Polymer Clay Painting Tips

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Though polymer craft clay comes in a wide array of colors, you can also add color to your projects by painting it. When painting polymer clay, it's important to choose your paint and the mode of application well to ensure that the paint's color and texture matches that of the clay, goes on evenly, and gives you the effect you're going for. With the right methods, paint will enhance your project with seamless color.

Colors To Paint

  • If you plan to apply paint to the entire surface of a polymer clay sculpture, it's best to start with a sculpture made of only one color. White is the best option for this, both because the finished paint color will look the same as it does on paper or canvas and because many brands of polymer clay sell bulk packages of white in an altered formula that's better for absorbing paint.

Color Embellishment

  • In some cases, the use of a few points of paint can be a saving grace in sculptures made from multiple colors of clay, but with a few details that are just too tiny to sculpt in place before baking. Alternately, if the color detail needs to be two-dimensional, such as the pattern on a sculpted figure's clothing, use paint for fine control without extra bulk.

Texture

  • One of the problems that can crop up when painting polymer clay is the difference in texture between paint and clay. Enamel and acrylic paints will have a glossy texture, while most polymer clay will cure with an opaque sheen. To counteract this, apply an opaque sealant over the top of the paint or coat the entire finished product with varnish or polyurethane to give it uniform high-gloss shine.

Best Paints

  • Any paint you use with polymer clay should be adhesive enough to apply to non-porous surfaces and be waterproof when dry. Acrylic paint is a good match for most polymer clay products, since it is water-soluable and the colors and textures are a close match to those of the clay. You can also use enamel paint, but this high-gloss formula is better suited for use with a lacquer finish in projects like jewelry pendants and beads rather than figurines.

Sanding

  • Some formulas of polymer clay will be more porous than others. The more porous the clay, the better the paint will adhere to it. If you find that you get uneven results from your paint (and you've already tried using thicker paint), try sanding the clay to rough up the surface and give the paint pores to stick to.

Primer

  • If you don't want to sand your clay to get paint to adhere, or if sanding isn't enough, apply a coat of paint primer before you paint. This product is designed to stick readily to non-porous surfaces, but also to take a coat of paint evenly. Make sure to use the right kind of primer for the paint you're using.

References

  • "The Complete Book of Polymer Clay"; Lisa Pavelka; 2010
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