The Fine Art Air-Dry and Polymer Clay Market Can Be Confusing for the Beginner to Intermediate Artist

What this page is and isn’t about — It’s about fine art air-dry and polymer clays. It’s not about ceramic, cold porcelain, resin clay, epoxy clays, or any kiln-cured products.

This page was written after reading https://www.reviewstream.com/reviews/?p=155083#thoughts-box, which was about Premier clay, which is an artist grade air-dry clay, and the beginner’s needs and understandable confusion.

For jewelry making, Premo!, Fimo Classic, Kato, and Cernit are some of your better choices of oven-cured polymer clays –they’re durable enough and do not have to be sealed unless certain surface treatments (mica powders like Pearl Ex or Perfect Pearls…) require it. See: https://thebluebottletree.com/seal-polymer-clay/

Durability… While people making charms often use various air-dry clays, they usually don’t construct bracelets or rings out of air-dry clays. Jewelry may take much more wear and tear.

Seal it or not? As a rule, air-dry clays generally have to be sealed once dry and finished but oven-cured polymer clays don’t. (Two-part epoxy clays don’t have to be sealed but although they’re often called air-dry, they actually cure by chemical reaction and may even be able to cure under water. They’re not true air-dry clays.)

Cracks in Premier clay.… Cracks don’t mean your air-dry clay is weak. Premier is one of the strongest air-dry clays. Nearly all air-dry clays have some shrinkage and Premier is no exception, although it shrinks less than some air-dry clays. Having a good armature, if armature is necessary, and using minimal amounts of water while sculpting with Premier can decrease the likelihood or severity of cracks. Sometimes cracks happen but they’re easily be repaired with Premier, even if your item dried. See the below video. Cracks may occur if you added too much water while sculpting, used a cardboard armature, used thin clay over a rigid armature (Ostrich legs, for example), let your item dry too quickly, or didn’t support sculpture parts subject to gravity. Don’t dry your Premier clay items under a fan, for example. Do remember to keep unused clay in an air-tight bag and/or container.

For figurative works, Premix, an air-dry clay made by the same company as Premier, is easier to sculpt and blend than Premier. Doll artist Hannie Sarris loved Premix clay. Premier clay may take some different sculpting techniques than what one would be used to with polymer clay and one uses minimal (!) amounts of water are used while sculpting Premier. People working with these air-dry clays might lightly dab their fingers across a wet sponge to keep clay moist enough while sculpting. They may use a mister type of water bottle. Do not use Sculpey Clay Softener or any type of oil to soften, smooth, and blend these air-dry clays — they are hybrid clays and have their own characteristics, sculpting techniques, storage and compatibility considerations. They’re not like the majority of polymer clays that are oven-cured (e.g., Fimo Classic, Fimo Soft, Cernit, Fimo Doll, Premo!). They’re not like most air-dry clays on the market. They are used by a number of very famous art doll artists and others.

So yes, there are indeed air-dry polymer clays — Activa Lumina Translucent Polymer Clay, Staedtler Fimo Air Basic Modeling Clay, and Activa LaDoll Premier clay are examples of air-dry polymer clays. Activa, the company that makes laDoll Premier clay, describes Premier clay as a type of polymer clay on their site. Lumina has long been known to the polymer clay community. Fimo Air Basic is weaker than either of those.

Polymer clays have their own issues — Dirt, lint, hair, compatibility issues, and baking considerations (always monitor your oven with two oven thermometers, not counting the oven’s own temperature reading). If you look at it that way, a few easily repaired cracks in Premier clay items isn’ts a bad deal.

Sculpey Diluent, AKA liquid Sculpey Clay Softener, works with oven-cured polymer clays, specifically, and not with air-dry polymer clays. Here’s the Sculpey Clay Softener Material Safety Data Sheet: https://www.sculpey.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Clay-Softener-SDS-10282015.pdf

In contrast, Makin’s, Hearty, Das, “cold porcelain” clays, Creative Paperclay, Celluclay, and epoxy putties are not polymer clays no matter who describes them as such.

For a whole lot of information on all things polymer and air-dry clay, see:

…Or go to clay manufacturers’ sites and hit their FAQs and MSDS pages. I wish there were sculpting, storage, compatibility, MSDS and other information (to seal or not to seal) with each clay package that one takes home, but that’s sadly not the case.

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The Mad Art Doll Sculptor Experiments — A PaperClay-Premier Slurry Mix (Slip)

He-he-ho-ho-ha-ha! Mwha-ha-ha-ha-ha-HA!

It’s kind of like that for a few seconds but then days (and into some mornings) were spent examining many different art doll mediums, sculpting techniques, youtube videos, and pinterest pins. But you know, that initial glee does infuse a peaceful and intense joy into hours of research.

Related Pinterest Boards

I’ve built up little libraries on my Pinterest boards. It’s not all the usual, so you may want to check these boards out.

La Doll Premix Clay, an Air-Dry Clay

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/444941638163831573/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/444941638163831549/

Official sites refer to La Doll Premix as a stone clay, a paper clay, and a polymer clay  — a hybrid clay! It has paper pulp in it as well as two types of finely ground stone – talc and pumice. It also has other stuff in it that allows it to dry to artist grade strength and you can make hollow dolls with it just as you can with La Doll Premier clay. Premix is a proprietary mix of La Doll Stone (often just referred to as “La Doll) and La Doll Premier, their most advanced clay. It is stronger than if a customer mixed the two, I’m not sure how.

Unfortunately, I can’t find Premix locally and shipping costs are financially prohibitive so I turned to an experimental mix.

Considering Air-Dry Clays … Paperclay and Premier

I have some delightful polymer doll clays (Cernit, Puppen Fimo), but have become quite fascinated with the air-dry clays suitable for art dolls, mainly Padico La Doll Premier, one of if not the strongest air-dry clay on the market. (Clays that seem to dry in the air but that really cure by chemical reaction not included.)

Air-dry Clay Directory: http://newclaynews.blogspot.com/p/adc-brands.html

Many of the renowned figurative art doll artists on my pinterest  boards use these two air-dry clays. Others most commonly use artist grade polymer doll clays, often Cernit and Fimo.

Air-dry Clay Slip … What For?

Padico makes Premier, Premix, and La Doll (meaning their original Stone clay) and  La Doll Cloth Clay, a clay slurry/slip version of Premier air-dry clay, essentially.

Slurry, n. — a semiliquid mixture, typically of fine particles of manure, cement, or coal suspended in water.

In the ceramics world, clay slurry is referred to as “slip.” It’s used to coat or join pieces. It’s also a handy way of recycling dried up bits of clay, as they can be rewetted (providing they weren’t fired, I presume).

The Cloth Clay page states: It is a liquid air-dry clay sure to inspire some new styles of doll crafting. It can be used in a manner similar to the clay-over-cloth technique currently used by many cloth doll crafters or used for draping fabric on a sculpted clay figure. It can also be used like a clay slip, to fill small holes or cracks on finished surface of a sculpted figure.

If you go to the video on youtube, “Japan ‘Ichimatsu’ doll Making (without subtitle),” you’ll notice they’re working with a surface clay made of pulverized shells (must not breath in while dry!) and do wonders with clay slip. They don’t just use it to join things like the ears. They also use it to create the eyes — to embed the eyes. They later carve them out in a highly stylized way. Captivating.

Ecorche (sculpting of the muscles, often over a wire armature), such as what sculptor Julian Kohr accomplishes, involves sculpting the fatty padding and skin for a more realistic appearance.

https://youtu.be/SXmtItK9SmE

Can an art doll artist do that with Premier and other artist grade air-dry doll clays, maybe like this at times? It’s a WIP (work in progress) by russian art doll artist extraordinaire, Михаил Зайков (Michael Zajkov). Such an approach would better portray all sorts of people — young, old, female, male, active, inactive and an artist could better portray the body as a living, breathing, body, a person with a story.

The Questions, They Burn!
  1. Why not do an adapted version of ecorche and then dip the sculpture in a clay slurry to add fat/skin?
  2. Why not dip armature in a clay slurry to start coating the armature with clay?
  3. Why not, at various stages, dip WIPs in clay slurry to smooth things out and bulk things up at the same time?
  4. Will slurry be smoother and easier, more magical, than traditional additive and/or subtractive methods, litterally and figuratively, pardon the pun? If it is, can a slurry open doors when working with air-dry clays? Is it part of how to work air-dry clays masterfully? Is it part of that toolbox?

Slurry Creation, a 3:1 Mix, and Testing it Out

https://youtu.be/ri6UQKRJZPU

I got two larger jars, put in a block each of Creative PaperClay in one jar and Padico La Doll Premier clay in the other, in chunks. I then added water and tried to break the clay down  and create that magical slurry. Apparently, that was going to take forever so I transferred the clay and water to a blender and added enough water to make smooth slurry of each kind of clay. I added cling wrap over each open jar then closed the lids.

I started testing. I wanted slurries to provide a smooth and an even enough coat and then sanding can take care of the rest.

  1. PaperClay slurry was too gritty in a coarse way.
  2. Premier clay slurry was so smooth and gelatinous-like that it bunched up when I tried to smoothly apply it over a sheet of paper with a brush. Nope. Neither were quite what I wanted.
  3. A mix of the two?! In mad scientist mode, I got a trusted dual ended measuring spoon out — a teaspoon on one end and a tablespoon on the other end, and made a 3:1 Creative PaperClay Premier clay mix, meaning one part Premier (1 t) and three parts PaperClay (1 T). “T” is for tablespoon and “t” is for teaspoon.  I mixed it up well, applied with a brush to paper, applied it to a papier-mache egg, filled a mold with it, and dipped a wooden skewer in it.
    1. The 3:1 molded clay slurry has dried.
      1. Dried, the molded clay slurry is close to a thin wafer like medallion and it broke easily. Curious, it’s strong if it’s coating something, even a thin wooden skewer normally used in BBQing, and is whacked against something hard but if strong shearing force is applied, if on its own, the dried 3:1 clay slurry breaks. So it has some kinds of strength but not others. Unless someone tried to snap doll in two, dried slurry remains incredibly strong. This is a vote for using this slury as part of the sculpting process, but only in thin layers over something else — the first coating of armature, coating musculature to soften appearance, adding sculpted eyebrows/moles/elbow skin. I will not use it for joining limbs, other body parts, or digits. It’s a vote for either decreasing amount of Creative Paperclay slurry in the mix or switching to a premade slurry of eithre La Doll Stone (regular) or La Doll Premier. The slurry for La Doll Premier is called Padico Cloth Clay. I just now ordered some Padico Cloth Clay for $11.20 US dollars. I must compare, of course.
    2. The clay slurry dried on the wood, paper, and papier-mache very nicely, stayed put, dried overnight, and sands ever so easily.
    3. Strength and other qualities will be continually checked as I use this mix.
    4. The clay slurry I haven’t mixed will be kept separate by brand and used with the clay it’s made from…unless I mix it for certain purposes. I don’t know if I will?
    5. Two coats of 3:1 slurry on a wooden skewer, letting the first dip dry overnight before dipping again, made the stick at least twice as thick as its original width. It does not easily chip off even though I whacked the coated skewer against many surfaces many times.
    6. One coat of 3:1 slurry dried on paper does crack and separate one dry when you fold the paper.
    7. Testing of brand-pure, 3:1, and other ratio mixes of slurry will be dried over armature and tested.
    8. Putting clay slurry in a thin line squeeze bottle to write, create brows, create moles and other details is still a monstrously good idea. I was incredibly pleased with the results.

Conclusion

I am more interested in Premier, Cloth Clay, and Premix than ever. Premix is not available locally or from many o the major art supplies online stores.

The book Yoshida Style Ball Jointed Doll Making Guide, by Ryo Yoshida just arrived. I got it for 20-something US dollars, a good price. It came weeks early, a rather pleasant surprise. Now I must find help with translation or find ready-made translations of chapters online. No one’s Japanese here is that strong.

Strongest Air-Dry Clay for Sculpting Art Dolls?

Note: This page doesn’t cover all the wonderful Japanese resin clays (not to be confused with casting resin). I don’t find them readily available in the US, have no experience with them, don’t know if they’re even suitable for sculpting figurative fine art dolls, but see them used for creating jewelry charms.

Artist Grade Air-dry Clays

Some of the artist grade air-dry clays are great choices for creating artist dolls. They are generally messier to work and unused clay must be sealed in a plastic bag  that the air has been squeezed out of, and then stored in an air-tight container. Finished dolls are usually painted and sealed.

Some Top Artist Grade Air-dry Clays for Professional Art Doll Artists, Specifically, in Canada, the US, Europe, and Russia

In order of strength:

  • Premier by La Doll — Strongest
  • Premix by La Doll — 2nd Strongest — Easier to sculpt than Premier
  • La Doll  Satin Smooth Natural Stone Clay — Often simply called Satin Smooth —  Third Strongest
  • Creative Paperclay (official blog!) — Fourth Strongest — Least Strong Of These Four Choices Here But Certainly Strong Enough for Some Sculpting Shapes and Sizes

To recap, of the air-dry clays Premier is the strongest, followed by Premix, La Doll, and then Creative Paperclay. Premix is very close to Premier’s strength though, considering the whole range of air-dry clays.

Both Premier and Premix are strong enough for hollow sculptures as well as fingers, toes, ears, etc, that won’t easily break off. Premier is the most advanced clay. Premier cracks the least while drying.

Creative Paperclay is pretty sturdy except fingers and smaller part that project out will be more susceptible to breakage. All of these clays, since they dissolve in water, should be sealed once the sculpture is finished.

Top doll artists use artist grade air-dry clays like Creative PaperClay, Premier, La Doll, and Premix. Both BJD (ball jointed doll) artists and other art doll artists use these clays. The late Hannie Sarris mastered both Premier and Premix by LaDoll, but came to favor Premix. You can witness many of their works via my Pinterest page on Art Dolls and Spirit Dolls here.

Where to Find These In the US:

Which Formula is Stronger, More Advanced?

From what I can tell from the more reputable sites, professional art doll artist input, and company descriptions, LaDoll Premier is indeed the most advanced and strongest of their three clays, and Premier is stronger and smoother than Creative PaperClay, the latter which is made by a different company. So, from what I can put together from all the input, Padico’s La Doll Premier airy-dry clay is the strongest, smoothest, and most advanced air-dry clay commonly available in the US (and possible Europe). It’s also the stiffest to sculpt, which is why, I suspect, the late Hannie Sarris, doll maker extraordinaire, worked with Padico to develop La Doll Premix. Premix has properties of both Premier and Stone but is finer than Stone but has more pliability, making it easier to scupt than Premier alone, presumably.

Note that while La Doll Premix is advertised as being so strong that it can be used to make hollow objects, hollow BJD (Ball Jointed Doll) parts for example, a lot of very successful art doll artists, including BJDers, have already been using la Doll Premier for hollow parts and have been doing so with great success. Also, while Padico made their La Doll Premix stronger than what any artist could mix up using La Doll Premier and La Doll Stone, meaning they did something to their proprietary mix and they charge more for that, they still describe La Doll Premier as their strongest and most advanced clay.

So Premix is a mix of Premier and Stone but is stronger than what you could make mixing those two clays, it’s neither more advanced nor stronger than Premier alone. That’s what I could surmise by looking at all the official sites and professional doll artists feedback. Premix sadly isn’t available locally and I have to use what I already have, which is La Doll Premier and Creative PaperClay, as far as the air-dry clays are concerned anyway. (I also have some of the polymer doll clays.)

I don’t have a lot of Premier or Creative Paperclay, so I’ll have to build up an armature and add ir-dry clay to it. They say it dries better that way anyway.

Creative Paperclay has a wonderful site full of information. It’s not as strong or suitable for delicate hand sculpts that are positioned away from the body, but it too can be a wonderful clay. Your sculpting style may influence your choice of clay.

Premier Air-Dry Clay

  • Contents — Pumice (a stone), talc (which is processed from rocks), small amounts of paper pulp, and additional binders.
    • As for the paper pulp part, how you process paper pulp and what you use makes a tremendous amount of difference. I found that out from watching a master art paper maker.
  • Is extremely plaint but is stiffer to sculpt than La Doll (“La Doll Natural Satin Smooth Natural Stone Clay”)
  • Is ultra-lightweight
  • May blend with La Doll
  • Has a bright white finish
  • Has exceptional strength — works well for small, delicate areas such as fingers
  • Air dries — no need to bake
  • Is best air dried rather than dried in an oven an even a very low setting
  • Has fine smooth texture, fine body to the clay’s feel
  • Capable of fine detail
  • Doesn’t attract dirt and tiny bits of who knows whats that float in the air
  • Keep it moist so you can work it
  • Add fresh clay to dry by re-wetting, attaching small pieces of new clay, and bleding it in — can work on it for a very long time this way
  • Adheres to any core material — wire, mesh rigid wrap, paper, glass, plastic, wood, Styrofoam, and more
  • Can be stamped, carved, or sculpted with exceptional detail
  • Can be drilled, sanded or sculpted when dry
  • Accepts acrylics, oils, water-based paints, as well as dry finish powders (dry artist pastels, for example)
  • Dissolves in water to be used as a finish coat or to soak paper or cloth in so you can form it in shapes
  • Dries with minimal shrinkage

Doll Artists Who Have Used Premier Clay are Too Numerous to Mention Here, but I’ll List a Few

Vocabulary Notes

Some people, a lot of people, call only Padico’s “La Doll Natural Satin Smooth Natural Stone Clay” just “La Doll” but all three — Satin Smooth Stone, Premier, and Premix made by Padico — have “La Doll” on the package. Even Padico sometimes calls their Natural Smooth Stone Clay just “La Doll.” Also, some packages say “La Doll Natural Smooth Stone Clay” on them and others just say “La Doll” on them for this same clay. To get a bit more confusing, all three clays are listed on their site under “Stone Clay.”

Stone Clays or Paperclays (Air-dry Clay) — Some people call the stone clays by Padico “paperclay.” Many official sites, including Padico’s, categorize them as stone clays. Premier, for example has paper pulp in it, yes, but these clays also have pumice and talc (which comes from rocks) in them, which is why they’re probably labeled as stone clays and why they’re stronger than Creative Paperclay. Some official sites refer to them as polymer clays too. Do they technically fit al three categories? That is quite possible. It seems that users most often call them paper clay and official sites most often call them stone clays.

Epoxy Clays

Magic Sculp and Apoxie Sculpt technically aren’t air-dry clays — they can cure even when wet — their curing process is chemical. Also, if you use these two-part epoxy clays in the construction of a doll’s armature, they’re so tough and strong that if you wanted to cut through it later, you’d have to use a saw and it’d be hard work. Magic Sculp has an indefinite shelf life though and both can withstand heat up to 300 degrees F. One can create entire sculpts out of the epoxy clays, use them for armatures to add strength, sculpt part of the doll with epoxy clays, and/or sculpt props and bases with epoxy clay. They can be painted with acrylic paints. They’re great stuff but they’re not air-dry clays, technically.)

Techniques, Cracks, Storage, Sanding, and Working Time…

Working time with artist grade air-dry clays can extend into weeks. 

Cracks don’t mean that you failed, should give up, or that the clay isn’t artist grade.

  • Storage of Opened Packages — Keep a damp cloth or terra cotta disc in with the clay and keep the clay in a zip lock bag with the air squeezed out of it. Keep that bag in an air-tight container.
  • When Sculpting, Keep a Spray Bottle of Water at Hand — Spray areas you’re working on to keep moist, as needed.
  • Joining New Clay to Dried — Moisten the dry clay a bit where you’ll attach the new clay.
  • Sculpt in Stages, Letting Dry Overnight — This makes for better drying and less or no cracks. Stages can be armature, basic bulk out, final layer, fingers, toes, details.
  • Sculpting Details — Can be done through a combination of additive and subtractive sculpting, meaning you can add new clay or take it away. Subtractive sculpting can be accomblished with carving tools (both regular sized and micro, for micro see Dockyard Micro Carving tools), rasps, nail files, sandpaper or even, in more advanced methods, keyhold X-acto blades. You can use dremels too but they’re much more difficult to control, as far as fine tuning sculpts and such goes, and are probably better for drilling holes or major reworking.
  • Cracks May Happen — Cracks are often a normal part of both the drying and sculpting process with artist grade air-dry clays. They can be filled in with more of the artist-grade air-dry clay. Cracks do not mean, however, that artist grade air-dry clays are less worthy or suitable for art doll dollmaking. They shrink a little while drying is all, therfore…cracks. That being said, don’t sculpt air-dry clays over springy, boingy armatures and expect those cracks to be okay. That’s a whole other story. And hey, polymer clay artists have to worry about burning their polymer clay, moonies, and other issues sometimes. Every clay has its quirks artists learn to work until they rock it (masterfully work it to magnificence). When you’re already working with an artist grade clay but cracks stop you, it’s not the clay, it’s the artist that determines success. When I first started with air dry clays, I used it for Ostrich legs. The metal was too sproingy. The clay cracked big time. That was a major structural fault. That this stopped me from using air-dry clays for years was my fault as an artist. I needed to understand more about armature and the nature of the clay. Instead, I thought I was a failure and never finished the sculpture.
  • Smoothing/Shaping — Use wet-dry sandpapers (you can wet them a touch on the back, but keep the sanding side dry, to make them more pliable), nail files, nail file/buffers, dedicated pedicure sanders/scrapers, metal rasps, fine drywall screen, and even flat beach stones that have some texture. I have a jar of “smoothing stones” that I’ve found work for the purpose. I got the idea from professional doll artists who use smoother stones to smooth out raw polymer clay doll surfaces. So now I have smoothing stones for polymer clay and sanding stones for air-dry clays).

Don’t Let The Confusion Out There Get to You

Doing some research over several years, I’ve found different answers on what is the strongest air-dry clay for sculpting art dolls.  Be careful, anyone can make a web site. Some sites didn’t do their homework and tell me that student grade clay, really weak stuff, is the strongest and may not even mention Padico’s La Doll Clays (Stone, Premier, or Premix). There’s also some confusion regarding vocabulary and categories of clay.

Armed with a little of the right and thorough enough information though, you can proceed and have a lot of fun.

Happy Doll Making!

Spray Sealants and Resin for Artist Clays

This page is frequently updated at times.

Audience

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 Per Clay (is kiln fired)
  • Porcelain
  • 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.)

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.

  1. 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.
    1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Polymer clays have undergone industry-wide reformulations, sometimes numerous ones and they too are not necessarily known to consumers.
    1. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
      1. Had my house not burned down, I probably would be still be using m 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.
      2. 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).
      3. Additionally, what audience(s) is a web page addressing?  That can make a huge difference because like I said, hybrid polymer doll clays might be very different from general use polymer clays when treated with sealants.
  6. You don’t always know how long clay has sat on store shelves or their storage – product turnover can vary from store to store
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Therefore…

  • 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.

Resin Resources

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.

https://thebluebottletree.com/tag/sealer/

Jessama Tutorials briefly covers the different types of resin one can use on polymer clay here and how to use them here.

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.

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
  • 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 claysVarathane 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.

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Some of the information on polymer clay sealants was originally on my tutorial on how to make polymer clay mica powder covered goddess beads