This page is frequently updated at times.
If you’re strictly focused on sealing polymer clay jewelry with sealants, you may go to Blue Bottle Tree’s pages on the topic but my page here contains information and examples that she doesn’t and it may interest polymer clay artists who may choose to explore a little, expand their scope, or pick up a few prime tips from chosen resources.
The audience for this page includes:
- Polymer clay artists, so I’ll briefly cover sealing a variety of artist grade polymer clays
- Art Doll artists who may use very different hybrid or regular polymer clays from the majority of polymer clay artists
As for polymer doll clays, I think it prudent to mention that not all doll artists think it’s a good idea to use a spray sealant on their dolls and some, like Patricia Rose Studio, absolutely advise against it. She uses a lot of polymer doll clay that isn’t the hybrid type – a 1/3 cernit white to 2/3s ProSculpt polymer clay mix, for example. Then she paints them with oil-based Genesis Heat Set Paints, using Genesis heat set thinner and glaze. She mentions them 2xs on her tip page – under the “Firing Your Doll” and “Genesis Paints” sections. The Genesis heat set line includes Genesis Heat Set Permanent Matte Varnish (negates glossiness of Genesis heat set paints and mediums).
That brings me to the following, you know, since I mentioned doll sculpting clay.
Doll Sculpting Clay/Resin Mediums and Scope
Skip this section if not interested in art doll sculpting mediums.
Opinions on sealants vary because sculpting mediums do. Here’s a bullet list kind of quick scan of artist grade sculpting mediums art doll artists and other sculpting artists may use.
- Epoxy clays like Apoxie Sculpt – their official Apoxie Sculpt FAQ mentions painting and sealant
- Polymer art doll clays like Cernit Doll Clay (available at the Clay Factory for the US ), Prosculpt (available on the Art Dolls webpages), or Fimo Professional Doll (available here or here for the US, here for the UK, and here for Australia)
- Particularly strong, specialist air-dry polymer hybrid clays like Premier (not all air-dry clays were created equal and a lot of pages on air-dry clay are not especially cognizant of that, they don’t truly know the best ones for doll making – their comparisons are lacking enough critical criteria, knowledge, talent, or resulting experience)
- Air-dry paper clays Creative PaperClay, classified either as a scholastic or artist grade clay depending on the talent and skill set being used (more on that later)
- Ceramic Paper Clay (is kiln fired)
- Artist grade cold porcelain (not all cold porcelain is created equal either)
- 3D Printing mediums (often primed and airbrush painted with Golden Fluid Acrylics or paints and such used by the model building crowd)
Not all of the above list will be covered in relation to sealants on this page. That would be a book.
A Few Claying Tips Frequently Not Mentioned But That Really Matter
Skip this section if solely concerned about sealing polymer clay with sealant or resin.
Yeah, this isn’t about sealants or resin on clays but I feel compelled to add a little section on sculpting. Polymer clay and air-dry clays use different sculpting techniques. (Some of the following pages may mention sealing pieces or may link to ones that do.)
- Here’s a page on sculpting Premier clay, a hybrid, specialist, artist grade, air-dry doll sculpting clay. Amaco’s product .pdf file mentions that it accepts multiple sealants.
- Here’s part 1 and part 2 on how to sculpt with Creative PaperClay. Obviously, it’s an artist grade clay when used by artist like Ellen Harris or the late Robert McKinley who even wrote the much coveted book, “Sculpting Dolls in Paperclay” but may conversely be categorized as a scholastic air-dry clay simply because that’s the more common setting in which it’s used and/or art product stores may not know any better, not being very familiar with all things art doll. It accepts multiple sealants.
- Here’s a really nice beginner page on a variety of polymer clays for a variety of artists so you know which clays to use or not to use, for your needs. Polymer clays and sealants is a more complicated topic.
- Here’s nice page on sculpting art dolls in artist grade polymer clay. Almost all official polymer doll clay sites fail to mention use of sealants. Arrrrgh!
Now I feel I should mention some additional preemptive tips that a lot of people leave out but that will really matter when working with polymer clay.
- Clothes — Avoid wearing fuzzy, fiber shedding garments like sweaters or bathrobes while claying.
- Environment — Polymer clay seems to suck fibers, hair, and dust right out of the air so don’t set up your polymer clay station right next to your dryer and cats favorite resting spot. I did that when I first started. Also, you may want to keep your doll wigging station far away from your cleaning station for the same reasons. I did that too.
- Cleaning — Dust then vacuum, in that order, about half an hour before you clay. Whatever bits that that were scared up into the air by cleaning will have a chance to settle.
- Storage & Wipe-down — To further combat fibers, hairs and dust getting in your clay, keep your plymer clay packages within Ziploc baggies that are stored within sealed boxes polymer clay packages within Ziploc baggies that are stored within sealed boxes or drawers , cabinets, or drawers. Quickly wipe down the parts of the sealed boxes or drawers , cabinets, or drawers that you touch before getting your clay out. Wet wipes are great for that and I add a little rubbing alcohol to mine in the studio.
- Tools, Etc. Storage —When not in use, store your clean tools in a sealed container or somehow cover them up. In fact that’s a good idea for anything that will be used on your raw, polymer clay
- Hand Washing — Wash you hands thoroughly before claying.
- Dedicated Scrap Polymer Clay —Dust and wipe off your clay area, and once dry then wipe it down with a scrap piece of polymer clay dedicated to this purpose.
If you didn’t know these tips, I just saved you a lot of trouble. You’re welcome. Here are some more beginner polymer clay tips from Blue Bottle Tree and here is her page specific to dust in relation to polymer clay.
And Now, The General Topic of Sealants on Artist Grade Polymer Clays
This section is for a variety of polymer clay artists, including polymer clay jewelry artists.
First, know your polymer clays, choose the right one for your needs, then consider that polymer clay itself doesn’t have to be sealed but some surface effects do, like mica or other dry powders (but Perfect Pearls mica powder may not have to be sealed, not all mica powders are equal). If you do decide to seal your polymer clay, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
- Please refer to Blue Bottle Tree’s pages about sealants on general use polymer clays — all her pages with the sealant tag. She updates periodically, yay! She even covers how the same sealant may act differently on different clays and goes over a variety of criteria in relation to that. For full results on all sealers, check her google docs spreadsheet here.
- Pardo Polymer Clay Note: Pardo polymer clays, which come in Art, Jewelry, Transparent, and Mica sold on Poly Clay Play are not covered by Blue Bottle Tree’s above google docs spreadsheet. I had trouble applying both resin and a sealant like Water-based Indoor Varathane on Pardo clay but then Pardo is a bit of a different polymer clay in that it contains beeswax in its composition.
- Generally, manufacturers of art products don’t always announce reformulations and may not anticipate how they will affect various artist materials like, polymer clay. Reformulations of one or more products may mean they may not play well together anymore.
- Polymer clays have undergone industry-wide reformulations, sometimes numerous ones and they too are not necessarily known to consumers.
- A Bit of Background: In 2006-2008 and since, numerous brands of polymer clay reformulated numerous times, first to take out phthalates (certain type of plasticizer) and then to purportedly to improve clays. Some sealants have also been reformulated, for other reasons. It’s reasonable to expect that all these changes may account for sometimes contradictory reported results. http://www.garieinternational.com.sg/clay/shop/fimo_new_formula.htm
- Resin or sealant, if used, should be applied to baked/cured/dry prepped clay. Resins are damaged at polymer clay baking temperatures, could interfere with air-dry clay drying properly, and bare polymer clay should be baked and prepped (briefly wiped with rubbing alcohol) before resin is applied. Sealants may also interfere with clay drying properly or may bubble or fill the air with noxious fumes if heated in an oven. Etc. All sorts of issues.
- With sealants, spray or otherwise, it’s possible to get very different results using the same sealants and clays because people may be using different ages, and therefore formulations, of the same clay, sealant, or both.
- Example: For a while, before our 2017 house fire, I was using a can of Patricia Nimrock’s Clear Acrylic Sealer that was about 10 years old. Additionally, I was sometimes working with 10+ years old polymer clay. Spray sealants and polymer clays in general had undergone reformulations since those production dates. Therefore, for a while, I was successfully using that spray on my polymer clay beads while others using more recently purchased spray and polymer clays weren’t. They got different results.
- Not all resource pages tested more recently purchased polymer clays at the time they were written. The date of your resource page may matter for the above reasons. Not all artists testing products have the same time, resources, and situations on hand.
- Had my house not burned down, I probably would be still be using my older clay. I stored my clay carefully – double to triple sealed, protected from light exposure, and in a home with central air that didn’t experience internal temperatures outside a certain clay-friendly range. The older polymer clay formulations stayed workable for years longer if kept with exquisite care.
- Blue Bottle tree has the resources and time to more extensively test an array of newer clay and sealants (resin, liquid polymer clays, spray and bottled sealants).
- Additionally, what audience(s) is a web page addressing? That can make a huge difference because, for example, hybrid polymer doll clays might be very different from general use polymer clays when treated with sealants.
- You don’t always know how long clay has sat on store shelves or their storage – product turnover can vary from store to store.
- Many spray sealants tend to have a strong odor unsuitable for wearing close to your body. Some of my test beads smelled of the spray sealant even years later. I’ve noticed that some people can’t smell it much or at all while it may really bother the next person, to the point of headache with some people.
- As for the shimmery mica powder effects on polymer clay, most matte finishes bring it’s look down a few notches or even by a lot. I found the above Lascaux spray, a museum quality finish, did so the least. But is it good to wear against skin? I have yet to test coating Lascaux spray with jewelry resin, but that’s coming up.
In the polymer clay world, some sealants may chemically interact with and change the surface of a polymer clay, making it permanently tacky or even downright gooey. A sealant that works on one or more polymer clays may not work well with others.
- Check reliable resources on the topic.
- It’s a good idea to test, test, test your particular combination of products.
- Check for chemical reactions at one month, 6 months, and even a year after application.
- Some spray sealants create droplets and alter the mica powder appearance for the worse. It’s yet another reason to do test pieces. Know your products. Know how to use and clean spray cans.
- Some people keep physical and written records – binders or boards of test pieces with notes (products, methods, date, date checked, results).
Got to Mention Resin and Polymer Clay
Increasingly I’m looking into coating or even embedding polymer clay beads and pendants in resin.
Blue Bottle Tree also disccesses using resin on polymer clay here but her audience is more the polymer clay bead crowd than an art doll maker audience, so her website focuses on general use polymer clays and not ones like Premier, a hybrid air-dry polymer doll making clay. She has a google spreadsheet that compares an array of sealants on polymer clay but excludes resins. As I read this page, she does not have such a spreadsheet comparing resins on polymer clay.
Here is a video that compares how much commonly used resins yellow or amber when exposed to light and heat. It was conducted by an independent lab. You can see a screenshot of the comparison chart here.
Now for resource pages on specific resins:
- Art Resin (a brand name) comes out on top as least yellowing, and while it says it’s not a casting resin and is ideally laid down in 1/8 inch layers, I have seen numerous artists successfully use Art Resin for casting jewelry resin pieces.
- And Ooh La La, here is an extensive Art Resin question and answer page.
- Art resin also has an FAQ page 1 and FAQ 2 that covers sealing and embedding and more. (Art Resin’s heat tolerance goes as high as 120F or 50C, in case you were wondering about baking an Art Resin and polymer clay piece because other resins will amber if baked.)
- Here is a great wealth of information, in a 22 minute video, on how to use Lisa Pavelka’s Magic-Glos UV Resin, by Lisa Pavelka.
- Here’s video on using Tiny Pandora DeepShine UV brush on resin on polymer clay. It doesn’t curl thinner polymer clay pieces as many UV resins do.
- But what about nail polish? You have to be specific. Nail polish in general no, but wait, “You can use UV-cure nail gel on polymer clay, in fact. Clear UV-cure topcoats are a great way to get a clear coating on polymer clay.” Born Pretty UV resin gel, a nail top coat, is mentioned.
Below are a few resources on how to make resined jewelry surfaces more matte. I love matte.
- Resin Obsession
- Resin Obsession’s Youtube Video
- Bead Inspirations – regarding Magic-Glos
- Poly Clay Play – regarding Magic-Glos
- Crafter’s Delights Youtube Video
- Art Resin (skip the tung oil and food grade cutting board wax part of the process regarding resin jewelry)
- While the above speak to sanding techniques, there are also matte resin formulations like Solarez UV Cure Matte Finish Doming Resin
At least one brand of jewelry resin is more matte if you wipe the cured surface with 91% rubbing alcohol, I sadly forget which one at the moment.
A Few Polymer Clay Friendly Sealants, Some of them Spray Sealants, for Sealing Art Dolls
I add this very brief coverage here since many resource pages don’t focus on art doll clays and sealants used, if any. Paints are mentioned in this section because you can’t use a water-based sealant over oil-based stuff.
Note: I previously covered different art doll clays and clay type-specific sculpting tips in my above “A Few Claying Tips Frequently Not Mentioned But That Really Matter” section.
- Polymer clay art doll artists may seal their dolls with oil-based Genesis Heat Set Permanent Varnishes if using Genesis heat set paints which are also oil-based. This I have not used yet.
- Premier accepts multiple sealants.
- Lascaux — Artist grade sealants that won’t yellow, comes in museum quality sprays and liquids. Check out the link. I got mine on Dick Blick and Jerry’s Artarama.
- Air-dry clay art doll artists may use either water-based Indoor Varathane or other brand spray can sealants if using a hybrid air-dry clay like Premier or a paper clay like Creative PaperClay and they’ve painted their doll with water-based paints and mediums.
- Some examples of acrylic paint choices include:
- Delta Creative Ceramcoat
- Americana Multi-Surface Acrylic Paint (let dry a few weeks or bake according to manufacturer’s directions)
- Golden Professional Heavy Body or Fluid Acrylics. Golden fluid acrylics can also be airbrushed on.
- Some miniature and model paints like Vallejo
- Some examples of acrylic paint choices include:
- Water-based Indoor Varathane comes in matte, satin, and gloss in pint sized containers.
- It works great on polymer clay art dolls, just clean your doll before painting with water-based products on baked polymer clay surfaces. You do that because baked polymer clay initially has a bit of oily residue.
- It’s also used on thoroughly dry air-dry paper or resin clays. Varathane can be airbrushed or brushed onto your doll. I got my water-based Indoor Varathane at my local Menards (home improvement store).
- Premier clay is often a favorite hybrid polymer-fiber-stone clay for doll makers and it has it’s pros and cons. Premier clay is formulated like LaDoll clay, but contains an additional polymer binder that makes it tougher and stronger. It’s so strong, it’s often used to make ball-jointed art dolls.
Spray Sealants Sold in Spray Cans
Note: For possible incompatibility, always check your results at several days, weeks, and again at 6 months. Check for any tackiness.
- PYM II — shiny and no out of production. Drats! Whyyy?
- Lascaux Fixative Matte UV Protect II Spray Sealant — Tested (2016 to 2017) on a variety of general use polymer clays — remained matte and still not tacky on different polymer clays old and new (listed below) even 12 months later!
- Museum Quality “Lascaux UV Protect 2 Fixative/Sealant In Matt” Was Tested On Different Polymer and Other Clays (Mostly Polymer Clays): An Ultralight and Premo mix, Amaco Cold Porcelain, Fimo Effect colors, 10+ years old Premo, Cernit, Liquid Sculpey in gold, Studio by Sculpey, more old Premo, Original Sculpey in Terra Cotta, Pardo Jewelry Clay, more Premo from different years, fresh Yellow Gold Glitter Premo, older Premo clays again, Super Sculpey, Polyform Model Air Porcelain, fresh Premo, fresh Sculpey Soufflé, Puppen Fimo (doll clay, now called Fimo Doll Professional polymer clay), Cernit Doll Collection polymer clay. That means there are only two commercially prepared cold porcelain clays and the rest are polymer clays. Among these test pieces are the following finishes: Golden brand micaceous iron oxide acrylic paint, metallic acrylic paints (Folk Art, Viva Precious Metal Colour, DecoArt Dazzling Metallics), Pearl Ex mica powder, Perfect Pearls mica powder, Adirondack Alcohol Ink. #lascauxfixativ #spraysealants #polmerclay #lascaux2 #testingspraysealantsonpolymerclay #periodicchecks #testing #thorough
- Will wear off with heavy wear. Perhaps spray first, let dry two days, then seal with a quality two-part resin (Ice Resin, Art Resin). Then also wet sand the resin to make that layer more matte if that’s what you want.
- Mr. Super Clear Spray UV Cut Flat — For hybrid Premier Clay not regular polymer clay — mat (more so on some clay than others)
- Duncan Super Matte — For hybrid clay called Premier Clay not regular polymer clay — not an absolute true mat on some surfaces (like polymer clay)
Again, For Clarity’s Sake
I’ve especially heard a lot of good things from the BJD and repaint doll communities about Mr. Super Clear Spray UV Cut (Flat), specifically. Reportedly, people who have dolls worth a thousand dollars or more really trust this stuff, say it has a very fine spray (could it be used on mica powders then?) and doesn’t alter their work. They seem to have specific preferences/tolerances for finishes on their work that not everyone shares. C’est la vie (that’s life).
Keep in mind this particular subgroup is using clays like Padico La Doll Premier Clay, a strong air-dry stone clay know in professional art doll and other sculpting circles the world over. Some call Premier clay a polymer clay, others a stone clay, and others say it contains tiny fibrous material. It’s a little of all three.
If you look at the ingredients on Premier clay’s MSDS, it’s ingredients are listed as “Inorganic fine, hollow particles Inorganic powder, Fiber, Aqueous paste, Surfactant Antiseptic agent, Water.” The polymer portion(s) are somewhere in there, as are the stone and other portions of this air-dry hybrid polymer clay.
Other Candidates for Spray Sealants on Polymer Clay?
I have so far seen only one mention that Blair Spray Clear, which comes in Gloss and Matte, is another quality spray sealant that supposedly can work on polymer clay. From product reviews, it’s said that this product is not as smelly as other spray sealants generally are. I have some and find that to be somewhat true. It still smells. She also isn’t telling us if she checked her work months after creation, an important note because sometimes the detrimental chemical reaction between spray sealants and polymer clay happens more slowly. I have not so far risked it on polymer clay and the person who said it works well with it isn’t telling us whether her polymer clay work was protected by a coat of paint or other surface treatment.
Australian Art Doll Artist, Amanda Day reports using Boyle Matt Spray Finishing Sealer (www.boyleindustries.com.au) on polymer clay. She’s the only one who’s reported using that particular spray on polymer clay, specifically, as far as I can tell, and I’m not sure what subsequent testing she’s done in regards to this use. From other mentions, it isn’t as mat as the other above mat sprays. As for potentially using this spray sealant over mica powders, I don’t know about that because it reportedly can darken other powders. I’m also not sure it’s available outside of Australia.
Some of the information on polymer clay sealants was originally on my tutorial on how to make polymer clay mica powder covered goddess beads.