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, and 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 in my studio 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 large boxes (from 1 to 24 pounds) and is available in white, terra cotta, and in a funky faux granite color. 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 plasticine) 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 sculptures, 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 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. It’s so soft that it will frustrate children who try to make anything detailed.
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.
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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.
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 is hard to achieve by sanding and buffing. 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 used to be called Premo Accents and you still may encounter that packaging. 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. Recently, I’ve found quality control to be lacking and this Premo is often too sticky and bubble-filled.
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 from 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 in 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 few years 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 an excellent body. It’s what I call a “fracturing clay” and conditioning can take effort. 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.
If you cane with Fimo Professional, leave your canes large until you’re ready to use them. Old canes become “unconditioned” and will crumble when sliced. But if you reduce the cane, that conditions the clay again and it should then slice properly.
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 nice all-purpose clay. Available in 2-ounce blocks in a wide range of colors, this polymer clay is easily worked, and is strong after baking. It can be quite soft and gummy and many find that it’s impossible to sculpt fine details. 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.
This brand of polymer clay has paper or cellulose fibers inside which give it a texture effect in both the raw and baked forms. This texture makes Fimo Leather look like real leather. It’s also flexible enough to sew baked sheets with a sewing machine. It’s an interesting novelty clay that has some great possibilities for making marbled faux stone effects. Read a full review here.
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 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 brand. 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 stiff 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 has several lines of clay in solids, translucents, and metallic colors. Read my review of the clays here.
Pardo Polymer Clay
Originally called Jewellery Clay, this line’s colors are named for and are designed to resemble various gemstones and jewelry materials. Many of the colors have a slight sparkle or shimmer to them, similar to gemstones. There are 39 colors, many of which are not available in other brands. There is also a line of translucent clay and another line of metallic clay within the “jewelry clay” line. The clay body is soft enough to work and yet firm enough to be useful. The clay is a bit sticky, but not terribly so. It bakes matte.
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 14 lovely colors and there’s also a line of Mica Clay in five colors. This clay line is very similar to the above jewelry clay line but stiffer. 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. You can read more about the colored translucents here.
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
Cernit is a huge brand of clay with several sub-lines. The Number One line is regular opaque clay. The Opaline line is 50% translucent. Then there is a Translucent line and a Cernit Metallic line. The translucent and the metallic lines are both quite soft and have a reputation for being a bit goopy or taffy-like. But they can be leached.
Cernit Metallics are phenomenally rich, made from synthetic micas for extra shine. The translucents are richly colored and the uncolored translucent is one of the clearest on the market. You can see how Cernit translucent compares to Pardo here. You can read my comprehensive review of Cernit Polymer Clay here. And you can see photos of the wonderful new line of Cernit Pearl here.
Manufactured in Serbia and distributed through the UK to sellers around the world, Papa’s Clay is relatively unknown but becoming more popular. It’s a fantastic sculpting clay that comes in a full array of beautiful colors. There are no translucents or metallics in Papa’s Clay. This clay takes some getting used to and I’d say it’s the most unusual clay in our lineup. It doesn’t like to be conditioned with the pasta machine and will crumble to bits if you try it. It’s what I call a “fracturing” clay. To condition it, warm small bits in your hands with pressure. In fact, you can take an entire bar in your hands and work it into a sculpture within a few minutes.
Papa’s Clay doesn’t like to be rolled with a pasta machine and you might struggle to make skinner blends with it. It’s not the best all-purpose clay. But if you’re making things with your hands, this clay is really special and you will love it. NOTE: As of summer 2022, it has been reformulated and works much better with a pasta machine.
New on the scene, CosClay is marketed to sculptors who need their clay to be extra flexible. It’s advertised as being a polymer clay-rubber hybrid (it’s really not) and that leads people to assume it’s not compatible with other polymer clay. No, it is. This sculpting clay is, indeed, very flexible and can be bent without breaking. (Though, this is true for most brands of polymer clay.) Great for making toys and that type of thing, CosClay is too flexible and flimsy for making jewelry or home decor items (when made thin). But it does have its uses. It compares very, very closely to Sculpey’s Bake and Bond.
CosClay comes in basic colors, several doll-clay colors, and both a firm and regular type of gray sculpting clay. There is also a translucent and two glow-in-the-dark colors (blue and green).
Prism & Pro
This small-brand polymer clay from China is only available on Ali Express. I hesitated to include it here because it lacks a website or a strong brand identity. But it’s actually a pretty good clay and has its uses! Unlike other clays from China, this one seems to be strongly colored, rich in plasticizer, and comes in a nice range of colors. (I believe this manufacturer also supplies several private-label clay sellers that you might find on inexpensive marketplaces. But they do not supply the Arteza repackager.)
Prism & Pro is soft, easy to work with, and has a good range of colors, including an excellent translucent. The clay can be too soft, so you might want to leach it. After baking, it’s extremely flexible and very strong. It’s a strong competitor to CosClay, in my opinion, and has better colors. This is a good one to try if you can’t find your normal clay brands.
Crafter’s Collection from Hobby Lobby
The US retail craft chain Hobby Lobby has now begun selling two lines of polymer clay in their private label Crafter’s Collection brand. This clay comes in two types, the Craft and the Advanced.
This clay comes in 27 colors in two-ounce packages and also larger packages in white and black. It’s very soft (at least now when it’s fresh), but very strong. The colors are a bit pasty, but there is a good range. You can read a full review of the HL Craft clay here. This clay is identical to the Craftsmart clay in the multipacks. The biggest challenge to working with this clay is that it’s too soft and hard to handle. But with time, I suspect it will soon become quite hard and crumbly.
This clay comes in 21 colors in 1.7-ounce packages and strongly resembles Fimo Professional. The bright, clear colors are identical to Fimo Pro and the clay is slightly sticky, firm, and does come off on your hands. But it’s a great clay for advanced users who are used to the pluses and minuses of working with Fimo. You can read my full review here.
Craftsmart is the private label clay available at Michaels, a large retail craft chain in the US and southern Canada. This brand is in flux right now because they’ve removed the Premium black label line and now have only the white label. They also have two types of multipack clay, one of which is identical to Hobby Lobby’s Crafter’s Collection Craft Polymer Clay. This clay has a lot of fans and a lot of critics. I suspect that a lack of transparency as they’ve switched suppliers means a lot of public opinion about this clay is currently inaccurate. I suspect a strong overlap with the Hobby Lobby brands, but I’ve not reviewed the currently available clays. You can learn more about my thoughts on this 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. Some other generic brands include Mont Marte. You can also find unnamed brands for sale quite cheaply on auction sites such as eBay. Arteza is a brand that repackages generic crafting supplies rather than manufacturing their own. Arteza’s polymer clay is non-name generic with variable quality. 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 teaching toddlers about tactile work, I’d choose Sculpey Original or Bake Shop.
- For working with small children, I’d choose Souffle or Fimo Kids. Older kids will enjoy Papa’s Clay.
- To make jewelry I’d choose Premo, Cernit, Fimo Professional, Pardo, or Souffle.
- For caning, I’d pick Kato Polyclay or Fimo Professional.
- For detailed, strong sculptures, Kato Polyclay, CosClay, or Papa’s Clay are my picks.
- For everyday sculpting of things that will stay on a shelf, Super Sculpey does well.
- If you’re sculpting chubby cartoon figurines, choose Premo, Kato, Fimo Professional, CosClay, or Papa’s Clay.
- If you have hot hands and need 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.
- For translucent without a color cast, Cernit and Pardo Agate are really good choices.
- 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, CosClay, Papa’s Clay, Prism & Pro, Souffle, and Cernit are all good.
- If you just want to pick one brand and be done with choices, Cernit, Premo, Pardo, or Fimo Professional are excellent all-purpose brands.
- If you prefer to mix your own colors and want true primaries, Premo, Kato, Cernit Opaline, and Fimo Professional have true colors.
- 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.
- If you need the unbaked clay to flow, like when making hollow or pinch pot forms, enjoy using Souffle, Papa’s Clay, and Cernit Translucent.
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.
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