Polyform, the maker of Premo and Sculpey polymer clay, has introduced a new line of polymer clay called Souffle. It is advertised as being lightweight, strong, perfect for jewelry making, and having a suede-like finish. I was lucky enough to receive some samples from Polyform late Monday and I couldn’t wait to work with it and see if this new polymer clay is really as good as they say it is. I posted a query on my Facebook page Monday: What do you want to know about the new Sculpey Souffle? I was overwhelmed with responses. I wrote them all down and then planned some tests to find the answer to all the questions. Here’s what I found about Sculpey Souffle.
What’s Unique about Sculpey Soufflé?
- Sculpey Souffle is a soft, workable polymer clay variety.
- Too soft for detailed sculpting, Souffle is great for making chunky figurines.
- It comes in 22 colors that work well together without being too bright or garish.
- Souffle is perfect for children and those with arthritic hands.
- After baking, it is extremely strong, flexible, and has a suede-like finish.
- Souffle takes paint very well, so it’s excellent if you will be painting after baking.
- For more details, don’t miss the second part of this review here.
There’s so much to know and share that I’m breaking this into a couple of posts. Today I’ll talk about my first impressions of the colors, how it feels, how it bakes, and how strong it is. I wanted to get this post up and out to you right away. Then I’m going to work with it in actual projects and report back in another post about how well it canes, sculpts, sands, and works in practice.
Colors of Sculpey Soufflé
Souffle polymer clay comes in 22 colors that Polyform refers to as “fashion forward” colors. I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean. The line does include black and white, so that leaves 20 colors in actuality. There are no true primaries. The red is a nice balanced cherry red, but the yellow lacks punch. It’s somewhat dull and pasty. And the blue is quite a greenish blue called lagoon. It’s not particularly saturated either. If you were hoping this new line of clay was going to be an artist’s line of colors you’re going to be disappointed. But if you work straight out of the package with minimal color blending, this line of clay is a nice break from the bright candy-like colors of the other brands of polymer clay. None of the colors are a pure spectral color, they are all toned with white or black and all have somewhat of a muddy feel to them. There are no metallic, pearl, or translucent colors.
One wonderful thing about Sculpey Souffle colors is that there is absolutely no color shift when the clay is baked. The baked clay is exactly the same color as the raw, unbaked clay. You can see the raw and the cured clay colors compared in this color chart that I made late last night.
Most brands of polymer clay do have a just a small bit of translucency, some more than others. The line of Sculpey Souffle doesn’t. It’s remarkably opaque. And I think that’s because whatever they’re adding to make it feel the way it does also makes it more opaque. That’s just a guess, of course. But the colors are all a bit…well…chalky. And there is no translucent in this line of clay. When I noticed this opaque quality, I held thin, baked sheets up to the light and you can easily see how much more opaque Souffle is than the other brands of polymer clay.
What Does Sculpey Soufflé Feel Like?
Is it Fluffy?
Sculpey Souffle is packaged in 1.7 ounce bars that are the identical size as the 2 ounce bars of Sculpey III and Premo. That calculates to being 15% lighter. There is speculation that Sculpey Souffle will be foamy like a marshmallows because it is a lightweight clay. But actually, it doesn’t really feel that much lighter in practice. And no, it doesn’t feel foamy or marshmallowy. It doesn’t feel heavy and dense like Premo or Kato Polyclay, either. Souffle doesn’t “mush down” when you work with it. So whatever is making it lighter doesn’t appear to be air and it doesn’t appear to be “whipped”. It really does have a nice feel to it, though.
What is this Suede Finish?
Souffle is advertised as having a “suede” finish. In the raw clay you can’t really feel what that might be. It’s not powdery feeling and the raw clay does have a bit of a sheen to it. It takes my fingerprints quite readily. There does appear to be somewhat of a different feel, though. You know how Premo feels dry and like plastic? Souffle doesn’t feel like that. It’s more like Blue-Tak (poster putty). But softer. It feels a bit like a kneaded rubber eraser (used in drawing), but much softer. I’ll talk about the baked finish in a minute, hold on.
Is it like Sculpey Ultralight, but in Colors?
Because of this suede finish, there has been much speculation that Sculpey Souffle will be just like Sculpey Ultralight but in colors. However, it doesn’t really feel anything like Ultralight. Ultralight is quite foamy, powdery, and not at all sticky. I even mixed Ultralight with Premo (1:1) and compared that to Souffle. It still didn’t feel the same. In fact, I MUCH prefer the feel of that mix and will gladly use up the remainder of my package of Ultralight doing just that.
How Soft Is It?
Sculpey Souffle is advertised as being soft and easy to condition. Of course everyone wants to know if that’s true. Well, it is! I opened brand new packages of Premo, Sculpey III, and Souffle and compared them side by side. Premo, even fresh and soft Premo, is difficult to condition by hand. You really need to use a pasta machine or, for me at least, I feel the pain in my joints as I try to soften it. Sculpey III, of course, is quite soft and easy to soften in your hands. Sculpey Souffle is quite nearly as soft as Sculpey III and you can easily and readily condition it in your hands. It “smooshes” just the same as Sculpey III and it gets very soft with conditioning. Although it is just as soft as Sculpey III, Souffle does have more body to it. It feels more “substantial”. It is a bit more elastic so it pushes back a bit as you work with it. At first it feels fairly dry but very quickly Sculpey Souffle becomes very soft and sticky. In fact I found it to be annoyingly sticky as I worked with it. This is a good quality in some ways because it does stick to itself quite well. More on that later, though, as I work more with it. *Update* The yellow color that I was working with initially seems to be more sticky than the other colors. I’m not finding the other colors to be quite so soft and sticky.
I had a few questions about how stretchy the raw clay is. I was stunned to find that it’s very, very stretchy. I rolled out a pencil-sized snake of Premo, Sculpey III, and Souffle and then pulled them apart slowly to see if they would break or stretch. Premo stretches only slightly before breaking. Sculpey III is a bit more stretchy. But Souffle surprised me by stretching, and stretching…on and on…pulling into thin strands before finally breaking. The effect was even more pronounced when the clay was very warmed up and well conditioned.
Does Sculpey Soufflé Roll Thin Easily?
I compared Premo, Sculpey III, and Sculpey Souffle by rolling them very thin in the pasta machine. In my machine, Premo made it to a #8 without being mangled, the sheet felt dry and plasticky, and didn’t particularly stick to itself. It was easy to smooth the sheet back out when I placed it on a baking tile.
Sculpey III started catching at a #6 on my pasta machine, made it to a #7 being slightly mangled. It felt stickier than Premo, readily stuck to itself, and didn’t smooth nicely onto a baking tile.
Sculpey Souffle started catching on a #7, made it to a #8 with only slight mangling. It very readily stuck to itself and to my fingers making it difficult to place onto a baking tile. It was like trying to lay a sheet of duct tape down and my fingers kept sticking. Grr.
How Well does Sculpey Soufflé Bake?
What is this Suede Finish?
I didn’t really see much difference in the baked surface between Premo, Sculpey III, and Souffle when I rolled a bead in my hand and then baked it. A bead rolled smooth stayed smooth for all three brands. If anything, Souffle is more likely to get fingerprints because it tends to be sticky when well conditioned. But when a sheet of clay was rolled in my pasta machine and then baked, there was a difference. Premo feels waxy and plasticky. Sculpey III feels a bit more matte but still very smooth, like the surface of a fine chalkboard. Souffle, however, felt a bit like craft foam. It doesn’t exactly have a texture. But it does feel like it does. That’s the suede finish. Yes, it feels sort of like a very hard craft foam, that’s a good description.
How Strong is Sculpey Soufflé?
I rolled sheets of all three brands of clay to a #7 (very thin) and baked at 275-280°F (135-137°C) in my oven and checked the temperature with a thermometer. All samples were baked on a ceramic tile inside of foil pans. (Read more about my baking setup here.) I baked them all for 35 minutes. Then I tried to break the sheets. That was interesting. I was able to fold a corner of the Premo sheet back onto itself without breaking. It only broke once I tried to crease the fold. Sculpey III, known for being brittle, was only able to bend to about 90 degrees before the corner snapped off. Souffle behaved exactly like Premo. It is very, very flexible and didn’t break until the fold was creased. Even then it didn’t snap as much as tear.
I tried pulling strips of the thin sheet apart, to see if they’d stretch. Premo doesn’t stretch, it just snaps. But Souffle will actually stretch just a little bit before it snaps. Sculpey III is a joke at that thickness, it just crumbles into bits with the slightest pressure.
How Flexible is Sculpey Soufflé?
Premo is well known for being a very flexible polymer clay. And Sculpey Souffle is very much its rival. Maybe even more so. You can twist thin strips of both Premo and Souffle without breaking. This makes me think that techniques like knitting with extruded clay would be even better with Souffle than with Premo. I think this characteristic of Souffle holds great promise. I suspect that a fabric knitted of extruded Souffle would have a more cloth-like and less plastic feel than one made of Premo.
However, the flexibility is also one of the drawbacks of Premo because it means some thin areas of a piece will droop. And unfortunately I don’t see anything that would indicate that Souffle wouldn’t also suffer from this problem. But I’ll know more as I work with it more.
How Hard is Baked Soufflé Polymer Clay?
I made small beads from Premo, Sculpey III, and Souffle, baked them, and then used a micro drill to hand drill a hole through the bead. Premo drilled through with fair effort, left “worm-like” twisty drill shavings, and popped through the other side without damage. Sculpey III, drilled through with a bit more effort and with lots of dusty drill shavings. When it popped through the other side, a chunk of bead came with it. Souffle, however, drilled like butter with few drill shavings, and came through the other side very cleanly.
Then I hit each of these beads with a hammer. The Sculpey III bead shattered with one hit. Both the Premo and Souffle beads withstood quite hard hammer blows without any damage.
How Does it Buff?
I’ll look into sanding and buffing in the next post. But I did want to address how a simple buffing does work on plain, unsanded Sculpey Souffle.
I took baked samples of Premo, Sculpey III, and Sculpey Souffle and held each of them up to my buffing wheel. I just wanted to see if they’d buff up to a shine or not. These samples were cut from a sheet that was rolled through the pasta machine, so they are smooth but not sanded. Premo and Sculpey III do get somewhat of a shine as they’re buffed. And so does Sculpey Souffle, but not quite to the degree that the others do. But there does appear to be a texture to the surface, as you can see in this picture.
For what it’s worth, I also compared a similar baked circle of Sculpey Ultralight and also Ultralight mixed (1:1) with Premo. The Ultralight did not get any sheen whatsoever, no matter how much I buffed. And the mixed Premo/Ultralight only got a very slight sheen.
Is Sculpey Soufflé the Same as Sculpey Ultralight?
No, Souffle is not the same thing as Ultralight. And it’s not the same thing as Ultralight mixed 1:1 with Premo. But I do think there is some of the same material there. There are some similar characteristics. I would venture a guess that a mix of 75% Premo and 25% Ultralight would give results quite similar to Sculpey Souffle. But not quite. Souffle is far more stretchy.
And before anyone asks, no, Souffle doesn’t float. But it does have a tiny bit of buoyancy that makes it skirt around the bottom of the bowl a bit rather than sit like a rock.
I still need to work with this new polymer clay and put it through its paces as an art material. I’ll do that next. But my preliminary impressions of Sculpey Souffle are quite favorable. It truly does appear to be a strong, flexible, nicely textured clay. It has all the strength and flexibility of Premo. It has a nice matte finish. I see none of the brittleness and color shifting that makes us dislike Sculpey III. It is easy to condition. But I’m still not sure yet about the stickiness factor. As I worked with it, making samples of all the colors for the color chart (above), I didn’t notice it being as sticky as when I first worked with the yellow clay. But, I wasn’t overworking it, either. Time will tell if this is a clay that just doesn’t like to be overworked or if it’s going to be too sticky for some techniques. I’ll explore that next. *Update* Now that I’ve worked with it a bit more, I find that some of the colors are more sticky than others. The yellow that I used in the initial tests is far more sticky than the other colors that I’ve used so far. Who would have thought, eh?
Because this clay is brand new and I’ve only had it one day, I obviously can’t comment on things like long term durability. I don’t know if it fades in sunlight or if the unbaked clay dries out and becomes hard and crumbly over time. I don’t know if Souffle has a limited shelf life.
Price and Availability
You can already find Sculpey Souffle in online retailers such as Poly Clay Play. The price seems to be right in line with the rest of Polyform’s line of clay (Poly Clay Play has it for $2.25). You can also find it at Joann.com, Joann Stores, and Hobby Lobby. Clayaround in the UK now has Souffle in stock. In Canada, you can get Souffle at Polymer Clay Canada. Over the Rainbow in Australia has Souffle now, too.
And a word of thanks to everyone who commented on my Facebook page when I asked for input. I had over 50 comments with suggestions of what to test for and what people wanted to know. You know, this is social media at its best. I love having a group of great people who share their ideas so readily. It makes it all the more fun!