Texturing to Hide Flaws in Polymer Clay

Learn how to texture polymer clay to hide flaws such as fingerprints, fingernails dings, and "the bumpies". Read more at The Blue Bottle Tree.When we first start working with polymer clay, we see the creations in the books or on Pinterest or Facebook and we figure we ought to be able to get the same results. So we get out the clay and start to create. It’s easy to get caught up in “creative fever” and rush off to bake our pieces. When they come out of the oven, though, we start to notice little marks and flaws. It’s those little bumps, dings, marks, and fingerprints that cause many new clayers to be very frustrated, wondering what they did wrong. These marks are unavoidable to a certain extent, and while you can remove them by smoothing before baking or sanding after baking, for some types of creations you will find it far easier to build texture into your design. You can create a texture to hide and camouflage the flaws in polymer clay.

Flaws in Polymer Clay

No matter how hard we try to be neat as we create with polymer clay, we all have to deal with the normal flaws that seem to magically appear on the surface of our clay as we work. Here are some common types of flaws that show up in polymer clay.

What are “The Bumpies”?

Polymer clay is known for having "the bumpies" after baking, which you can see in this mica leaf pendant.Even when you’re very careful that you don’t accidentally fold air bubbles into your clay as you work with it, you can still end up with tiny bubbles. I’ve seen them called “The Bumpies” or “polymer acne”. Often these small bubbles are invisible to the eye when the clay is raw and only rise to the surface when during baking. You can minimize them by baking face down, by the way. But that’s not always practical.

Fingerprints, Fingernail Dings, and Flaws

Fingerprints and fine bubbles can be disguised by texturing the surface of polymer clay.Our fingers have these annoying little texture stamps on the ends of them, and they’re called fingerprints. And there is a little knife on each finger called a fingernail, too. Even when you keep your nails clipped short, they still have an annoying habit of digging into your work just when you are almost done. You do get better at avoiding fingerprints with practice, but applying a uniform texture to a surface hides a lot of flaws and makes your work look far more polished, finished, and professional.

Texturing Polymer Clay with Sandpaper

You can use sandpaper to create a uniform texture on open areas of your work. Sandpaper is a simple and easy way of texturing to hide flaws in polymer clay. It’s readily available, inexpensive, and comes in a range of coarseness. The lower the number, the more coarse the grit is. You’ll find that sandpaper from 24 grit to around 220 grit will give texture that will hide flaws in polymer clay such as fingerprints and “the bumpies”.

Various grits of sandpaper, use to create texture to hide flaws in polymer clay.

While any type of coarse sandpaper will work, you’ll find that uncoated sandpaper can sometimes leave particles of grit in your clay. Because of this, look for coated sandpaper if you can find it. The two smaller pieces in the picture above are both coated. The grit particles will stay attached to the sandpaper.

To use sandpaper to disguise flaws in polymer clay, just press the textured side into the clay repeatedly until it looks the way you want. Sometimes you want a very subtle “sprinkling” of texture. Other times you might want it to be quite choppy and coarse. Use a sandpaper texture that matches your desired finish.

Other Ways to Create Texture

Texturing the back of pendants in this way not only avoids the dreaded “shiny spots” from baking on a smooth surface, but it also works well to disguise fingerprints and other little marks and dings that happen when working with polymer clay. The key is to create a fine, uniform texture to camouflage the unwanted marks.

Tip: To prevent the shiny spots on the back of clay that come from baking on a tile, bake on a sheet of copy paper or an index card. And don’t worry, the paper won’t burn.

You can use any number of things to create a fine, uniform texture. I’ve already showed you sandpaper, but here are some other things that you’ll likely have around the house that can be used for this purpose.

This assortment of materials are perfect for creating fine, abstract texture to disguise flaws in polymer clay.

You can use a kitchen scrubby, a glittery kitchen sponge, a Scotch-Brite pad (mine is blue, but they usually come in green). Another cool kind of texture are the thin sheets of sponge filter material that are used in air conditioners. The black one I show here is very fine, but the larger-celled green foam sponge was sold as a liner that goes in the bottom of your produce drawer in your fridge. You can also use cloth such as canvas, an old t-shirt, or a piece of washcloth. Toothbrushes work nicely, too. There’s really no limit here. You can use anything with a texture. I sometimes even use paper when I want to super smooth finish. That’s kind of anti-texture, isn’t it?

Most of the time the clay doesn’t stick to these texture tools. But if it does, you can clean the clay off the texture tool by using rubbing alcohol.

Using Stamps to Create Fine, Uniform Texture

We all know how to use stamps. The whole idea is that you press down and it makes an image or a texture. And ideally, you only press down once because if you wobble and do it twice, you get ghost images and it looks sloppy. But what if you “get sloppy” on purpose? Just tap the stamp up and down a whole bunch of times to create an abstract and random texture.

And it doesn’t have to be rubber stamps. You can do this with fine detailed stamps as well, such as the KOR stamps. In fact, leather stamps work really, really well for this! Here’s my set of leather stamping tools. I bought them from Amazon very cheaply. (Read here about finding cheap polymer clay tools.) Here’s what happened when I used a simple round leather stamping tool on a sheet of polymer clay. How’s that for a nice uniform and random texture? The leather stamping tools are really effective for this method because they’re quite heavy and the weight of dropping the stamp onto the clay helps to create the design.

Using a leather tool, I textured this sheet of polymer clay. Now it's ready to use in a pendant.

Here’s the tool that I used to create it:

Round leather tool used to make texture on polymer clay.

Leather stamping tools work well for texturing polymer clay backs.
Here’s the whole set of leather tools that I have. All sources of these tools seem to have the same 20 designs. Check Amazon or Ebay. There are some more suggestions in my article about finding cheap polymer clay tools.

A Variety of Textures

Various stamps create a fine texture on polymer clay to disguise fingerprints and marks.These 8 squares each have a texture that could be used for texturing polymer clay backs, and each would disguise fingerprints and hide marks. But each one has a different character and would compliment a very different themed work. (I highlighted them with mica powder so you could see the texture, but you don’t have to use mica powder on your textures.) You can click on the picture to make it bigger so you can see the textures better, btw.

Tools for texturing polymer clay backs.
Here are the textures I used to create the tiles in the above image. That roller there is a wooden KOR roller provided by Poly-Tools.

Texture in Finished Pieces

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger Davis Allman The Blue Bottle Tree, all rights reserved.
These Holo Tiles (made with my Holo Effect Tutorial) were finished by texturing the backs with a kitchen scrubby.
I used the CaBezel heart mold to make the center shape and then textured it with an oven mitt and a toothbrush.
When I reviewed the CaBezel All-in-One Molds last year, I made this and textured the outer green part with an oven mitt and toothbrush. Otherwise the clay itself would have shown every bump, especially with this frosty color.
Mica Leaf Pendant using texture to disguise bumps in the background of the polymer clay.
Here, the blue background was textured using a toothbrush. You could also use sandpaper or a kitchen scrubbie.
These pendant backs have texture to disguise flaws in polymer clay.
The backs of these pendants were textured with a leather stamping tool. I just tapped the tool repeatedly over the raw clay until it formed a random, uniform pattern.
Tiki earrings have a textured back to create visual interest and hide flaws in polymer clay.
A texture doesn’t have to completely fill an area to be effective. I textured the backs of these tiki earrings with the round sandpaper disc (24 grit) seen above. It makes it look like old, worn stone. The tikis were molded from this mold from Best Flexible Molds.
This tin, made at a Lisa Pavelka workshop, features a Sutton Slice top and the lavender areas were textured with sandpaper to hide fingerprints.
I made this tin at a Lisa Pavelka workshop. It features a Sutton Slice top and the lavender areas were textured with sandpaper to hide fingerprints.

So…what have YOU used as a fine texture like this? What’s your favorite go-to tool for disguising fingerprints and the inevitable little bumps and marks that always seem to happen with polymer clay? Please share your answers in the comments so we can share ideas and learn from each other. Thanks!

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