Wait. Is that right? How can there be LIQUID polymer clay? Isn’t that an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp? Well, I think that causes a lot of confusion about what, exactly, liquid polymer clay is and how it can be used. Liquid clay is just what the name says, it’s a liquid version of polymer clay. There are three major brands of liquid polymer clay (Sculpey, Kato, and Fimo). Soon Sculpey will have a new member of the liquid clay family, Sculpey Clear (Transparent). I sat down with these common brands and put them through their paces. Here’s what I found when I compared these four liquid polymer clay varieties.
- Liquid polymer clay is just polymer clay without binders and fillers
- New on the market in May of 2017, Sculpey Clear shows great promise
- Translucent Liquid Sculpey (TLS) makes an excellent matte surface coating
- All liquid clays will clear further with a heat gun, but Kato Liquid will clear completely
- Kato Liquid makes an excellent glass-like glossy clear coating when used with a heat gun
- Thin coatings of liquid polymer clay will cure frosty-to-clear, but thick coatings can plaque and be quite opaque
- Sculpey Clear is the clearest of those tested when used thick, as in a mold or bezel
What is Liquid Polymer Clay?
Polymer clay itself (the putty/dough/clay) that we know and love, is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) particles suspended in a plasticizer. To turn it into a dough, binders and fillers are added. Liquid polymer clay has the same basic ingredients as the dough, but it lacks the binders and fillers. So it’s runny like a liquid and comes in a squeeze bottle. But just like our beloved polymer clay putty, curing with heat causes the particles of PVC to fuse, locking with the plasticizer to form a solid, yet flexible, mass.
All brands of liquid clay can be used in many of the same ways. It’s excellent when used as a bakeable glue to enhance the bond between clay pieces, to soften crumbly clay, with pigments to make a faux ceramic, as a drizzle for polymer clay food miniatures, and as a fixative for surface effects. You can use any brand of liquid with any brand of polymer clay. But today I’m focusing on how you can use liquid polymer clay as a coating or clearcoat when you don’t want to use a varnish or other “sealer”. (Not sure what I mean? Have a look at my article on polymer clay clearcoats here.)
Thin coats vs thick layers of Liquid Clays
While the baking temperature on the bottle’s label is as low as 265°F (130°C), I found that you will get a much clearer result when you bake at 300°F (150°C), regardless of brand. In addition to that, you can use a heat gun to further clarify thin coats. See examples below.
It’s a bit misleading in the above photos, but all the brands DID get more clear after a heat gun was used on them, even the Fimo Liquid. But as you can see, it was Liquid Kato that had the greatest increase in clarity. When placed over print, you can clearly see through both the Liquid Kato and the Sculpey Clear. (I know the picture isn’t that clear. It’s hard to photograph clear things!)
The above samples were drops poured into a fairly thin puddle on a piece of glass. What would happen if liquid polymer clay were baked in a container, such as a glass vial or perhaps in a mold? Would it be clear like resin?
As you can see, liquid polymer clay, when poured thick, can be quite opaque and can even discolor. Note the profusion of bubbles in the Liquid Fimo. The liquid Kato discolored the most, even though its label directions do say to bake at the temperature I used.
So…thin coatings work best when you’re trying to get a clear result. What happens if you use liquid clay in a bezel, as a substitute for resin? Well, you know I had to check that out, too.
Interesting, isn’t it? Well, let’s read on to learn more about the individual brands of liquid polymer clay. As you might suspect, each brand has slightly different working characteristics and therefore has different optimal uses when it comes to making a clear coating.
To clarify liquid polymer clay, it’s helpful to use a heat gun. What kind? You can get okay results with an embossing heat gun from a craft store. But I find that it doesn’t get hot enough. I use a heat gun from the hardware store, the kind that’s used on heat-shrink tubing and to strip paint. It’s helpful to have both variable speed fan and variable heat settings for maximum versatility. Unfortunately, though, a hair dryer will not be hot enough.
Translucent Liquid Sculpey
Translucent Liquid Sculpey is the first liquid clay that I remember being on the market and it’s often referred to by its initials, TLS. The label has changed over the years, but the formula appears to be the same. TLS appears white, has the consistency of white glue, and is fairly grainy when you rub it between your fingers. It has a mild smell similar to that of Premo.
After baking, TLS has a slightly milky appearance and is not completely translucent. It can often have lots of tiny bubbles, but that seems to diminish in thin coats or when warmed very slowly. Because of this, it’s best used in applications where clarity does not matter. It can be used as a coating, but results are best when used quite thinly. TLS is matte after baking so it makes a wonderful matte protective coating for surface treatments. Just sponge on with a cosmetic sponge and bake. While TLS is matte when oven baked, but it will take on a slight shine, sort of like a satin, when a heat gun is used on it.
Translucent Liquid Sculpey also makes a really good bakeable glue and is good for moistening crumbly clay. It is an excellent all-purpose liquid clay, but isn’t a shiny clearcoat. It’s an excellent matte surface effect. TLS has a dry, hard feeling after baking that is similar to the surface of any polymer clay. Contrary what is seen in an often-shared YouTube video, I have never (never!!) been able to make thick coatings of TLS become clear by using a heat gun.
Formerly known as Fimo Deco Gel (Deko Gel in European packaging), Fimo Liquid is a cloudy-appearing liquid with a distinct odor that I can’t describe but can easily recognize. It has obvious granules in it that appear to be suspended in a runny honey-like liquid. Fimo Liquid can bake quite clearly when poured into a bezel, but if it’s too thick, it will have lots of bubbles and plaques. After baking, the surface of Fimo Liquid has a slightly rubbery feeling to it. The surface also doesn’t bake shiny, rather it bakes up to be a semi-gloss or satin. Because of this, you will need to coat the surface with a glossy varnish after baking in order to get a glossy finish.
Like all other liquid clays, Fimo Liquid works nicely as a bakeable glue and to soften crumbly polymer clay. I like using Fimo Liquid as an all-purpose liquid clay, and it’s stellar as a colored glaze in faux ceramic effects, but it’s not my favorite for creating clearcoats.
Kato Liquid Polyclay
Years ago, when Kato Polyclay first came out, Kato Liquid Polyclay was known as “Kato Sauce”. It’s a white, runny liquid that’s very similar in appearance to white glue. After baking, it becomes a milky clear color. There is no noticeable graininess to Kato Liquid. The odor is the same as the distinctive “vinyl baby doll” smell that blocks of Kato have, but perhaps not as strong. After baking, Kato Liquid has a rubbery, vinyl feeling and makes excellent window clings.
Kato Liquid is unique in that it can be made to be completely clear when you use a heat gun on it. You can do this after baking, or you can just use the heat gun to cure the Kato Liquid. If you do this with several thin-ish coats, you can get a remarkably clear surface treatment. Doing this will make the surface extremely glossy and glass-like. The surface will also be hard, eliminating the rubbery feeling and making the surface able to be sanded without balling up and peeling.
Of course Kato Liquid does all the normal liquid polymer clay things, too, so it’s really quite a good bottle to have on hand.
Sculpey Clear (Transparent)
Brand new on the market in May 2017, the newest of their liquid polymer clays is Sculpey Clear. It is very much unlike the other three liquid polymer clays in this article, and I think we have a wonderful new addition to the lineup!
Sculpey Clear is also a runny white syrup, similar to white glue when unbaked. It doesn’t have any graininess. It does not seem to form bubbles during the curing process and bakes remarkably clear, yet with a slight cloudiness. Compared one-on-one, it does not get quite as clear as Kato Liquid, but it’s awfully close. After baking, it has a slightly rubbery feeling that doesn’t go away when a heat gun is used.
Sculpey Clear is perfect for filling bezels (if they’re not too thick) and is a good, bakeable alternative to resin. The surface of Sculpey Clear is semi-glossy after baking. It is not glossy and would need a coat of Varathane to become glossy.
You can make Sculpey Clear more translucent after baking when you use a heat gun, but it does not clarify in the dramatic way that Kato Liquid Polyclay does.
One odd drawback to Sculpey Clear is an unfortunate tendency to cure with small pits in the surface. They’re not huge, but it can mean you need to give it another thin coating and bake once again.
Using Liquid Clay to fill Bezels
A common use for liquid polymer clay is to fill bezels to create a coating over some decorative element, such as (in this case) a really neat cane slice. For thick, domed coatings or for covering complex textured items, you’ll have better luck with a resin. But for simply filling a thin bezel or levelling an uneven area, liquid clay works well. TLS isn’t very clear when doing this, so I’d choose one of the others. As you can see in the photo below, the clearest results come from Kato Liquid Polyclay, but the next best is Sculpey Clear. Both gave clear, bubble-free coatings.
Note the slight cloudiness of all but the Kato Liquid. This effect can be reduced greatly by coating the surface with Varathane, as you can see in the photo below.
Using Liquid Clay as a Clearcoat
As I mentioned several times in this article, you can use liquid polymer clay as a clearcoat or sealer, especially when cured with a heat gun. This is best on items that are not heavily textured. For specific instructions on how to do this with Kato Liquid (the other clays are similar), go visit Debbie Crothers to buy her video on this very subject. She shows you exactly the way it’s done. No more varnishes, sealers, glazes or other sticky coatings. Liquid polymer clay is the perfect way to coat clay to have a protective surface.
Here is an assortment of beads using the various liquid clays. The base bead is just black Premo, baked, and the liquid clay was brushed on and then cured with a heat gun. Notice the varying gloss levels with the different liquid clays.
Smoothness of a Liquid Clay Finish
I would love to recommend a liquid clay finish for all circumstances, but I have to say that I can’t. In all cases, the surface has specks, bubbles, and small irregularities. No matter how well you let it settle, use a dust-free environment, remove specks, etc, there always seems to be little bubbles and flaws in the surface. This just seems to be the nature of the beast. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use this technique, because it’s just so darned useful! But do be aware that it’s not going to be as smooth as sanding and buffing. I just wanted to give you a heads up so that you don’t beat yourself up wondering where you went wrong if you get specks. Okay? Okay! Now go get some liquid clay and a heat gun and have fun!
- Many thanks to Iris Weiss and Polyform for giving me a sneak peek at the new Sculpey Clear.
- The TLS and Liquid Kato were provided by Linda Prais of Linda’s Art Spot. She carries all these liquid clays (plus other incredible stuff)!
- To create the black bezels, I used CaBezels provided by Wendy of Shades of Clay.
- The lovely ornate cane slice used at the bottom of the bezels is by the incredibly talented Ivy Niles of iKandiClay.
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65 thoughts on “Comparing Liquid Polymer Clay Brands as a Coating”
Thank you for another very helpful, informative article.You are my go to person when I need solid comparative information and really appreciate your additional comments on the various strengths and weaknesses as the product(s0 are used. I make fairy gardens and accessories and am currently looking for ways to make my polymer clay ponds and creeks look more realistic and have more glimmer to their swirls, ripples and reflection pools. I do not want to use resins due to health issues. Mary
Just started learning about polymer building I make sculptures and almost 5 years later this article is still really helpful.
I’m so glad!
Hi! It’s my first attempt, and I’ve made a vase out of super sculpey original and painted it with acrylic paint after initial baking. Therefore, I’d like to use kato liquid polyclay as a clear sealant over the paint to make it waterproof, so that it can be used to actually hold flowers. Would one thin coat be enough? I worry that baking too many layers separately may cause a yellow discolouration. Also, may I ask what temperature and how long I should bake it in the oven for? Then how long I would have to use the heatgun on an area for? I only have access to an embossing heat gun, though. Or would you recommend that I use the heat gun alone and forego the baking? Many thanks for your help!
It’s a skill that’s fairly easy to do, but quite difficult to explain in a comment. 🙂 I suggest that you give it a try on some scrap clay. This will give you an idea of how much liquid clay to add and how to clarify it with a heat gun. One coat will be sufficient, the thinner the better.
Hi Ginger. I’ve applied 3 coats of Kato Sauce (separate bakings @ 300 degrees) to a baked clay component and notice a sticky, tacky feel. You mentioned using a heat gun to finish it off. Before I try it, might this remove the tackiness? The surface came out beautifully clear.
Kato Liquid Clay does get very clear when baked hot and a heat gun will make it even better. I’ve not experienced a tacky feeling from it, but there’s a chance that using a heat gun will make the surface feel harder and less “rubbery”. On the other hand, if you’re experiencing an oily residue after some time (like six months later), this happens with Kato Liquid sometimes and it doesn’t affect the piece. Just rub it off and buff with a dry cloth.
I was just wondering if it is ok to use the heat gun if the liquid sculpey is attatched to regular polymer clay?
You can, yes, but there’s a steep learning curve and it takes a bit of experience to learn to cure the entire amount without burning it.
I am new to the polymer clay scene and I am playing with earrings. I was wondering which LC would work best as a sealant for the ones that I use acrylic paint on? Or should I use something else or do I even need to if the acrylic paint has been bake in? So glad I found you website. It has a lot of information!
Polymer clay is vinyl plastic. Acrylic paint is plastic. There’s no reason to “seal” it. But you might want to coat with varnish if the paint isn’t terribly well adhered. You can read more about that in my article about painting polymer clay. I would not use liquid clay for this purpose.
Would anyone have any recommendations as to which Liquid clay would work best in a silicone mold? I am wanting to make very thin clay “filigree” that I can bake, peel out of the mold, and use with other projects. Am wondering which brand would be the “sturdiest” for this application.
I would use any of the Sculpey bakeable mediums, but add a tad bit of Sculpey Clay Softener to it for a very flexible and strong result.
That’s a great idea. Thank you, Ginger. 🙂
Hi Ginger. My daughter made a doll turkey approximately three inches long and about one and a half inch thick( aluminum foil is used inside the turkey as a filler). We baked the turkey and it came out great, however, I thought it needed a little gloss. We have Liquid Sculpey Clay. When I put it on the turkey, do I need to retake it?
All liquid clay needs to be baked to cure. BTW, make sure you’re using the right liquid clay. Sculpey Clear will be clear. Sculpey Translucent will be cloudy.
Hi, how would I use sculpy liquid clear over fimo soft or proffesional with creating a fire hazard? The sculpy clear baking temperature is higher then the fimo?
Hope you can help :0)
There is no fire hazard. Sculpey Liquid needs high heat to fully clarify, and that is best accomplished by using a heat gun on the finished piece. Doing this, you are able to control the heat. Baking at 300+ is necessary when you are using Sculpey Clear by itself, such as when you are using it in a mold.
Thanks for another helpful article! I’ve been working with polymer clay for 4 years now and I still haven’t touched liquid clay. I just wanted to know the difference between bake and bond and TLS? Is there a huge difference between them or can substitute them for each other?
Bake and Bond is a thicker version of liquid clay that is used as a bakeable glue. It is not translucent. You can use liquid clay as a glue, but because it’s thinner, the pieces will slip around easily. You can’t use Bake and Bond as you would use liquid clay because it’s not translucent.
I recently picked up a bottle of Sculpey Clear thanks to this great review. One question, though: would it be possible to dye the clear Sculpey using alcohol inks?
I’ve not tried it specifically. It should work, but there’s only one way to know for sure. 🙂
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