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.
- A First Look at Cernit
- How Does Cernit Change During Baking?
- What Colors Does Cernit Come In?
- Caning with Cernit
- Mica Shift with Cernit
- Using Surface Treatments
- How Strong is Cernit?
- Is Cernit Good for Sculpting?
- Where Can I Buy Cernit?
- Summary and Recommendation
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.
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.
Once conditioned, 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 (not true for the translucent and metallic lines). 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.
Has a Porcelain Quality Many people say that Cernit has a porcelain quality after baking. 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.
Years ago, Cernit DID have a porcelain quality because many of the colors contained at least 50% translucent. But that has changed. Now the Cernit Number One line is normal opaque polymer clay (not really all that translucent). There is a separate line called Opaline, that is partially translucent. So if someone tells you that Cernit is porcelain-like, they haven’t checked on things lately.
Cernit Can Change Color During Baking
One of the most challenging aspects of working with Cernit is that it can sometimes change color during baking. This is because the clay doesn’t use opaque or chalky fillers and therefore has a slightly translucent base. Translucent clays, by their very nature, turn less white during baking, resulting in a darker color. So this means that many 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.
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.
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.
This is the main color line of Cernit. There is an impressive array of colors that includes white, black, neutrals, primaries, and lots of lovely colors. Cernit’s Number One range is far more opaque than the Opaline range.
Previously, Cernit’s Number One line was separated with some colors being 100% Opacity and others labelled as 50% Opacity. They’ve now separated out these 50% translucent colors and they’re called Cernit Opaline.
Richly metallic, full of mica, and available in 21 colors, Cernit Metallic is luscious and beautiful. It doesn’t seem to change color during baking. You can read my extensive review of this interesting clay here.
Note: Cernit Shiny was discontinued in 2020.
While Cernit Metallic is mainly the gold, silver, and copper colors, their jewel colored pearlescent clays are what you’ll find in the Cernit Shiny line. They contain colored micas, not just gold, silver, or pearl mica colors.
Note: Cernit Glamour was discontinued in 2020.
This is the range of pearlescent. Unlike the pearl and colors in other brands of clay, these clays have a more subtle shimmer that comes from a finer mica particle size.
Released in September of 2021, Cernit Pearl is a line of seven colors of very sparkly, shimmery polymer clay. Replacing the Glamour line, this clay line has an intense large flake mica with lots of sparkle. It’s more intense and “blingy” than the metallic line, but without the chunky appearance of the glitter clays that other lines have. There’s nothing else like this clay out there right now. You can read my review and overview of Cernit Pearl here.
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.
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. The Cernit Translucent colors make a great colorant for other brands of translucent clay, such as Pardo or Premo. You can read much more about these and other brands of colored translucent clays here.
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. Curious how Cernit translucent compares to Pardo translucent? Read my article here.
Similar to 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 tiny short pieces of fine fiber that remind 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.
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, make sure that you give it a good, long rest before you slice it.
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 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 Colors
Cernit Metallic, Cernit Shiny, and discontinued colors of Cernit Glamour all make excellent mica shift effects. Not sure what mica shift is? You can read about it here and see examples of Cernit Metallic mica shift.
The Cernit Glamour Violet (now discontinued) 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.
Using Surface Treatments with Cernit
Cernit accepts 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.
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 the 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.
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.
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.
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.
Where Can I Buy Cernit?
In the US, go to Poly Clay Play, Clay Factory, Inc., Blueberry Beads, Cool Tools, and Prairie Craft.
In Canada, check with Shades of Clay.
In the EU, go for Hobbyrian in Sweden, PolyStudio in France, and Happy Things in The Netherlands.
In the UK, you can get Cernit from Clayaround and Clayground.
In Australia, you’ll want to check 2Wards Polymer Clay.
If you have a favorite Cernit supplier, please let us know in the 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.
- Number One range is an excellent all-purpose brand of polymer clay
- Cernit Opaline is a half-translucent line of colors
- Wide range of 80+ colors including translucent, pearl, metallic, stone, neon, and doll
- Translucent is very, very clear and comes in several bright, saturated colors
- 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
- Best purchased by mail order
- Older packages might be hard, crumbly – order from a reputable supplier
- Best for: All-around clay work, jewelry, hand sculpting
- 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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60 thoughts on “Review of Cernit Polymer Clay”
What on earth would we do without your ever so fabulous advice! Thank you, thankyou!
I am experiencing an ongoing problem with Cernit that I don’t have with other brands. I like to use my extruder to make long rectangular strips of clay but with Cernit they come out with serrated edges on the long edge. I don’t know if it’s too soft, or too hard, or what the problem is, so I’m wondering if anyone else is experiencing the same problem and of you have any insight as to what the problem is. I have checked my die and it’s fine! And as I don’t have this problem with Premo or Kato I’m at my wits end! have a pic I could send you if that helps.
Your insight would be appreciated.
Thanks so much,
Hi Jill, this happens because Cernit (Number One, I assume) does not like to be moved quickly or it will “break”. As it is pressed through the die, especially in sharp points, the pressure is high enough that the clay doesn’t flow, it breaks. Fimo Professional does the same thing, as does Papa’s Clay. The solution is to 1)use another brand of clay or 2)warm and/or soften the clay and 3)go more slowly and 4)lubricate the inside of the barrel with baby oil. Good luck!
Would you happen to know how to check batch numbers for age with Cernit? I loved the experience I had with my first few packs (a combination of nature and translucent ones) but today, I got my first pack of pink number one and it’s crumbly, dry and uncooperative. I’m debating whether it’s an old pack or just the way Number One behaves (in which case, I’m a bit concerned about the bigger order I’ve put in for clay, which includes quite a few packs of Number One!)
Thought you’d know with your fabulous experience 🙂
I’m not aware of a way of determining that. Cernit Number One is generally quite soft when very fresh, but as it ages, it “settles” and becomes more firm. It’s what I call a “fracturing” clay that tends to shatter or crumble when you put sudden pressure on it. You can learn more about that in my article on conditioning here: https://thebluebottletree.com/why-condition-polymer-clay/
I’m not sure how to map the batch numbers back to the production numbers. The date that the batches are created are on the larger boxes, and seemingly not the interior boxes of 6, or the clay itself. I will ask. If someone asked me at purchase time the production dates, I could tell them, but once I’ve tossed the outer box, I don’t know.
The #1 can be fairly stiff, especially if it was produced a while back, but shouldn’t be dry or crumbly. It’s possible it got cooked on the way to the supplier. Cernit also sells a Soft Mix and Magic Mix that will help with this, or you can mix in some that is very fresh, say a little translucent.
I’d also contact the vendor.
Cernit Number One can absolutely be crumbly when it’s a few years old, especially when you first begin conditioning it. It’s what I call a “shattering” clay, which I explain here. But it should be readily conditioned with effort. It won’t STAY crumbly when you start pressing crumbs together.
Hello! I had a question concerning Cernit Number One. Was using white Cernit Number One to make a figurine. I had several prebaking steps, and I don’t know if I was imagining it, but it seemed to be slightly darkening with each bake. Is that typical of Cernit in Number ? (My oven temperature seemed fine too, though I wish I had a hold of an oven thermometer to be completely sure).
I must add also that after like the 4th of 5th bake it had darkened, yellowed considerably!
Thank you so so much in advanced, I’m quite puzzled!
All polymer clay will ever so slightly darken with repeated bakings. This is normal, and light colors will show it the most. You can, however, minimize it by taking extra care that your temps are correct, you’re not baking longer than necessary, and you are covering during baking.
Hello! What’s the best way to condition Cernit, without using Sculpey/FIMO products (which use animal ingredients)? I saw elsewhere that mineral oil or baby oil will work, but I’d rather get a tip from you since you’re definitely an industry expert!
Conditioning doesn’t require products. It requires muscle. Just…well…massage the clay until it’s easy to use.
Hello, are the doll clay brands the same as the color clay. As strong?
They are made with a different formula. And each brand is different. Some are as strong, some are not.
Further source for clayers in the German-speaking countries: The art supply company Gerstaecker (gerstaecker.de) has carried the full line of Cernit products for several years now and has been quite reliable in my experience.
Your reviews have been so helpful for me! In your experience, which brand of polymer clay would you say has the most matte appearance after baking? Based on your photo, Premo looks to be significantly less shiny than Cernit or Fimo. I’m trying to go for a smooth and matte finish without using a varnish. I thought maybe Premo + Sculpey Souffle’ mixed could be a good match for me. I appreciate any insight, thank you !!
Souffle is matte after baking, as is Sculpey III. Premo has a considerable sheen, but not as much as Kato. I would say that Premo is on par with Cernit and Fimo, actually. You might even want to consider mixing Souffle and Sculpey III. Another strategy, if your piece is untextured, is to sand it to a very fine, smooth finish. This is Premo and has no finish, only sanding. https://www.instagram.com/p/CBPTWDkDbbX/ To have what’s known as a “dead matte” finish, you’ll likely have to use a varnish with matting agents, however.
Hi Ginger. I’m glad you’re so stoked about Cernit and that you gave it such a great review. I can’t wait to have some play time with it! I have my eye on the turquoise and pink metallic to start with but the the translucent is calling my name too. Thanks for another great article and for letting everyone know that we are carrying it at Shades of Clay in Canada. I can already see us carrying more of the Cernit lines in the near future. Looking forward to seeing what you created with Cernit for your swap!
Great article. I just made a leaf dish (my 2nd try) with Cernit (my first use of it) and found that it was nice to shape (but soft), and both Premo leaf dish and Cernit leaf dish took my UV resin well. I ended up mixing the Cernit with Sculpey II (which I’m trying to get rid of, also SOFT). The finished small leaf dishes look good. The cernit/Sculpey one is much “heavier” than the other and feels more like real ceramic. I ran to read your article to see what you had to say, and as always SO informative. Anyway, thank you. I learn! I learn!
Great article! What type of varnish works best with Cernit? I’ve dabbled with Cernit bead making, usually buff gently with a Dreml. The finished texture is smooth and shiny. Any advice on making very small pots for succulents? Thanks!
I’ve not specifically tested varnishes on Cernit, but I would expect that it would behave similarly to Fimo Professional. Have a look at my article where I tested sealers and varnishes to get some suggestions. I think that making them smooth and then buffing with a dremel would give a lovely effect. Small pots are a great idea, and I would not use any varnishes for pots that directly contact the soil because moisture can cause them to lift. Just shape them the way you’d like and bake them. Make sure to bake long enough and hot enough so they’re plenty strong. Have fun!
Really helpful! Thank you. I’m still not sure if I’ll move over to cernit (from premo), but I do like the idea of using the translucent colours to colour Pardo translucent.
Hi Thank you for the info. Do you know what liquid polymer clay I could use with Cernit?
You can use any brand of liquid clay with any brand of polymer clay, including Cernit. There’s no need to stick with any one brand. All are interchangeable and mixable.
Thank you :-D. I’m still learning and your site is a great source of info.
I am making a 9” gun with Cernit Numbe One for an Annie Oakley sculpture. What do you recommend structurally to keep it from sagging before baking?
It would depend on the size and shape, of course. Lots of people use a wire frame and pad that out with compressed aluminum foil. Cover that with a thin layer of polymer clay and cure. Then build the details of the gun onto that and bake again. Have fun!
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