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Topic: Painting Polymer Clay and Other Questions  (Read 2417 times)
Tags for this thread: painting , sculpting , glaze , finish , color , baking  Add new tag
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« on: December 02, 2009 10:00:28 PM »

I'm thinking about giving polymer clay a go for some projects, but have a few questions. I read through the "read this first" post, but after a while it turned into a wall of text and I'm not quite sure on a few things.

First and foremost, I am a model painter. I have been buying models to paint for a few years, and want to start making my own. I also love beads, and Polymer clay encompasses both. Most posts on this clay, however, talk about using paint to colour the clay before molding it. I want to mold, then colour.

- Are the acrylics I use to paint regular models okay to use on polymer, or do I need to use oil based paint as the clay is oil based?

- For the best results, is it best to paint before baking, or after? Also, (I feel silly for this one), Is there a risk of the clay 'catching fire' because the paints are flammable?

- Glazing: Do you need to rebake after it is glazed? Or is it personal choice?

- Since I am only dabbling to start off with, I will be using my home oven, which is gas. I haven't seen any information about gas ovens being any different, but I want to make sure there are no other risks or precautions involved.

- Finally, is Polymer right for what I want to do, or should I be looking at other mediums?

Diane B.
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GlassAttic --polymer clay "encyclopedia"

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« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2009 08:26:04 AM »

Hi and welcome!

Here are some answers to your questions (I've changed their order a bit), along with links to pages at my polymer clay "encyclopedia" site which have much more info on each topic:

. . . is Polymer right for what I want to do, or should I be looking at other mediums?

Polymer clay is definitely used by people who "mostly like to sculpt" (or have been exposed in the past only only to other clay mediums, or come from the painting field), then paint completely over their sculpts since those mediums often are a single color.  Many in that group of people aren't much involved in the larger polymer clay community (though some are) but often they'll stay mostly in groups of people who are used to kiln-fired clay, or doll-making, or "garage kit" figures, etc., etc. 

In addition to painting completely over the clay as one would with kiln-fired clays, etc, many clayers who sculpt more realistic things in particular will just use pre-colored clays (often mixing their own colors just as in painting) or tint their own clays, then just use paints (often washes, etc.) on a few parts of the sculpt like lips, cheeks, and perhaps eyes, animal feet, etc....or in the case of animals with fur/feathers/scales/etc, they may "antique" or "highlight" the colored clay they've sculpted to create even more dimensionality.

You'll have to decide which clay medium(s) you personally prefer though for the things you want to create since epoxy clays (like MagicSculpt, Milliput, Apoxie Sculpt, etc), and better quality air-dry clays of various kinds can also be painted over, and they're all used that way.

You might want to check out some of the pages at my site on "sculpting" for more info, and to see examples of the kinds of things that can be done in that vein with polymer clay:
(that page also lists polymer and other clays, often flesh-colored but not always, that are often used for "sculpting," as well as ways to keep polymer clay smooth, some of the online sculpting groups, and a load of websites somewhat categorized as to type of sculpting, etc.)

Are the acrylics I use to paint regular models okay to use on polymer, or do I need to use oil based paint as the clay is oil based? . . . For the best results, is it best to paint before baking, or after?

Acrylics are the most-commonly used paints for painting on top of polymer clay, but other paints and colorants can be used too (artists' acrylics will often be better than craft acrylics, but both can be used tho cheaper craft ones have been known to bleed--esp. red).  Two coats are usually needed for full coverage, or one coat of gesso then the acrylic.
Some other paints and "paints" that can be used on polymer clay are heat-set "acrylics" or oil-like acrylics, true artists' oil paints (though they'll take a long time to dry), alcohol inks, thinned polymer clay pastes or tinted liquid polymer clays, paints made from clear water-based finishes which have been tinted with shavings from oil pastels, alcohol inks, mica or real metal powders, microfine glitters, and other colorants like "dry" chalks, oil pastels, mica powders, etc which are used directly onto/into the clay surface or made into "paints."

The only paints (or finishes, propellants in sprays, etc.) you would not want to use directly on polymer clay are those that are petroleum-solvent based (clean up with paint thinner) since they will sooner or later begin dissolving the clay.

(If you were actually mixing paint into the clay though, then artist's oil-based paints would be recommended --or alcohol inks-- because of compatibility issues.  Acrylic paints contain water so that water can get trapped inside the oil-based clay leading to later steam and bubbling or "plaquing" etc, particularly if very much of it is used...sometimes leaving the clay out overnight will help with some of the evaporation.)

Check out these pages primarily for paints and other colorants to use on polymer clay:

  Is there a risk of the clay 'catching fire' because the paints are flammable?

Sometimes paints (or clear acrylic finishes) are re-baked on polymer clay, but when completely painting over the clay that doesn't happen so often, unless it's just the antiquing/etc I mentioned before. 
Clear acrylic finishes are more often re-baked for a short time though because that will "harden" the finish even more than just allowing it to dry.

I haven't seen any information about gas ovens being any different, but I want to make sure there are no other risks or precautions involved.

Gas ovens shouldn't be any different than electric ones since it's the heated air that should be involved with the clay.  Neither polymer clays nor paints give off fumes that would "burst into flame," and polymer clay won't burn till it hits about 385 F (a lot hotter than the 265-275 that's usually used, though an oven thermometer is essential to use when curing polymer clay since most ovens don't actually heat to the temps indicated on their dials, and also because the clays will darken if exposed to too much heat --not an issue if just being painted over though).

You wouldn't want to put the clay right next to a pilot flame if yours isn't hidden, or put it next to any bare coils (or even sides of ovens), though of course simply because those places are a lot hotter than the air inside the oven cavity. 

Check out all the info on this page too about curing polymer clay --ways to do it, things to avoid, ovens, thermometers, keeping the clay from darkening, etc:

- Glazing: Do you need to rebake after it is glazed? Or is it personal choice?

Since polymer clay is basically plastic, and oil-based, no sealing is necessary as with air-dry clays. 
There are some occasions when one might choose to seal and/or to give a gloss/satin/matte finish though and in those cases, various clear water-based finishes can be used (some are "stronger" than others--see links below-- and as mentioned, "rebaking" will usually make those finishes even harder). 
"Sealing" in a case like that btw would refer to sealing something that's been rubbed into the clay like a real-metal powder which might oxidize/tarnish though, or perhaps lots of tiny microbeads that have been put on top of the clay (or in a depression) just so they won't fall off the clay.

This page is all about various finishes that can (and can't) be used on polymer clay:

(This may not be of interest to you, but polymer clay can also be given a sheen all the way up to a glassy shine without liquid finishes by wet-sanding and buffing it:
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/buffing.htm )

  I also love beads, and Polymer clay encompasses both.

If you're interested in beads as well as sculpting, you may well be interested in using precolored clays rather than painting bare clay for everything.  If so, here are some pages that cover coloring clay and mixing one's own colors and palettes, as well as beads and jewelry:
.... http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/beads-holes.htm
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/jewelry.htm (necklaces,bracelets,earrings,hair,etc)



Diane B.

« Last Edit: December 03, 2009 09:37:50 AM by Diane B. » THIS ROCKS   Logged

few of my photos
(had to move them from YahooPhotos, so many now without captions)
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2009 09:35:19 AM »

Wow, thanks for your detailed answers. I had noticed your website floating around in this forum a lot and had read bits and pieces of it, but its an awful lot of information to take in! I'm glad I don't have to worry about my oven, I'm new to gas, and putting food that is meant to go in there still freaks me out a bit, let alone things that possibly shouldn't be put in there, lol.

Thanks again taking the time to put forth such a detailed answer.
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