Tutorial Below (for the 2nd Attempt)! This page may update with additional faux opal polymer clay versions.
- Pardo Art Clay Translucent — It’s a keeper! I had to order most of mine online because the one store that carried it locally stopped doing so. Anyways, It’s nearly as transparent as glass in thinner, cured layers but very much like milky white, translucent faux opal in a much deeper bead like this. It can be dyed with tiny amounts of translucent alcohol inks for faux opals.
- Oven Temperature — This bead was baked at 300 – 315 (oven cycling temperatures and all ovens cycle) degrees F for 2 hours. This temperature is close to the ambering point for this clay but increases the clay’s transparency. An oven you can trust not to spike and an enclosed baking tin/pan with glossy ceramic tile in the bottom of it, are instrumental to avoiding buring your beads. Test your oven while empty, noting it’s temperature range during cycling and do at least one test bead and bake.
- Premo White Clay — It’s a great clay and I used it as a back layer of clay during the molding process. Unfortunately, some of it broke through to the bottom of the mold (the front of the bead) and it’s very opaque and isn’t opal-like. It does give contrast to the far more translucent Pardo Art Clay though.
- Arnold Grummer Iridescent Flakes — These are translucent yet flash colors at you as the glitter flakes catch the light. You can get white, green, and blue versions. These are ideal for faux opals due to these two characteristics. They can also be dyed with tiny amounts of translucent alcohol inks for faux opals, should you desire to do so (optional for faux opal).
- Darker and/or Opaque Glitter — I used Iced Enamels Susan LEhart Kazmer “Shattered Fire Opal.” Note: The Shattered Fire Opal is dark while the Shattered Opal is not. Anyway, darker glitter flakes are not attractive in this type of faux opal because while they glimmer “fire” at you with delightful plays of color, they also appear dark and opaque when not catching the light. The same is true of holographic glitter. Dark + Opaque = Contrary to this faux opal, so it won’t be used again for this. It’s probably fantastic in resins and such, and the website right on the label reads ww.iceresin.com. Yup. I had to try it. It said opal in it’s color title, he he. The Shattered Opal flakes of the same brand are light, translucent, and very prime for faux opal, however.
- Aztec Gold Pearl Ex Powder Impregnated Liquid Kato polymer clay — Totally optional. I don’t think I like it draping over the top of the bead after all.
First, some shots of the same bead to show translucency and opal fire.
I examined the real opal I have, noted its properties and imagined how I could make something close to what I was seeing. My father did lapidary and metal jewelry work when I was a kid, a lot of it had to do with Australian opals, and sometimes I got to participate. That background helped. After ambering one bead from this 2nd batch, I lowered the temperature 5 degrees F on my oven down to 298. That means it actually gets up to right around 300 to 315. I baked these for 2.25 hours at that temp. My bead is close to an inch at its thickest.
Don’t miss the variations at the end of the steps!
Note: I wore clean disposable gloves during the entire process and had cleaned my station first with alcohol wipes and then with light colored scrap clay. I wiped down the mat and the pasta machine this way. This helps ensure color integrity and translucency. Cutting enough clay to clay into the mold is easier if you use smaller, clean, sharp scissors rather than an X-Acto knife because of the glitter.
- Condition Your Clay — Condition three seperate pieces of Pardo Art Clay Translucent.
- Color Your Glitter Flakes — Color three seperate batches of Arnold Grummer Translucent Glitter Flakes in bright yellow, bright green, and blue-violet, using transparent Adirondack alcohol inks. Easy does it. I used those tiny paper dixie cups, probably filled it 1/3 and used one drop of ink to color. Stir right away, rapidly enough and thoroughly. As for brands, you can also use “Iced Enamels Susan Lenart Kazmer Shattered Opal” glitter flakes. The inks: http://rangerink.com/?product=tim-holtz®-adirondack®-alcohol-inks
- Color Your Clay — Optional! Color three seperate bits of the conditioned Pardo Art Clay Translucent with the same alcohol inks. Easy does it, that alcohol ink is strong. What I did was not even use a whole drop but I touched what leaked out of the ink nozzle to my gloved finger, almost let it dry, quickly touched it to the clay, let dry 30 seconds and then mixed the clay (about 2/3 to 3/4s of a paerdo art clay package for each color).
- Mix Clay and Glitter Flakes — Mix like colors and clay and flakes together — roll clay in the pasta machine, sprinkled with glitter, pat down, fold clay on itself, roll out, sprinkle with glitter, and do that until you’re satisfied with the amount of glitter. Then roll each color clay into seperate long ropes. As you work the clay, you pick up the escapee glitter flakes.
- Twist Ropes Together — Twist the three different colored ropes together tightly, scrunch them up tight getting the air out.
- Roll and Twist Once More, Then Half It — Roll the combined clay into a long rope, double it up on itself, twist it again, scrunch it up shorter while squeezing the air out to prevent air bubbles, cut in half lengthwise.
- Roll Each Half — Pinch the long end of each half of the cut rope and put it through the pasta machine starting from the 2nd thickest to the thinnest.
- Build Up Layers of Clay In Your Bead Mold — With a shallow mold, most cabochon molds for instance, you might run some of the translucent clay through the pasta machine on the very thinnest setting and lay that down in the mold first. This further prevents glitter from poking through. This tactic, however, has so far backfired in a bead mold such as this Goddess one. Tyhe clay tears and breaks as I try to place an even, thin layer in the deeper, more curved parts of the mold, so I end up laying down down more, and once baked, there is less glitter in the deepest, most curvy/shaped part of the mold, in thise case the breasts. So this is what you’ll do for deeper, more complexly shaped bead molds. You’ll skip the initial layer of plain transluent clay and go ahead and lay down bits of the sheets of the rolled out glitter clay. Tearing off appropriately sized sheets of the opal clay and press into a silicone mold. Press the layers together well. I used my molds I made from Amazing Mold putty.
- Color Trick, That Extra Touch — When about half way to 2/3s of the way filling bead in, add some color. In streaks, get a bit of interference type of Pearl Ex powder, it’s more translucent, in a clean synthetic brush and draw it across the exposed clay that’s already in the mold. You’re going for a hint of green or violet in a few streaks, they have to be sheer streaks too, and don’t coat all of the exposed clay. Continue filling the bead as before, laying the rolled clay in, in a relatively flat manner as much as possible.
- Fill Mold Until Clay is Flush — As you fill the bead, press the clay into the mold, until you build up enough depth and the clay is flush with the mold. You really want to smash it in there. This and having rolled the clay in a pasta machine helps prevent glitter from poking through the front of the bead, to a great degree. Smooth the back side of the bead and make sure the molds is filled properly.
- Place the Uncured Beads on a Light Colored Glossy Ceramic Tile — Pop the bead out back-side-down onto a glossy ceramic tile and bake in a covered container in your oven. This step assumes you tested both your oven and getting close to the 315 F ambering point of the Pardo Art Clay for maximum translucency — without actually ambering your bead. It also assumes you have figured out how not to burn your beads. I have glossy ceramic tiles on the bottom floor of my oven and inside a large covered metal tin. I additionallly cover the bead with polyfil to insulate it from the heat fluctuations during normal oven temperature cycling.
- Ice Bath — As soon as your bead is done, dunk it in an ice bath with silicone tipped tongs.
- Trim and Sand if Necessary — Trim off any glitter that might be sticking out around the back periphery of the bead, the only place they seem to stick out with this method, if they stick out at all, The problem of glitter sticking out is very minimal with this technique. You can use an X-Acto knife under a magnifying lamp to cut estremely close. Sand lightly with very fine sandpaper in the areas you had to cut away glitter poking out, if you like.
- Gloss — If you want more of a glossy look, buff the bead a bit or add a couple of thin layers of slightly diluted Varathane Water Based Interior Glossy (must be water based!) My daughter likes it when I add the glossy Varathane. I always rapidly quickly clean the beads with alcohol before adding Varathane but don’t soak the beads in alcohol as soaking in alcohol mars the translucency of the bead. The alcohol interacts with the bees wax then. So simply swiftly clean and dry the bead before the Varathane. I lightly sand with fine sand paper before applying each layer of Varathane. I make sure each layer of Varathane dried overnight before adding the next layer. I add up to three layers this way. More on sealers here. I’m not sure how well Kato Liquid Clay clear jives if applies on top of Pardo in a thin layer to add gloss, but I’m going to try that again as an alternative.
Variation to Experiment With …
- Color One — Color only one of the three portions of clay to begin with.
- Color None — Color none of the three portions of clay to begin with.
- Skinny Colored Rope Addition at Step 3 — With larger batches, you can double or triple the amount of clay used and when you get to step three, have the three ropes of clay rolled out but add an additional but very skinny colored rope for one, two or all three of the three main clay ropes.
- Skinny Colored Rope Addition at Step 6 — Do the same but add the skinny colored rope(s) at the point of step 6, meaning you’ve already rolled three portions out, twisted them, compacted them to get the air out, and you rolled the clay out into a long rope again. It’s at this point you’d add a skinny rope of colored clay.
- Streaks of Interference Color — Don’t color any of your clay with the alcohol inks but when you’re laying your clay in the mold, add a streak or two of very lightly applied interference color of Pearl Ex mica powder. Again, don’t cover the whole layer — just a barely there streak of color. Here’s a tip for loading more lightly loading the brush.
- Opal Glitter in Streaks Added at Molding Stage — Add additional Shattered Opal glitter flakes individually to make streaks, just not in the first layer or two of your bead (you don’t want the glitter streak smashed right to the front of the bead).
- Opal Glitter Streaks and Inteference Pearl Ex Streaks Working Together — Add the streaks of opal glitter flakes to where you laid down the barely-there interference mica powder streaks. Right on top of it.
- And More Interference Pearl Ex in Next Layer to Deepen Effect — Same as 7 only, with the next layer of clay add some more barely there interference powder.
- Stacked Lighter and Darker Streaks of Inteference Pearl Ex — Same as 7 only with multilayered interference mica powder colors, add the slightest hint of a lighter color, then the darker interference color in the next layer so it sits behind it. Avoid using colors on opposite sides of the color wheel so you don’t muddy/gray your bead’s color.
- Ultrafine Glow-in-the-Dark Glitter Touches — With streaks of barely there interference colors of mica powder, if they’re toward the back fo the bead, add some light colored, ultrafine glow-in-the-dark glitter. Just don’t make it the last layer at the back of the bead (the last layer you can lay down in the mold). Goes better behind green, orange, pink colors rather than purples or violets. Glow-in-the-dark is yellowish by nature and that’s on the opposite side of the color wheel as violet or purple and together, they might gray out the bead.
- Fantasy Film and/or Fantasy Fiber Additions — Not while laying down the first layer, but add “streaks” of crinkled fantasy film or snippets of fantasy fibers. Easy does it. It’s probably better to add the rare pieces rather than plaster the clay with the stuff — you want to enjoy the layers of translucency and overdoing it can ruin things. Don’t pick the darker, more opaque colors of fantasy film. Think opal. Do a visual search for all the variations of opal out there.
- Paper Bead Style — Great idea for completing a bracelet or necklace design that uses a focal faux opal bead like the above. Create paper bead template(s). Roll out translucent clay. Cut the paper bead shape from the clay with small, sharp craft scissors. Add Arnold Grummer glitter flakes or only smaller pieces of the Shattered Opal flakes as you roll along with fantasy fiber/film snippets, as you like and as what works. Roll onto skewer or appropriately colored glass tube beads. If the bead is thicker once done, you might stamp it with Pearl Ex Powder designs on both sides. Or not. Just don’t forget that you have to have a bead hole in the end. You may edge the clay with gold mica powder before or after rolling the bead. Trim any pesky glitter flakes if they poke out. Before or after baking, add additional minute finishing touches as you see fit in ways that lend to the overall jewelry design. How about those tiny glass/polymer beads in gold as trim on the tops or edges of the bead? What of bead caps that use tiny glass/polymer clay beads and/or the tiniest AB or other pretty rhinestones? Oh experimenting with this is going to be fun.
(Pictures to Come)
Clusters Embedded in Translucent Clay — Bake small clusters of alcohol ink colored Pardo Art Clay Translucent with similar colors of translucent glitter flakes. You can elongate all or some of the clusters. Minute, “easy does it” traces of matching interference colors added to the clay clusters and/or clay immediately surrounding the clay is optional. Once baked and cooled, add the color clusters to raw conditioned translucent clay and mold. Bake again. How much translucent clay you add to hold the clumps together and whether you use interference mica powders will change the finished look. Remember to bake at a higher temp, as described above.
I think you know what I’ll be doing for a while … between watching grandchildren, cleaning house, running errands, taking care of myself, and the 1001 things I do as a go-to person for family.
Binder of Faux Opal Examples with Notes
I’ll keep examples with notes stores in a trading card binder. You can pick up trading card binder pages even at Walmart.