How To Guide

How to Color Polymer Clay: Tips and Techniques

Unleash your creativity with the versatile and adaptable medium of polymer clay, which offers boundless possibilities for artistic expression. One of the most crucial aspects of working with polymer clay is the ability to color and create various effects.

Basic Color Mixing Techniques

  • Preparing the clay: Before you begin mixing colors, it’s essential to condition the polymer clay to make it pliable and easy to work with. This can be done by kneading the clay with your hands or using a pasta machine dedicated to clay work.
  • Selecting colors: When mixing colors, it’s helpful to start with primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) and a small amount of black and white clay. These basic colors can be combined to create an extensive range of hues.
  • Mixing process: Mix small amounts of clay to achieve the desired color. You can use a color wheel to guide you in creating specific shades. To mix the colors, simply press and fold the clay pieces together, then roll them between your hands or pass them through a pasta machine until the colors are evenly blended.

Creating Complex Colors and Effects

  • Marbling: To achieve a marbled effect, partially mix the colors, leaving visible streaks. This technique can be used to create realistic stone or wood patterns.
  • Skinner Blend: Developed by artist Judith Skinner, the Skinner Blend is a technique that creates a smooth gradient between two or more colors. To create a Skinner Blend, arrange the selected colors side by side on a sheet of wax paper or a silicone mat. Fold the sheet in half, and pass it through a pasta machine several times until the colors gradually blend together.
  • Mica Shift: Some polymer clay brands contain mica particles, which can be used to create a unique, three-dimensional effect called “mica shift.” To achieve this effect, mix the clay with metallic colors, then press a textured stamp or roller onto the clay. The mica particles will shift and create an illusion of depth.

Surface Application Techniques

Using Pastels and Chalk

  • Shaving pastels: Using a sharp blade or a craft knife, gently shave off small amounts of soft pastels or chalks onto a clean surface.
  • Applying to clay: Pick up the pastel or chalk shavings with a soft brush and gently apply them to the surface of the conditioned polymer clay. This technique can create subtle color gradients or more dramatic effects.
  • Sealing: Once the pastels or chalks have been applied, sealing the surface is essential to prevent smudging or fading. This can be done by applying a thin layer of liquid polymer clay or a water-based varnish after baking.

Using Acrylic Paints

  • Thinning paints: Acrylic paints can be used to color polymer clay, but they must be thinned with water to achieve a smooth, even application.
  • Applying paint: Using a soft brush, apply the thinned acrylic paint to the surface of the clay. You can create various effects by using different brush strokes or applying multiple layers of paint.
  • Baking and sealing: After applying acrylic paint, bake the polymer clay according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the clay has cooled, seal the surface with a water-based varnish to protect the paint.

Using Alcohol Inks

  • Application: Alcohol inks can be applied directly to the surface of polymer clay for vibrant, translucent colors. Use a small brush or applicator to dab the ink onto the clay, or mix multiple colors for more complex effects. You can also dilute the ink with rubbing alcohol for a lighter, more subtle color.
  • Techniques: Experiment with various techniques, such as dripping, brushing, or stamping the ink onto the clay. You can also use a heat gun or a hairdryer to move the ink around the surface, creating interesting patterns and effects.
  • Sealing: Once you have achieved the desired effect with alcohol inks, allow them to dry completely before baking the clay. After baking, apply a water-based sealant or varnish to protect the ink and prevent fading.

Incorporating Pigments, Powders, and Foils

Pearl Ex Pigments and Mica Powders

  • Application: Pearl Ex pigments and mica powders can be applied to the surface of polymer clay to create shimmering, metallic effects. Use a soft brush to dust the powder onto the clay, or mix it with a small amount of liquid polymer clay to create a paintable paste.
  • Techniques: Experiment with different application techniques, such as stippling, brushing, or using stencils to create patterns and designs with the pigments.
  • Sealing: Once the pigments have been applied, bake the clay according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After baking, seal the surface with a water-based varnish to protect the pigments.

Metal Leaf and Foils

  • Preparing the surface: Before applying metal leaf or foil, ensure the surface of the polymer clay is clean and free from dust or fingerprints.
  • Applying adhesive: Use a soft brush to apply a thin layer of metal leaf adhesive or liquid polymer clay to the surface of the clay where you want to add the foil.
  • Applying metal leaf or foil: Carefully lay the metal leaf or foil onto the adhesive-coated surface, pressing gently to ensure good contact. Use a soft brush to smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles, then trim away any excess foil.
  • Sealing: After applying the metal leaf or foil, bake the polymer clay according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the clay has cooled, apply a water-based varnish to seal and protect the surface.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you bake polymer clay with paint, pigments, or other colorants applied to it?

Yes, you can bake polymer clay with paint, pigments, or other colorants applied to the surface. However, make sure to use materials that can withstand the baking temperatures and do not release toxic fumes when heated.

Can you mix different types of colorants to create unique effects?

Yes, you can combine different colorants to achieve unique effects on polymer clay. For example, layer alcohol inks over acrylic paints or mix Pearl Ex pigments with mica powders. Be creative and experiment with various combinations to find the perfect look for your project.

How can I create a smooth, even application of color on polymer clay?

To achieve a smooth, even application of color on polymer clay, make sure to condition the clay thoroughly before applying any colorants. Additionally, use high-quality brushes and applicators and work in thin, even layers, building up the color gradually.

Can I mix acrylic paint with polymer clay?

Yes, you can mix a small amount of acrylic paint with polymer clay to tint it. However, adding too much paint may change the consistency of the clay and affect its baking properties. Be cautious with the amount of paint you add, and test a small piece before baking a larger project.

How do you change the color of polymer clay?

You can change the color of polymer clay by mixing different colored clays together or by adding colorants, such as acrylic paint, alcohol inks, pigments, or mica powders. Experiment with different combinations and techniques to achieve your desired color and effect.


The world of coloring polymer clay is vast and full of possibilities. By exploring various techniques and materials, you can create stunning, unique pieces that showcase your artistic vision. From simple color mixing to intricate surface applications and effects, there’s something for everyone in the realm of polymer clay coloring. Experiment, have fun, and let your creativity shine!

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button