Pardo translucent art clay is a wonderful clay that’s remarkably more clear than other brands of translucent polymer clay. It’s also not commonly available in stores, and usually must be ordered through the mail. So it’s pretty frustrating when you’ve spent the money and the time waiting for it to arrive and you find that it’s hard and crumbly and difficult to condition. It’s even more frustrating to find that the usual methods of softening polymer clay don’t work very well with Pardo. It’s easy to assume that your clay has been partially cured or is old. But hold on! There is a trick to it. Pardo is not like other brands of polymer clay. Here’s how to condition Pardo Translucent Art Clay.
What is Conditioning?
All brands of polymer clay must be conditioned before you can create anything with it. Conditioning just means that the clay is moved around enough to make it soft, workable, and so that it will stick to itself so you can make things with it. You can do it with your hands or with a machine, but the basic idea is the same. Just mush it around until it feels right.
Polymer clay is a thixotropic material. Now that’s another one of my beloved science terms, but what it really means is that when it sits for very long, it tends to gel up. Mud is like this. Or salad dressing. Or ketchup. If you turn a bottle of ketchup over, it will sit like a rock in the bottom of the bottle, right? So you whack the end of it and nothing happens. But if you shake it first, the ketchup will then pour properly, correct? All you’re doing when you condition polymer clay is moving it around so that it will be more supple and will stretch and flow properly, just like a really thick block of ketchup.
Take it Easy with Pardo
Another quality of thixotropic materials is that they have low shear strength. This means that when you apply a sudden stress to the material, it will often fracture rather than yield. You’ve seen this with Silly Putty or with the cornstarch and water substance called Oobleck. If you stretch it really slowly, it will easily stretch and flow. But if you try to move the material quickly, it will fracture. Polymer clay is like this. And Pardo is more like this than other brands.
If you try to smash it suddenly, it will crumble into bits. But treat it with kindness, move it slowly, it will respond much better. If your Pardo has crumbles that are truly hard like sand particles and cannot be pressed into a ball, then the clay might have cured in transit or is very old. This is very rare, though. Yes, fresh Pardo is easier to work, but know that Pardo will never be soft like fresh Premo. It will always crumble easily and it does take special care to get the best results from it. (But it’s worth it!)
How to Condition Pardo Translucent Art Clay
- Pardo Art Clay comes in a clamshell box, and inside is a cardboard and foil sleeve. Open that up, remove the block, and set it down on your work surface. Take a clean blade and make slices of clay about 1/8″ (3mm) thick. If you were to boldly push this slice through a thin setting on your pasta machine, you would get a pile of crumbles for your effort.
- Instead, don’t use the pasta machine right away. Take the thin slices (and the pile of crumbles) and gently but firmly apply pressure with your hands. Let the heat of your hands warm the clay and keep pressing until the slices are soft and flat. Being in a warm room does help. Warm hands are a plus.
- Using the largest setting on your pasta machine, run each slice through. If the clay is still crumbling and falling apart, you need to do more hand softening first. Or gently warm the clay by placing in a ziploc bag in hot tap water.
- Combine two slices, then run them through the pasta machine together. Add more slices in the same way if you’re conditioning larger amounts. The sheet will still be pretty crumbly and may even break into parts. That’s okay. Next, reduce the thickness setting on the pasta machine. Yes, you’d think that a thinner setting would be worse, but it actually gets much better. Keep going until you’re putting the sheet through the pasta machine at the #5 setting (3 playing cards thick).
- Pardo Art Clay isn’t very stretchy when raw. So even as you are rolling out a sheet, it can sometimes split and tear. No worries, just push it back together and keep going. Notice how we still have jagged edges and pieces may still crumble off. This is okay.
- Keep rolling thinner, as far as you can go. For some magical reason, the character of the clay changes when it gets really thin like this. It becomes more supple and smooth. It’s almost like Pardo doesn’t fully condition until you make it super thin. Anyway, once it gets thin like this, gently fold it over and continue using the pasta machine on the sheet, but this time at a thicker setting.
- Now, the sheet’s edges are more smooth. But sheets of Pardo will never be completely free from jagged edges like this. And when you make things with this clay, always remember to move the clay slowly. If you use a texture stamp, it will crack if you press too quickly. Just treat it like a cranky toddler and you’ll be fine. No sudden movement, a firm but gentle touch, and warm hands.
Tips for Working With Pardo
- As with any light colored clay, make sure your hands, pasta machine, work surface, and blades are scrupulously clean. Use alcohol and a kleenex or baby wipes to remove all traces of dirt and previous colors of clay you’ve used.
- The little clamshell package works well to keep Pardo polymer clay clean and fresh. I save them and use them for my color mixes, too.
- You can warm Pardo (or any clay) by putting it in a ziploc bag in a large container of hot tap water. This will make it easier to condition. (Thanks to Ed Street for this tip.)
- Always fold sheets of polymer clay gently, making sure that no bubbles are trapped. Never just wad it up in a ball or you will have tiny bubbles everywhere.
- If you’re mixing colors with Pardo Translucent, keep in mind that the cured color will be a lot darker than what you see. Unbaked Pardo Trans appears white, so it artificially lightens colors, just as if you were adding white clay to the mix.
- You can use alcohol inks to create gorgeous tints and colors with translucent polymer clay. Here’s how to tint translucent polymer clay with alcohol inks.
- Pardo is exceptionally strong after baking and can be used to make very thin pieces that are clear enough to read through. These earrings are an example.
- The plasticizers in Pardo can, over time, ooze a bit into the cardboard liner and cause the silver paint on it to become sticky. Watch that you don’t accidentally get this on your work surface or on your clay.
- Pardo Translucent now comes in a range of 7 beautiful colors. Read my review of them here.
- Curious about what you can make with Pardo? My Faux Glass Tutorial uses it, you can read more about it here.
39 thoughts on “How to Condition Pardo Translucent Art Clay”
Pingback: Luminous Winter Snowflakes Candle Holder-Polymer Clay Tutorial
Pingback: Glow Pebbles Hollow Beads or Necklace Pendants, Glow-In-The-Dark Polymer Clay Jewelry Tutorial
Hi Ginger, thanks for this terrific website, all the wonderful, detailed advice and the well-controlled experiments! I need a little guidance about at what point to stop conditioning Pardo Translucent. I’m brand new to the world of polymer clay and this is my first go. This being the case, I haven’t yet invested in a pasta machine (though I am aware of your cache of articles about them). Instead, I’m for now just using a plastic 3/8″ rod as a roller in addition to my warm hands in a warm room. I got the clay down to around 2-4 mm thickness but then had great difficulty getting it off both my roller and my ceramic tile without a fair amount of baby oil. This is (maybe?) too thin, so what would be an optimal thickness to aim for? I’m using it for finely-formed sculpture, analogous to some of the floral jewelry you show on the “intro to Pardo trans” webpage. Thanks in advance for your response.
You only need to condition any polymer clay until it’s workable. Of course with Pardo, that is a relative term. It’s still a crumbly clay even when it’s at its best. But there’s a point where the clay will stick together when you press it…that’s all you need. Typically if you’ve mixed a color into it, that’s enough conditioning.
Pardo can be sticky, especially when it’s fresh, and it will stick to your tile and roller. Don’t use baby oil to prevent this…you’ll just get a mess. Instead, use other strategies to roll and work with the clay. Most clays stick to ceramic tiles…use your blade to lift it. Just put the blade against the tile and run the blade behind the clay to get it up. As for your roller…lay some tissue down between the clay and the roller. Also…do as much flattening with your fingers as you can, only using your roller for the final smoothing-out.
Thanks for responding! At least so far, I find I can mush it around pretty well in my hands once I’ve warmed it up. I bought it from Poly Clay Play, and I trust that it’s probably fresh. I take it from what you’ve said that there is no magical thickness, so it’s all good. I don’t know if biochemistry is too far in your past, but for whatever it’s worth, I’m using it to model alpha and beta helices in proteins. (Everyone has that one thing they’re interested in…)
Oooh, alpha and beta helices…what fun! That sounds like a wonderful project. Please send pics when you’re done. I want to geek out on them!
Pingback: Jewelry & Sculpting Supplies Haul-Friday Findings
Hi Ginger, I played with polymer years ago and just picked it up again. Thus I have I a lot of old hard clay. Well my ADHA Type A brain started spinning and came up with a great idea that works, and its free. While I’m doing some other craft or using new clay, I put the old, hard clay in a Ziploc type bag and sit on it after I’ve cut it to about a 1/2″. I also look at everything as a tool. The comb that comes with hair high lighting kits are good for shrubs after you’ve covered your foil shaped piece with clay. Also lower gauge “dead soft” jewelry wire, or any you have laying around the house, up to 16 gauge is good for shaping. Easy to bend and big enough to leave a good impression in your clay. Using different gauges at one time is simple too. You can make your design out of wire. Press it evenly onto rolled out clay. If possible cut your wire a little longer at one edge and its easier to remove it. Or use a tooth pick, pin or whatever is easier for you. I’m looking forward to asking tons of questions about all the new products I bought.☼..
Ginger, your tutorial inspired me to buy some Pardo clay and work with it. Hated it! I spent almost 5 hours total conditioning the cookie crumbles in a pasta machine-got it to go to the thinnest thickness, but could not combine pieces or erase seams. All cracked and broke when I bent it over a 90 angled degree form. I added some Sculpty Clay Softener and then more and then more. Didn’t seem to do much. I know you can’t use water, but is there another solvent material I can add? Alcohol? Olive oil? Help!
That’s very odd that you couldn’t get the pieces to combine when pressed in the hand and warmed up with body heat. Pardo will not bend well, and I would expect a thin sheet to crack when you bend it 90 degrees. The clay softener is the right approach. Try using more. Alcohol does work, but might introduce cloudiness (alcohol contains water). Mineral oil will work, too. It really does act very differently than other clays such as Premo, so you do have to adjust your expectations. But it does sound like you’re doing all the right things. I don’t know what to suggest beyond adding more clay softener. Also try warming the clay under hot water (in a ziploc).
hello! your website is so amazingly helpful, especially your series on baking clay. i’m a newbie to all this, so thank you so much for putting all your experience and knowledge out there!
i have a question about conditioning pardo translucent though: you describe using a pasta machine down to the thin settings and that is what changes the character of the clay from brittle to workable. since i’m just starting out, i’m not gonna buy a machine right away and condition the clay with my hands. i have very cold hands (generally low body temp) so it is a challenge just to condition the fimo soft i curently use. usually i have sore hands the next day after working with clay. now i really want to try translucents, and pardo is often described as the best, by you and others. now do you think it is possible to condition pardo to a workable mass without using a pasta machine? all the heat techniques give me hope, but do they need to be followed by rolling it out to a very thin, even sheet? could i imitate that sufficiently with my acrylic roller?
also, i read that i can put clay on a heater for a short time to soften it up, is that safe or will it start to cure quickly?
thank you and have a wonfeful new year!
Hi Agnes, welcome to the world of Polymer! No, you don’t have to use a pasta machine to use Pardo. And you don’t have to roll it out thin to condition it, either. That’s just one way to get it workable, if you ARE using a pasta machine. Because of the way that the Pardo behaves under pressure, it fractures into tiny pieces when people try to roll it on thick settings. Thin settings means less “movement” of the mass.
If you’re using your hands, just work the clay slowly in your hands until it softens and becomes more pliable. I think you’ll find that it doesn’t fracture as badly with your hands as it does with a pasta machine. As for warming the clay, yes, that will make it easier. You can put the clay on a heating pad, carry it in your pocket (or bra) for a while, or even put it in a ziploc and submerge into hot tap water for a few minutes. One thing about Pardo, make sure you don’t get it wet. It absorbs water and that makes it more opaque.
Hello Ginger, thank you very much for that informative reply! I’m really curious about trying it out now, looking for pardo suppliers online (an cernit too! your review made me very curious, since i’ve created mostly flowers and figurines that would benefit a lot from a porcelain glow). It seems a little tricky to find well-stocked online retailers in Europe, but the polymer communities here are super friendly and helpful with that. Again, thanks so much for all your fantastic info on this site!
If you can’t get Pardo wet because it absorbs water, what can you use as a mould release instead of spraying water over the mould?
Hi Fran. Just use a bit of Armor-All or Son-of-a-Gun spray. It’s a great mold release.
Thank you Ginger. I also thought that my Pardo translucent was “old” clay because it was so crumbly. Now I see that I can use it if I just treat it right. That is fantastic to know.
Hi Ginger, having heard how great Pardo translucent clay is, I finally bought some from my supplier here in Australia. I opened a pack and it was so crumbly, when conditioning in the normal way, that I gave up! I thought it was old clay. Now I know better and have taken on board all your suggestions and am ready to try again.
Thanks for all your help re all things clay, I really appreciate it.
Yes, Pardo can be frustrating to condition. But it’s very worth it. Just take your time and know going in that it’s going to crumble and that’s okay. Go slow with it. Pardo doesn’t like to do anything in a hurry.
Just wanted to suggest that you start on the second largest setting on your pasta machine when you start to condition the clay there. Starting on the first setting makes the machine far more vulnerable to a stripped gear. That also happens when you try to put a slice of unconditioned clay in at the largest setting.
That’s an often-repeated point which isn’t always true and doesn’t apply to all pasta machines. Regardless of your machine, however, forcing thick slabs of stiff clay through it will certainly stress the gears and shorten your machine’s life.
I am quite new to polyclay so forgive me if I am confused. If when conditioning you use the second largest setting – on my machine that would be #2; why would this not put more pressure on the gears than if you used the first setting, #1? Of course it would be folly to put a thick slab in the machine before rolling it out some.in any event, even I know that. But this does not make sense to me that using the largest opening is more likely to strip the gears than using a less larger #2 opening.. What am I missing here?
At the largest setting, the gears are the farthest apart, and only just barely mesh on the tips of the gears. This means that in some machines, if you force clay through, it causes the very tips of the gears to slip as they mesh, leading to early wear. Like I said, not necessarily a truth for all machines but is something that’s been often repeated by many in our community. A very mechanical friend of mine, who has a 180 Wellness, emphatically disagrees that this is a valid problem and says it’s a myth. I do know that as the gears wear on a typical pasta machine, you see symptoms the most on the largest setting first.
Thank you Ginger. I think I got it! Just a wee bit challenged in the mechanical area.
Whether a myth or not, it deserves some consideration. I suspect there is a great deal of difference in the pasta machines. I voraciously read all your posts and whether or not it seems to apply to my chosen focus, I always learn something of immediate use!
On baking – my first batch burnt to a crisp and gave off toxic gas – at 130’c in my oven – the temp I usually use for Sculpey. Always, always use an oven thermometer… (Turns out my oven runs about 20′ hotter than the dial.)
Yes, most ovens lie to us. So verifying the temperature with a separate thermometer is imperative. And I always like to cover my clay as well, just to give it that much more protection against the heating element. Have you had trouble since you realized the temps were so far off?
Gently warming Pardo seems to be the key. Sometimes if I’m really busy I take my Pardo trans slices, but them in a deli wrap, then in a baggie and…into my bra until I finish running around the house doing chores!
Great article and I do appreciate you going all polymer clay science geeky on us.
Thank you, Ginger! Good to know. I’m happy to follow the trails “you’ve” blazed!
Ginger, any advice on curing Pardo, please? The package shows a max cure time. Do you agree?
No, I don’t agree with either their max time or their max temp. I’ve cured Pardo as high as 330°F and as long as hour. It just gets better and more clear. The only drawback that I could see is that at higher/longer temps the color can shift. So instead of being snow white, it can be amber colored. But feel free to experiment to find the best conditions to give the optimal results that you’re looking for. Keep in mind that manufacturers provide instructions that work for the average consumer who might have little experience, an inaccurate oven, and who might not want to risk color changes. We get to be intrepid explorers seeking new frontiers in Pardo Perfection!
Thanks so much for this post, Ginger. I love Pardo translucent, but am always frustrated at how crumbly it is. These suggestions will really help. I’ll try the warming idea, too.
Excellent info, concerning the issues you encounter the first time you use Pardo – I hated it – will try again with these great tips taken into consideration.
Great article Ginger…and much needed for the Polymer community…My experience with Crumbly Pardo and the conditioning of such is quite different from yours…
I still have some Pardo from 2009 when it was packaged as Balls…I use about a 1/8 tps. of Mold Maker(per pk. of clay) in a food processor…this gives me a cottage cheese looking mixture that I can manipulate by hand and shape into a ball and flatten…the next step is the time consuming part…I then run it thru the pasta machine about 20 times changing the settings as you do…however…I get smooth edges all around…as a matter of fact this is when I know the clay is completely conditioned and ready to work with…this is the one characteristic that I like about this clay…I can get smooth edges…
Ah, but the Pardo in the little balls is a different clay. That’s Pardo Jewellery Clay. I do have one jar on hand (black) and should probably get it out and play with it again. If I remember correctly, it was far more smooth and supple than the Art Clay. So that explains your different results. I wish the Pardo clays weren’t so hard to find. They’re very nice clays.
This is good news… I was beginning to have buyers remorse on my hoarded supply from Hobby Lobby before it disappeared.
I still have a ton of it from there, too. And some that I bought from Poly Clay Play over two years ago. It’s a bit crumbly, but softens fine when treated with kid gloves.
Thanks so much for your Pardo tips, Ginger! I purchased my first two packs of trans through Amazon, prior to your heads up about sales at polyclayplay.com. So, I looked into what Trish had to offer. Her bricks are 1/2 the price I paid through Amazon! So I’ve ordered the “pardo rainbow” through her. (She’s a very nice lady too.) And now, thanks to your tips on Pardo, I’m ready to break open that first overpriced brick.
Trish is great. Yes, ordering clay through Amazon (and ebay for that matter) can be really hit and miss. I think there are scalpers about!
Hi, Ginger, I love Pardo trans, and some of mine is getting a bit old. I do a couple of things. I used the ‘warm’ idea one chilly day teaching a Pardo class. We tried forever to condition, and no go. One of the ladies brought a warm ‘shoulder warmer’, we put the Pardo on it – problem solved. Everyone has heard of the NEVERknead – and, it really works (for me). I have been using various bench vices and my 2 Arbor Presses to help me condition clay forever. I use it for all clay. But, for Pardo, it’s especially good. A few squishes from my various presses changes the character of the clay, and it conditions very well. I think it is like your theory that the clay does not like to be ‘suddenly moved’ as in beating with a hammer. I love to stack my clay (the higher the better) and gently press it-you can just feel it breaking down and squishing together. If you don’t have a NEVERknead, you can use a couple blocks of steel or wood in a vice or press of some sort to try it out.
Pardo is particularly responsive to being warm, and yes, I can see why the Never Knead would be perfect for it. I’m working on a solution like that myself, actually. I’d love to have a Never Knead!
Comments are closed.