Review of Cernit Polymer Clay

Curious about the European polymer clay, Cernit? Read the review and learn how it's different from other brands in this review from Ginger Davis Allman of The Blue Bottle Tree.As you probably know, there are many brands of polymer clay, and each one has slightly different characteristics that make it a favorite for people wanting to achieve a specific result. Cernit is a brand of polymer clay, produced in Belgium, that is very popular with European and Russian polymer clay artists. So many talented people are getting such good results with Cernit that it makes us wonder what is so different about it? I received generous samples of Cernit clay from two suppliers here in the United States (Marina Taenkova of Marka Decor Craft and Marie Segal of Clay Factory, Inc.) and have been busily claying away, trying many techniques and exploring all the ways that make Cernit polymer clay different from (or similar to) other brands. Here’s my review of Cernit polymer clay. Because there’s so much to say and discuss, this article’s pretty long. So if you’re interested in a specific topic, use these links to help you find what you’re looking for.

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A First Look at Cernit

Cernit polymer clay is, in general, just like any other brand of polymer clay. It comes in a bar, is a putty-like dough that you work with to create something, you can cure it in the oven, and you can carve, sand, drill, and paint it after baking. You can mix Cernit with any other brand of polymer clay, and you can use it for all the techniques you’re used to using when you create, such as extruding, mokume gane, caning, using texture sheets, etc. So it’s more similar than it is different from the brands you’re already familiar with.

This is the back of a package of Cernit polymer clay.Cernit comes in 56g (roughly the same as 2oz) package and some colors also come in larger 500g (just over one lb) packages. The blocks come with a plastic package that’s heat-sealed on each end like a candy bar, so the packages are air-tight. (Note: Cernit used to come in a 62g package, but this was changed several years ago. Any packages of that size are quite old.)

When you open the package, Cernit looks very similar to any other brand of polymer clay. Once you slice off some of the clay and start working with it, you’ll notice that some colors are firmer than others. This could be due to age (more popular colors such as black and white are always newer due to faster turnover), or it could just be that some colors are more soft. (This is true with many clay brands, by the way.) In most cases, I found that a slice of the clay would go through the pasta machine with little to no crumbling and flaking. The clay conditions easily and responds very well to the heat of your hands, soon becoming very smooth and workable.

Cernit polymer clay can be die formed using a regular metal cutter.
Cernit is quite stretchy when unbaked, and sheets of clay work wonderfully with the die forming technique. This flat-backed oval dome is hollow, and was created using an oval-shaped cutter.

Cernit is quite stretchy in your hands and works well for die forming and other techniques where the stretching of the clay is important. The clay isn’t waxy like Kato and isn’t chalky and sticky like Fimo Professional. But it is a bit sticky and can stick to your fingers when it gets too warm. It does have a good balance of sticking to itself (making construction easy) but not TOO good at sticking to itself. You can usually peel apart clay that you’ve stuck together if you change your mind. Cernit does not leave much of a residue on your hands, but you will still want to wipe your hands with a baby wipe when you change to a lighter color or after you’ve been using red.

If you find that the Cernit is getting too droopy and soft or sticky while working with it, leave it to sit for a few minutes. Temperature makes a huge impact on this clay, so it would be an excellent one to use if you have cold hands or live in a cold climate.

How Does Cernit Change During Baking?

After baking, you’ll find that Cernit has many of the same frustrations as any other clay. You’ll still see fingerprints, “the bumpies”, and, if you’re using translucent, plaques. Cernit does bake with a slight sheen, quite similar to that of Fimo Professional.

Notice how after baking, Premo doesn't have much sheen, but Cernit and Fimo Professional do.

Cernit Has a Porcelain Quality

Many people say that Cernit has a porcelain quality after baking, and it’s a feature that is even mentioned on the package. What does that mean? It’s not hard like a porcelain teacup and it’s not matte like fired clay. But it is rather translucent. If you hold any baked color of Cernit up to the light, you’ll be able to see a glow of light coming through it. This means that baked Cernit polymer clay will have a luminous quality, rather than a chalky one like Fimo, Souffle, or Sculpey III.

Cernit polymer clay has a luminous porcelain quality due to the translucent base of the colors.
This lovely rose bracelet was made by Marina Taenkova of Marka Decor. She gave it to me to show me how strong Cernit polymer clay is. You can see the porcelain effect in this photograph.

Cernit Changes Color During Baking

Cernit polymer clay darkens during baking, some colors more than others.One of the most challenging aspects of working with Cernit is that it changes color during baking. This is because the clay doesn’t use opaque or chalky fillers and therefore has a translucent base. Translucent clays, by their very nature, turn less white during baking, resulting in a darker color. So this means that most of the colors of Cernit will have a noticeable shift in color after baking. I found that it was a good idea to create a baked color swatch of each color so that I knew what was going to happen during baking and could design my piece accordingly.

All colors of Cernit will change color during baking, even black and white. One of my readers mentioned that she didn’t like that white Cernit turned translucent upon baking. I found that there are actually two versions of white. Porcelain White is a 50% opaque, and Opaque White is a lot closer to being fully opaque. It is opaque for all practical purposes, but it is not a chalky white and does have some light come through when you hold it up to a window.See how the color changes during baking of Cernit can impact your design.

This color shift feature of Cernit can be frustrating when you use it for caning because colors that seem good together when raw will darken during baking and can give you a dark, dull, and uninteresting cane that you don’t expect. Just make sure that your cane is designed with this color darkening in mind.

Cernit colors darken during baking, which can be problematic when it's used for making canes.
Colors of Cernit can darken considerably during baking, which needs to be kept in mind when using Cernit for caning. The slice of kaleidoscope cane on the left is raw, the one on the right is baked.

Color Ranges in the Cernit Line

Cernit has several ranges of colors in its brand. Each has slightly different characteristics and will be used in different ways.

Number One

This is the main color line of Cernit. There are 43 colors that include white, black, neutrals, primaries, and lots of lovely mixes. While all of the colors have a translucent quality to them, some are more translucent than others. Very recently, the manufacturer has begun to label the more translucent of these colors as being “50% opaque” and the rest them as being “100% opaque”. I don’t think the colors themselves have changed, rather I think they’re just beginning to label them to make it easier for the clayer to understand how that particular color will act.

Cernit Number One colors come in either 100% or 50% opacity.

Glamour

This is the range of pearlescent and metallic colors. Unlike the pearl and metallic colors in other brands of clay, these clays seem to be more richly colored and have a more subtle shimmer, less “frosty”. Several of the colors appear to have two kinds of particles included in them. The Glamour Bronze, for instance, seems to have both a fine mica and also a larger metallic particle, giving a slight glitter look.

Neon Light

These fluorescent colors of Cernit are in Day-Glo colors that glow brightly under UV (black) light. Aside from translucent white, these are the only colors of Cernit that include fluorescent dyes or pigments. The Neon Light colors must have a fairly translucent base because they all darken considerably during baking.

Translucent

The Cernit Translucent range are colored translucent clay. These clays have no opaque binders in them so they bake very clear. The colors are very intense, far more than other brands of colored translucent clay. In many cases, you’d want to mix these intense colors with plain white translucent to get the best see-through effect. I think these would be interesting as the colorant for other brands of translucent clay, such as Pardo or Premo.

Cernit translucent colors are very intense and give pure, clear, translucent effects after baking.
This is Cernit Translucent. On the left is raw clay, and on the right is baked. You can see how much the colors change and also how clear the colors become. They’re very intense, unlike the colored translucents of other brands.

Cernit white translucent is quite white (non-colored) and is one of the clearest translucent clays that there is, certainly a rival of Premo but without the tan color. I still do find, however, that Pardo translucent is clearer than Cernit.

Nature

Similar to the Sculpey’s Granitex line, the Cernit Nature colors have two kinds of particles. One is a hexagonal black flake, very similar to glitter (but not shiny). The other is a tiny short pieces of fine fiber that reminds me of flocking. The Nature colors are designed to look like stone. These little fibers and flecks do mean the clay won’t cut cleanly. In fact, when you use a blade with this clay, the fibers collect on the blade and if you’re not careful, these bunches of fibers can end up on your clay as lines or streaks.

Cernit Nature colors contain fine fibers which can cause a problem.
Note the tiny little fibers that make Cernit Nature have a stone-like appearance. Click on the photo to see the fibers close up. Also, note the line on the slice and at the base of the brick..that’s how the fibers will collect on your blade as you slice this clay. (Click on the photo to see it larger.)
The Nature line of Cernit seems to have fibers which can collect on your blade and cause streaks. Read more in this review of Cernit Polymer Clay.
The little fibers in the Cernit Glamour line will collect on your blade and if you’re not careful this line of fibers will end up as a streak on your clay.

Cernit Doll

Just as Fimo and PVClay have a range of doll clays in their offerings, so does Cernit. I didn’t get a chance to review it, but I expect it would be fairly similar to the rest of the Cernit line. And unlike Super Sculpey, Cernit Doll comes in 8 varied flesh colors.

Can You Cane with Cernit?

Well, technically, you can cane with any polymer clay. 😉 But does Cernit give a good result when you cane with it? I found that it was pretty easy to cane with Cernit. The clay isn’t too sticky, so I was able to rearrange sections as I built my cane. I followed a tutorial I found online (And I won’t link to it here because it was impossible to follow and the photos were incorrect. I swore a lot when trying to follow the instructions.) But even with all the messing around and false starts, I was able to get a tolerable kaleidoscope cane. The softness of the clay was working against me in trying to get precise angles to line up. Also, since Cernit can be pretty soft, so make sure that you give it a good, long rest before you slice it.

While you can readily create canes with Cernit, you'll find that the color darkening and the translucency are challenges.
Cernit does work well for caning, but because it’s so soft you can get a fair bit of distortion during construction. Note the color shift between the baked cane slice (left) and the raw one (right).

There’s another reason why caning with Cernit can be a bit blurry, and that is the translucent colors. Because translucent clay allows color from adjacent sections to show through, you can sometimes get a blurred visual effect, making it look like there’s not a clear distinction between the colors. For the sharpest visual effect, design your cane to have strong contrasts and use the 100% opaque colors.

Because of the softness and the color blurring, I think Cernit will be best for more organic canes where there the cane slices will be manipulated, such as when you make flowers with them, or in the style of Teresa Salgado‘s “scayning” technique. Cernit isn’t going to work as well as Fimo or Kato for extremely precise or intricate cane designs where exact placement is required.

Mica Shift with Cernit Glamour Colors

I’ve read that you can’t get a good mica shift effect with Cernit Glamour colors, but I didn’t find that to be true. Marie Segal suggested that these colors give a better mica shift effect when they’re mixed 50/50 with translucent. I tried it both ways, and I do think that I like the effect better with full strength. But I’ve not tried it with all colors. You can also see in the photo below that Cernit sands and buffs to a high shine beautifully! You can see the mica and also the larger metal flakes that Bronze has.

In this comparison of mica shift, you can see that Cernit Glamour makes a very nice mica shift effect.
Mica Shift technique with Cernit Glamour Bronze. One the left, it’s mixed 50/50 with translucent. For the texture, I used a MKM Wooden Roller provided by Poly-Tools.

The Cernit Glamour Violet made an equally gorgeous mica shift. However, its effect was just slightly less impressive than the Bronze, but not enough that you can see it in the photos. Again, note that sanding and buffing Cernit can give a tremendous high-gloss shine. Nope, no varnish was used here. And yes, these are completely flat and smooth as silk.

Whether using a deep stamp and shaving or using a shallow stamp and sanding after baking, Cernit polymer clay produces a great mica shift effect.
These textures were made with KOR and MKM rollers provided by Poly-Tools. The one on the left was sanded down after baking. The one on the right was carved with a blade and then baked. In both cases, the mica shift effect is excellent.

Using Surface Treatments with Cernit

Cernit accepted paints, silk screening, alcohol inks, chalks, and varnish just as well as any other brand of polymer clay. I had a grand time playing with several things, including my Rustic Beads technique and my Faux Glass Effects process. One unusual thing about Cernit (as well as Fimo and Pardo) is that they can be damaged by water when raw. So be aware that using water as a mold release can lead to the clay getting sticky if you leave it on for very long.

Cernit polymer clay works well with the Rustic Beads Technique.
Learn to make Rustic Beads with my Rustic Beads Tutorial.
Cernit polymer clay takes surface treatments as good as any other brand of clay.
Cernit takes alcohol ink and paints as well as any other brand of clay. The silkscreen used here was provided by Tonja’s Treasures.
Cernit works well in my Faux Glass Effects polymer clay tutorial.
I made both the faux sea glass and the faux Czech glass beads (from my Faux Glass Effects Tutorial) using the Cernit Translucents. Note the plaques in the sea glass. Cernit, just like all the other brands of translucent, can form plaques.

How Strong is Cernit Polymer Clay?

It’s really hard to say that Cernit is the strongest brand of polymer clay because there are many ways to assess strength of a material. But it’s certainly one of the strongest. I compared Cernit to Premo, Kato, Sculpey III, and Fimo Professional in three tests. I made sticks, which I tested for flex and breakage. I made balls, which I smashed with a hammer. And I made thin strips, which I tried to pull apart and also tested for strength on the fold. In all almost all cases, Cernit was as strong as or stronger than any other brand.

Thin ropes of baked polymer clay, see how Cernit is stronger than Sculpey III or Kato.
I tried to break 1/4″ (6mm) rope of baked clay by snapping it like a twig. Sculpey III snapped as easily as a pretzel. Kato broke easily. I could not break the other three brands with my hands. Kato was quite a bit more stiff than the others, also.
In this review of Cernit polymer clay, see how it is strong enough to withstand the blow of a hammer.
These 5/8″ (16mm) balls of clay were set into a hole on an anvil and then smashed repeatedly with a hammer. I could not break Premo, Cernit, or Fimo. Kato cracked after 5-6 blows. Sculpey III shattered into bits with one blow.
Strips of polymer clay show the relative strength and durability of Cernit, Premo, Kato, and Fimo Professional.
Each of these thin strips were pulled apart with my hands (right side) and also flexed by folding over and creasing the strip (left side). I could not break the Kato strip with my hands. Premo took little effort, but Cernit and Fimo were both quite hard to pull apart. Cernit and Fimo were both very flexible and could be bent and creased many times without breaking. Both Kato and Premo broke with the first crease. Sculpey III was not included because it’s too weak for this test and can be crumbled like crackers in your soup.

Is Cernit Good for Sculpting?

Sculpting is a word that can mean so many things from cute little kawaii charms made by hand to incredibly intricate sculpting done with tools. Cernit is known for being excellent in the kind of sculpting where you have lots of blending and things are shaped by hand, such as Marina’s flower bracelet I showed above. While the clay can hold fine detail, it does droop easily and that makes it frustrating if you need a complex shape to hold while you’re working on other parts of it.

Cernit is very strong and flexible, making it perfect for delicate flowers.
I made this flower in the style of the ones made by Rusalina Cernit, a Russian artist. You can see her excellent tutorials on YouTube.

Here’s another set of flowers I sculpted using Rusalina’s excellent YouTube tutorial. The blue ones are made from Cernit, the white one is made from Fimo Professional, and the light violet one is from Premo. All three clays are strong enough for this technique. But Cernit did work the best. I found the Fimo to be too sticky and the scissors kept sticking.

Polymer clay flowers made using Rusalina Cernit's tutorial.

One thing that Cernit does very well is to form folded sheets. I made this brooch using the FanFolding techniques in Helen Breil’s incredibly excellent tutorial ebook. As you can see, the clay is flexible and can take tight curves and folds without cracking, and it also accepts the mica powder beautifully.
Because Cernit is so flexible before baking, you can use it to create the FanFold technique from Helen Breil.

Where Can I Buy Cernit?

Marina Taenkova of Marka Decor Crafts and Marie Segal whose husband Howard runs Clay Factory, Inc. both work with Cernit extensively and feel strongly that it’s a great clay that needs to be given the attention it deserves. Therefore both of them made sure that I was well-stocked with a with a huge variety of Cernit so that I could work with it and write an article to share with the polymer clay community. They’ve been so generous and helpful that I’d suggest going to them first!

Cernit can be purchased from Emma Ralph of EJR Beads in the UK. Emma also helped me by answering many questions about the clay as well. Emma says she ships to any country. As Cernit is so very popular in Europe, there are many dozens of suppliers and I can’t even begin to list them all. At the moment, the website for the manufacturer is down and I have been unable to contact them. I think they’re travelling. I’ll update this when I know more.

Cernit doesn’t have a large buyer base in some countries, so suppliers might have old stock. If your order contains older 62g packages, or if the clay is too hard or crumbly to work, then take it up with your supplier and know that fresh and properly stored Cernit won’t be impossible to work with. Buying any brand of polymer clay from ebay or Amazon can be risky because you are not buying from a supplier with a known reputation. Read more here about buying quality polymer clay.

If you have a favorite Cernit supplier, please let us know in comments. What works in one country doesn’t always work for another, and the more options the better. Thanks!

Summary and Recommendations

Cernit polymer clay, which is made in Belgium, is a high quality, professional clay that I am happy to recommend. Here are the highlights.

  • Porcelain quality due to strong translucent base
  • Translucent base means colors darken noticeably during baking
  • Main color range transitioning to labels with either 50% or 100% opaque
  • Wide range of 80+ colors including translucent, pearl, metallic, stone, neon, and doll
  • Translucent is very, very clear
  • Easy to work with, soft, smooth, stretchy when raw
  • Can become sticky when overworked, let it rest a few minutes
  • Temperature sensitive so not great for those in hot climates and with hot hands
  • Can be extruded, sculpted, shaped like any other polymer clay
  • Not the best for precise caning, but does make nice “sculptural” canes
  • Very strong and flexible after baking
  • Takes paints, surface treatments, and varnish well
  • Sands and buffs beautifully
  • Beautiful, dark, mica shift is possible
  • High quality, professional clay that is good for almost any technique
  • Not available in many stores in the US
  • Older packages might be hard, crumbly – order from reputable supplier
  • Best for: All-around clay work, jewelry, hand sculpting
  • Not good for: Those with hot hands, precise caning, color fidelity
  • All in all, Cernit is one of the best polymer clays out there!

Credits: Many thanks to Marina Taenkova of Marka Decor, Marie Segal of Clay Factory, Tonja Lenderman of Tonja’s Treasures, and Christina Butler of Poly-Tools for providing materials used in preparing this review. I’m honored to be able to help get the word out to all of you about products like this.

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