Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Tip for Blending and Smoothing Polymer Clay

I apologize for taking so long to post again. I was held back by a combination of procrastination and fear. After having a discussion with my family about what I want for my future, I have decided to try even harder with my art and my blog. Therefore I have issued a challenge to myself to post everyday for 60 days.

I wanted to show you some of my art!
Currently, I am working on a poseable fairy doll. She will be around 8 inches and I'm planning on making her several interchangeable wigs, outfits, and shoes.

Mocha WIP
Unamed as of yet. Any ideas?

This her head so far. She is made with a mixture of Prosculpt, Puppen Fimo and Fimo Soft. Her eyes are handmade by me using white and translucent polymer clay, paint and UV resin gel. It is the first time I have experimented with skin tones other then the premade clay packages. Getting a mini food processor really makes the whole process a snap.  I'd suggest this one, it was the cheapest one with the best reviews so I got it and it has worked really well and fast! 
So far I've succeeded in getting a color that I like. But my second goal, making the clay easy to blend like pure Prosculpt but avoiding the many moonies I always get with it by adding Fimo Soft and Fimo Puppen, didn't quite work out. I don't know about the moonies yet, I've only used the heatgun not the oven (cross your fingers for me!). The blendinging though, was not easy as I had hoped. It was certainly better than pure Puppen Fimo, but still not good enough.
Luckily, through my customary manic research (I love finding useful information) I found what I think is a better and easier way to smooth than simply using rubbing alcohol. It seems so simple and obvious now, I can't believe I never tried it before. 

bad blending
An example of bad blending, this doll was done with pure Puppen Fimo and was impossible to get smooth!

Puppen Fimo is my perfect clay, aside from the fact that I never could seem to fully blend all the layers of clay together. I'd add a bit of clay to the cheek and try my hardest to blend it with my finger, tools, rubbing alcohol and even acetone, but you always see a little ridge, line, gap at where the two layers of unbaked clay joined. If I pressed hard I could perhaps get it to blend, but then that made an unwanted impression. You may not have had the trouble with blending I've had, but I'd still say that this method below seems to really make the surface of the clay velvety smooth and perfectly seamless with minimal time and effort! 

First, while you are still working on the form, keep on using that rubbing alcohol to neaten things out. It's not perfect but it helps. Once you have finally decided that all your planes and depth is down and you're done with the sculpting, you can use vaseline or (so I've heard) mineral/baby oil or perhaps even sculpey dilutent, on your finger or wooden tools (wood helps absorb and hold vaseline unlike metal/plastic) to blend your surface! Vaseline seems to permanently soften the clay, not just melt the top layer temporarily like the alcohol. While softening, it also seems to weaken, which is why it's important to only use it on your very outer clay layer and not the more structurally vital inners. It's not finished though. The surface may be seamless now but not velvety smooth yet. So go ahead and soft fire it with your heat gun (it's easier to sand soft), and then buff with a fine grit sanding sponge until you are satisfied.
I've heard people always say they get their sanding sponge at a home improvement store, but I've never found a fine enough grit one there. I use nail buffing sponges which you can find at you local grocery or drug store for about a dollar. That's all for now, I really should get to bed. I am as shy as I say, but once I get going I guess I turn into a chatterbox!

I'll see you tomorrow, and please feel free to ask me any questions.

Also check out my Flickr for more pictures.
Thank you for reading.


  1. You're sculptures show a lot of promise, puppen fimo is a strong clay, and you don't need to introduce any agents to smooth the clay, the limitations of the clay for me I found I have too condition the clay, it's a difficult clay to work with right out of the package. I keep the pasta machine next to me and condition the clay by running it through the machine several times before I add it on to an existing sculpture of uncured clay. Working with this clay I've learned even to use body heat to my advantage. If the clay needs smoothing once all the sculpting is done, I use a mixture of translucent liquid sculpey mixed with a few drops of baby oil, and use a brush to model with, but I don't even do that anymore. Several medium quality synthetic red sable square flat shaders, and teardrops in various sizes is all I use to do finishing work now, and I don't introduce any mineral oils or solvents, with few exceptions, and for those instances I use translucent liquid clay, with a few drops of baby oil 70-30% about 30% of the mixture is baby oil, and the rest TLS . The clay does respond well to sculpting with brushes alone without the need of solvents, but like I mentioned you can even use your own body heat to your advantage with polymer clays. The weather is getting cold, during the winter small projects are easier to handle.

  2. The flexible sanding pads, can be found here at national crafts, they're not that inexpensive, so if you want them to last long, don't use them wet on polymer clay, and since the clay tends to cake easily on the teeth of the abrasive, you can press the sanding pad into a roll of dollar store packing tape. I used them when I worked with porcelain using a wet cleaning method, with polymer clay I use alligator brand wet dry sand paper from ace hardware. The final thing I do is smooth everything out with 100% acetone before painting, I use a cotton pad sometimes cut into small pieces, and cotton swabs, but I never saturate or soak the pad with acetone, you can destroy a sculpture with acetone if used carelessly.

  3. You are so talented! Keep going and don't give up! I really like your doll's face. If you don't keep sculpting you will never know what else you could accomplish. You made me laugh about the research. I have a separate drive which has tons of gigibytes for all my pictures of dolls and research.

  4. You are so talented! Keep going and don't give up! I really like your doll's face. If you don't keep sculpting you will never know what else you could accomplish. You made me laugh about the research. I have a separate drive which has tons of gigibytes for all my pictures of dolls and research.