When we start working with polymer clay, the choices can be overwhelming. What is the best polymer clay brand to use? There are many brands of polymer clay and they’re all a bit different. Some are stronger than others, some are more flexible, some are more brittle, some are easier to work with, others are too mushy. There is no one best polymer clay brand to use. It’s best to choose the right clay for the kind of results you want to get. But what is each brand best suited for?
I do have all of these brands on hand here, and have compared them by using them in various applications. Here, I’ll describe what’s unique about each of the various brands of clay and what they might be particularly well-suited for. The best thing, of course, is to find what works for you. But it is helpful to know what else is out there.
Sculpey is a Brand Name, not a Type of Clay
When you say that you use Sculpey, it could mean any of several different clays produced by the Polyform Company. They have polymer clay brands that range from a very weak and mushy children’s clay to a high quality clay suitable for jewelry. Here are some characteristics of the various Sculpey brands of clay. Oh, please note, there is no “t” in the word. It is not Sculpty. That is a very common slip of the tongue.
Original Sculpey is a very soft and easily worked polymer clay that comes in a large boxes (from 1 to 24 pounds) and is only available in white and terra cotta. This should give a clue about its intended use. It’s quite mushy and soft, can be difficult to sculpt, and is quite weak when cured. This should never be used in thin pieces as they will certainly break. This clay is best used as a pottery substitute for clunky things like pinch pots, bowls, and plaques. It’s perfect for letting children explore with the advantage (over pottery clays or plastalina) of being able to cure and preserve their creations in a home or school setting. It is not the best polymer clay brand for making detailed sculpts, figurines, or jewelry. In fact, it’s utterly unsuitable for those purposes. I know that a lot of beginners use this clay first, but know that most of the other brands are stronger and better suited for most of the types of clay work that you see others doing online.
Super Sculpey is designed for sculpting and comes in large boxes (from 1 to 24 pounds) and is only available in a light flesh tone. It’s best used for sculpting figures that will not be handled. It’s fairly translucent and makes a nice doll skin tone, but it often darkens during baking and people will often paint it. This is still a quite soft clay and there’s a gray colored version called Super Sculpey Firm for those who need a stiffer sculpting medium. If your sculpture needs to be strong after baking, or will be handled, you’re better off choosing one of the stronger clays below, some even have a range of skin tone colors specifically designed for sculpting.
One of the first American colored polymer clays on the market, Sculpey III comes in 2 oz bars in a range of colors that include metallics, pearls, and translucent. Some colors are also available in 8 oz and 1 pound bricks. This is a much stronger clay than Original Sculpey, but it still has limitations in its usability. It’s very soft to work with, people say it resembles toothpaste or cookie dough in texture, and it is notoriously brittle after baking. This brand of clay is often the first choice of beginners who try to attempt complex projects and are disappointed to find that it breaks easily. Don’t use this clay for anything that will be thinner than 1/4″. It’s a great, soft clay for children to use to make dioramas and figures that will not be handled extensively, but it is not suitable for fine detailed work that has to stand on its own, for jewelry, or for detailed sculptures like dragons and fairies. But it’s a wonderful beginner clay for making large beads or simple hand-built sculptures.
Sculpey III is quite soft, though, and therefore works well for times when “smearing” the clay is a plus. Polymer clay painting, Sutton Slice, and faux embroidery are some techniques that come to mind. But the base that you “smear” the Sculpey III onto should be a strong clay for best results.
Available in 2 ounce blocks in several colors, Bake Shop polymer clay is the softest and weakest of all brands of polymer clay. Typically found for a mere dollar a block, it’s an attractive temptation for those trying to save money. But most people complain that this clay is far too mushy and soft to hold details. Baked pieces break easily. You may prefer to save yourself some frustration and leave this clay for the toddlers to play with. *Note: I think that Bake Shop has been rebranded as Firefly in some markets.
Only on the market a year, Souffle polymer clay seems to cause people to either love or hate it. It’s one of the most flexible AND strong polymer clays on the market and is soft and easy to handle. The colors are quite subdued, but they go together well. The matte finish hides fingerprints well, but it means that a high gloss cannot be obtained. There are no translucent, metallic, or pearl colors. It’s probably the best polymer clay brand for those with weak hands or arthritis. It’s also tremendous for mokume gane because it slices beautifully with little distortion. I reviewed this clay in detail if you’d like to read more about it. It’s available in 2 oz blocks.
Premo is quite versatile and is an excellent all-purpose polymer clay work that’s readily available for most people around the world. For many people it’s the best polymer clay brand, and it is certainly one of my top picks. It holds its shape and details well while you’re working with it, it’s easy to condition, and it’s strong and flexible after baking. The colors are clean and bright and come in a full range of hues. The metallic, pearl, and translucent varieties of Premo are called Premo Accents. They function the same as regular Premo. There have been some reports of inconsistent shelf life of some colors of Premo in recent years, so do make sure to buy fresh clay from a reputable supplier and use it promptly for best results. Old clay can be quite crumbly and hard to work with.
There are other brands of polymer clay in the Polyform line, and while I’ve used most of them at one time or another, space limits me writing about them in detail. Ultralight is very lightweight, Bake and Bend is flexible, Eraser Clay makes erasers, Glow in the Dark does just that, and Mold Maker is sort of good at making molds. These are typically not all-purpose clays and you’d use them for a specific purpose or type of project. They’re specialty clays.
FIMO, the First Polymer Clay
Fimo was the first polymer clay brand created (in 1954), and for many years the only one. Made by Staedtler, Fimo polymer clay is made in Germany and comes several variations, including a kid’s clay, a general purpose clay, and a professional clay. The Fimo line is the most common brand of polymer clay in Europe and clayers there often refer to all polymer clay as “fimo”. Fimo can be more difficult to find in the US, but it’s a high quality brand that’s worth seeking out.
About a year ago, Staedtler rebranded the long-loved Fimo Classic under the name Fimo Professional. They changed to 3 ounce blocks (it’s now been changed back to 2 ounce blocks in North America, btw) and added a line of “True Colors”, along with an extensive mixing system that enables you to easily create a range of repeatable colors. It also comes in 12 ounce bricks. I’ve been lucky enough to work with this clay quite a bit and I have to say that I do love it and I think it comes close to being the best polymer clay brand. While it does stiffen up with time on the shelf, it doesn’t seem to be as brick-hard as Fimo Classic was reputed to be. I find that Fimo Pro can be crumbly at first, but soon softens to a lovely workable mass with excellent body. It holds its shape well, holds detail well, and is just the right mix of stiff and soft. I do find that it does get sticky (but not like toothpaste) as it warms up. It leaves a residue on your hands and you do need to wipe your hands with baby wipes between colors. After curing, it is phenomenally strong and durable. People say that it’s wonderful for caning.
Fimo Professional also has a full range of doll colors, too. That variety is called Fimo Professional Doll Art.
Far more readily available in the US than Fimo Professional, Fimo Soft is another very nice all-purpose clay. Available in 2 ounce blocks in wide range of colors, this polymer clay is easily worked, holds its shape well, and is strong after baking. Some people have recently reported that some colors don’t have a very long shelf life and can be very stiff and crumbly. As with Premo, do make sure you buy this clay very fresh from a reputable supplier and not from craft store shelves where it can be years old. The metallic, pearl, and translucent colors of Fimo are called Fimo Effect and from what I can tell they resemble Fimo Soft in behavior far more than Fimo Professional.
Not to be left out, children have their own brand of polymer clay in the Fimo line as well. Fimo Kids comes in a basic color palette of fairly small 1.5 ounce blocks. The colors are more chalky and less intense than the colors in the other Fimo brands. The clay is soft and workable and I think it’s the best polymer clay brand for children.
Kato Polyclay is a brand of polymer clay developed and marketed by polymer clay artist Donna Kato. It comes in 2 ounce blocks and large 12.5 ounce bricks and comes in a range of bright colors, neutrals, and metallics. The colors or Kato Polyclay are designed to be close to artist’s primaries, so you can readily mix any color that you would need. Kato has a reputation for being difficult to condition and stiff to work with, so you will find a lot of people who dislike this clay intensely. But that’s because they’re expecting this clay to be something it’s not. It’s not a clay for children or people with weak hands, but it’s arguably the best polymer clay brand for caning. The colors remain crisp and well defined, the clay is not at all sticky and is easy to re-position during caning, too. The unbaked clay has a waxy and plastic feeling to it, and the baked clay has a slight sheen. To me, it feels the most like plastic of any clay brands. Because Kato is fairly stiff to work with, it’s the best polymer clay brand to use if you have hot hands and tend to find other brands too soft.
A lot of people find that Kato Polyclay has a very strong smell. Well, it does. There’s no doubt about that. It’s not a terrible smell. It’s very vinyl-like, just like a new shower curtain or a new baby doll. But some people find it to be overwhelming. Others quite like it. I find that the smell is barely noticeable if I keep my clay covered with a lid during baking.
Kato Polyclay is also one of the strongest polymer clays on the market. If you need something to be strong after baking, this clay is the one to choose. It’s also wonderful for very finely detailed sculpting, as you can see in the work of Forest Rogers.
Pardo by Viva Decor
Also a German brand of polymer clay, Pardo comes in a jewellery clay and a professional clay. It’s also known for having a phenomenally clear translucent polymer clay.
Pardo Jewellery Clay
Originally supplied in odd little balls in a jar, Pardo Jewellery clay is a hobby clay that has colors named for and is designed to resemble various gemstones and jewelry materials. Most of the colors have a slight sparkle or shimmer to them, similar to gemstones. I rarely see this clay and don’t have any reason to work with it as I find other clays more suitable for my needs. But it’s a perfectly good brand of polymer clay. In short, I know little about it.
Pardo Professional Art Clay
I will admit that I don’t use Pardo Professional for anything but the translucents, but it does come in a full range of lovely colors. Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay is the clearest translucent polymer clay on the market and is by FAR the best polymer clay brand to use if you want to create faux glass or other extremely translucent effects. Pardo now has a line of colored translucent polymer clay that I reviewed recently. I highly recommend them!
Pardo Professional is a very good polymer clay for creating canes as it gives clear definition and doesn’t get too mushy. It can, however, be a bit tricky to work with. It does tend to crumble when it’s not conditioned, and some people find this to be a problem when slicing older canes. Pardo responds beautifully to heat, though, and gently warming a cane before slicing can make it easier to slice. Here’s more info for you if you have trouble conditioning Pardo translucent. It does have some tricks to it!
Cernit Polymer Clay
For some reason, Cernit is a polymer clay that’s far more popular in Europe than it is in the US. It has a reputation of being the best polymer clay brand for making dolls and it does come in a range of flesh colors that more evenly reflects the variations of the human population than other brands. It comes in well over 77 colors in both small and large blocks. Cernit has a slightly translucent base, so baked items have a luminous porcelain-like effect that makes nice flower petals and doll skin. I find Cernit to be a bit crumbly when you first break it off the block, but it quickly smooths out to form a very soft-bodied clay that can be a bit too floppy to work with when it warms up. I find that it’s best if you let it rest every few minutes and don’t overwork it. Cernit is extremely strong and quite flexible after baking, making it an excellent choice for flower petals and flower jewelry. Translucent Cernit is one of the clearest of all the brands, and you will find that mixing Cernit and Pardo Translucents gives and excellent translucent combination that seems to have the best features of both. You can read my comprehensive review of Cernit Polymer Clay here.
PVClay is from Brazil
South America has a rapidly growing polymer clay community. More and more people are learning about the joys of creating with polymer and they’re looking for good brands of clay to use. Importing clay can be expensive. But there is a wonderful brand of polymer clay made in Brazil called PVClay. I have used this clay and I wrote a review of PVClay here. It’s strong, flexible, fairly easy to work with, and comes in a range of colors, metallics, pearls, and even a translucent. I do recommend this clay and find it to be a very nice all purpose brand.
Polymer clay is easy for chemists to make, so it’s not unusual for there to be “no name” or generic brands of polymer clay available on the market. Some stores have their own brand of generic clay. Michaels has CraftSmart brand and Hobbycraft has ShapeIt! Brand. You can also find unnamed brands for sale quite cheaply on auction sites such as Ebay. In general, these clays can be too soft, too hard, too brittle, or just plain inconsistent from one purchase to the next. There are better choices.
So, What is the Best Polymer Clay Brand?
As I hope you can see here, there is no one best polymer clay brand. It just depends on what you’re wanting to do with it and what type of project you want to make. In short, here are my recommendations:
- If you’re teach toddlers about tactile work, I’d choose Sculpey Original or Bake Shop.
- For working with small children, I’d choose Souffle or Fimo Kids.
- To make jewelry I’d choose Premo, Cernit, Fimo Professional, or Souffle.
- For caning, I’d pick Kato Polyclay or Fimo Professional.
- For detailed, strong sculptures, Kato Polyclay seems to be best.
- For everyday sculpting of things that will stay on a shelf, Super Sculpey does well.
- If you’re sculpting cartoon figurines, choose Premo, Kato, Fimo Professional, or Fimo Soft.
- If you have hot hands and need a stiff clay, Kato Polyclay is wonderful.
- For arthritic hands or disabilities, choose Souffle.
- For super clear translucent work, go for Pardo Professional Art Clay in Translucent.
- If you’re in South America, PVClay is an excellent choice for most purposes.
- When a super stiff and strong result is needed, Kato is a natural choice.
- When very flexible and strong results are needed, Cernit and Souffle are good.
- If you just want to pick one brand and be done with choices, Cernit, Premo or Fimo Professional are excellent all-purpose brands.
- If you prefer to mix your own colors and want true primaries, Kato and Fimo Professional have true colors. Premo makes true primaries, but they’re only available by special order.
- To make polymer clay paintings where clay is spread on a surface, Souffle works nicely and Sculpey III might work if you can keep the base rigid.
Where to Buy Polymer Clay
In short, I think the best place to buy polymer clay is from reputable suppliers who keep up a high turnover, always have fresh clay, and are invested in finding other products that will help you with your claying adventures. Craft stores, while convenient, often have old stock and that can mean you’ll get hard and crumbly clay that will cause swearing and frustration. For more strategies on buying polymer clay and for a list of good suppliers that I trust, head over to my article How to Buy Polymer Clay.