Make Polymer Clay Earrings You’re Proud Of

Avoid these polymer clay earring mistak

Polymer clay earrings are wildly popular and very trendy right now. They’re easy and fast to make, which means you can make them in every color to match your wardrobe. You can also make them quickly to sell for a little extra cash. With so many sellers producing these fun little fashion accessories, you want yours to stand out as unique. The design is important, of course! But before you even get that far, ensure that you’re making a product that is professionally made, without any common blemishes and signs of sloppy workmanship. Handmade doesn’t need to look “homemade!” Here are my top polymer clay earring mistakes to avoid.

Posts Fall Off

It’s incredibly disheartening to put on your favorite pair of earrings and have someone mention later in the day that you are only wearing the post. Yes, the earring detached from the post and was lost. This happens because polymer clay is flexible and also inhibits the curing process of many types of glue. This means that no glue will hold 100% over time and some of your earrings WILL detach from the post eventually. Prevent this problem by embedding the earring post into the back of the earring. This way, the earring cannot fall off. It also provides a more professional appearance for the wearer. If you struggle with doing this neatly, you’ll find it explained in detail in my Earrings Tutorial. If you must use glue, use a gel superglue such as Loctite Gel Control or Gorilla Glue Gel.

post earring backs often fall off polymer clay earrings.
Post earring backs often fall off polymer clay earrings when using glue.

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Cutter Edges

When you use a cutter to cut earring shapes from a slab, there is usually a fine edge of clay that remains around the shape. Make sure to remove this excess bit of clay as part of your finishing process. Some people like to sand it off after baking, but you might find it easier to remove this edge before baking. Another strategy is to use shape templates instead of cutters. Because each earring is cut with a knife, the edge is clean, making the process of neatening the edges much quicker.

When using cutters, make sure to remove the excess edge of clay around the outside.
When using cutters, make sure to remove the excess edge of clay around the outside.

Air Bubbles

One of the most annoying things about working with polymer clay is air bubbles. Those little suckers come out of nowhere. No matter how smooth you make something before baking, they pop out while the earring is in the oven. This is because air trapped within the clay mass expands during baking, making a bubble rise. Minimize this by conditioning carefully to avoid trapping air. Larger bubbles can be seen before baking when you can gently pop them with a very fine needle such as these insect pins or an acupuncture needle.

air bubbles
Sticky clay and poor conditioning are common causes of trapped air like this.

Divots on the Back

When you bake your pieces on a piece of glass or a glossy ceramic tile, you’ll get shiny spots where the clay rests against the smooth surface. You’ll also get divots where the air was trapped between the raw clay and the tile. To avoid both problems, bake your items on a piece of paper. Yes, paper. It won’t burn at the low temps we use for baking polymer clay. Just lay your items on paper, then set the paper on the tile or a baking sheet. Voila. No more shiny spots and divots! You can use any unprinted, plain paper for this. It’s a great way to use up scrap paper.

To avoid shiny spots on the back of polymer clay earrings, bake on paper.
To avoid shiny spots on the back of polymer clay earrings, bake on paper.

Distorted Holes

Polymer clay is a soft putty, so when you poke a hole into it with a toothpick or cocktail stick, you’ll get an irregular and distorted hole. It’s much more precise and clean to drill your holes after baking with a small drill. You can use a motorized Dremel or you can use a hand micro drill. Either way, drilling after baking leaves a perfectly smooth and even hole. Still prefer to poke that hole before baking? Don’t poke it all the way through. Just make a tiny dot. That will allow you to easily get your drill started when you drill the holes after baking.

Sloppy workmanship is easily avoided when making polymer clay earrings.
Sloppy workmanship is easily avoided by making some simple changes when making polymer clay earrings.

Messy Earrings

Super soft, mushy polymer clay is quite difficult to use without getting fingerprints, fingernail marks, little distortions, and other marks. Make sure that you’re not using cheap brands of no-name clay from online marketplaces (such as Wish, AliExpress, eBay, etc). You’ll also find that children’s brands of craft clay (such as Sculpey III) are hard to use neatly. But most importantly, check each earring before baking and smooth any uneven areas. Everything you fix before baking is something you don’t have to fix later. And it’s much easier before baking! (Want to know about the various brands of clay? Check here.) And if your clay is too soft, here’s how you fix it.

Dirty Clay

Polymer clay is like a magnet for bits of lint, stray clay colors, pet fur, and dirt from your fingers. Make sure to clean your workspace extremely well, clean your hands and fingernails before starting, and keep your tools clean. Baby wipes are great for this, but you can also use a lint-free microfiber cloth and some kitchen cleaning spray. I know this does sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is for these blemishes to get onto your clay. Put on your good glasses and take a close look. And remember that photos show blemishes far better than your eyes can see them!

Broken Earrings

What happens when you flex your earrings? Do they bend without breaking? Or do they snap in two and crumble? Lots of people assume that polymer clay is brittle and fragile, but nothing could be further from the truth. Polymer clay is vinyl and your earrings should be strong enough that you could bend and flex them as much as you want without damage. Make sure you’re not using a brittle brand of clay (such as Sculpey III) and make sure to bake long enough and hot enough. I can’t stress this enough. Breakage is almost always a baking problem! If you struggle with baking (breakage, burning, color changes, etc.) then do yourself a time-saving favor and get this baking tutorial. This is the #1 most frustrating issue in polymer clay and you’ll get great answers in this tutorial.

polymer clay earrings shouldn't break easily
Polymer clay earrings shouldn’t break easily. If they do, you’re either using a brittle brand of clay or you’re not baking properly.
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Protect your polymer clay during baking. Learn more newbie tips at The Blue Bottle Tree.

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Learn about the right temperature, times, ovens, and baking setups to ensure optimal results. No more broken or scorched projects!

Messy Backs

What do the backs of your earrings look like? While they can’t be seen clearly while they’re worn, the wearer will definitely see the backs when she puts them on. Especially if you’re selling polymer clay earrings, you’ll want to make sure that there are no errant specks of color, fingerprints, or dirty bits on the backs of your earrings.

Well-finished polymer clay earrings look as good on the back as they do on the front.
Well-finished polymer clay earrings look as good on the back as they do on the front. Neatness is important!

Sanding Insanity

Many people use a Dremel to sand the edges of their earrings after baking. This removes the excess clay from using cutters (see above) and makes a smooth edge. Other people use a bit of sandpaper. Either way, you should not be spending much time on this. Just a quick swipe. If you’re losing your fingerprints or spending hours sanding, then something’s wrong. Always do your shaping BEFORE baking.

Also, carefully consider the wisdom of sanding the face of your earrings. Again, address neatness issues before baking (as I mentioned above). But be aware that it’s almost impossible to sand a tiny section of the face of the earring without making it look bad. If you sand any part of the face, you’ll need to sand the whole thing. And then it will look scratched. Then you’ll have to remove the scratches. And then remove the scratches that you put into it when you did that! It goes on and on. Just don’t touch the front of the earring if you can avoid it!

On the other hand, if you want a super glossy finish on the front, that’s totally possible with sanding and buffing. But that’s a more drawn-out process. I strongly recommend this Sanding and Buffing eBook for learning how to create a flawless, shiny finish on polymer clay.

Sealers! Just Say No!

Polymer clay is durable vinyl. It does not need to be sealed. You only need to seal fragile surface treatments such as glitter, chalks, or other materials that might rub off. You can also use clearcoats to change the gloss level of your earrings. But be aware that any coating you use with polymer clay has a learning curve and can often bring frustrations such as stickiness, bubbles, peeling, or bowing (in the case of resin). You can learn more about choosing a clearcoat for your project here.

Make Polymer Clay Earrings Look Professional

When you’re making polymer clay earrings, it’s easy to make the simple mistakes that you see spelled out above. But the good news is that the solutions are simple. The biggest obstacle for beginners is even seeing the mistakes in the first place. It’s quite common for makers to only realize how fragile and misshapen their earrings are after they have sold them to buyers. Now you have a checklist of mistakes to avoid and soon you’ll be making professional polymer clay earrings with the best of them!

Beautful patterned sheet of polymer clay made with the Surface Patterns Tutorial.

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Create gorgeous patterned sheets of polymer clay

Surface Patterns POlymer Clay

Learn to make an endless array of patterned sheets of polymer clay that you can use to make polymer clay earrings, jewelry, home decor, or other crafts. This fun tutorial is aimed at all levels and is suitable for beginners. The technique is illustrated with earrings, but you can make anything you’d like with your patterned sheets.

Cover of the Surface Patterns Tutorial for polymer clay

Make endless variations

Make beautiful patterned sheets

Surface Patterns On polymer clay

Learn to make an endless array of patterned sheets of polymer clay that you can use to make polymer clay earrings, jewelry, home decor, or other crafts. This fun tutorial is aimed at all levels and is suitable for beginners. The technique is illustrated with earrings, but you can make anything you’d like with your patterned sheets.

35 thoughts on “Make Polymer Clay Earrings You’re Proud Of”

  1. Pingback: 10 Polymer Clay Tutorials from Beginner to Advanced - Nunn Design

  2. Hi! Are you able to rebake the clay if you notice the first bake didn’t cure properly and breaks under pressure?

  3. I’ve been using fimo and always see fingerprints on my pieces and I don’t know what I can do. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. There are two ways of dealing with fingerprints: prevent them or remove them. To prevent them wear gloves, be vigilant about how you handle your clay. To remove them before baking, smooth the clay with cornstarch, alcohol, or perhaps even texture the area. To remove after baking, sand them smooth.

      1. Thomas C Gibson

        If your piece is flat, try placing a sheet pf plain paper over it and burnishing lightly. This will blend the surface marks, but will not distort the shape.

  4. I’ve been working the clay before using then putting it through my extruder to create a hoop however the clay almost looks rough or ripped and I’m having trouble creating a smooth hoop. Any tips?

  5. Hi, thanks for this great post.
    I find that after I’ve used a cutter and I lift the earring on to the baking tray, by the time I lay the earring down, it is misshapen. The circles turn more oval and the arch I’ve got is wonky! How can I lift the earring up from the mat and onto the baking tray without it changing shape?

    1. Handling raw clay is a skill that does take practice. Use a glossy cutting surface, such as a tile or glass. This helps the clay stay in place and not pull up with your cutter. Then to lift the shape, use a long, thin blade and make sure the blade is at about a 45 degree angle to the surface, then slide the blade down the surface and slightly sideways. Go under the shape in one, smooth motion without stopping. That will release it from the tile so you can gently pick it up and place it on your baking paper.

  6. Thank you Ginger!! You are the best! I have learned so much from you over the years. I love the blue bottle emails

  7. The back of my earrings are rough and uneven. I tried rolling on glass and baking paper. After I use cutters and lift it, some parts of the clay stick to the glass/baking paper.

    1. Hi, why don’t you stick it in the oven on the baking paper that you rolled on without trying to remove it first? That’s what I do, and then once baked and cooled they come right off the paper. Hope this helps!

      1. Anna, I wipe the back with a cotton ball saturated with 100% acetone until blemishes are gone. It’s like magic!

  8. When making the rainbow pattern ,how can I make it look smooth and not like a child did it lol. I have it cut precisely at the bottom but it just still seems like it looks amature.

  9. I loved the texture of the green earring at your section on Air Bubbles! How could I produce a texture like that?
    Thank you so much for all of the advice you offer!!

  10. Sometimes my earrings especially rectangle and long will come out of oven bent on one side. So they don’t lay even and revenge sides are wavy rather than straight. What can do while backing to prevent this. Thank you Ginger.

    1. It depends on your personal preference. If you’re making earrings to sell to others, consider using titanium or niobium posts. Stainless and sterling, while often believed to be itch-free, will not work for those with very sensitive earlobes. Use a post with a pad that is large enough to support the earring and small enough that there’s plenty of clay space around the pad for your polymer cover to hold well. I find 6mm to be very versatile. As for post length, it’s usually standard, but long posts are available. I don’t find them necessary unless you’re having to embed the posts deeply.

  11. Thank you so much for these tips! Just curious, is there anything you can recommend for cleaning up/smoothing out the backs of earrings after they’ve baked?

  12. Debbie Loveless

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise with us . Especially the novices like me ! We can all learn so much from you .

  13. Donna Lee Little

    Ginger you do so much for the polymer clay community. I am very thankful. We know it is true blue testing you have done, it’s not just a sounds good tip or trick.

  14. Thank you for all your hard work you do for the creators!!! Awesome content, best on the market.

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