Polymer clay is one of the most popular clays for crafters all over the world. You can make anything from jewelry pieces to charms and farmable artwork to figurines. It is a very versatile clay and its only limit is your imagination!
Polymer clay is available in many different forms, each for different purposes. There are original polymer clays in the market that are white and will dry out and harden when exposed to air. Then there are those that need to be baked for them to cure and harden.
The finishes that you can get with these clays vary from gloss to super matte, depending on what you want from your clay projects.
From beginners to novices, there are many polymer clay types in the market that crafters can get and make a lot of different things out of. It only depends on what kind of project you want to make and what kind of finish you want.
Polymer clay is a great way to add some décor to your room without going through too much hassle. But let’s say you’ve bought the original white polymer clay, can you give it a little color?
How do you color polymer clay? You can color polymer clay with commercial alcohol-based ink dyes and powdered pigments, or by mixing shaved pastels or crayons with rubbing alcohol. You can also add color to baked polymer clay with water-based acrylics, powdered pigments, and even pastel shavings dipped in water.
There are many ways that polymer clay can be colored, all the way from using inexpensive items you may have lying around your house to colorants that you can buy in the market.
In this guide, we’ll talk about the different ways you can add color to your polymer clay and the tips and tricks that will help you get the best color payoff on your craft clay projects.
How To Add Color to White Polymer Clay
While there are many water-based colorants available in the market and while those are the easiest to use and find, they may not have the best opacity and staying power when the clay is baked. If water is left in the clay when it is baked, it can cause air bubbles to form and ruin the finish of your piece.
Alcohol-based colors are great in this regard as they don’t cause air bubbles and have the same opacity when the clay is baked. Another great way to color white clay is to use colors in powdered form which will help you control the opacity better and also allow you to mix a few different powders to create different colors.
Adding color to white clay is not that hard, it just needs to be done with colorants that elevate the look of your finished piece and not ruin it.
1. Using Alcohol-Based Colors
One of the more expensive options, alcohol-based colors are nevertheless the best for coloring white polymer clay. These colors don’t have any water and will not cause any bubbles to form on your clay piece.
Alcohol inks, like this set from Jacquard, are easily available in the market and can be used to add color to your clay before you shape it in the form that you are looking to create.
While you can buy alcohol inks in the market, you can also make them at home by adding a few drops of fabric dye to some rubbing alcohol giving you the freedom to create whatever color you need.
How To Do It:
Once you’re ready to start coloring your clay, you should go slowly when it comes to adding alcohol inks to your clay. White clay picks up color very easily and so it will serve you well to start with about 5-6 drops and go up as you try to reach the level of opacity you want.
After shaping your clay, let it air dry for a few hours so that the alcohol can evaporate off the surface and from the inside. Alcohol that stays in the piece can cause problems when you bake it and so it is always better to let it rest for a while.
2. Using Powdered Pigments
One of the best and easiest ways to color your white polymer clay is to use colors in powdered form. What this means is essentially shavings from your crayons, soft pastels, or just straight-up buying color pigments from the store.
No water or additives are in these products and so you minimize the bake going wrong. Colors in powdered form add color to your clay that is very bright and has the highest chance of success in the oven.
Color pigments are more on the expensive side but provide the exact colors that you may be looking for so it becomes a trade-off between the work you want to do and the money you want to spend.
Making Your Own Powdered Pigments
If you’re on a tighter budget and don’t mind mixing colors yourself, you can just take some shavings from crayons or soft pastels.
Crayons come in so many colors and whichever one strikes your fancy, just take a sharp knife and shave some off the side. Once shaved, chop the shavings down to a fine powder form, or as fine as you can go.
Knead your clay with this powder and you will see the color magic happening. Add more if you want a more opaque look.
Soft pastels are naturally a lot softer; so making them into a powder form will be easier. They yield great colors as well. Mixing the shavings will also allow you to create any shade you want which means you can use your creativity to its fullest extent.
Can You Use Food Coloring to Color Polymer Clay?
One of the most accessible things that may come to your mind when you think of coloring clay, may be food coloring. After all, it colors everything that touches it and it leaves a pretty vibrant and permanent color.
It seems like a great idea in theory but in practice, it won’t work so well. Food coloring, whether powder or gel, has added water and sugars in it that can cause trouble for you while your clay bakes.
You can get rid of the water if you leave your clay to rest for a few hours before baking it but the sugars are a part of the basic structure of food coloring and so whatever you do, you won’t be able to get rid of the sugars that can create trouble for you.
If you’re thinking of using food coloring just because it is safe to ingest, you don’t have to worry as you will find many colorants in the market that are non-toxic already.
We recommend skipping food coloring, because the results are iffy at best.
Coloring Baked Polymer Clay
We’ve talked about how you can color raw clay before baking it but what if the piece you’re making is too detailed and does not allow you to add color before the bake?
Well, then you add color after it has been baked, but before you add a finish on top. Coloring baked clay is easy as long as you are adding a clear varnish or sealant on top to ensure the longevity of your polymer clay piece.
- Acrylic paints are a great way to add color and as they’re water-based it allows you to control the amount of pigment you are adding. It is very easy to clean up with soap and water, giving you some room to make mistakes or try out different colors.
- Soft pastel shavings or powder can also be used to add color in conjunction with water. Dip your brush in water and coat it all over in the colored powder. You can add as little or as much as you need and finish it off with a sealant.
- If you’re looking to add a metallic touch, you can get some pearl pigment powder, and using them with a wet brush, add them to your baked clay masterpiece.
One thing to always remember is that you should not be using oil-based products on your clay products as it can dissolve the clay and make it lose its shape.
Can You Use a Sharpie Marker on Polymer Clay?
You can use a sharpie on your polymer clay but it may not last as long as you want it to. It tends to fade to a purple color over time. You will be better off using a pigment-based product for a more permanent finish.
Can I Use Mod Podge to Glaze Polymer Clay?
Mod Podge is a great sealer and can be used on your polymer clay.
The only downside of using it on your clay is that it is extremely difficult to apply without making obvious brushstrokes.
Can You Use Clear Nail Polish as a Sealant For Polymer Clay?
While it may be tempting to, don’t attempt to use clear nail polish as a sealant. The solvent in the nail polish will start to eat away at your clay and dissolve it, making it sticky over time.
Can I You Bake Polymer Clay Twice?
You can bake polymer clay as much as you want. For some detailed projects, you may have to bake it multiple times and clay that is oven safe once, will stay oven safe even if you bake it a hundred times.
Polymer clay is a versatile product that lets you have hours of fun creating jewelry pieces, charms, trinket dishes and so much more. You can create everything by hand and after a quick bake, display it proudly in your home.
Coloring clay is very easy especially if you use colors in powdered form, but if that’s not your cup of tea, you can use alcohol-based inks or water-based colors. These require a bit more patience but are also great to color white clay with.
Whether you’ve baked your clay already or are about to and want to add some color to it, I hope with the information in this article, you can do it easily.
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