Polymer Clay Basics
Before you jump in to one of our DIY Kits, here's a beginner's guide to polymer clay. If nothing else, please read the section on baking to ensure your creation cures properly.
Proper baking is essential! Before baking your project, use a separate thermometer to ensure your oven is steadily at the right temperature. We highly recommend you monitor your oven, checking the separate thermometer, every few minutes until you feel confident enough to bake your piece. You may have to experiment; check out this article by The Blue Bottle Tree if you'd like to read about this topic in further depth.
Baking temperatures vary brand to brand. For our DIY Kits, bake at 275 Degrees Fahrenheit or 135 Degrees Celsius and for every 1/4" of thickness, bake for 30 minutes. We recommend you bake your project from our kits for an hour to ensure your creation cures as intended.
Create a tent out of foil that covers your project.
Bake on a sheet of printer paper on a ceramic tile.
Place your project in the center of the oven with as much distance from the heating element as possible
Make sure there is proper air flow so that the heat can circulate properly
If your project comes out underbaked, you can bake it again; if this doesn't work, raise your temperature by 5 to 10 degrees and bake again
Before you start any project, you will want to do what is referred to as "conditioning" the clay. Simply put, you will want to make the clay more malleable. Roll it in your hands and knead. A pasta machine is also a very helpful tool; just make sure it's for clay-use only. Roll the clay through the machine like you would dough for pasta.
A general rule of thumb is once you have a "sheet" of clay and fold it over and it doesn't crack, it's ready to go.
If you have old clay that is very dry and hard, hope is not lost! It may take some time, but with enough conditioning you can bring it back to life. Sometimes I will put my clay in a plastic bag, add drop of clay softener or baby oil, and use a hammer to flatten it.
You can mix your own custom shades of polymer clay by combining colors. If you mix a shade you like, I recommend jotting it down like a recipe so you can recreate it later! I weigh how much amount of each clay color and brand I use. Just keep in mind, if you mix two brands of polymer clay that have varying baking temperatures, bake at the lower baking temperature for a longer time.
A fun way to add extra dimension to your projects is to shade with chalk pastels. The chalk pastel will need to be in a powder form. You can grab the pastel and shave small amounts off at a time. I shade many of my creations so I prep this ahead of time; I put the pastel in a plastic bag and use a hammer until it is completely powder and then I transfer to a small container. To apply, use a paint brush. You can also paint polymer clay with acrylic paints after baking.
To get started, you really don't need too many tools. Some of my favorites, though, are a needle tool and varying sizes of ball tools (shown above). A pasta machine is a game changer, but again not necessary. A tooth brush is for certain textures. Get creative! Many common household items can be used in replace of more pricey tools.
If you find lint in you clay (or pet hair. My cat looooves to be close by as soon as I get my clay out) rubbing alcohol is a life saver! I keep a stash of Q-tips for whenever I need to clean things up with alcohol. This practice is also great for smoothing out fingerprints if you're trying to make things look real professional.
I try to avoid this as much as possible as it is a chemical but it's good to know if you're in a bind after baking; 100% Acetone does wonders for removing bubbles or lint after baking. Rub a Q-tip gently until it dissolves the issue.
For more in depth blog posts about each topic and more, I can't recommend The Blue Bottle Tree's Blog out enough. Happy claying!