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Polymer Clay Sculpting Tips and Tutorials

Updated on February 24, 2017

Do you need a little help with sculpting or want to get started with polymer clay?

Polymer clay is a wonderful medium for sculpture. You can create one of a kind sculptures without the need for an expensive kiln or messy mold materials. You can create everything from very simple animals made from basic shapes to detailed, complex, realistic human figures. The limits are only your skill and imagination.

What is Polymer Clay?

Polymer clay is a non-toxic man-made sculpting material which stays pliable until cured at relatively low temperatures, typically between 265 and 275°F (129-135°C).

Popular brands include Super Sculpey, Fimo, Premo, Prosculpt, and Kato Clay. Any of those clays is great for sculpting, try them out to find the one that feels best to you.

I really do not recommend Original Sculpey (comes in white and terracotta) because it's very chalky and brittle when cured. Some of the specialty polymer clay such as Sculpey Ultralight or Granitex have specific properties which may or may not suit your projects.

For more in depth information see the Wikipedia Polymer Clay article.

Do your newer clays feel different?

Due to concerns about phthalates and European Union regulations all the major brands of polymer clays have changed their formulas. Kato Clay was the first to roll out the new formula in the US.

Katherine Dewey explains more here.

Information on phthalates from Wikipedia.

Safety and Polymer Clay

Safety First

Sculpting tools should be dedicated to clay work and should never be used for food afterwards. That includes rolling pins, baking sheets, and knives.

Clean your oven thoroughly after baking polymer clay unless it is dedicated to polymer clay use or if clay was baked in a sealed container like a roasting bag.

Follow common sense when handling sharp or hot objects. Always wear safety glasses if using a powertool such as a dremel.

5 Quick Polymer Clay Sculpting Tips

1: Keep a wet washcloth or wet wipes (baby wipes) on hand to keep you hands clean while sculpting. Any little piece of dirt of pet hair your hands pick up will stick to your sculpt.

2: Get a lazy susan, it's a simple thing but being able to turn your sculpts easily is really helpful. I found a great 14" diameter bamboo one for $10, so not a big investment.

3: Mirrors are your friend. A great way to tell if you have something lopsided is to look at it reversed in a mirror, it really brings out any problems.

4: Smooth out your polymer clay using isopropyl alcohol. 90% will smooth more aggressively than 70%. I keep both on hand to use depending on what I need.

5: Get a pasta machine. They are the perfect tool for mixing clay and of course rolling out sheets of clay. Mixing clay by hand takes forever and leaves your hands too sore and tired to actually be able to sculpt.

Noadi's Gray Super Sculpey Blend

* 1 lb block Original Super Sculpey (translucent pink)

* 1 lb block Super Sculpey Firm (gray)

Mix with a pasta machine until a uniform color.

This mix is firmer than Super Sculpey without being too hard and the gray color makes seeing detail better. Best for sculptures that will be painted.

Polymer clay is perfect for making Christmas ornaments.

Polymer clay is perfect for making Christmas ornaments.
Polymer clay is perfect for making Christmas ornaments.

Tutorials and Tips - Links to General Polymer Clay Sculpting Tips and Tutorials

All the armature tutorials have been moved to my Building Armatures for Polymer Clay Sculpture lens.

Give the Gift of a New Hobby

Polymer clay is a great introduction to art. Why not inspire someone with a book, basic tools, and some clay?

Sculpting Tools Tutorials - How to Make your own Tools

There's lots more about sculpting tools on the Polymer Clay Sculpting Tools lens.

Recommended Sculpting DVDs

I know sometimes it can be easier to watch what someone does than to read descriptions of it so here are some videos by sculptors I admire and respect.

Get Feedback

One of the best ways to learn is by sharing with others. Participate in forums to get critique and feedback on your sculptures and what can be improved.

Leave a Note - Go ahead and and leave any comment or questions you have. If you like this lens rate it up at the top of the page!

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    • profile image

      bratty2 3 weeks ago

      Glad I found this site, Been having problems with my sculptures breaking at thin points. Just found out its not me exactly, just need to use better clay. Thanks

    • GreenfireWiseWo profile image

      GreenfireWiseWo 4 years ago

      Great ideas -thank you!

    • profile image

      BlowDryBar 4 years ago

      I have a polymer clay snake sculpture that I love!

    • profile image

      jennie-lee-372 4 years ago

      Hi! Thanks so much for adding my website on your lens! My blog has tons of freebie information about sculpting a OOAK ONe of a Kind baby sculpt. Stop by if you'd like to learn too! :)

      www.weebabiesnursery.com

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

      My son loves making creations out of clay, but we have not been using polymer clay. Will check it out. Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens! I love working with polymer clay!

    • floppypoppygift1 profile image

      floppypoppygift1 5 years ago

      I used to play with Polymer Clay A Lot to make beads, candle holders and ornaments. It's very easy to use. My biggest problem was the size of my supply drawer & work area! It can be addictive!

    • RadaFrancis LM profile image

      RadaFrancis LM 5 years ago

      Sculpting sure is an art form!

    • Barbara2659 profile image

      Barbara2659 5 years ago

      Incredible! I love this lens.

    • PaulWinter profile image

      PaulWinter 5 years ago

      I will have to come back and read this lens again and look at some of the tutorials. This looks like a great hobby.

    • lillianjuares profile image

      lillianjuares 5 years ago

      Thank for the tips, this is not easy to do, i need to share this with my friends thanks again great :)

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      had to come back twice. Thanks great lens.

    • profile image

      DecoratingMom411 5 years ago

      Great informative lens. Thanks for sharing these tips.

    • profile image

      Kliedel 5 years ago

      thank your for sharing this wonderful lens, btw where did you learn this ideas? amazing!

    • profile image

      Rickcpl 5 years ago

      How do you do this?

    • profile image

      Rickcpl 5 years ago

      Nice.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

      Thanks for compiling this extensive resource. Your examples look so realistic. Blessed.

    • MichelleLacroix profile image

      Michelle Lacroix Toro 5 years ago from United States

      Wonderful tips, references, and inspiration for polymer clay artists! Thanks for sharing!

    • MichelleLacroix profile image

      Michelle Lacroix Toro 5 years ago from United States

      Wonderful tips, references, and inspiration for polymer clay artists! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      utopia5230 5 years ago

      Cool lens! Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      brynimagire 5 years ago

      Wonderful lens! Thanks for sharing.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

      i love the squids you featured. they look real. the best thing about this clay is you don't need to bake it. angel blessed.

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 5 years ago

      Gorgeous lens! Thanks for sharing!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 5 years ago

      Great lens...I use to make Fimo clay sculptures and jewelry, but sadly now I don't have the time.

    • kevingomes13 lm profile image

      kevingomes13 lm 5 years ago

      Cool lens. Thank you for sharing

    • profile image

      myamya 5 years ago

      Very nice lens! thumbs up!

    • TheArtLibrarian profile image

      TheArtLibrarian 5 years ago

      Nice -- very thorough lens. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Bash51214 5 years ago

      Thanks For sharing .. enjoyed it a lot.. God Bless You.

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 5 years ago

      A serious understatement unquestionably, be it might

      To say that Polymer Clay should be a sculptorâs delight.

      The same could certainly be said of this impressive lens

      That helps, from shapless clay, to make aesthetic sense.

    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      I've never heard of polymer clay. The clay I'm used to is really malleable with water but once you let it dry or get into the hot sun it hardens quickly.

    • profile image

      azD40x 5 years ago

      definitely going to try clay sculpting after reading your lens :)

    • profile image

      nelsonkana 5 years ago

      Nice lens here. Am taking a tour of top lenses. This is one of them. I like it.

    • greenmind profile image

      GreenMind 5 years ago from USA

      Really skillful and smart lens -- I love the way you write and this topic is lovely. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      thank you !

    • kerryhrabstock profile image

      kerryhrabstock 5 years ago

      Great job. I've always wanted to try this, but recently got addicted to Squidoo. Whenever will I find the time?

    • profile image

      bradhughes 5 years ago

      I must try this too! I know it's not easy but I'm interested to learn.

    • profile image

      MaartjeJepsen 5 years ago

      Thank you for interesting lens!

    • profile image

      Quirkyart 5 years ago

      I've played around with polymer clay and never knew about the dangers. I'll keep it mind next time. Good lens

    • nigel7725 profile image

      nigel7725 5 years ago

      Interesting lens.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I do a lot of crafting, but have truly never given polymer clay a turn. Maybe it's time. :)

    • CrucialCulture LM profile image

      CrucialCulture LM 5 years ago

      Great Lens... Thanks

    • profile image

      seosmm 5 years ago

      Great ideas. Very nice lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      A great lens to share. Nice! Squid-liked!

    • nickirc lm profile image

      nickirc lm 6 years ago

      Great stuff thanks.

    • nickirc lm profile image

      nickirc lm 6 years ago

      Cute stuff thanks.

    • WildWilliams profile image

      WildWilliams 6 years ago

      Silver clay is also amazing!

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image
      Author

      Sheryl Westleigh 6 years ago from Maine

      @HuntAndFishGuides: I have no reason to believe they aren't complying. The major manufacturers of polymer clay (Sculpey, Fimo, Kato, Cernit) are all US or European based however.

    • profile image

      HuntAndFishGuides 6 years ago

      Do you have any concerns that the Chinese manufacturers are not compling with the phthalates regulations? If so, would you recommend only purchasing from US / European manufacturers? Thanks

    • Showpup LM profile image

      Showpup LM 6 years ago

      I've always wanted to try my hand at crafting with clay. The videos here are amazing! Wow!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Glad I stopped by again, this is a wonderful resource. Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Excellent lens! Thanks for taking the time to offer these tips!

      One squid thumb up vote issued for this lens!

    • NTxWriter profile image

      NTxWriter 6 years ago

      Great tutorial links! I used to make all kinds of beads with polymer clay years ago and it was lots of fun. The art has come a long way since then, though.

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 6 years ago

      I like sculpting, I never use polymer clay to make the sculpture before but I use the plasticine. The weakness with plasticine is that is cannot keep the shape for long, if it is accidentally pressed, there gone it shape. I like this lens very much!

    • creativeinc lm profile image

      creativeinc lm 6 years ago

      Nice lens. I like sculpting too!

    • ilovehaagendazs profile image

      ilovehaagendazs 6 years ago

      nice! Wish to try it out myself but I just couldn't find the right time!

    • profile image

      NellinShoppi 6 years ago

      Very nice lens! Loads of useful information here. Thanks a lot :)

    • tobydavis profile image

      tobydavis 6 years ago

      Fantastic lens! Loads of goodies and info! Very nicely put together, the time and effort put in comes through to create a very complete experience for the visitor - fab!

    • profile image

      NidhiRajat 6 years ago

      amazing lens!!!

    • profile image

      BillSimmons 6 years ago

      Sweet, cool this looks like stuff!

    • profile image

      writer_villa 6 years ago

      Sheryl, It is a good lens!

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 6 years ago

      I have always been curious about sculpting and polymer clay, so I enjoyed the information and sculpting tips you shared. Your Squids are adorable :)

    • profile image

      writer_villa 6 years ago

      Very good and informative! Thanks a lot!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Well done. Blessed!

    • BestRatedStuff profile image

      BestRatedStuff 6 years ago

      Thanks so much for such an inspirational lens on sculpting. always loved it, but haven't done much recently, I think I am going to go back to it after seeing all these beautiful sculptures.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is really interesting. I see this product but had no clue how to use it.

    • profile image

      JeremyAce 6 years ago

      I may have to give polymer clay a shot now, but if nothing else you added to my reading list. Thanks again for the lens.

    • pd6914 profile image

      pd6914 6 years ago

      Thanks for including the Flickr photos! I enjoyed reading your lens.

    • profile image

      NidhiRajat 6 years ago

      I really love this lens and congrats a ton!!!

    • journey103 profile image

      journey103 6 years ago from USA

      Love this lens...will need to bookmark and learn more!

    • Rammelfirdaus profile image

      Rammelfirdaus 6 years ago

      I think i'm going to start a new hobby.

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 6 years ago

      love this lens, it is such and inspiration...:)RWJR

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 6 years ago from WNY

      Nice introduction to polymer clay! :)

    • alsomelbel profile image

      alsomelbel 6 years ago

      I have seen people make some pretty nifty jewelry with polymer clay. Thank you for showing ME how. :)

    • AngelDey profile image

      AngelDey 6 years ago

      This is very good information. I've always wanted to try polymer clay but have always felt a little overwhelmed. Thank you for such a good set of references.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      How cool! I've always wanted to try polymer clay. Thanks for the great lens.

    • KiwiSanet profile image

      KiwiSanet 6 years ago

      I enjoyed looking at your lens and like the idea of polymer clay starter kit as a gift. I will be back for more visits.

    • profile image

      shivnagsudhakar 6 years ago

      GOOD WORK

    • sudokunut profile image

      Mark Falco 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Excellent lens with loads of really useful information. I'd love to try this some time.

    • TIRMassageStone1 profile image

      TIRMassageStone1 6 years ago

      My favorite art pieces have always been sculpted art. I am particularly found of sculpted clay that is bronzed.

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great tips and suggestions. Blessed by a squid angel.

    • profile image

      catherinenbrooks 6 years ago

      Awesome lens!Good job by this lens.Nice...

    • profile image

      YourBestFriend 6 years ago

      Thanks for the very good post! Easy to read even for those who are not familiar with polymer clay like me ;)

      http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/YourBestFriend

    • Vivek Bhan profile image

      Vivek Bhan 6 years ago

      Oh I Loved it !

    • HeatherTodd1 profile image

      HeatherTodd1 6 years ago

      Thanks for the great post..Nice

    • VSP profile image

      VSP 6 years ago

      Are you familiar with Kathy Davis? She is a published sculptor in our guild. I like canning. Nice lens.

    • profile image

      freaksfactory 6 years ago

      Excellent lens , love it

    • profilesincolor profile image

      profilesincolor 6 years ago

      Rich reference! Thanks! :-)

    • hysongdesigns profile image

      hysongdesigns 6 years ago

      very nice, going to have to bookmark this one; I play with clay sometimes ;-)

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 6 years ago from Australia

      What a fabulous resource.

    • pramodbisht profile image

      pramodbisht 6 years ago

      Nice Lens

    • profile image

      VoodooRULEs 6 years ago

      Reading this is an education. First about polymer clay, but maybe even more importantly an education on how to pack a lot of great information into a easy and fun to read article. Thank you!

    • profile image

      notaspaceship 6 years ago

      Thank you for this lens. I have never tried sculpting, but your article was interesting. I also took a peek at your Etsy listings, you're quite talented!

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 6 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      lovely art page. thanks for the clay sculpting tips.

    • Judy Filarecki profile image

      Judy Filarecki 6 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      thanks for a great tutorial and tips. I've spent many hours having fun with my grandchildren using polymer clay and now that they are a little older, they would enjoy more advanced stuff like you show.

    • TIRMassageStone1 profile image

      TIRMassageStone1 6 years ago

      Very cool projects!

    • profile image

      Serj 6 years ago

      Very cool. I'd be interested in doing this, but I'm better with drafting, website design type of creative stuff... still looks like allot of dun. Great lens.

    • bikerministry profile image

      bikerministry 6 years ago

      I love polymer clay days with my sister. She's so creative. Great lens.

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 6 years ago from Missouri

      I have purchased some polymer clay and tools. Now I just need time to use them. Thanks for an inspiring lens.

    • nolinel lm profile image

      nolinel lm 6 years ago

      Great information thank you. It has tempted me to try some amateur sculpting...

      http://www.squidoo.com/human-anatomy-course-by-dr-...

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      This is great information. I've done a little polymer clay sculpting. Love playing with it and tend to use molds and cutters. I need to get it out and follow some of these great tutorials!