To Have & To Mold: Which Clay Is Best?

Whenever I create something out of polymer clay (usually little birdies destined to sit on top of a wedding cake), choosing the type and brand of clay can be surprisingly important.  Here is a list of some of the most popular polymer clays out there, and how they stack up.

  

Sculpey III

I may be biased, because the majority of the things I make are made out of Sculpey, but I consider it to be the gold standard for polymer clay.  They have a great selection of colors, and it’s affordable.  Each color comes in a 2 ounce package, which can be purchased for $2 or less. Select colors also come in 8 ounce and one pound bars.  They offer a number of sets and multi-packs as well.  I do find the 8 ounce bars to be softer than the smaller packages, and can become a little sticky at times if you’re handling it a lot.  However, the softness can be helpful when you’re making larger pieces, as you don’t have to work the clay too much.

Sculpey III bakes at 275ºF for 15 minutes per quarter inch thickness.  I usually bake my cake toppers for 45 minutes to an hour.  The 2 ounce bars are divided into four sections, which makes it easy to divide and break up.

Sculpey III comes in 44 colors:

You can see the colors better here.  The Sculpey website also provides a color mixing chart.  I find that they have most of the colors I look for or need, and the colors turn out well after being baked.

The Sculpey III line can be found at Hobby Lobby as well as Michaels.

  

Fimo Soft

    

Fimo Soft was created as an alternative to Fimo Classic, and you can guess by their names, Classic is much firmer and can be a little more difficult to manipulate.  Fimo Soft, however, is, you guessed it, soft!  It’s also a smooth clay.  It is baked at 265ºF for30minutes.  Like Sculpey, Fimo comes in 2 ounce bars, but some colors also come in 12.5 ounce bars.  The 2 ouncers come in 8 segments.  It is a little more expensive than the Sculpey III though.

Fimo Soft comes in 48 colors:

Including a number of special effects colors:

It’s hard to tell here, but the special effects colors are very pretty.  Fimo Soft is a nice clay to work with, with many great colors (both standard and specialty).

Here is the Fimo Soft collection at Hobby Lobby and Michaels.

  

Premo

Premo is made by Sculpey, so you can expect good quality.  Like Sculpey III, Premo is offered in 2 ounce and 1 pound bars, and the standard 2 ounce bars are segmented into 4 sections.  It is baked at 275ºF for 30 minutes per 1/4 inch thickness.  The main difference is that Premo is a little bit firmer than Sculpey III. 

Premo recently unveiled a new color chart for 2011, which includes 48 colors:

 

While Premo is firmer than Sculpey III, I think they offer more in the color department, especially with their new colors that include the pearls, translucents, metallics, glitter and granite colors.  I will say the pearls are very nice, if you want to add a little sheen or pop to your color without going all out with the glitter.

Sculpey also provides a color mixing chart for its Premo clay.

Premo can be found at Hobby Lobby and Michaels.

  

Kato Polyclay

Kato Polyclay is a newer clay on the market.  It is a little firmer than some of the others, but is still easy to condition and form.  The Kato website says that this clay can be cured anywhere from 275-300°F, for 30 minutes per ¼ inch thickness.

Although all colors initially came in 3 ounce blocks, they ditched that in order to be more consistent with the other clays on the market, and all colors now come in the standard 2 ounce blocks.  Some colors come in 12.5 ounce bricks as well.

Kato Polyclay is available in 21 colors.  The main colors (which they specify as spectral, neutral, and metallic) can be seen here:

The remaining four colors, which you can sort of see below, are green, yellow, red, and blue concentrate.

You can find Kato Polyclay at Hobby Lobby.

While almost all of these brands can be found at both Michaels and Hobby Lobby, I’ve noticed lately that Michael’s has been upping the prices and decreasing the selection of most of the other clays in favor of their house brand, Craft Smart (which I’ve not yet tried) – so that is kind of a bummer!

Which polymer clay(s) do you use?

Product Review: Loew Cornell Clay Modeling Tools

One of the first things you’ll need when you begin working with polymer clay is some sort of tool set.  You can get by for a while without tools, but eventually you’ll realize they just make things so much easier.  I started out with this basic set from Loew Cornell, which can be found at Michaels or Hobby Lobby for only a few dollars.  The Loew Cornell Clay Tool Set includes three tools, each with two ends, and are perfect for smoothing, shaping, and contouring. 

While there are many more advanced sets out there that you can do a lot more with, this set is a great one to start with – it’s basic enough that everyone from beginners to more serious crafters can get good use out of them, they’re plastic and very easy to clean, and best of all, they are cheap!

 

What modeling tools have you used?

Product Review: Sculpey Work ‘N Bake Clay Mat

Not long after I began making custom cake toppers, I started to think of ways to improve my technique – both in sculpting and actual baking.  I was – and still am – trying to figure out the best way to bake items when they aren’t standing upright. 

I like to insert a few toothpicks into the bottoms of my figures just before putting them in the oven, for three reasons:

  1. It makes it easy to securely insert them into the top of your wedding cake.  I didn’t do this for my own penguin cake toppers, so my baker had to construct a little platform, or tiny ice rink as I like to think of it, to secure my penguins to the cake.
  2. It helps the figurines stand up better in the oven while baking.  I usually make a little platform out of foil and poke holes in it for the toothpicks.
  3. The toothpicks make it easier to pack the cake toppers, since I insert the toothpicks into a foam brick and wrap them (in several layers of bubble wrap).  That way, it sort of immobilizes them during shipping, since after all, they are fragile, and you never know what can happen during shipping.

Anyway, if the customer requests it, I don’t put the toothpicks in.  Sometimes people have other ideas of how to attach the toppers to their cake, or maybe they aren’t having a traditional cake (cupcake display, sweets table, etc.).  For those who would like to keep the toppers as keepsakes after the wedding, you can simply clip the toothpicks off, but some people would rather not.  So, when I don’t have toothpicks in, it can be a bit trickier to get the figures to stand up straight while baking.  Since the cute little birds I usually make are a little plump and top heavy, and all there is on the bottom are little webbed feet, it often takes a little baking time to harden the feet enough to support the whole body.  But, if you lay a figure on its side, the spots that touch the baking surface end up with a shiny little sheen on them.  So that’s what started my search for a new baking surface.

I picked up the Sculpey Work ‘N Bake Clay Mat at Michael’s.  It is a non-skid silicone mat that you can place on your baking sheet or pan.  I really like that you can work on your clay pieces on the mat, and then bring the whole thing into the kitchen and pop it in the oven.  The mat is non-stick, so I think it may sort of grip the items a little bit better than if you were to just put it on foil or wax paper.  Also, since its made of silicone, it doesn’t get as hot, and you can handle it soon after taking it out of the oven.  It really keeps you from making a mess on the table during the sculpting process, and makes clean up easy (when you’re done baking, a little soap and water will clean the mat). 

So, while the baking mat doesn’t necessarily solve all the issues I intended it to, it has a lot of benefits I hadn’t considered, and its convenience is a huge help in the clay-making process!  Just another reason I heart Sculpey.