Art History Lab

Unleash Your Creativity: The Fundamentals of Polymer Clay

Polymer Clay: What You Need to Know

If you are into crafting, you might have come across polymer clay at some point. It is a versatile and colorful material used for creating jewelry, figures, home decor, and much more.

But what exactly is polymer clay? In this article, we will explore the fundamentals of polymer clay, including its history, pros, and cons.

So, let’s get started!

What is Polymer Clay?

Polymer clay is a synthetic material that can be shaped and molded at room temperature before hardening when baked in an oven.

Its made up of a combination of PVC resin, plasticizers, and pigments. Some types of clay such as Fimo, Sculpey, and Cernit are popular brands of polymer clay.

Available in a broad range of colors and finishes, including metallic and transparent, polymer clay is perfect for sculpting, molding, and shaping.

History of Polymer Clay

Although polymer clay gained popularity in the 1990s, it has a much deeper history. In the 1930s, a German doll maker named Fifi Rehbinder began experimenting with a new type of clay that could be fired in an oven rather than a kiln.

Over the years, this clay evolved into what we know today as polymer clay. The 60s saw the presence of vinyl chloride, the building block for polymer clay, become readily available in the market.

Art teachers at universities in America used this new type of clay for their sculpture classes, but it only became more widespread in the 1980s.

Pros of Polymer Clay

Polymer clay is incredibly versatile and easy to work with. Here are some advantages:


Accessibility: Polymer clay is readily available online and in craft stores. The price of the clay is affordable, making it accessible to beginners.

2. Vibrancy: Polymer clay comes in an array of colors and gradients that can be blended and mixed.

3. Hard and Durable: Polymer clay is heat-treated, which makes it hard and durable.

Once baked, the clay can resist water and detergents, so you don’t have to worry about it breaking down. 4.

Versatility: You can use polymer clay in a vast range of crafting projects, from jewelry to home decor pieces.

Cons of Polymer Clay

While polymer clay can be a joy to work with, it does have some disadvantages:

1. The Odor: The plasticizers in the clay can emit an unpleasant smell, particularly during the baking process.

It’s recommended to work in a well-ventilated area if you’re sensitive to smells. 2.

Staining: Some types of polymer clay can leave stains on surfaces such as fabric or paper. It’s essential to be cautious and cover your workspace.

3. Brittle: Though polymer clay is durable, it’s prone to breakage compared to other types of clay like ceramic.

4. Time-Consuming: Polymer clay requires baking to set and harden.

This process can take a while and might require a bit more planning in advance.


In conclusion, Polymer clay is a unique crafting material that offers a range of benefits and drawbacks. It’s easy to work with and accessible to beginners, but there are some things to keep in mind.

Understanding the history of this versatile material and its pros and cons can inform your crafting practice and enable you to incorporate it into your crafting techniques.

Polymer Clay Ideas for Beginners

If you’re new to polymer clay, it may seem a little intimidating at first. However, with a little guidance, you’ll be able to create stunning pieces of art in no time.

Here are some simple but exciting polymer clay ideas for beginners:

1. Earrings: Polymer clay earrings are trendy and fun to make.

These come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. 2.

Pens and Pencils: This project is perfect for beginners. You can cover and decorate your pen or pencil with polymer clay.

3. Charms: Create your own charms.

Attach it to a necklace or bracelet. 4.

Keychains: A personalized polymer clay keychain will add a unique touch to your keys. 5.

Coaster: Design coasters with colorful patterns.

Polymer Clay Ideas for Experienced Crafters

Seasoned crafters can take their skills to the next level with more advanced projects. Here are some exciting polymer clay ideas for experienced crafters:


Sculptures: If you’re an advanced crafter, you can start to shape your polymer clay into more intricate designs. 2.

Home Dcor: Create polymer clay sculptures that can add a personal touch to your home dcor. 3.

Figurines: Design your personalized figurines that speak to you or your interests. 4.

Trinket Boxes: Polymer clay trinket boxes make perfect one-of-a-kind gift ideas.

Safety Instructions for Working with Polymer Clay

Like every other craft material, polymer clay requires safety precautions. Here are some safety instructions for working with polymer clay:


Ventilate the area: Due to the chemicals present in the clay, it’s important to work in a properly ventilated area. 2.

Cover the working surface: To protect surfaces from stains or damage, cover the working space with a craft mat or baking paper. 3.

Oven Safety: Baking polymer clay releases toxic fumes into the air, so use a temperature-controlled oven. Do not use a microwave or toaster oven for baking polymer clay.

4. Keep your hands clean: Always wash your hands clean before and after working with polymer clay.

Best Paint for Polymer Clay

When it comes to painting polymer clay, it’s essential to choose the right type of paint. Here are the best paint options for polymer clay:


Acrylic Paint: This water-based paint works well on polymer clay. Acrylic paint dries faster and is ideal for beginners.

2. Oil Paint: This type of paint takes more time to dry, but it provides a smooth and shiny finish.

3. Alcohol Ink: Alcohol ink provides vibrant colors and is great for creating watercolor effects on polymer clay.

Best Brand of Polymer Clay

Choosing the correct brand of polymer clay is essential if you want to have a successful and enjoyable crafting experience. Here are the best brands of polymer clay:


Fimo: Fimo has a long history of being in the polymer clay industry, and they produce high-quality products with endless possibilities. 2.

Sculpey: Sculpey is a budget-friendly brand that comes in a wide range of colors and finishes. 3.

Cernit: This brand of polymer clay is known for its durability and vibrant colors, making it a favorite of many experienced crafters.

Common Issues with Polymer Clay

As with any crafting material, there are common issues you might run into when working with polymer clay. Here are some of the most common issues and how to fix them:


Cracking: If your polymer clay is cracking, it could be a sign of overbaking. Baking polymer clay at high temperatures or for too long can cause it to crack.

2. Staining: Polymer clay can pick up stains from surfaces, including clothing, so it’s important to protect your work area and tools.

3. Poor adhesion: Poor adhesion is when the clay isn’t sticking together.

This may be due to insufficient conditioning or the wrong type of clay. 4.

Uneven Baking: If your polymer clay appears to be undercooked or uneven, you may have baked it at the wrong temperature or for too little time.


In conclusion, Polymer clay is a fascinating and versatile crafting material that has something to offer to everyone, regardless of experience level. By following safety precautions, choosing the right brand of clay, and knowing common issues, you can unlock a world of artistic possibilities with polymer clay.

With an endless range of colors and finishes, creating polymer clay pieces is both fun and rewarding. In conclusion, polymer clay is a versatile and convenient material that offers endless possibilities for artistic expression.

It is affordable, readily available, and perfect for creative beginners and experienced crafters alike. However, working with polymer clay requires careful attention to safety guidelines, choosing the right brands and paint, and addressing common issues.

By following these critical elements, you can enjoy working with polymer clay and create unique pieces of art that are both beautiful and durable. Whether you’re looking to start a new hobby or explore new artistic avenues, polymer clay is an exciting and rewarding material that can bring immense satisfaction and joy.

So, get started today and unleash your creativity!

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