Do You Have to Seal Polymer Clay?

Do you have to seal polymer clay? When is it a good idea, and when can it ruin your work? Learn more at The Blue Bottle Tree.If you read or follow any polymer clay groups and forums, you’ll notice that one of the most common questions asked is “Which polymer clay sealer should I use?” Everyone has their favorite sealer, and the answers differ depending on your need and the availability of products where you live. But perhaps we’re asking the wrong question. I think the first question needs to be, “Do You Have to Seal Polymer Clay?”

Do you have to seal polymer clay?

  • You don’t have to seal polymer clay. Baked polymer clay is durable plastic and therefore more durable than any sealer.
  • Sealers and varnishes will not prevent breakage. If your projects are brittle, address your baking process.
  • Use a varnish to protect fragile surface treatments such as chalk, pigment, or mica.
  • Use a varnish to change the gloss level of your project.
  • Many varnishes make polymer clay sticky. See here for more info.
  • Spray varnishes are nearly always incompatible with polymer clay.
  • For a glass-like finish on plain polymer clay, sanding and buffing is an excellent option.

When to Seal Polymer Clay

People often want to seal their polymer clay creations for protection against the elements or from damage during use. In most cases this is unnecessary. Once it’s been properly baked or cured, polymer clay becomes a durable solid plastic that is waterproof, shock resistant, and fairly tough. Because it’s such a durable material, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that it’s actually more durable than any sealer that you will put on it. Sealers, varnishes, and finishes do have their purpose, but bare clay itself does not need to be sealed for protection. Here are some reasons why you would want to seal polymer clay:

Protect Surface Treatments

When you embellish your polymer clay project with chalks, paints, mica powders, metallic pastes or metal leaf, those treatments are sitting on the surface of the polymer clay and are not nearly as durable as the polymer clay itself. Projects using surface treatments must therefore be sealed for maximum durability. In the case of jewelry, the wearer must also be protected from any pigments, dyes, and mica coming off on their clothes or skin. If the project is purely decorative and will merely be sitting on a shelf, sealing is not imperative. But keep in mind that cleaning any accumulated dust would likely cause the surface treatments to be disturbed.

Polymer clay artists often use acrylic paint to color and embellish their projects. Does acrylic paint need to be sealed? Well, it depends. Paint used to antique a textured surface is mostly rubbed off and the remaining paint is fairly well protected down in the “nooks and crannies” of the piece. In that case I would not seal it. But thin layers of acrylic paint can sometimes peel or scrape off, or will come off if the piece is washed. In those cases I would use a sealer. Even when the layer of paint is thick and strong, a sealer might give a brighter, more durable coating much in the same way that a clear coat is used over the colored paint on your car. You’re going to be the best judge for your own particular project.

Change the Gloss Level

Although different brands of clay have different native gloss levels, and the technique you use can leave you with a matte or glossy surface, the easiest way to change the gloss level of your finished piece is to use a sealer that has the desired type of gloss level. Many varnishes come in both glossy and matte varieties. Sometimes you will look at a finished piece and realize that you would like it better matte or glossy and choosing the correct varnish can easily give you the effect you want.

Ease of Cleaning

Polymer clay is not porous like wood or unglazed ceramic. It will not absorb and hold water. Polymer clay can, however, have fine pits in the surface, depending on the method you used to create the piece. Some clay brands, such as Sculpey III and Souffle, tend to have a surface that appears to be porous (this is also why those brands are so great for holding onto acrylic paint). Because of this, dirt and makeup may be difficult to remove from a piece without scrubbing with soap and water. This can also be a problem when clay is created with a finely textured surface. Plus, sometimes the dyes in your makeup can permanently discolor light colored clay beads. In these cases, sealing the clay makes sense.

Intensify Colors or Translucency

Just like a pebble dipped in water becomes more vivid and bright, a coat of sealer can make polymer clay appear more rich, deep, and colorful. This also holds true for translucent clays. They will appear even more translucent when a sealer is used on the surface.

When NOT to Seal Polymer Clay

Sealers and varnishes are wonderful tools to be used when the time is right. But there are reasons why trying to seal your project might not be a good idea. Here are a few reasons.

  1. Many sealers, varnishes, and coatings turn sticky or cloudy over time, ruining your project. What works for one person might very well not work for another. Unless you know how your chosen sealer is going to act, and unless you’re certain you need to be using a sealer in the first place, it might be better to reconsider. Always test some samples before using a sealer on something that’s irreplaceable.
  2. Because most polymer clay varnishes are, themselves, a kind of thin plastic coating, they can often be peeled from the project if you try hard enough. If the product will get lots of abuse, a varnish might not be strong enough.
  3. When making glass-like items, using a gloss sealer is not a substitute for creating a smooth item in the first place. Applying a glossy coat over the top of a project full of tool marks and fingerprints will just accentuate them rather than camouflage them, making your project look sloppy and unprofessional.
  4. Using a sealer on a highly textured item can go badly wrong. I remember waxing my dad’s pickup when I was about 10. I got wax on the black plastic trim. Of course it turned white in the grooves. Bad memories! Polymer clay is no different. Wax is great for smooth surfaces, but it will collect in the small crevices of a textured item and look awful. Liquid varnish such as Varathane will also collect or pool in highly textured areas, leading to a look that very much wasn’t what you had in mind. You can seal textured items with a varnish, but you have to be careful in your application. Don’t just slather it on!

Use the Right Sealer for your Project

There are lots of types of polymer clay sealers and glazes. I use a different sealer depending on the effect I want to accomplish in my finished piece. There are many excellent varnishes, finishes, and sealers out there, and I haven’t tried them all by any means! But here are some tried and true sealers that I can heartily recommend.

Glossy Sealers

Varathane is a brand name of polyurethane varnish available in the US. It has been a favorite varnish with polymer clay artists for many years. It does come in gloss, semi-gloss, and satin, but I find that even the satin is still pretty glossy. I wrote an article about Varathane describing why it’s my favorite sealer and giving sources (including non-US brands of polyurethane).

Pearl Ex Varnish is made by the same company as the well-known mica powders. But this is just a varnish. It works nicely on all brands of clay, but doesn’t give a super glossy finish.

Aleene’s Jewelry Pendant Gel is a glossy dimensional glaze that can be used on most clays, but avoid using it on Fimo as it can get sticky.

Epoxy Resin is a clear, thick coating that is gaining popularity among polymer clayers, for good reason. It is exceedingly strong and durable, more so than any other finish. But it has a long cure time, takes some practice to get used to using, and is known for causing swear words. But once you get the hang of it, it works very nicely. Favorite brands are ICE Resin, Envirotex Lite, and Magic Glos (a brand of UV-cure resin).

Kato Liquid Polyclay can be used as a sealer. Just brush or sponge on a thin coating and then cure in the oven. After oven curing, you can use a heat gun to further cure it to give a crystal-clear, glossy finish.

These finishes work well to create a glossy surface on polymer clay.

Matte Sealers

Translucent Liquid Sculpey is another brand of liquid clay but this has a matte finish when cured. To get this effect, use a cosmetic sponge to dab the TLS onto your piece, then oven cure. Do not cure with a heat gun or the effect won’t be matte.

Cernit Matte Varnish gives a nice, smooth, dry finish on all brands of clay. It’s not terribly matte, but does give a low-sheen satin finish that looks and feels great.

DuraClear Ultra Matte Varnish is a dead matte varnish that has no sheen at all. It performs beautifully on all brands of clay except for Kato.

If you do need to seal polymer clay, these products work well to create a matte finish.

For a Natural, Burnished Look

If you like the look and feel of polymer clay that’s been sanded to a very high grit and buffed, you will love the way that adding a coat of wax makes those pieces feel and look. Renaissance Wax is a favorite brand of high quality wax that has a great marketing program and a price tag to match. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ren Wax. But want to know a secret? Paste Wax and Neutral shoe polish will work just the same and have a MUCH better price. Remember, wax doesn’t work well on items with a fine texture (such as when you use sandpaper or a sponge to disguise fingerprints). The wax will collect in the pits and look awful.

Renaissance wax functions exactly like paste wax for use on polymer clay. But it's much cheaper.
I left the sticker on the Renaissance Wax so you could see the cost. The paste wax is an old can I stole from my dad. I don’t think Minwax even makes it anymore. But Johnson’s Paste Wax is readily available and does the same job. Cheaper.

For Sealing Delicate of Textured Surfaces

Sometimes the act of brushing or rubbing on a sealer can disturb surface treatments such as mica powders. And a sealer can actually dissolve the surface treatment, like happens when you put Varathane onto alcohol inks. And sometimes you do want to seal finely textured surfaces without getting air bubbles or pooling. In these cases a spray varnish would be great, but most spray varnishes can cause polymer clay to become sticky over time. There are two brands of spray varnish that are completely clay safe and really gives a great effect. PYM II is one brand, and Helmar Crystal Kote Matte is another. They sets and stabilizes mica powders and can help seal alcohol inks with a quick, light coat. After that, you can layer subsequent coats to give a thicker seal or you can use another type of sealer. Yes, you can use Varathane or Ren Wax over the top of PYM II and Helmar.

PYM II polymer clay spray sealer is safe for polymer clay. Read a review at The Blue Bottle Tree.

Sealers to Avoid

Just as there are good sealers on the market, there are also some bad ones. Keep in mind that many of these have been used by many people without any ill effects. But they are also known for having unsatisfactory results as well.

Future Floor Finish, which is now called Pledge Floor Care (and is very similar to the European product Klear) is a very clear, thin, watery finish that is favorite of beginning polymer clay artists. It gives a nice glossy finish, dries clear, smells great, and is readily available. I used it when I first started and I don’t really have much bad to say about it, except that it’s not very durable. There are better options, such as any of the sealers I mentioned above. It’s still a good sealer for things that won’t get any wear, such as figurines and models. But for jewelry, it just dulls down way too fast.

Liquitex Varnish, which I have previously recommended, is an artist’s varnish that comes in gloss, matte, and satin finishes. My tests show, however, that it has lots of brush strokes, turns cloudy on dark colors, and is sticky on some brands of clay. There are better options, such as Varathane or Pearl Ex Varnish.

Dimensional glazes are thick, clear one-part glazes which can be applied thickly to create a glossy, glass-like finish. Some are better than others, but all of them can turn cloudy over time. I think that humidity is a factor. Some brands are Triple Thick, Diamond Glaze, Dimensional Magic, and Aleene’s Jewelry and Pendant Gel. I have found that all of them turn sticky on at least one brand of clay. Aleene’s did show good results on every clay besides Fimo, however, so you might try it. For every person who recommends Triple Thick, I read of another one who says it gets sticky or cloudy. And the reviews I’ve read of Dimensional Magic are sad. I don’t like reading of people’s projects being ruined by a material that was used properly! Success is just too variable with these glazes for me to recommend them universally, aside from Aleene’s.

Nail Polish is often recommended as a paint or glaze by articles in craft blogs. Almost always there will be tears later because the plasticizer in polymer clay softens the polish, making it turn gooey over time. That is, if it dries at all. The thing is, it can be rather hit and miss, perhaps due to the brand of clay or nail polish. It does work often enough that people not knowledgeable in polymer clay will not see what’s wrong with recommending it, and the next person isn’t so lucky! If I had a dollar for every email I answer on this one….

Oil-based Varnishes will often work on polymer clay but will yellow noticeably with time. Cindy Leitz tested Minwax oil-based polyurethane and found that there were no compatibility issues with polymer clay, but it did yellow. This is most noticeable on white clay, of course. Cindy’s result does show the value of testing and making samples. Don’t just randomly grab any can of varnish from the hardware store shelf.

Mod Podge is a glue and decoupage medium that crafters have relied on for working with paper for as long as I can remember. Craft blogs also sometimes recommended it as a sealer for polymer clay.  Just don’t do it. No. Mod Podge is actually made from the same stuff as plain white glue. It’s not a real sealer. You wouldn’t coat your beads in glue, would you? Again, some people have good results with this. But for most of us Mod Podge gets sticky and cloudy in humidity. Just say no.

Spray sealers can also have unpredictable and disappointing results. Sometimes the finish never dries, other times it turns soft and sticky months later. It seems that the plasticizer in baked polymer clay can soften the spray varnish, so even a good trustworthy brand of liquid varnish might not work so well in the spray form on polymer clay. If you need a spray, do yourself a favor and order some PYM II. It’s one of the few sprays that I know of which is absolutely safe to use with polymer clay. Your mileage may vary, of course. I tested 10 different brands of spray sealers and found that only PYM had universally good results on all the brands of clay that I tried.

Sealing Myths

New clayers often assume that polymer clay needs to be sealed to protect it against water damage. Cured polymer clay is waterproof and does not need to be sealed against moisture. Most sealers are not fully waterproof (they’re merely water resistant) and can be damaged by prolonged contact with moisture. (A quick wash is not usually a problem for a sealer, though.) If you’re using polymer clay to decorate the outside of drinking glasses, you do not need to seal the polymer clay to make it safe for washing. You do, of course, want to hand wash any decorated glassware, but that’s true for any hand-embellished glassware. Dishwashers can be pretty harsh.

If you’re making polymer clay for use in aquariums or outdoors, a sealer is not only unnecessary but will most often deteriorate well before the clay. Polymer clay is weatherproof and will not crumble or fall apart after exposure to the elements (see the picture of my hearts, below). But the color of some clays can fade in sunlight. I would like to say that a UV sealer will protect your work, but I do worry about the durability of the sealer itself in outdoor conditions.

Another myth is the belief that a sealer will protect a weak polymer clay sculpture against breakage. A coating of varnish or sealer will not make your piece stronger. It will not prevent pieces from breaking off. If small pieces such as ears or arms are not properly adhered in the first place, a coat of sealer will not help things stay in place. The first time the piece is dropped or roughly handled, the ears will snap right off. I suppose if you coated a piece in a thick layer of resin, it would offer structural support. But it would also look pretty gloppy.

These polymer clay hearts have been outside in my back yard for 10 years. The finish has worn off, but the clay is in good condition.
These polymer clay hearts have hung from pots in my back yard for the past 10 years. They were made with Kato. The white one is pearl with no finish, you can see the mildew that’s grown on it. The other three are covered with Pearl-Ex and sealed with Future. As you can see, the finish has crackled and worn off, but the clay is just fine. I think we should use polymer clay more in outdoor projects. Just remember that the sealer will not hold up as well as bare clay will.

Tests and Samples

Regardless of what anyone tells you, though, it’s always best to test any new materials or techniques yourself before you commit to using them with a large or special project that you have put a lot of time into. That way you find out about the problems before anything gets ruined. For instance, Varathane is a fantastic sealer. But you have to learn how to apply it without creating bubbles, and the best way to do that is to do some tests and see what works best for you. Each sealer that I do recommend will come with its own quirks and challenges. Testing and doing sample pieces will help you find the best ways to use them.

Also remember that if you’re selling your work to others, your reputation as an artist depends on the long-term quality of your work. You owe it to yourself and your customers to make sure any sealers you use will hold up over time. Here’s a great article by Staci Louise Smith about how important it is to test your jewelry before you sell it to a customer.

And now I have a favor to ask of you. If you’re reading groups and forums where beginners are dealing with the frustrations of a badly chosen sealer, would you mind pointing them to this post? Maybe we can get the word out there and prevent some sticky beads!

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254 thoughts on “Do You Have to Seal Polymer Clay?”

  1. I am making christmas ornaments with sculpy clay which i painted with acrylic paint after. Should I seal it? and what with? I unfortunately used modge posge and it got all sticky and stuck to the tissue paper i was wrapping the ornaments in for storage. so I’m having to try and remove the paper but i think I’m going to end up having to completely remove the paint too and start over. (because rubbing off the paper is removing sealer and some paint too) I feel upset because these are for my babies first christmas and i screwed it all up.

      1. i didn’t fully paint them but I used paint to outline the baby foot print and put his name on it. Or like to put a face on the teddy bear i made. Any ideas on how to get the sticky off?

        1. You can experiment with using water to soak it off. Just pop it in water overnight and see if the varnish will come off with a toothbrush. The paint will likely come off, too. You can also try using rubbing alcohol, the 91% that you can get at a pharmacy or Walmart. That will usually dissolve most varnishes, but I don’t know about ModPodge. You might find it easier to remake the ornament, though.

          1. thanks. I am hoping to at least salvage the the footprint one because its so hard to get baby prints. they are so wiggly! lol I’ll see what i can do. I used salt dough instead of clay for my first son. I thought clay was going to be easier…

            1. So I bought some varathane and just put it over the ornaments that i originally mod podged. It has been 2 days (I know it says it takes 7 to completely cure) and so far no more stickiness. I’ll update in a week, so that maybe if someone else makes my mistake we will have an
              answer for what to try to do to save it.

  2. Hi ginger
    I have been making dog tags and wondered if they would last longer if sealed, as they bang against metal on the collar and become dented.mthis also happens to key rings. What’s your advice please
    Thanks Becky

    1. No, varnish is never going to be stronger than your polymer clay. And there are some projects that just aren’t well suited for polymer clay. It’s very strong and durable, but it’s no match for metal! I’ve made polymer tags, but they will wear quickly. Luckily you can just make more. 🙂 Using resin on top will give some added protection as resin is fairly hard and thick. But it’s also brittle and may crack.

  3. Ginger
    I read and reread your articles and often pass on your website. You help so many of us be successful with our projects. My question today relates to PYM II. If I spray an alcohol ink polymer clay project with PYM will it provide UV protection? I’m using chameleon pens and have read that they are not light fast so want to add a protection from fading. The can says UV but I’m not sure if that means that it will protect the colors or if that relates to the sealer. Sorry if this is a silly question. If I were to use Golden varnis UVLS would it be ok on Premo and then with varethane on top? Or would it still get sticky? I’ve sprayed PYM and then varethane and so far am not seeing any change in colors.

    1. No, PYM II doesn’t give UV protection. You would need to use a UV protecting varnish. Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS does have it, but applying the varnish directly to alcohol ink covered surfaces will cause it to run and smear. So coat with PYM II first, then the Golden varnish. The won’t completely eliminate fading, because ALL dyes are fugitive over time and with exposure to the sun. But it will help. Varathane will likely help as well.

  4. Hi Ginger! I was just wondering about resin. I would like to try making tiny ponds with fish in them. I think the ‘water’ in them is resin, but am clueless about it. I heard Ice Resin is good (and you recommended it above) but I have no idea how to use or cure resin. (Or if any safety precautions have to be taken)

  5. Hi! This is such a in depth informative article so, I feel like a dum dum asking this ::ducking under the closest table:: My beautiful kitty recently passed away. My daughter and I are devastated beyond words. The vets office took her paw print and imprinted it on clay. I’m not even sure what kind of clay it is. Looking online it looks like the kind you buy in kits. The thing is, it’s breaking around the edges. It brings us a lot of comfort. It’s all we have left. I don’t want to make a mistake and ruin it by choosing the wrong thing to seal it with. Can you please, please tell me what to seal it with? And also, after I seal it should I put it in a glass or plastic case to protect it? Thank you so much!

    1. I’m sorry about your kitty. I can’t really recommend a solution because I don’t know what the material is. Polymer clay will not be stronger with the use of a sealer…in fact, many sealers can ruin the clay. I would protect the imprint in a case rather than adding anything to it.

  6. Hello, thank you for the article! I’m new to all this, so I’m still not quite certain whether or with what I should seal hanging planters? Also, I have Sculpey and Crayola air-dry clay. Would you recommend one over the other for such a project?

    Thank you so very much!

    1. Hi Jess, to be honest, I’ve never worked much with air dry clay, so I’m hesitant to offer a solution there. If you’re using polymer clay, remember that they don’t need a sealer as they’re durable and will withstand weathering as is. But if you DO need to use a varnish, I usually recommend Varathane. But there are lots that will work with Sculpey, have a look at my sealer test article for more info.

  7. katherine watts

    Hi there! Thank you so much for all the great information! I use Ladoll clay and I like to gold leaf my pieces with caromal imitation gold leaf. Do you know if the varathane will be a good varnish on top of the gold leaf for a final coat?

  8. Very helpful article! I just started using polymer clay and posted a picture of one of my works onto facebook. I instantly got someone asking if I could make one for them, so I figured I should probably get a sealant. I got the Liquitex Professional Gloss Varnish, and coated my first work with it. I used acrylic paint on the clay, and it considerably darkened the paint. Should I just paint the next one a shade lighter or is this not normal?


    1. Varnish will darken paint if the paint has a lot of fillers in it (think chalk) so that the varnish is “wetting” the paint. I suggest using artist’s quality paints. Be aware, however, that whenever you are using polymer clay, paint, and varnish, you’re combining three types of plastic, each which can be susceptible to the plasticizer in the other product. That can make for a sticky result. Always test your paint and varnish combinations with the brand of clay that you are using before selling your product or committing to a large project.

  9. Maria Johns Brown

    Hi Ginger! This is the first of your articles I’ve read and I just signed up for your newsletter! You have helped me (and many others) avoid so many potential mistakes! Most of the time I buff down to a very shiny finish but have had questions on sealers, too. Thanks for explaining why or why not particular sealers work! I’m the curious type and this makes the information stick in my head! I love the comment section because I’ve asked myself some of the same questions! I’m looking forward to your new articles and will be busy catching up on the ones here!

  10. Wow wow wow!!!
    Thank you so much. I’ve been following the breadcrumbs going from one article
    to the next and cannot thank you enough for your generosity in sharing all of this info. My shopping list is made and I’ll be heading to Dick Blick today. Also thanks for the online shopping options. You have helped me so much! Can’t use enough exclamation marks!!!

  11. Hi there!

    I’ve been using this water-based polyurethane floor sealant for a few months now, and it’s really great and definitely had no problems with it!

    Except for these past few projects 🙁 I painted a piece of baked clay yellow. I applied a thin coat of sealant on side. After it has dried , I saw that the paint has cracked! It looked like a dry cracking floor 🙁 but I had two colours on that piece, and it was only the yellow paint that had cracked, so I thought that the problem was with the yellow paint.

    Then I bought a new tube of yellow paint (different brand) and the same happens 🙁 only the yellow paint cracked, but the other colour didn’t. Then I tried it again on an even newer tube of yellow paint (different brand again) and the same story happened 🙁 but I don’t understand why it only happens to yellow paint..

    But today, I was sealing the acrylic paint on two different pieces. Purple metallic paint which I’ve never used before — and the paint cracked again when the sealant dried. Another is gold metallic paint, which I’ve used before with the sealant and has never cracked, until this piece. I sealed the gold paint then saw that it had also cracked when the sealant dried. So it made me think that maybe it’s the sealant that has a problem. I’m going to try to put a new batch of sealant in a new small container (I have a 3L bottle of it stored because it’s too much) I just want to think that it’s that small batch of sealant that’s the problem.

    I really hope you can help me out 🙁 do you have an idea on why the acrylic paint cracks after my sealant has dried? It’s frustrating because this sealant has been the best for me, but I don’t like having to redo the paint over and over again because of the cracking, which is a major hindrance. Thank you! 🙂

  12. Ginger,
    Great article, very informative! I’ve only a small tip to add from my miniature model making experience. If you need or want to use spray can paints or other sealers on your clay, you can give it a coat of Future Floor polish first. Your comments on Future are spot on, but it should do a good job of sealing the clay against potentially harmful chemicals. Make sure the entire surface is covered, you want everything protected, once dry for 24 hours, you should be good to use other products on top. As with everything, test first.
    I’ll also use an airbrush to spray future on items that will eventually get a matte finish. If you see portions of your item turn glossy over time, that is the future showing through, you know the matte has worn off and its time to recoat.

    1. I’d have to check this to be sure. The issue isn’t that other things harm the polymer clay. Rather, the plasticizer in the polymer clay prevents varnishes from curing. I don’t think Future will be an adequate barrier, but I’m open to testing it. Thanks for the idea.

  13. Hey! I’ve read several of your articles, this is amazing advice!: )

    If I may ask a specific question — would you seal a vase? I’m trying to replicate this:

    I plan on using Sculpey, but I’m not sure if the piece will need to be sealed. If I do so I’d only seal the insides of the tubes, and leave the outside “natural clay.”

    I’m going to go looking for Varathane, I just wanted to check on whether or not it’s necessary for something that will hold water!

    Also — is it necessary to bake Varathane in the oven, or will it set/dry on its own? I’ve never experimented with any of this before and I’m somewhat afraid to damage my oven… or myself!

    1. Unless you’re adding surface treatments, I see no reason to seal it. Polymer clay is vinyl plastic. The clay is more waterproof than any sealer would be. Varathane is a regular air-dry varnish. No baking required. And you don’t ruin your oven, don’t worry.

  14. Pingback: How to Make a Fairy Door – Certainly Caroline

  15. Very interesting and informative article. I have a question though. You mentioned resin as a sealer in liquid form, what about a resin spray?

  16. Kerrie Venner

    While re-reading yet again your excellent finishes article, I’d like to add my penny’s worth to your thoughts on Renaissance Wax. Pricey, yes, but it was developed by the British Museum conservators and is safely used on precious and delicate items including paper and paintings. For me, that reassures me that my artwork is well protected with an archival quality finish. And the pot does last absolutely for ever.
    It is an efficient cleaner and does take off some of my favourite water based finishes however (Inka Gold, also Rub and Buff), so your tips on using light coatings of Pym II to stablise them before the RW finish is masterful advice. As is the advice to TEST TEST TEST, rather than rely on the good old internet search.
    Thank you as ever for informed, reliable and pertinent information.

    Would love to see you present at EuroSynergy some time!
    Kind regards


    1. Oh Kerrie, you’re too kind. Thank you. I would like to present at Synergy sometime. Maybe in a future year. We’ll see. As for Ren Wax…I do think that much of what is written on their little insert is a bit of marketing. But you’re right, it is a very nice wax.

  17. Charlotte Firbank-King

    I’ve just stumbled on your site and I’m delighted with your advice. I live in South Africa where we don’t have the same products, but I’ll look or a polyurethane, water-based varnish. I have a question. I noticed you say don’t use oil based paints or any paint that needs thinners or turpentine (I assume) to clean brushes. I painted my fairy faces with Humbrol enamel model paint. Was this a mistake? On the first fairy I made a mess of the PC flesh color so I painted a flesh color on then added the lipstick and eye-shadow. I had to bake her a second time after I put on her PC hair and I noticed the eye-shadow and lipstick had faded. Ignoring the warning signs I simply repainted her LOL. These fairies are all supposed to live in a garden. My other problem is the wings. I made them with wire glued to cellophane then coated with Gallery Glass. I got the Gallery Glass online and only then researched it and it seems the stuff won’t last outdoors–well, not rain anyway.Any suggestions on making weatherproof fairy wings?

    1. Most of the time, enamel model paint will work well. But with any paint or varnish product you do need to test first because many of them will never dry on polymer. If yours is okay now, it will probably be just fine. You may need to repaint her occasionally after being outdoors, as the paints will fade in the elements. Instead of using gallery glass for fairy wings, try using liquid Kato Polyclay instead. Use mulitiple thin coats, curing in the oven and then clarifying with a heat gun between each layer. If done carefully, this should give nice fairy wings over the cellophane. You can also use Angelina Film the same way, I believe.

  18. Hi Ginger, do you know whether you can use nail artists’ UV gel on top of cured polymer clay? I bought a pack of 24 colours and thought it would be good to try as a craft product rather than use it on nails but it seems to have reacted with it after a while. I’m not sure why as you can use other UV gels on top of clay.

    Your article is great and very clear by the way, thank you.


    1. Hi Caroline, I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work. Go ahead and give it a try. Do be sure to test the process before using it on a beloved project, though, just in case.

  19. Hi Ginger…thanks for the great article!
    I’m not sure if this question has been covered yet, cause I haven’t had a chance to read every comment, so here goes…Do you know anything about using artist quality fixative on polymer clay? It sounds like it may be similar to PYMii which unfortunately is not available in Australia due to shipping restrictions on aerosols.

  20. Thank you! This is the best summary for finishing polymer clay. I’ve bookmarked it for next time I need it.

  21. Virginia Soskin

    Thank you for this article. I use Diamond Varathane floor finish to create a gloss if I want one, and you can get small jars of it (rather than a gallon at Lowe’s) on Evirotex-Lite works great on flat surfaces to create extremely glass-like effects. See tutes on youtube for how to use it. Otherwise I wet sand and buff with a small cotton wheel on my Dremel for a gloss. This creates a lovely gloss but does take extra work. I have had a polymer clay mezuzah on my exterior door frames for at least ten years. It has no extra finish coating on it. It DOES get mildewed in the Florida climate and the door frame paint does too. So every spring I spray down my door frame with bleach which gets rid of the mildew on door frame and mezuzah and does not harm the mezuzah at all. Neither does the intense sun or rain. If it had been coated with Varathane, I am not sure but I don’t think it would be as durable as the raw matte clay, esp. considering I used a soft brush on the clay the get the bleach into all the crevices, and scrub away the mildew. PC is pretty amazing and lasts very well.

  22. Hi Ginger
    Is there a spray that can be used on an inkjet transferred image that will make it water resistant (ink from inket printers runs when wet and the transferred image has to be dipped in water before the backing can be removed, leaving the image on the polymer clay), but at the same time is polymer clay compatible, allowing other polymer clay shapes, to be placed on top? I am so keen to try this but can’t seem to find any information about what would be best to use. If you can advise I would be very grateful!
    Many thanks – Marion

  23. Hi! Thank you so much for all your articles on sealing and finishing polymer clay crafts. Your website has been a great resource! At first I used the Sculpey Glaze on my little charms, but I noticed that after a week of wearing the charm, the finish (and the pastels that I used to shade the charm) started wearing off. I just tried your recommended Varathane (the crystal clear, diamond gloss finish) on some new charms and that worked well (I haven’t worn it yet, but it seems more durable than the Sculpey glaze)… But… I’m super paranoid, and I’m really worried about the toxicity of Varathane and the VOCs it might emit. I like how durable it seems to be, since my charms are meant to be worn and loved, but do you think there are other durable sealing options that wouldn’t be as toxic? Maybe I should try the Liquitex gloss?

    1. Hi Alyssa, Varathane isn’t particularly toxic. Certainly no more so than many of the craft glazes and mediums. They all do have VOCs. I think perhaps the Varthane needs to be labelled differently because it’s a “paint” type of finish that is typically used over large areas inside of a home. (VOC just means volatile organic compound…any organic chemical that evaporates easily. Even good ole ethanol is, technically, a VOC. It doesn’t always mean toxic in small doses.) I’ve looked at the Material Safety Data Sheet of Varathane and there didn’t seem to be anything particularly noxious in there. The only chemical with health warnings is one that is commonly used in sunscreens, so..well…I wouldn’t worry. If you’d prefer to be absolutely perfectly safe, just use in a well-ventilated area.

  24. I am just getting started in polymer clay and found this article an excellent guide for finishes. I have been reading everything I can about this exciting medium. I was so glad to learn what not to use as well as what to use because I have nearly all of the lesser ones. PYMII looks like the one that I will start with, as it seems to be safe. I would sure hate to create something that I think is wonderful only to ruin it with the finish. The Envirotex Lite and ICE Resin also sound good. I am 79 which is probably pretty old to start something new, but it has had me interested for several years and now that I have more time on my hands I figure the time is right. I plan to mainly do jewelry. I find so many beautiful things on Pinterest, that I am anxious to get started. Thanks again for such an informative article.

    1. You’re never too old to enjoy life! As long as you can do it and you enjoy it, then roll up your sleeves and have fun, I say. I’m glad that you found the information helpful. Happy claying!

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