As of late 2023, it appears that Hobby Lobby is no longer providing this product. I’ll leave it here, though, for archival purposes.
Hobby Lobby is a large nationwide chain of retail craft stores in the US and they recently came out with a range of polymer clay tools under their Crafter’s Collection private label. As of March 2022, this includes two lines of polymer clay. I’ve already written about the craft version of this Hobby Lobby polymer clay here. This review is about the advanced version, which is a very different clay. The full name is Hobby Lobby Crafter’s Collection Advanced Polymer Clay. That’s a long name! Again, as with HL Craft, how are we going to refer to this clay? I’m going to propose we call it HL Advanced as shorthand. Anyway, no matter what you call it, here’s what I found when I worked with it.
If you go to the Hobby Lobby store, you might not even notice there are two different clays. I didn’t even see them at first because their labels look very similar. But if you look closely, you’ll see the HL Advanced clay has purple accents and the word “Advanced” on it.
Introducing Hobby Lobby Crafter's Collection Advanced Polymer Clay
The advanced version of Hobby Lobby’s new polymer clay (HL Advanced) has the same size bar as the HL Craft version, but they are not the same weight. At first, I assumed the HL Advanced was less dense than regular clay, much in the same way that a bar of Souffle is only 1.7 ounces. No, it’s the other way around. HL Advanced is the same density as Premo or Fimo. But the HL Craft is more dense. What this means is that these bars of Hobby Lobby polymer clay contain 85% (aka 15% less) of the volume of clay of our usual brands.
It’s still cheap, though. A bar is only $1.59. Considering that Premo retails for $2.89, this is still much less expensive. This is even better when you compare to Fimo.
Colors and Sizes of HL Advanced
The Hobby Lobby Crafter’s Choice Advanced polymer clay (aka HL Advanced) comes in 21 colors and there no larger bars or multipacks. There are no translucent or effects colors such as metallics, pearls, or glitter. The colors are bright, clear, and pure (more on color mixing later). And there’s something very interesting about the color choices. All 21 of the colors are identical to 21 of the 24 colors of Fimo Professional. The names are different, but the colors are the same. (The only difference was the dark green, but I only have one bar on hand and can’t guarantee it hasn’t changed since I bought it many years ago.)
Note, that’s not a complete photo. I didn’t have Fimo bars to match the last 4 hexagons, but they ARE the same colors. And there are three more colors in the HL Advanced range that my store didn’t have in stock but do have corresponding colors of Fimo Professional. HL Advanced Light Beige, Mauve and Mulberry match Fimo’s Champagne, Lavender, and Violet.
The Fimo colors that aren’t represented in the HL Advanced line are True Green, Lemon Yellow, and Terra Cotta.
Handling HL Advanced Polymer Clay
This Hobby Lobby Advanced polymer clay is super fresh right now, so it’s easy to work with. It smells a bit like the HL Craft version, but not as strong. The odor is slightly acrid, reminding me of burned rubber and crayons. But it’s not overpowering. It’s similar to the smell of Fimo Professional, but not quite the same.
The HL Advanced clay appears to be what I call a shattering clay. That’s my term for clays that crumble, crack, or shatter when you try to move them while they’re in the unconditioned state. Fimo Professional is a shattering clay. I noticed that even this very fresh and soft clay was already “breaking” apart just from being handled. This isn’t a problem. Lots of polymer clay brands are like this. It’s just a clue that tells me how it will handle once it’s older.
This HL Advanced clay is also slightly tacky to the touch and the color comes off on your hands, just like with the HL Craft version. You will need to clean your hands and tools between colors to avoid color transfer.
How Soft Is It?
This clay is naturally fairly firm. It’s not a flowing clay that droops. If you run this through the pasta machine, it has body and the sheet doesn’t droop down between your fingers the way that HL Craft does. The feel of this clay reminds me of Fimo Professional and Cernit Number One. It does not feel like Premo, Souffle, or Kato.
Be aware, however, that clay consistency and softness is a quality that changes over time. Most clays are soft when they are fresh. But I suspect that this clay will become (reversibly) quite stiff, hard, and crumbly with time. If you’ve worked with Fimo Professional, you know what to expect with this clay.
How Will HL Advanced Cane?
I’ve got good news for you. This is a perfect caning consistency. It’s firm but yielding. The clay sticks to itself when you press it together. It moves nicely when you press it. I didn’t make a cane with it, but I expect that it would work nicely.
What About Fingerprints and Distortion?
All polymer clay will show fingerprints when you press your fingertips into it. But this clay has body and will not be difficult to manipulate. You can easily roll out sheets, use cutters, lift pieces, and transfer to a baking surface. You will not get much distortion during use. This is a satisfying clay to use.
Hobby Lobby Crafter’s Collection Advanced Polymer Clay and Color Mixing
Colorists…prepare to be happy. Because HL Advanced has identical colors to Fimo Professional, you can be assured that there are good mixing colors. The primaries are Blue, Yellow, and Magenta. You’ll also find an ultramarine-type blue and both warm and cool reds.
If you’re used to using Fimo Professional’s True Colors color mixing system, you’ll notice an absence of True Green. I’m not sure why they omitted that color. Also, for the hardcore colorists among you, you’ll note that the same color mixing limitations found in Fimo Professional are found here as well. There is a light base to this clay that makes everything just a tiny bit buffy and also the black isn’t a black black. It’s ever so slightly gray.
So how do the CMY colors mix up? I did a set of Joan Tayler’s Colour Logic cards with the Blue, Magenta and Yellow colors of HL Advanced. The advantage to doing this is to compare the tinting strength of each primary and to look for any hidden color shift that you’ll see when mixing each color with white.
Note the clear reds, the perfect purples, and the clean blue. Still a bit more murky than Premo, but I’ll take it. The yellow and magenta are very neutral and the blue is nearly identical to Premo’s cobalt blue.
How Does HL Advanced Bake?
Unlike the HL Craft version, this clay bakes at 230F for a full 30 minutes. I didn’t take it higher because I wanted to check performance at the manufacturer’s suggested time and temperature. The clay’s label states that you should not bake above 265F. I suspect that’s due to color change. Yes, this clay DOES darken during baking. Not terribly so, but it’s definitely present.
The Hobby Lobby Craft line of clay shows white when you scratch the surface of baked clay. While every clay will do this to an extent, this HL Advanced doesn’t do it more than you’d expect.
Note how the Hobby Lobby clays are completely matte after baking. There is no shine whatsoever. The HL Advanced clay does turn white when you bend it to an extreme, but it mostly disappears when you move it back. However, there’s no need for this to happen in finished pieces. Bending and flexing is merely a test your baking setup should pass, not something you should do with every piece you make. Read more about this misunderstanding here.
Okay, Is It Strong and Flexible?
After baking, HL Advanced is very strong. When baked for 30 minutes, I could not break the pieces with my hands. But when I baked samples only 15 minutes, my test strip did snap. I suggest baking the full 30 minutes if your oven is well-adjusted. Be aware that you may need to bake longer or hotter if your oven is underpowered or if you are baking between tiles.
This clay is quite stiff and doesn’t droop and flop around the way that HL Craft does. It has a lot of body. It’s not as stiff as Kato after baking, but it’s on par with Fimo Professional.
How Does HL Advanced Sand and Buff?
Beautifully. Yes, this was a pleasure to sand and buff. The clay’s colors are clear and bright, the baked clay sanded easily, and the buffer created a shine nearly immediately. You can see below the shine from two pieces I made from the scraps of the Colour Logic cards.
Note, sanding and buffing doesn’t take hours of effort and damaged fingertips. These took about five minutes each. If you don’t yet know this valuable skill, my sanding and buffing course is money well spent. And no, there is no varnish or resin on these pieces. They are just 100% polymer clay.
Sand better, not harder
Everyone loves a perfectly smooth, glassy finish, but it seems to be elusive. Does your polymer clay look scratched and rough after sanding? This course will change everything.
Is Hobby Lobby Advanced the Same as Another Brand?
I’m sure you have already caught on that HL Advanced is Fimo Professional, right? But…it’s not.
Yes, nearly every characteristic is the same, but not all. It is not water soluble. A drop of water applied to HL Advanced does not make a paste when rubbed into the clay the way it does with Fimo Professional. Yes, I know, that seems small. But it tells me that it’s not the same clay.
However, it’s a very close cousin. The Hobby Lobby clays are made in Germany, just like Fimo. And the packaging is remarkably similar. You can see this in my review of the Hobby Lobby Craft clay.
If you haven’t yet worked with Fimo Professional, it’s hard to compare this clay to another brand. It won’t feel anything like Premo or Souffle. It’s very typical of the European polymer clays, not the American ones.
Conclusion and Recommendation
So, what’s the verdict? Is this a good clay. YES. Hands down. I recommend the Hobby Lobby Advanced strongly as a professional quality all-purpose polymer clay. It should be excellent for caning, color work, for strength, jewelry, and for sculpting.
However, please be aware that this clay is likely going to age the same way as the Fimo Products. That means it will become VERY HARD and VERY CRUMBLY with time. That’s okay and normal, though. It just means that you would need to learn to use this clay the same way that we’ve been learning to manage Fimo Professional for years. Conditioning old Fimo Pro takes patience, diligence, and a hammer or food processor. We are used to that!
Yes, buy this clay. Use it. But don’t buy more than you’ll use for a month or two at a time. Always test the packages by squeezing before you buy it. And you’ll likely get the freshest clay if you buy online
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