Which is the clearest Translucent Polymer Clay?

Created with Pardo Professional Art Clay, this necklace shows how you can create designs that take advantage of the translucent properties and the clarity of color. www.thebluebottletree.com
Created with Pardo Professional Art Clay, this necklace shows how you can create designs that take advantage of the translucent properties and the clarity of color.

Much has been said recently about Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay. It’s a polymer clay that has been rumored to be the clearest translucent polymer clay on the market. I’ve worked with it, and yes, it is incredibly clear. But is it the clearest translucent polymer clay? Cindy Leitz made a video comparing Pardo to other brands and Emma Ralph did a comparison of Cernit and Pardo Translucent. But I wanted to see them all together. So I did what any mad scientist would do. I ran my own tests. In the spirit of a scientific research paper, here are my findings.

Which brand is the clearest translucent polymer clay? Read the article at The Blue Bottle Tree to find out.

Materials and Methods

I compared every polymer clay brand’s translucent that I could find. I conditioned each clay, carefully avoiding the introduction of bubbles. I rolled sample sheets in the thickest setting (#1) on my Atlas pasta machine and the thinnest (#8) that I could make (the machine goes to a #9, but I’ve never had clay come through that alive). The thick setting is about 1/8″ (3mm) and the thinnest is about the thickness of a playing card. I baked all brands according to the directions on the package (which I have to say don’t give the best results). All of the clay I used was recently purchased and appeared to be fresh, with the exception of the Cernit. The package I have is several years old.

The brands of translucent polymer clay I tested, and the temperatures/times used were:

  • Pardo Professional Art Clay, 250°F (121°C) for 30 minutes
  • Cernit, 265°F (130°C) for 30 minutes
  • Kato Polyclay, 300°F (150°C) for 10 minutes
  • Fimo Effect, 230°F (110°C) for 30 minutes
  • Sculpey III, 275°F (135°C) for 15 minutes
  • Premo Translucent, 275°F (135°C) for 30 minutes
  • Premo White Translucent, 275°F (135°C) for 30 minutes

I baked these in a full size oven which has been checked for temperature accuracy. I baked all samples on a ceramic tile inside of a covered foil pan.

Results

Unbaked Clay

A sample of raw uncured translucent polymer clay in several brands was compared for color.
Pardo, Fimo, and Cernit translucent polymer clays start out quite white in the raw state. Kato, Sculpey, and Premo are colored in their raw state. It’s no surprise that the clays stayed that color once they were baked. Interestingly, though, the color had little to do with the translucency once baked.

Thin Sheets

Comparing thin sheets, which is the clearest translucent polymer clay? Read the answer at The Blue Bottle Tree.
Thin sheets of translucent polymer clay show Pardo, Cernit, and Premo to be close rivals for holding the title for most translucent.
Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay, Cernit, Kato Polyclay, Fimo Effect, Sculpey III, and Premo polymer clays are compared for translucency on a black background.
Which is the clearest translucent polymer clay? Comparison of thin sheets of translucent polymer clay displayed on a black background. Note the white flecks in the Pardo Professional Art Clay.

Thick Sheets

Thick sheets of various brands of translucent polymer clay comparing how their color and translucence is once baked.
Comparing translucence of thick sheets of translucent polymer clay on white. Note that you can barely see through any of them, but the Premo does appear to be clearest when thick.
Cured sheets of translucent polymer clay are compared for color and translucence on a black background.
Thick sheets of translucent polymer clay are compared on a black background. You can really see the color here. Sculpey is the most colored and the Premo clays appear quite  colored.

I started this experiment fully expecting that Translucent Pardo Art Clay would be the clearest translucent polymer clay. So imagine my surprise when in this side by side direct comparison we see that Pardo Translucent Art Clay, while very transparent, is not appreciably more transparent than other brands, in particular Cernit and Premo. It is obvious in this photograph, though, that Sculpey III and Kato Translucent are not particularly translucent. (***See note below about Kato Polyclay.)

Results by Brand Name

Pardo Professional Art Clay

The favorite going into this test, it is certainly no slouch. You can read through it as cleanly as several of the other brands. The big plus for Pardo, though, is how white it is. The clay is white when raw, and once baked this does not change. But a troubling feature of Pardo Art Clay is that it forms tiny air bubbles or inclusions. No matter how carefully I conditioned this clay, these little air pockets occurred. If you’re trying to get a glass-like finish, this could be a deal breaker.

Cernit

Cernit was every bit as clear as Pardo. You can easily read through a thin sheet. A thick sheet is not any less clear than the other brands and compared very favorably to Pardo. But note how the texture of Cernit is much more clear with none of the air pockets or inclusions that you see with Pardo. Cernit is also very white and clean.

Kato Polyclay

Kato Polyclay was the most opaque of all the translucent polymer clays tested. It was not as tan as the Sculpey and Premo. It had more of a yellowish tinge. The color and opacity of Kato didn’t appear to change much during baking.

***Note*** I disagree with the directions on the Kato Polyclay package. The package clearly states that 10 minutes is the recommended baking time. But both the thin and thick samples of baked Kato snapped accidentally while I was taking photographs. I work with Kato all the time. It’s my preferred clay brand, and I’ve never had it break like this! But I always bake it at 300°F (150°C) for 30 minutes. I think it would be safe to guess that Kato Polyclay would be more translucent if baked longer than 10 minutes. I’ll check on this someday. But for now, I’m not condemning Kato.

Fimo Effect

I was pleasantly surprised with Fimo Effect. It was easy to work with and the color was absolutely white. While it was not very translucent, it did not impart a color at all.

Sculpey III

Sculpey III is an inexpensive hobby clay which is disliked by serious polymer clay artists, so I was not surprised at its poor performance. I’ll leave working qualities for another day. But for now it’s obvious how this is a strongly colored, quite opaque clay.

Premo Translucent

What a pleasant surprise! Although it does have a color in both the raw and cured state, Premo Translucent is a very translucent clay in both thin and thick sheets.

Premo White Translucent

I will have to admit that I was not expecting Premo White Translucent to perform as well as it did. It is just as translucent as Pardo or Cernit. And although it does have a tan color, that color does not get in the way of being translucent. You can read through both the thick and thin sheets as well as with any other brand. The only drawback is the tint. It is not quite white.

Discussion -Which is the clearest translucent polymer clay?

Is Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay the clearest translucent polymer clay on the market? Yes. And no. No other clay is clearer. Cernit is certainly just as easy to read through and is just as white. But it’s not better than Pardo. Premo White Translucent is just as easy to read through as Pardo, but it has a tint.

So which translucent polymer clay should you buy? It depends on your use. If you’re going to be tinting the clay with alcohol inks, then you really need one that is both translucent and clear white. Pardo or Cernit are going to give you the best results in that case. But if you’re needing a background to pack a millefiori cane then Premo White Translucent is probably your best choice. If you’re wanting a clear layer over your design or you’re working with mokume gane, then I’d pick my clay based on either the physical properties (softness, cure temperature) or the colors I am using. If my design features warm tones then the brownish tinge of the Premo translucent clays would not be a detriment and they’d work well.

So Pardo Art Clay isn’t the clearest translucent polymer clay?

Well, here’s where it gets weird. I performed the above tests using the manufacturer’s recommended temperatures and times. But polymer clay artists are reporting that Translucent Pardo Professional Art clay becomes much more translucent when baked at higher or longer temperatures. Is there any truth to this? You know I had to check, don’t you?

Compare Pardo Translucent Art Clay when baked at low and high temperatures and you can see that it is much clearer when baked at higher temperatures.
When baked at 300°F (150°C) for 30 minutes, Pardo Art Clay is remarkably clearer than when baked at 250°F ( 121°C). I included Cernit just as a comparison. I didn’t bake it at a higher temperature.

I also baked a thin and thick sheet of Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay at 300°F (150°C) for 30 minutes. When baked at this temperature, a waxy residue forms on the surface of the clay and this needs to be removed before painting, gluing, or finishing the piece. But aside from that, wow is it clearer! It is remarkably more clear than Cernit when baked at a higher temperature. The piece also had fewer of the little air bubbles or inclusions. Cindy Lietz baked her test Pardo piece for an hour at 250°F ( 121°C). She found that there were even fewer of the pesky air bubbles. So perhaps baking at 300°F (150°C) for an hour is something to try.

Recommendations

If you can find Translucent Pardo Art Clay, then by all means buy it and have fun. It’s a fantastic clay to work with. But if you can’t find it, or if you’re not comfortable purchasing polymer clay online, then all is not lost.

Translucent Cernit polymer clay is just as white and as clear as Pardo Art Clay when baked at the recommended temperatures. If you want a clean, clear clay which imparts no color to your finished piece, Cernit is an excellent choice. Especially if you can’t tolerate the physical imperfections that Pardo can have. Cernit sort of looks like frosted glass when cured. But it’s not as clear as Pardo baked at higher temperatures.

Premo White Translucent is just as clear as Pardo Art Clay and depending on your use can give you remarkably clear results.

Curious about Pardo Translucent? For more information about Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay, check out my post that I wrote about it. I discuss strategies for curing it, how it behaves, and I show several examples of its use. I also discuss where to buy it and give a couple of suppliers.

Thoughts

I didn’t write this article to compare physical qualities of the different translucent polymer clay brands. They are very different and sometimes you have to choose your clay based on factors other than translucence. That is part of the art of polymer clay. It’s a highly technical medium which is easy to dabble in but it takes a lot of experience and experimentation to know which materials to choose and how to manipulate the materials to get the results you want. Discussing the features, qualities, uses, and performance of the different brands is something I’ll leave for another day.

In the meantime, I have a bin full of Pardo Translucent. And I’m going to get busy. Stay tuned!

Oh…I almost forgot. I typically post most days on my Facebook Page. Go like my page to get more information as I run future experiments. The Blue Bottle Tree’s Facebook Page.

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Did you know…

…that I write polymer clay tutorials? Have a look at these:

Rustic Beads and Components Tutorial for Polymer Clay
Graduated Color Blend Tutorial for Polymer Clay
Holo Effect Tutorial for Polymer Clay

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