Have you ever had something that “everyone” told you to try and you kept putting it off? Maybe because you thought it was dumb, or unnecessary, or that your way worked just fine. But then you finally gave in and tried it, and you were like…WHOA…where has this been all my life? Yeah. That. Here are five things people put off trying or doing. You’ll kick yourself once you realize what you’ve been missing.
Those of us in the US know this as rubbing alcohol. We can get 70% or 91% isopropyl alcohol at any pharmacy or drugstore, and most of us have a bottle in our bathroom cabinet. But outside the US, rubbing alcohol is not used, and the idea of pouring alcohol onto our skin when we get a cut seems barbaric and horrendous. This means that you have to order isopropyl alcohol online, sometimes through chemical suppliers. That seems like a total pain in the neck, so you put it off. Others tell you to use “medical spirits” instead. But it’s not the same. So you ignore the whole thing and put it off thinking you’ll do it “someday.”
Isopropyl alcohol is invaluable because it dissolves polymer clay, varnish, and alcohol ink. It is relatively harmless (all alcohol is toxic…yes, even vodka), evaporates quickly, doesn’t leave a residue, and doesn’t have a lingering odor.
You can use it to:
- clean your tools
- clean your workbench
- clean alcohol ink or paint off your work surface
- to dilute alcohol inks (instead of blending solution)
- in a water brush with alcohol ink
- on a Q-tip to smooth polymer before baking
- remove sticky varnish
- soak dried paint/varnish from a brush
- wipe polymer before painting to increase adhesion
- as part of really nifty surface techniques: play around and try things!
Sanding and Buffing
While not everyone wants their pieces to have a super glassy and high gloss shine, most everyone wants their pieces to look finished and polished. People will tell you that the best way to do this is to sand and buff. But that seems too much like work (spoiler: it shouldn’t be hard work), so you try coating things with a varnish. But that goes sticky or gets brush strokes. So you try resin, but then you get bubbles, or it pulls away from the edges, and you realize it’s not actually all that smooth. So you give up and always feel a bit guilty that your work isn’t as lovely as it could be.
Go back to sanding and buffing. Trust me on this. It’s only hard work if you’re doing it wrong. And most of the advice given out there is way too complicated and hard (that bit about going through all the grits…yeah that). Don’t spend another penny on sealers, glazes, resins, or other shortcuts until you invest in understanding the fundamentals of finishing your piece well. My 120-page Sanding and Buffing eBook does just that.
Using Colored Clay Instead of Painting
People often come to polymer clay with the intention of making a small figurine that resembles a cartoon character with large, solid areas of a single color. Perhaps because classical sculptors use white, gray, or flesh-colored clay and then paint their creations afterward, these newbies assume that’s the best way forward.
But there are problems with doing that. Painting is a very different skill from sculpting, and you’re ramping up the effort (and risk) by asking yourself to take on a second skillset (painting). Painting tiny sculptures is quite tricky, even for a pro. Many high coverage paints usually used for model painting will be sticky on polymer clay, and craft paints give quite poor coverage, leading to many coats and some serious gloppiness. (Hey, it’s a word.) And then, do you add varnish over the paint? That introduces a whole new layer of complexity. Now add in peeling paint, and a simple project becomes a disaster.
Instead, use colored clay to make all the parts. Yes, it means you have to buy lots of individual colors. But remember that you can mix colors to create new ones. The colored clay is stronger than the white stuff, too, and any mysterious breakage problems will likely be solved as well. And while we’re on the topic, you don’t need to add any glaze or sealer to your creation. Polymer clay is vinyl and perfectly strong, durable, and waterproof just as it is. If you want it shinier, see above…sanding and buffing is your friend.
Speaking of breakage, did you know that breakage is almost always a baking issue? Pros know this and nearly always bake their items for 45 minutes to an hour (or even longer). And yet, discussion of this topic in groups still meets great resistance with people swearing up and down that baking longer makes brittle items or causes burning. Nope. Trust us on this. Get your oven’s temperature correct first, and then bake longer. Learn more about baking polymer clay here. And if you’re tempted to believe that baking at a lower temperature is the right way to go to prevent browning, read this article to understand THAT myth.
For many years, every time I heard of someone using deli sheets, I rolled my eyes and thought they were just fan-girl crazy, and I was just fine with my plastic wrap. And then someone gave me a box….and…the world CHANGED. Get yo’self some deli sheets!!
Plastic deli sheets are perfect for wrapping odd bits of clay, storing sheets or veneers, covering areas of clay, laying down before smoothing seams, separating things, making rounded edges with cutters, setting a sheet down, so it doesn’t stick to anything, and much more. This is the type to get: Plastic Poly Deli Sheets or here’s another one. A box will last forever because you can re-use each sheet many times.
What Do YOU Resist?
Is there anything that you resisted trying for a long time and then found that it changed the game? Tell me about it in the comments. I’ll bet I’m not the only one on this!!