This tip seems like it’s so simple that it’s almost not even worth mentioning. But when I think back to when I started playing with clay, or think of how other people work with clay, I realize that the way I use copy paper in my work is probably unusual and others might want to know what I do. Nothing here is very revolutionary, of course, and there are many other ways to do these things. But it’s it usually the simple tips that make you slap your forehead and say, “Doh!”
If you’re anything like me, it just kills you to throw away perfectly good scrap paper. I hear my mother’s voice every time. “Hey, someone could use that!” Whenever I print out a shipping label for an Etsy order, there is usually half a page that’s unprinted. The same goes for printing coupons to use when I shop at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. And my printer has a mind of its own sometimes. It’s always spitting out badly printed pages. So I cut and save the unprinted part and use the paper when working with polymer clay.
Ways to Use Printer Paper with Polymer Clay
Prevent Shiny Spots
I like to bake my polymer clay on ceramic tiles. And if you put your item on the tile during baking it will come out with shiny spots where the clay touched the tile. To prevent this, put a piece of paper down between the polyclay and the tile. Don’t worry, the paper won’t burn. And your clay will come out great. As a bonus, you can re-use the paper. (Read here for more tips on baking polymer clay.)
Keep Beads from Rolling Around During Baking
If you place beads on a ceramic tile for baking, they’re just going to roll around, right? To keep them from rolling, just take a scrap sheet of paper and accordion fold it like you did in first grade to make a fan. Set that on your ceramic tile and put your beads in the folds of the paper. Cover and bake!
Prevent Clay from Sticking to your Work Surface
How many times have you created the perfect piece and then had it distort when you tried to remove it from your work table? Simply create your piece right on top of the paper. If you need to stop for the day, though, move your clay to a piece of Saran Wrap, cling film, or deli plastic. You don’t want to leave clay in contact with paper for too long (see below).
Disposable Work Surface
I do tend to work on ceramic tiles. But sometimes I know I’m going to make a mess, like with mica powders or paints. If I place my work on top of a piece of paper I can be as sloppy as I need to be and cleanup is as simple as throwing the paper away.
Saving Pearl-Ex or other Powders
Some techniques require a liberal dusting with mica powders, glitter, or chalk pastels. If you use a piece of scrap paper as a work surface, you can tip the excess back into the container, reducing waste. I have a couple jars of discontinued colors of Pearl-Ex, and I assure you I save every bit I can!
Yes, I know, a styrofoam tray is an even better disposable palette than a piece of paper. But I always have paper on hand. If all I need is a quick dab of paint, I’m very likely to pour it out onto a piece of copy paper and use that as my palette. Cleanup is, of course, instant!
When applying mica powders or chalk pastels to polyclay, sometimes you want to keep certain areas clean and clear. If you cut some paper the size you need, it can become a mask to keep those areas clear.
Create a Smooth Texture
Some pasta machines leave very fine lines in the surface of a sheet of clay. Other pasta machines leave the clay sheet too shiny. If you roll your clay between two sheets of paper, the very fine almost “neutral” texture of the paper will transfer to the surface of the clay giving an almost satin finish. You can easily peel the paper off the clay. Though, some people say that it helps to bake their clay sheet with paper smoothed to the top as a way of possibly allowing gases to escape during cure, thereby preventing the uneven little bumps that can sometimes happen with some brands. (Premo, I’m looking at you).
Leaching Soft Polymer Clay
When polymer clay is super fresh and too soft to work, you can fix it by doing something called leaching. Plasticizer is what causes polymer clay to be soft and malleable. If there’s too much plasticizer, polyclay can be TOO soft and malleable. Luckily, you can remove it by leaching. To do this, take a sheet of polymer clay, sandwich it between a few sheets of plain paper top and bottom, and stick a book or something on top of it for a while. The plasticizer will be absorbed by the paper (it leaches out). The longer you do it, the more plasticizer comes out and the more stiff the clay will become. When leaching clay, check the progress every 30 minutes or so. You don’t want to take out too much plasticizer as that will leave you with hard, crumbly clay. (By the way, this process is spelled “leach”. A leech is a nasty little sucking worm.)
But Watch Out for This
First, because paper will leach the plasticizer from your polymer clay, it will also leach your work if you leave it sitting on copy paper for too long. So don’t leave your figurines and beads on paper while you wait to bake them.
Second, make sure there is no print remaining on the paper. Ink from toner copiers and printers will bond itself to your polymer clay (which is one way to make an image transfer). But inkjet ink and even professionally printed literature in your junk mail can use inks that can sometimes bond to or mar your polymer clay pieces. Better to be safe than sorry.
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19 thoughts on “Polymer Clay Tip: Copy Paper”
I am still pretty new to polymer clay and have been searching for a source of information and guidance. So far I have been doing well teaching myself but have been Struggling with a few things. let me tell you, this website is a god send! There is so much information that I had no clue about. Clay has become somewhat of a therapeutic thing for me… I deal with some pretty debilitating mental health issues and battled with addiction in the past because of this. These things basically robbed me of the ability to create and make art even though I desperately wanted to. In my never ending journey of healing and care, I picked up clay when I started feeling better and I can’t even express how good it feels to be able to make art I am proud of. Thank you for giving people like me vast amounts of information and help so I can continue growing, learning and thriving doing something I love!
When I baked my clay sandwiched between printer paper and tiles the bigger pieces stuck to the paper. Any idea why this might be happening?
So glad to see I’m not the only one with a stack of scrap paper beside my work table! I save as much as I can, including the other side of my Etsy labels and coupons! I’ve never run it through the pm, I’ll have to test that out, thanks.
Thanks for the great ideas. using paper as a palette. .. I find a paper plate works well. I use small dessert plats as I have tons from kids bday parties. The lip of the plate keeps paint, mica powder, etc in a confined space and you can fold it if need to put excess back in bottle. Also it doesn’t get soggy from paint like paper.
Oh, definitely. For any extended painting it’s much better to use a better palette. And dessert plates are perfect. I, too, have a pile of them. I think I still have a couple Barney plates from my now 20 year old’s 2 year old party. Gee, I’m not a hoarder, am I? 😉 No better purpose for a Barney plate, don’t you think? 😀
Once again, I have gained so many useful, easy, and inexpensive ideas from your blog. Don’t know what I would do without your tips and tricks! Thank you.
Another useful article – thanks!
Great tip about rolling with the clay between sheets of paper – the machines l’m using atm are marking the clay quite badly. I think l would use layout paper for that though because clay is rather inclined to stick to ordinary paper.
Another use for paper is for burnishing foils onto clay.
I seem to remember having the conversation in the UK that I didn’t know what layout paper was. Clay doesn’t stick to our cheapo copy paper very much, so maybe your paper is clay coated, and layout paper (whatever that is, LOL) isn’t clay coated? Okay, that makes sense to me anyway. Okay, I looked it up…it’s the stuff you use with markers? Like illustration paper that you use in drafting? Or this one of those UK/US mix-ups where we use different names for simple things? (I am eternally lost between cultures, LOL.)
Ooh, hadn’t considered putting clay between paper to roll it through the pm. It might also stop my clay from ribboning at my lowest setting, ang give me a really fine sheet!
(PS a word in defence of leeches – plastic and reconstructive surgeons find them invaluable in fine work, like on hands and eyes. No human made drain is fine enough to keep these areas safely free of blood while the surgeon works. But leeches do a great job!)
Yes, it does help to get really fine sheets. And because you can peel the paper off the clay (rather than the clay off the paper), there is much less distortion. As for leeches…yes, I knew they were used that way. But I grew up swimming and playing in creeks. And have had leeches far more times than I care to count. I don’t like them. Give me spiders, give me snakes, but keep the leeches away!! 😛
Eeeuw – I wasn’t thinking of them in any setting other than a lovely sterile operating theatre! I grew up in South Africa. We had mole crickets – the stuff of nightmares – the thought still makes me shiver!
A few more thoughts to add to this wonderful article: It’s not recycling, but I use cheap,flimsy index cards to stack work while baking. This is especially useful in class when everyone is impatient. Many times in classes, we will partially bake, making it easier for people to transport things home for complete baking. Staples sells an index card with graph squares on it which makes a terrific template for cutting rectangles and squares. Since work can be baked without moving the piece, there is no distortion. I also bake my work upside down.That way, if there are bubbles, and they rise to the top (which they do), the top is really the bottom. Thanks Ginger, for your continual efforts to make sure we are all the best we can be!
Excellent ideas, thank you. I forgot about the upside down baking. And the graph paper…oooh. I don’t like grids under glass…too hard to use because of the gap between the surface and the grid. But using the paper itself…see…utterly simple but utterly brilliant. Thanks!
Great idea, Ginger! I do most of these with my deli paper… After it has been used enough so it’s no longer pristine, it’s great for all the other uses! I don’t work on tiles, but my work surface is glass. I do a lot of work on my deli paper, though… and also on the cloth I’m using to texture the backs of my work.
I have been meaning to get some deli paper, but so far my supply of copy paper has been keeping me going. And the only reason use the ceramic tiles rather than glass is because they go from table to oven. And cloth for texturing…excellent idea! I’ve used it, too, but there are so many textures out there to use that I’m surprised more people don’t do this one.
Thanks a lot for this very useful and practical article. Interesting that you mention the little bumps you can get after curing with Premo, which is the clay I use most often. That does indeed happen.
And they frustrate me, too. That’s why I always tend to lean toward textured designs. To hide such things.
Hi Ginger, just a note about leaching. If you are in the middle of a project and you don’t want to wait, you can put the polymer clay and paper on your chair and sit on it for a bit. Your body heat will leach it in about 5 – 10 minutes. Yes, your bottom can be of use while you’re sitting 🙂
Ooh, that’s an excellent idea! Thanks Leona!
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