapes for beginners.
More modeling techniques:
We are going to talk here about modeling techniques, working the shape. These techniques are common to many other materials.
As we mentioned before, the piece can be pressed on the surface to create flat shapes. They can be superimposed on each other in different colors, rolled into a cylinder and then cut.
Using what is called the pinch technique, it is first given a rounded shape, as we were talking about, using the hands and once we have formed a ball, a hole is formed with the fingers, which is enlarged until a larger hole is made.
Of course, using tools we can employ many more techniques, let’s talk about them.
TOOLS FOR MODELING POLYMER CLAY
Many of the tools used for modeling polymer clay are the same as those used for traditional clay. In addition, some of them can be substituted with everyday household objects without the need to buy a special tool.
It is true that some are specific to this type of clay, such as the laminator and the rubber roller, but many are the same.
Let’s talk about what modeling accessories you may need.
Some people use a box cutter, because we all already have one, but it is uncomfortable, since most of the time you will have to remove the blades, and we can cut ourselves. The ideal is to buy rigid blades, there are several types, also with wooden handles.
In addition to blades there are what are called cutters for polymer clay, which are often used to obtain the shapes for making earrings.
Or also called precision cutter, some people use it to cut some shapes that would be in designs already made. You may need it in a while, it depends on the type of work you do.
Tools to work shape and surfaces:
There is an infinite number of tools for carving and modeling with metal ends of different shapes. Some are for making incisions, for hollowing, etc. They sell kits already with several different types that include rubber tipped pens, chisels (flat, angular), and many more tools that many of us do not know when we start, but then we see their usefulness.
Well, we usually have one at home, but for hygiene and, especially if we are going to be seduced by this special clay, it is ideal to have a dedicated one. There are those who have a sheeter and don’t need it, but it depends.
To remove imperfections and achieve better textures, some water sandpaper will come in handy. In any hardware store you can see the different weights and choose the right ones. There are also those who use a grinder to avoid making too much force with the sandpaper and bend the piece when it is not yet cooked.
A hand drill or a specific electric drill is used to avoid punches or needles, since pressing to make the hole can deform the pieces we are working on.
Elements to be used as structure:
Such as wires, aluminum foil, etc. They are used when we want to give solidity to the structure, for example, when joining pieces or also when we want to start from an “initial body” of another material to save clay.
They also help to give firmness to the piece when we are modeling and do not deform.
It replaces the roller when we want to make sheets of uniform thickness, or mix different colors. It also helps when it is difficult to knead the polymer clay if it is too hard, passing it through the laminator will make it easier.
This has been a tour of the modeling of polymer clay, we do not go into later stages, such as baking once the piece is created. To learn more about the characteristics of this clay and other materials, you have in our blog more articles that may be of interest to you:
A guide with everything you need to know about polymer clay. Ideal to start creating your first pieces at home.
The complete guide to resin figures. How to paint the pieces, types of resin…, and you will see incredible sculptures already finished.
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