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.