When you cut shapes from a sheet of polymer clay, such as when you make earrings or a trinket bowl, the edges can sometimes look unfinished and blah. Gold paint is often used to give those edges a bit of substance. You can also use gold paint to apply dots, lines, or accents on your polymer clay work. Brushes have a steep learning curve, so paint pens have become popular in recent years. Can you use gold paint markers on polymer clay? And more to the point, which gold paint pens work well on polymer clay? Here’s a comparison!
What are Paint Markers?
First, what are paint markers? They’re similar to the “magic markers” that we grew up with in that they’re a fat pen that applies a line of color with a (usually) felt tip. Some paint pens, especially fine-tipped paint markers, use a hard plastic tip. But instead of containing a solvent and dye the way that Sharpies and other markers do, paint pens contain a pigmented paint that’s similar to the paint you’d apply with a brush. Since paint contains particles that can settle out, paint markers usually have to be shaken before each use. Some even have a little shaker rattle inside, similar to a can of spray paint, that helps mix the solution.
By depressing the tip, the flow of paint is started and soon the marker will flow the paint onto the surface of your item. This is much easier and you usually have much better control than using a fine brush and a bottle of gold paint. By replacing the cap promptly, the paint usually stays moist and there’s no need to rinse the tip.
Just like paint in a bottle, some paint markers are alcohol based, some are oil based, and some are water based. And also, different paints feature different colors of gold particles (they’re really either mica or copper powder) with different sheen levels.
Polymer Clay is Different than Paper
If you’re new to polymer clay, you might wonder why this comparison needs to be made. Surely, any paint marker will work, right? Shouldn’t the choice merely be based on color or shine? Well, not exactly. Polymer clay is a plasticized vinyl that contains plasticizers to keep it from being rigid and brittle. Even when the clay item is perfectly cured, those plasticizers can leach into neighboring materials, softening them. Some paints and varnishes contain vinyl compounds that are softened by the polymer clay they are applied upon. This means they may become sticky and/or soft.
If this idea is new to you, check out my articles on painting with polymer clay and testing various clear varnishes and coatings here. Also, be aware that the stickiness of paints and varnishes varies greatly with the brand of polymer clay being used and with local weather conditions. Yes, humidity does seem to matter. I tested these gold paint markers on Sculpey Premo, Sculpey Souffle, Fimo Professional, Kato Polyclay, and Sculpey III brands of polymer clay.
Brands of Gold Paint Markers Tested
I bought every gold paint marker I could find on Amazon and in my local Hobby Lobby and Michaels stores. I know this list is not complete, and there’s no way that it could be. There are hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of brands and private-label markers all around the world. Not only could I never find them all, but I also couldn’t afford to buy them all, and testing would take forever. This article is merely intended to give you some options and warn against a few commonly-suggested brands that give poor results. Always, always test any paint markers you use on the specific brand of clay that you will be using.
My main objective was to find a marker that met these criteria:
- Shiny or metallic appearing gold (rather than looking dull, yellow, or orange)
- Not sticky on polymer clay
- Good coverage
- Scratch resistant to fingernail scratching
Gold Paint Markers Compared
- Sharpie Paint Metallic Marker – Oil Based (labeled for wood and glass)
- Sharpie Paint Metallic Marker – Water-Based (for paper and windows)
- Hobby Lobby Paint Marker in Metallic Gold – Alcohol Based (no longer available)
- Hobby Lobby Paint Marker in Glitter Gold – Water Based
- Krylon 18kt Gold Leafing Pen
- DecoColor Premium Gold (by Marvy) – Oil-Based
- Craftsmart Paint Pen Gold (by Michaels) – (for wood, plastic, metal, and glass)
- Craftsmart Premium Multisurface Oil-Based Paint Pen in Gold
- Painters Opaque Paint Marker in Metallic Gold (by Elmer’s)
- Rustoleum Decorative Paint Pen in Chrome Gold – Oil Based
- DecoArt Paint Marker, labeled glossy and translucent – (for glass, tile, glazed ceramic)
- Uni Posca Fine Marker Gold
- “Metallic Marker Pen” from Amazon
- YONO by Marabu
- Molotow One4All gold marker
- Aiye Chrome Markers from Amazon
- Pen-Touch Paint Marker by Sakura
Sealing Gold Paint Markers on Polymer Clay
It’s a common belief that you have to seal paint to make it stay on polymer clay. That’s only partially true. As you’ll read in my article on painting polymer clay, paint does not need to be sealed. It’s best to try to find a paint that sticks well to polymer clay rather than trying to seal a poorly adhering one. Varnish is a thin coating and will not be stable if the paint underneath it is not stable. This is very true and relevant here!
After I evaluated the gold paint on the polymer clay tiles, I coated all of these tiles with CrystaLac Brite Tone polyurethane to see if it enhanced the appearance, improved durability, and covered the stickiness. This info is included below. I would expect the same results from any clay-compatible polyurethane varnish such as Varathane, Cabothane, DuraClear, or Polycrylic. Need a good varnish? Check my article here.
Gold Paint Markers on Polymer Clay
I tested these gold paint markers on five brands of polymer clay. When there are differences, they’re explained. Unless otherwise stated, I saw no difference by the brand of clay. I applied the markers to baked sample tiles and then let the tiles sit in my home studio for two months before evaluating the results. Here’s how each brand stacked up.
The color is dark antique gold, there was good coverage, but the paint wasn’t very shiny once dried. The paint became sticky on all brands of clay and was easily scratched off since it was sticky and gooey. Covering with Brite Tone diminished the stickiness on Sculpey III and Fimo Professional, but not the other brands.
It’s a Medium gold tone that’s slightly yellow-green in color. It had poor coverage. After two months, it was a tiny bit sticky on Kato Polyclay, but fine on the others. It didn’t scratch off with my fingernail, but the gold sort of turned yellow when I did. Scratches were therefore obvious. Coating with Brite Tone made the surface durable enough that scratching didn’t mar the paint.
Hobby Lobby Alcohol Based
Nice golden gold with some show-through. It was shiny on Premo, but the other brands were more dull. It wasn’t sticky on any brand of clay, but it did scratch off Kato easily. Other brands didn’t scratch off, but they showed scratches easily. Coating with the Brite Tone kept the paint from marring when I tried to scratch with a fingernail.
Hobby Lobby Water Based (glitter)
This marker is unsuitable for this purpose. It’s a watery yellow-orange marker with gold glitter. It’s totally transparent and beads up on all brands. It did stay on the clay well, but it smeared and bled when I put Brite Tone over it. Save this one for paper arts.
Nice coppery gold with great sheen and wonderful coverage. Didn’t bead up on the clay, and no brands became sticky. However, it scratched off easily on all brands of clay. Covering with Brite Tone did not make it scratch resistant until I built up many layers of varnish. This marker also clogged after use, making it essentially a single-use product. Both pens of a 2-pack clogged for me, and I’ve heard this same report from others.
Great coppery gold color with a super shine and great coverage. After two months, it became sticky on all brands of clay except Fimo Professional. Scratched easily from every brand of clay. Brite Tone didn’t prevent scratching because the paint (on all but Fimo) was soft, so the varnish scratched right off, too.
This gold paint pen was a dull dark coppery gold color with moderate coverage. It didn’t get sticky on any brand and doesn’t scratch off with a fingernail. But paint has a waxy surface that mars easily when scratched. Brite Tone made a nice barrier that prevented the paint from marring with a fingernail.
Yellow gold color with a good shine and good coverage. It didn’t get sticky on any brand and doesn’t scratch off with a fingernail. But paint has a waxy surface that mars easily when scratched. Brite Tone made a durable surface for all clays but Kato. It allowed the paint to easily be scratched from Kato.
Dull copper gold with no shine. Has good coverage. After two months, it was sticky on Premo and Fimo Professional. The paint surface is waxy and smears/scratches easily. Brite Tone did cover the slight stickiness, but you could still scratch the paint off if you dug with a fingernail.
Very shiny medium gold with good coverage. Sadly, it was super sticky on all brands of clay. Covering with Brite Tone made it no longer sticky to the touch, but the paint under the varnish was still gooey so this scratched right off.
DecoArt Glass Marker
Sort of a greeny-gold color with poor coverage. It beaded up on all but Premo. While it wasn’t sticky on any brand and didn’t mar or scratch, it was just ugly. Not the right marker for this purpose. Covering with Brite Tone made the surface scratch resistant but came off Kato in flakes where the paint marker was applied.
Medium gold color, but it had poor coverage and dried dull and matte. It didn’t get sticky on any brand and doesn’t scratch off with a fingernail. But paint has a waxy surface that mars easily when scratched. A coating of Brite Tone made this scratch-proof.
Generic “Metallic Marker Pen”
This no-name marker from Amazon came in a set of 10 metallic markers. I included it because it seemed to have a good assortment of colors that you might find useful. They probably work fine on paper, but on polymer clay they’re not a winner. The coverage was poor, the color is more yellow than metallic, and it turns a funny silver color when you scratch it. While it wasn’t sticky on any brand, this marker got a weird waxy glossy shine when I tried to run it off the test tile.
This fat marker from Marabu came in a set of 4 markers and is an acrylic marker. It went on smoothly, but is completely matte and doesn’t have opaque coverage. There is no shine, no sparkle, no metallic appearance. The color is more orange than gold. It wasn’t sticky on any clay, but it scratched off Kato easily and the others with effort.
I do love Molotow acrylic markers in general, but this one isn’t a fave. The color is a bright green-gold. It is matte, with no shine. There is a metallic sparkle. But what’s annoying with this marker is that it turns silver when you rub it or try to scratch it. That happens on paper, too. It wasn’t sticky on any brand of clay, but it did have good coverage. (NOTE: The Molotow Silver Chrome marker is very different and I’ll feature it in an upcoming review. There doesn’t seem to be a gold chrome marker in the Molotow line.)
Aiye Chrome Marker
This appears to be one of those products from China that is sold under a bunch of different “brand” names depending on the source and marketplace. The listing on Amazon called them “KERIFI” but the markers, themselves, are labeled “Aiye.” This was a 5-pack of markers with various tip sizes. The paint in the marker is brilliant chrome gold in a very gold-like color and quite shiny with good coverage. It is not sticky on any brand of clay. The paint does mar when it’s scratched, so you will need to seal this gold paint marker with a polymer clay-safe varnish, such as Brite Tone or Varathane. Definitely worth seeking this marker out.
Pen-Touch Marker from Sakura
By color alone, this marker would be my top pick. It’s brilliantly shiny, has a lovely gold color, and has excellent coverage. Being a well-known brand, it’s likely going to be available in more places, too. But it’s sticky on Kato, Souffle, Premo, and Sculpey III. It’s not at all sticky on Fimo Professional, which was really surprising. It does mar a bit when you scratch it, but I think some sealer will work fine to prevent that.
Here’s My Recommended Gold Paint Marker
So to summarize this comparison of gold paint markers on polymer clay, most brands of gold paint markers give a disappointing performance on polymer clay. Several become sticky, most scratch easily, and several have a poor appearance in one way or another. The “prettiest” and most shiny markers usually correlate with poor performance. But there are some things I can say.
Gold Paint Markers to Avoid
Avoid using Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Marker and Rustoleum‘s gold paint marker on polymer clay because they turned sticky on all brands of clay that I tested. DecoColor Premium and Sakura Pen-Touch were sticky on all four brands but okay on Fimo Professional. I also found that Painters Marker and Sharpie’s water-based marker did have some stickiness issues on some brands.
Even though they’re very often recommended by makers on social media, I found the Posca and Molotow gold paint markers performed poorly on polymer clay. They were also quite underwhelming in appearance. Perhaps they work well on paper, but not for our uses. At all.
Most of the other brands of gold paint pens and markers were poor performers due to scratching or poor appearance.
Gold Paint Markers to Try
While none of these markers met all my testing criteria, a few did stand out as ones to try, with caveats. Hobby Lobby and Craftsmart paint markers had good shine, were not sticky, and had good to moderate coverage. They did mar, but if you cover them with a glossy polymer-safe polyurethane, they should be quite durable and bright. I’m not surprised that these craft-store markers performed so similarly. They may even be the same product. I noticed a similar overlap between these same brands in polymer clay as well. Michaels and Hobby Lobby could very well be sourcing their private-label products from the same factories.
I’m sure there are many other brands of gold paint markers to try. My suggestion is to try the no-name or craft store brands first. They’re a cheaper investment if it doesn’t work out. But definitely TEST a marker before using it on your work.
The Best Gold Paint Marker on Polymer Clay
Of all the 17 gold paint pens that I tested on polymer clay, only one stood out with great performance. Even though it can be scratched off if you dig at it, the Aiye Gold Chrome Marker was shiny with a great color, had great coverage, and wasn’t sticky on any brand of polymer clay that I tested. The slight marring that happens when it’s scratched could be prevented by coating with polyurethane after it dries. (I’d choose Brite Tone, Varathane, or DuraClear.) I might even skip the varnish if it was a low-wear item.
The problem with this brand is that it’s not really a brand. It’s a fake, made-up brand (a common practice among Chinese resellers who repackage and distribute similar products though online marketplaces worldwide). This same marker can likely be found under many names in different places. Notice how the picture in the listing here doesn’t match the marker they actually sent. And the really frustrating thing is that there’s no guarantee the same product will be sold under the same listing over time. But THIS LISTING on Amazon is the one I bought, and for now, the pen that was shipped to me is a great gold paint marker for use on polymer clay, as long as you seal it. When I do a search on AliExpress, I see many more listings of what appears to be an identical product. The same happens on ebay. Outside the US, check your local “cheap stuff from China” website for this same product.
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