If you are venturing off from simply painting on a canvas, you might have heard about polymer clay. Many people use paint, ink, and even stamps to create designs on their clay. Polymer clay cures at significantly lower temperatures than regular clay, so it can be easily hardened in a home oven or toaster oven.
So, can you use and bake acrylic paint on polymer clay? Definitely yes! Not only is it safe, but acrylic paint is the most recommended type of paint for polymer clay due to its thickness.
There are so many options for designs and techniques, but what about the type of paint we use on the polymer clay? We now know that acrylic paint is the preferred kind of paint, but I do want to share with you that artist’s grade is the best acrylic paint for clay.
I personally use this set because the colors are super vibrant and each tube has the transparency level on them, so you don’t have to guess or ruin your project.
Artists grade acrylic paints are preferred over students grade because students grade will not have the same pigment and chemicals to make the color last without chipping, or even having to do multiple layers on the clay. Artist’s acrylic paints always come in a tube and contain few to none of the cheap fillers that students acrylic paint might contain.
So if you can afford it, this type of acrylic paint will generally give you the best results for your polymer clay project.
The Baking Process
Now that you have painted you polymer clay project, it’s time to cure it. You can do this by baking it in a regular oven or even a smaller toaster oven at home. Although it varies slightly by brand, most polymer clay must be cured at 265°F to 275°F (129°C to 135°C) for at least 15 minutes per ¼ inch (6mm) of thickness.
While polymer clay is non-toxic, I don’t recommend curing the clay as an eating utensil like forks or spoons, due to it being is porous, meaning it would be impossible to clean it sufficiently to prevent bacteria from growing in/on it.
Some people cure the clay for much longer than is recommended. In fact, many people cure everything, no matter what its thickness, for at least 45 minutes, as long as the temperature stays at the suggested level, it should be possible to cure things for hours.
The problem is that some ovens are prone to temperature spikes. If the temperature exceeds 300°F (149°C), the clay may scorch or burn. Whenever you cure polymer clay, and especially if you’re new to it, you should use an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature.
I have personally cured my polymer clay bowls and decor for about 30 minutes to start, and then I will re-cure it for another 15-20 minutes to make sure the acrylic paint adheres.
So after you re-bake your clay for 15 minutes at 275 degrees F, you will want to apply a third complete layer, adding finishing details, and re-bake for a final 15 minutes at 275 degrees F. Keep in mind that over-baking will cause darkening of the clay, and burning can cause bubbling and darkening.
Did You Know..?
Polymer clay is an incredibly versatile medium. It is a popular material for bead-making artists because it’s so much easier to work with than glass since no pen flame is needed. Also, unlike glass, it is less likely break or chip, and even very large polymer clay beads weigh very little, which makes them comfortable to wear.
A lot of people even use polymer clay to cover non-clay objects like eggs, glass votive holders, tins, frames, etc., and to make bowls and other decorations. Many miniaturists agree that polymer clay is perfect for making their own doll house furniture and decorations.
Artists also use polymer clay to make decorative objects, like clocks, wall hangings and masks, or any household decor you can think of. What I love about it is that you can create practically anything you can imagine from polymer clay, and even add glass, ink and many other types of extras to it.
Storing Polymer Clay
If polymer clay is properly stored, it should last for years. The most important rule of storing your clay is to keep it out of direct sunlight and away from excessive heat.
Unopened polymer clay can be left as it is, but once you’ve opened it, you will want to re-package it in plastic wrap, plastic bags, or wax paper, to prevent dust or other particles from contaminating it. Raw clay shouldn’t be stored in contact with paper, because the plasticizers will leach out and leave the clay dry and crumbly.
If you don’t want to wrap your clay, I recommend storing it in plastic or glass containers.
Do You Have to Seal Polymer Clay?
Although you don’t have to seal and finish your polymer clay, it does look nicer and gives it a glossy finish. Baked polymer clay is durable plastic and therefore more durable than any sealer. I recommend this set from Amazon for sealing or bonding your polymer clay.
If you’re baking jewelry, the person must also be protected from any pigments, dyes, and mica coming off on their clothes or skin. If the project is purely decorative and will merely be sitting on a shelf, sealing is not imperative. Some artists will glaze their cured jewelry to give it that glossy look, and I have even seen a matte finish as well which looks pretty cool.
I always recommend sealing anything you bake, not only for the look, but also to protect it against dust, peeling, and breakage. Think of sealing your clay project the same way you would add a clear coat to your nail polish or the clear coat on a car.
Varathane is a brand name of polyurethane sealant available on Amazon. It has been a favorite varnish with polymer clay artists for many years. It does come in gloss, semi-gloss, and satin, but I find that even the satin is still pretty glossy.
Pearl Ex Varnish is made by the same company as the well-known mica powders. But this is just a varnish. It works nicely on all brands of clay, but doesn’t give a super glossy finish like the one above.
Epoxy Resin is a clear, thick coating that is gaining popularity among polymer artists, and for good reason. It is exceedingly strong and durable, more so than any other finish. It does take a little longer to cure it, but with the right oven thermometer you should be fine. This is definitely my top pick for my polymer clay projects.
Translucent Liquid Sculpey is another brand of liquid clay but this has a matte finish when cured. To get this effect, use a cosmetic sponge to dab the TLS onto your piece, then oven cure. Do not cure with a heat gun or the effect won’t be matte.
Liquitex Matte Varnish gives your project a nice, smooth, dry finish on all brands of clay. It’s not a high intensity matte, but does give a low-sheen satin finish that looks and feels great.
Always remember to experiment and try out what works best for you and your style of painting/glazing.
Can Polymer Clay Harden Without Baking?
If you find that using an oven to cure your polymer clay just isn’t for you, well you’re in luck. You don’t need to bake your clay in order to cure it. Make sure you purchase an air dry clay, since each brand has different instructions.
Keep in mind that while you may not need to cure it in the oven, the results may not be to your liking. Some times the clay may dry uneven or not have that finish look as it would in the oven.
Once you have sculpted your clay, set your item in a warm room on a shelf that has an even temperature. Most air-dried clays take a minimum of 24 hours to harden. After the clay has dried, you can paint it with artist’s acrylic paints or even with acrylic craft paints.
I hope you guys enjoyed this article, and don’t forget to check out all my articles and Recommended Products for your acrylic painting needs.