- Arts and Design
Polymer Clay Tools I Can't Live Without
The Best Polymer Clay Tools for Sculpting, Molding and Creating!
There are all kinds of accessories out there for sculpting with polymer clay, but when it comes to choosing what really matters, which are the best polymer clay tools out there?
I've been crafting for many years now and enjoy numerous types, but my favourite medium remains polymer clay - you can be so creative with it! However, to truly achieve quality results, you definitely need the right tools. Whether you sculpt one-of-a-kind figurines or more simple beads and home crafts, the correct tools will make your creations come alive.
Here you will find my pick of the best tools for sculpting, shaping, baking and finishing your polymer clay crafts and sculptures.
Photo Credit: Polymer clay tools in multibin storage caddy - image copyright of the author
Sculpting with Polymer Clay
Photo Credit: Some of my Premo Sculpey polymer clay - image copyright of the author
There are many wonderful things you can make with polymer clay - one-of-a-kind fantasy figurines, marbled beads, fairy furniture, shell-adorned mermaids, home décor, jewellery and hanging ornaments are just a few of many things I love to use it for.
However, in order to get that perfect and professional look of quality, you need quality tools! The most important ones are the sculpting tools, as these are what will help you sculpt fine detail into your clay. Other tools are important, too, depending on what you want to make - cutters, craft knives, molds, paints, varnishes, liquid clay - the list is quite long! I have an awful lot of tools as you can see below, but then I make a lot of different things. This article highlights the tools I think are the best (in other words, the ones I use the most and couldn't live without!) so that you can make a good choice for your own crafting - whether you are a beginner looking for essentials, or a polymer pro looking for some excellent quality tools!
Photo Credit: My box of sculpting tools - image copyright of the author
Which Polymer Clay Tools are you Looking for?
I'm looking for:
Best Sculpting Tools for Polymer Clay
Although I use polymer clay for a variety of crafts, I mainly like to use it to make figurines with - primarily fantasy ones. For this I use Premo Sculpey clay, a professional clay that gives excellent results. For fairies and the like, I use Sculpey Living Doll, a wonderful flesh-coloured clay, and then paint on additional colours after baking.
Premo Sculpey is a firm clay but of course, pliable enough to sculpt with. In order to create the detail required in figurines, such as facial features, tiny fingers and so on, you need good sculpting tools - attempting to mold them with your fingers will just result in squashing the clay over and over again!
Photo Credits: Above left: One of my many blocks of Sculpey Living Doll clay. Above right: Polymer clay goblin work in progress
- images both copyright of the author
I have a fair few tools but over time have come to love and use the ones that produce the best results - and there are two in particular that I truly can't live without. I use them to carefully create fine detail in my fantasy sculptures, such as on this goblin above - here I have started forming the details of his ears, nostrils, facial features and so on.
First, though, I am going to highly recommend the Makin's Professional Clay Tools set. Here's mine below - lots of different shaped "ends" to mold and shape the clay, along with cutters, stamping points and more. I particularly love the feather point as it is great for making hair, fur and similar markings on the clay. As you can see, many of the tools are out of the box as I keep them in my tool caddy on my desk, so they're within constant easy reach!
Photo Credit: My Makin's Professional Clay Tool Kit. Images copyright of the author
Best Polymer Clay Tools Kit
This is perfect for beginners and serious sculptors alike, as it contains everything you need to get started, and lots of intricate, fine detail points and stamps!
I love this kit! It comes with two assembly handles and a variety of tools to slot onto them, including fine points, texture points, sphere points, feather point, cutter wheels (plain and textured), cutting tips, assembly heads, and stamping points in two sizes.
So many possibilities here, with tools for cutting, sculpting fine detail or textures with the numerous points, and stamping lovely images onto clay as well, from stars and hearts to spirals and sun rays.
My Favourite Sculpting Tool
The Fine Point Rubber Shaping and Sculpting Tool
This is by far my favourite (and as you can see, most used!) sculpting tool to use with polymer clay. Brand new it has a far finer point, mine has worn down now and needs replacing. The good news is, the tip is replaceable, and you can buy it either on its own (with one tip), with spare tips (3), or the spare tips on their own.
For fine detail on sculptures, this is a MUST. The tip is flexible but needle-sharp, and so lightly brushes magnificent detail into the clay without flattening it. It's described as the best-kept secret in polymer clay sculpting and I agree (it's actually a rubber tip gum stimulator that works perfectly for sculpting - shhhh!). Once I found this tool it replaced many of the others I already had and tried.
I use it to press in the corners of mouths, form details in ears and noses, sculpt the folds of the skin, make intricate details like nail beds and indentations between fingers and toes, carefully indent the shapes of faces, and much more. You can use it for detail on many other things, not just sculpted figures, but this gives you a good idea of how good a detail it can create!
Photo Credit: My fine point rubber sculpting tool (in need of a new tip after shaping all that clay!) - image copyright of the author
Where to Buy the Fine Point Rubber Tip Sculpting Tool
I get many of my polymer clay supplies, including my two favourite tools, from a fabulous eBay store called The Morezmore Estate. It's based in the US but ships worldwide (I'm in the UK) and the products are second to none.
You can currently buy this rubber tool on its own or with spare tips, and you can also buy packs of the spare tips as well when you run out.
My Second Favourite Sculpting Tool
The Acacia Hardwood Fine Detail Sculpting Tool
This miniature sculpting tool is made from acacia wood and polished to a fine finish. It has a rounded tip at one end and a more pointed tip at the other.
The former I use to gently form the shapes of faces, bodies, indentations and so on, while the latter I use to form or carve fine details.
I use it in combination with the rubber tip tool above, and between them, they can pretty much do it all when it comes to the detail of sculpting!
TOP TIP I conditioned my tool before using, as there is a slight risk that the stain used on it may leave marks on your clay.
All you need to do before using it is rub it with a little baby or mineral oil, leave for two hours, wash with soapy water, rub again with oil, and then wipe clean.
I've never had any issues with mine and it shapes the clay marvelously.
Photo Credit: My double-ended fine detail sculpting tool, crafted from acacia wood - image copyright of the author
Where to Buy the Acacia Fine Detail Sculpting Tool
Once again, this fabulous tool is from Morezmore on eBay. In addition to these two tools, check out the other products listed as I have many of them and they are all of the highest quality! Definitely my first port of call when it comes to polymer clay and OOAK figure-making supplies.
The Secret to Fast Rolling and Conditioning!
If you work with polymer clay a lot, then like me, you'll find that having a pasta machine on your craft desk is a must! It's not only great for rolling out clay quickly and evenly, it's essential if you want very thinly rolled clay, and perfect for conditioning and reconditioning clay which may have gone hard over time.
You don't need to opt for an expensive one - just look for a cheaply priced one that has an easy-to-use handle and a decent clamp to keep it in place. Ones with adjustable thickness settings are also useful.
I sometimes go a long time between polymer sculpts, so any clay that has been opened hardens over time. A few goes through my pasta machine and it's as good as new again!
This is ideal and all you need for polymer clay rolling and conditioning - it is a solid machine, has adjustable rollers for multiple thickness settings, a double cutting head and a decent c-clamp to keep it fixed to your desk when in use - there's nothing worse than trying to roll clay when the machine is moving about!
Essential Tool Checklist for Polymer Clay Sculpting
- Clay knife, or craft knife suitable for cutting clay
- Smooth acrylic rods for rolling out clay (if you want a lot of very flat clay for projects, or want something for easy conditioning, then a pasta maker is your best option - just make sure you keep it for clay and not in the kitchen!)
- Fine point tools and textured point tools for sculpting fine details
- Assorted brushes for detail and for painting/varnishing
- Pliers and wire cutters for making armatures (if you wish to make figurines and dolls)
- Vinyl and instant glues
- Cutters, molds and stamps
- Assorted sizes of sewing and knitting needles (for making your own tools)
- Ceramic tile for baking on (and plenty of cotton wool stuffing, for laying pieces of clay on while baking)
- A dedicated oven, such as a convector oven or small clay kiln
More of the Best Sculpting Tools
Morezmore do many other sculpting and finishing tools along with a plethora of polymer clay and OOAK making supplies.
Polymer Clay Tools for Molding and Designing
Polymer Clay Molds, Stamps and Texture Tools
Photo Credit: My box of assorted molds, stamps and cutters for creating designs in polymer clay - image copyright of the author
More extremely useful tools for using with polymer clay include molds, stamps, texture tools, cutters and other objects that can imprint designs and outlines into clay.
Above is my box of cutters and molds. Now, as primarily an OOAK figurine sculptor, I don't really use molds for making faces etc. However, if you are just starting out and want a bit of help, OR if you are making lots of the same kinds of dolls for craft fairs, children and so on, then these can certainly come in handy. I use them to make sun, moon and fantasy pendants, for example, creating faces in discs and painting them. I love the range of faces in this mold and you can find the exact same one below by Sculpey. The Studio by Sculpey range is excellent, and there is also a sub range by Donna Dewberry, who I love for her One Stroke Painting techniques and products.
As for cutters, you can get clay cutters in various shapes, but any cookie cutter will do, so don't worry if you can't find specific shapes in clay ranges - just look for the cookies! These are particularly handy for when you want to create a lot of the same thing - for example a multitude of stars on a hanging ornament, or similar shaped and sized leaves for a fairy bed! Stamps also come in handy here, and Sculpey do a great range (also found below) where you get a leaf cutter AND stampers, so you can press in the veins and details of the leaf once you've cut it.
Photo Credit: My caddy of sculpting essentials includes several texture tools, such as the texture wheel, brush and feather point tool - image copyright of the author
Some of the tools I use all the time in my caddy above include texture wheels, again by Sculpey and found below, which are great for pressing in patterns for clay frames, bases and more. I also love the black brush for texture details, and the feather point tool (which is part of the Makin Professional kit reviewed above), which is superb for feathers, fur, hair and those kinds of details.
Molds, Cutters and Texture Tools
This is a superb solid mold with a lovely variety of face shapes and sizes. I love using this to make "face jewellery", such as sun, moon and goddess pendants.
You can also use them for making dolls and figurines, although if you want to progress to making one-of-a-kind pieces then you'll need to learn to sculpt your own. This is a great starting point however, while you are getting used to sculpting with the clay!
These texture wheels are brilliant for imprinting patterns onto clay. I use them for making polymer clay photo frames, borders, home decor, bases for figures and decor, ornaments and more.
The kit comes with one handle and four different texture wheels.
I just LOVE these! Although I don't use molds or cutters to make my figurines, I do often use these if I am making beds of leaves etc as figurine bases. A fantastic way to get realistic leaves very quickly - just cut with the leaf shape cutter, then use the accompanying leaf vein templates to press in the details! This set makes vines, holly, swirls and more!
I use this second leaf set from Sculpey a LOT - makes standard oval leaves with veins and maple leaves, too! Again, use the different sized cutters to create your clay leaves, then press on the vein templates to add the detail. Just brilliant!
Stamping in Polymer Clay
Stamps are another great tool to use with clay. You can use any rubber or acrylic stamps you like, just press into the clay to create a pattern or design. I love using them to create holiday ornaments, jewellery, frames, boxes, memory glass items and more. These Lisa Pavelka stamp designs are real delights.
Photo Credit: My assorted varnishes, glues, liquid clay and other finishing products for polymer clay creations - image copyright of the author
While not technically "tools" as such, the array of varnishes, glues, clay softeners and even liquid clay above are equally important in creating quality polymer clay pieces.
Here's a quick run down of what I use them for:
* Liquid Clay- to be specific, I use Liquid Sculpey, to complement the clay range I already use. Brilliant for creating translucent fairy wings, water effects and more!
* Clay Softener- work a little of this into clay that has gone hard or is difficult to mold, to recondition it.
* Studio by Sculpey Glazes- sometimes a baked clay piece is fine as it is... other times it needs that final sheen. This range of glazes includes satin or gloss finish (shown above) as well as antiquing effect glazes in a range of shades.
* Assorted Glues- great for sticking all the elements together! While sculpted figurines are generally all one piece constructed over an armature, you still may require glue to fix scenery to a base, fabric to a figure, accents like rhinestones or sparkles, little accessories (such as the tiny glass balls I like to place in the hands of my fairies to look like bubbles or crystal balls!) and so on. Other polymer clay items like home décor or jewellery will also require sticking together. The essential glues to use with polymer clay are a good vinyl glue and a good instant glue (I love Roket Rapid). I also use Tacky glue (excellent for fabrics and textiles), gemstone glue (for crystals, rhinestones, etc) and scenic glue (for sticking bits of fake grass, moss, natural items like shells and sand and so on to wooden bases).
Polymer Clay Tools for Finishing
Putting the Finishing Touches to your Creation
Top 5 Finishing Tools for Polymer Clay
Making your Own Polymer Clay Tools
How to Make your Own Polymer Clay Tools
A very affordable way to get started with polymer clay sculpting is to MAKE many of your own tools yourself! Many of them can be made from clay, too, so it's a great way for beginners to practice - that's what I did!
When I first embarked on this form of crafting, I got myself the clay and the basics, and a copy of Katherine Dewey's book, Creating Lifelike Figures in Polymer Clay. The start of the book tells you about all the essential tools needed to sculpt realistic figures, and actually teaches you how to make most of them!
I've made my own sculpting tools out of knitting and sewing needles, baking them clay handles, and crafted an eyeball mold from clay as well as a baking stand (shown in the photo).
Photo Credit: Polymer clay molds I have made from Ranger's Mold N Pour - image copyright of the author
If you make a lot of polymer clay décor, jewellery or accents, then you can never have enough molds. But want if you can't find what you want in a mold, or afford to buy a large range of different ones?
I encountered this problem when I started making home shrines, and wanted polymer clay accents to decorate them with. I wanted to make things like antique keys, seashore and mermaid themes, little fairy details, mini goddess busts, angel wings and more. So I started making my own!
I had already started using a large array of Ranger and Melt Art products (which in themselves are a whole other fantastic range of tools and products that work well with polymer clay - if you're interested in using enameling effects, sea glass and other wonderful techniques with polymer clay then check out my article on Melting Pot Art) and through them discovered Mold-n-Pour - a two part putty that combines and sets to make flexible molds from any objects you have around the house!
Essential Reading for Polymer Clay Sculpting - (and making your own tools!)
This book is a MUST HAVE if you are serious about polymer clay - it's my most thumbed book for sure. Aside from the glorious step by step instructions on how to make realistic figures, it has a terrific guide to making your own tools, of which I have made many.
You can buy it from Amazon below, or UK customers can purchase it here.
This is a superb book, and the most read book of all my polymer clay guides. It was my bible when I first began teaching myself how to sculpt fairies and other figures, and one of the things I love most, aside from the excellent step by step sculpting guides for each element of the armature, is the introductory section that teaches you how to make all the sculpting and baking tools!
The book includes a very thorough look at sculpting with polymer clay, and takes you through every step of the armature and sculpt, baking techniques, how to paint the figure, and even how to make incredibly realistic clothing out of clay as well!
Making your Own Polymer Clay Molds
You begin by mixing together the two pots of putty (above) and then breaking into suitably sized pieces to create molds from your selected objects. You push them in and wait for them to set. For a full tutorial, I wrote this guide on how to Create Custom Molds with Mold-n-Pour.
Photo Credits: The Mold-n-Pour putty pots, and pressing objects into the putty to create set molds - images copyright of the author
More on Polymer Clay Tools
Want more info on polymer clay tools? Here are some video guides to the tools available, the best tools for beginners, other sculptors' favourites, and tutorials on how to make your own. Enjoy!
Did You Find What You Were Looking For?
Would you use any of these recommended tools to sculpt with polymer clay?
PS Where to Store your Polymer Clay Tools! - Want the multibin caddy that I have to store my most-used tools in?
Once again, a gem of a product from Morezmore. Plenty of room for everything from craft knives, sculpting tools and texture wheels, to the more generic pens, paint brushes and scissors. Great for normal crafting tools or plain old stationery too!
Summary: My 5 Must Haves to Get Started with Polymer Clay
* Rubber Point Fine Detail Tool
* Hardwood Shaping Tool
* Makin's Professional Clay Tools
* Sculpey Texture Tools
* Cookie cutters and/or rubber stamps of choice
The Creating Lifelike Figures in Polymer Clay book by Katherine Dewey - to help you make your own tools!