NOTE: PYM II is no longer being manufactured and I know of no sources anywhere in the world. I’m leaving this article up for archive purposes.
What polymer clay spray sealer is available? It’s a question we often see asked on polymer clay forums and groups. Polymer clay itself is durable and waterproof and does not need a varnish or sealer. But if you have added a surface embellishment such as mica powder or chalk pastels, or used a technique such a crackled metal leaf, you will need to seal the surface to make sure that your special treatments don’t become damaged by the elements. Liquid sealers such as Varathane or acrylic varnish are commonly used to seal polymer clay. But in some cases these varnishes don’t give satisfactory results. Mica powders can be rubbed off or smeared by the addition of varnish. And designs made with alcohol inks on the surface of baked polymer clay will run and bleed when painted over with liquid sealers.
Another problem occurs when you need to seal a highly textured surface. Sometimes liquid sealers will puddle in the texture and that can look gloppy and ugly. Wouldn’t it be great to have a spray varnish? But you’ve probably heard the warnings: Don’t use spray paints and sealers with polymer clay! And that warning is almost always correct. But there is at least one product on the market that is a spray sealer specially designed to be safe for polymer clay. It’s called PYM II. Note: Helmar Crystal Kote is another one.
Characteristics of PYM II Polymer Clay Spray Sealer
Okay, that’s an odd name, right? It stands for Preserve Your Memories and I’m guessing it’s a second version they made (though there is no PYM I). It’s marketed as a spray sealant or coating that is used to preserve, seal, and protect things that hold memories for you such as photographs, newspaper clippings, children’s artwork, and even things like autographs. It’s also used as a fixative to keep glitter, charcoal, pastels, and mica powders from rubbing off or smearing.
PYM II comes in a 12 ounce aerosol can and a 6 ounce finger pump spray can. According to the company’s website, PYM II is water resistant, has UV blocking ability, is non-yellowing, is acid-free, and is compatible with many materials including polymer clay. Yes, you read that right. PYM II is a spray sealer that is safe for polymer clay! I’ll show you some results in a bit, but for now here’s my observations of PYM II acrylic sealer spray.
Does it Smell?
Just like any aerosol spray, you really do need to use this spray outdoors. Or at least in your garage. Although it does not have the strong solvent smell that spray paint has, you don’t really want any aerosol spray to be floating around in your house. It does have volatile compounds that aren’t good for you, so ventilation is a must. PYM II does have a fairly mild, but distinct fragrance that’s not a whole lot worse than hair spray. The smell dissipates very quickly and items that you spray with PYM II won’t have a lingering smell beyond a few hours.
How Glossy is it?
PYM II is a not really a gloss sealer spray, but it will give a slight sheen to items that it’s sprayed on. Items that are textured will remain textured. And a light coating of spray on a piece of copy paper, after drying, will look nearly the same as the uncoated paper. Thicker and multiple coats will build up, though, and given enough coats you can get a fairly glossy finish. But this is not a thick lacquer and it’s important to note that the texture of the item you are spraying will remain.
In the picture below, black Premo polymer clay was first baked and then stamped with various colors of Inka Gold. Then the left half of the sheet was sprayed with two coats of PYM II. As you can see, the sealer makes the color richer and brighter and brings out the sparkle in the Inka Gold. You can also see that it has a slight sheen. But it’s not truly glossy. Note that you can see the texture of the clay and of the stamped Inka Gold through the sealer.
If you need a truly matte spray varnish, or one that is invisible on your finished piece, I recommend Helmar Crystal Kote Matte.
How Fast Does it Dry?
The manufacturer states that PYM II dries in about two minutes. I agree with that. I’ve used a lot of spray paint over the years and I expected this to act the same. But it truly dries almost instantly. In fact, it acts much more like hair spray than spray paint. A light coating dries fast enough that I can spray one side of a piece of paper, flip it over, and spray the other side right away. A heavier coating (where you make it wet) will take longer, but it will be dry before you know it. It’s not worth going back in the house. Just hang out for a couple of minutes and then flip it over. But it does take 24 hours for the sealer to fully cure and harden.
How Durable is it?
It just doesn’t seem that a couple of light coats of a spray would give a durable finish. But it does. It’s flexible and does not crack off. I have some VerDay coated pieces that I sprayed with several fairly heavy coats of PYM II and I have to scratch pretty aggressively to damage the coating with my fingernail. I wouldn’t use it in high stress areas where one component rubs against another, but it will be quite durable in everyday use, even for beads or jewelry components.
Is PYM II Waterproof?
PYM II is water resistant. That means that after sealing with PYM II, you can get things wet but they won’t absorb the water. But this spray is not intended to fully waterproof an item and if submerged long enough I’m sure your item would be damaged by water. This video by the manufacturer shows how well PYM II waterproofs newspaper. If you coat newspaper with PYM II and then dip it in water, the paper will not absorb water and become soggy. I find this to be amazing.
Tests with PYM II on Polymer Clay
I’m very happy with using Varathane as a finish for most of my polymer clay creations. But there are two instances when Varathane doesn’t work well for me. One is when sealing alcohol inks that are used to decorate the surface of baked polymer clay. And the other is when I use mica powder on textured surfaces, such as when making these Mica Leaf Pendants.
Sealing Alcohol Inks on Polymer Clay with PYM II
Alcohol inks are great for coloring unbaked translucent polymer clay. And once baked, the colors are stable. But if you use alcohol ink on the surface of baked clay, the colors can fade. Alcohol inks are soluble in alcohol, so basic cleaning solutions like Windex will cause surface alcohol ink to run and bleed. Hair spray, insect repellent, and even some lotions can cause alcohol inks to run. If you try to seal your piece with Varathane or acrylic varnish, that can also cause the alcohol inks to run. I have heard that PYM II will work for this. I’ve also heard that you can use PYM II to keep adjacent colors of alcohol ink from running together and getting a dark interface line. So I tried it out.
I baked a sheet of white Premo polymer clay and then used Q-tips to apply a stripe of alcohol ink, starting with the blue at the top. I let each color dry before I used the next color. You can see this on the top half of the clay sheet in the picture. Starting with the red stripe and then going down (the bottom half of the picture), I sprayed the sheet with PYM II between each color of alcohol ink.
You’ll notice that on the top half of the sheet, each color dissolves the previous color and runs into it (which is typical behavior of alcohol ink). But the bottom half of the sheet, which was sprayed with PYM II between each color, does not dissolve the previous color and does not blend together. (Thanks to Boni for the wonderful idea!)
But you’ll also notice, if you look closely at that top blue stripe, the PYM II spray itself dissolved the alcohol ink a bit. Maybe I wasn’t waiting long enough between coats and the ink hadn’t dried fully. I’m not sure. And also notice that the alcohol inks laid down on top of the PYM II coating didn’t spread out as smoothly. Again, that might be due to it being freshly sprayed. If I’d waited several days between coats, that might have changed things.
I do know that fully cured PYM II is definitely resistant to alcohol, though. In one of their videos, the manufacturer shows writing on coated photograph with a Sharpie and then erasing it with rubbing alcohol. I tried this on a piece that I coated several months ago and it works! On fully cured PYM II, you can write with Sharpie and then erase it with alcohol without damaging the finish!!
Sealing Mica Powders on Polymer Clay with PYM II
Mica powders, such as Pearl-Ex or Perfect Pearls are wonderful on the surface of polymer clay. If you use a brush to apply mica powders to raw polymer clay, the mica will adhere to the clay during baking. But if you’re making jewelry, you need to seal it or the excess mica will rub off on you or your clothes. This is true to a certain extent with chalk pastels, too. PYM II is a great fixative for charcoal and pastel drawings on paper and it’s also a great sealer for mica powders on polymer clay. It makes the colors brighter and more rich as well as fixing them in place.
To test this, I textured a sheet of black Premo polymer clay with a texture sheet and then brushed it with Magenta Pearl-Ex. After baking, I blew on it to remove the loose excess powder. I sealed the right side of the sheet with two coats of PYM II. Then I used baby wipes to rub each side to see how much color would come off. Note that the PYM II did make the colors more rich and actually fixed the surface excess powder to the clay, changing its color slightly. That’s why the right side is darker. On the left side there is actually quite a bit of loose powder in the recesses of the texture. And notice that you can easily rub off Pearl-Ex from the uncoated side, but the side coated with PYM II had very little color rub off. Keep in mind, both sides of this sheet were identical until I sprayed the right side with PYM II. It’s the only difference between the two.
So yes, PYM II does a fantastic job of sealing mica powders on polymer clay. It especially works well for highly textured surfaces which would be difficult to seal with a liquid varnish or sealer such as Varathane.
Where to Buy PYM II
PYM II’s manufacturer, Doug and Donna Shepherd of Precision Blue, are retiring and the transition to a new owner has been problematic. It is no longer being manufactured.
Alternatives to PYM II
I have been actively seeking more alternatives and have bought and tried about 17 other spray sealers. To date, no other product works the same, and the vast majority of these spray sealers remain sticky on polymer clay. Please do not use Krylon spray varnishes or other hardware store brands. The craft store or hardware guy will tell you it is fine, but it is not. Also, please be aware that a spray will work well on one clay and not on another, so take recommendation you get from Facebook groups with a grain of salt. You can read about my tests here. I’ve tested even more since writing this article, and I’m still going!
There are many brush-on varnishes that will work. Have a look at the ones I recommend in my Testing Sealers article. If you need to seal mica powders such as Pearl Ex, I do like using Final Coat or Christi Friesen’s Swellegant Sealer.
How I’ve Used PYM II
- I used it to seal patinas that I created with VerDay patina paints. You could undoubtedly use it for Swellegant in the same way
- Sealing pearl-ex test swatches
- Sealing chalk pastels on polymer clay
- Sealing mica powders on scrapbooking mixed media papers
- Coating ink-jet printed images before covering with resin
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