Translucent polymer clay captures the interest of polymer clay artists all over the world. Although the instructions for using it are no different than with any polymer clay, there are unique qualities and factors that do affect how you use translucent polymer clay. I’ll try to cover some of the most commonly asked questions that I hear people ask.
What are the brands of translucent polymer clay?
Why isn’t translucent polymer clay the same as transparent clay?
No brand of polymer clay is completely transparent like glass (though you can get some very nice glass-like effects with translucent clay). Instead, polymer clay can only be translucent. Some brands are more clear than others, and thinner pieces of any brand of translucent clay are going to be more clear than thicker pieces.
Does translucent polymer clay only come in clear or does it come in colors as well?
Cernit, Pardo, and Fimo make an entire range of translucent polymer clay colors. Kato, Sculpey, and Premo just have uncolored translucent. You can see many of them here in my article on Colored Translucent Polymer Clay.
How can I color translucent polymer clay?
Translucent polymer clay is essentially uncolored. You can easily mix colors into the clay to make it any color you desire. The easiest way is to add tiny bits of regular clay to tint colorless translucent. However, you have to be careful that the color you are adding isn’t too opaque or your mix will lose translucency and become more opaque. Alcohol inks are dye colorants and work very well for tinting translucent clay into vibrantly colored mixes without losing clarity, but they do fade with heat, light, and time. I wrote an article describing this process in detail.
You can also use various art supplies in translucent polymer clay to get the color you like. Some materials work better than others, of course, and you can read all about this here.
What are the characteristics of each brand of translucent polymer clay?
I did an experiment and wrote an article comparing the clarity of different brands of translucent polymer clay. Please refer to that article for information on which translucent clay is the clearest.
But just as each brand’s regular opaque clays have their own working qualities, each brand’s translucent clays are unique as well. I’ll try to summarize my impressions.
Sculpey III Translucent:
This clay is quite soft and cheese-like, it has a consistency sort of like cookie dough, and it gets more sticky the more you work with it. It bakes up quite opaque and is sort of a pinkish tan color with a matte finish. The finished clay is quite brittle and will break if used in thin pieces.
Fimo Effect Translucent:
Fimo Effect Translucent handles very well, it’s firm but not too firm, and slices cleanly. It behaves well in the pasta machine and doesn’t get sticky. It bakes without color and is quite strong, but isn’t particularly translucent. The baked finish is not particularly matte and not shiny, either. Fimo Professional doesn’t have a translucent clay in their range.
Premo is a good all-around polymer clay but tends to get quite soft and somewhat sticky when it gets warm. It bakes up very strong, quite clear, but it does have a tan color cast to it. Premo takes and holds impressions very well. Premo White Translucent appears more white than regular Premo Translucent, but still does have a slight tan color. The whiter color of Premo White Translucent is because it contains an optical brightener (as do many translucent and white polymer clays.) Aside from this fluorescent dye, there’s no difference between Premo Translucent and Premo White Translucent.
Cernit Translucent is a very clear white clay that bakes up smooth and clean. It can be quite stretchy and sticky during conditioning and can be a challenge to handle if your hands are warm. It bakes nicely to form a translucent result that doesn’t have much color cast. Baked Cernit is quite strong and tolerates heat well. You can see examples and read my review of Cernit polymer clay here.
Kato Polyclay Translucent:
Kato can be quite a challenge and some people won’t work with it because it can be stiff and hard to condition. It takes color additives very well, though, because it doesn’t get sticky easily. But it’s not particularly clear. It bakes up fairly shiny and is quite hard once baked. Probably the least useful of the translucents unless you’re going to be using it in a cane.
Pardo Translucent Art Clay:
The darling of the polymer clay community, older Pardo translucent can be a challenge to condition because it crumbles easily and sheets tend to crack rather than stretch. It slices well and doesn’t get sticky. It cures quite clear and without color. Pardo tends to end up with small bubbles once it’s cured. Pardo is often quite opaque when it first comes out of the oven and will clear rapidly as it cools. Pardo, cooked at much higher temperatures than the manufacturer recommends, can come out VERY clear.
Pardo is very strong once baked and can be made into thin sheets and tiny projections which will not break off. If you have trouble conditioning your Pardo, don’t assume that it’s too old. Read about how to condition Pardo Translucent. Pardo can also show up with a coating of wax after baking. Remove this with rubbing alcohol. You can also use the citrus-oil label remover sprays such as Goo-Gone. Remove the wax with the Goo-Gone and then remove the Goo-Gone by scrubbing with dishwashing liquid.
I’ve heard that Pardo Art Clay is the clearest, is this true?
Please refer to the article that I wrote about this. When baked at the manufacturer’s recommended temperature, Pardo Art Clay is very clear, but Premo White Translucent and Cernit are equally clear. When baked at very high temperatures, far beyond what the manufacturer recommends, Pardo Art Clay is remarkably clear – clear enough to read through.
Is translucent polymer clay hard to work with?
Translucent polymer clay is an uncolored body of clay, without any pigment added. Because adding pigment to clay is a bit like adding flour to cookie dough, colored polymer clay tends to be a bit more stiff, translucent clay a bit more soft and/or sticky. Depending on the brand, this can be somewhat of a challenge.
Another frustrating thing about dealing with translucent polymer clay is that any stray fibers or dirt or contamination from other clay colors on your hands or pasta machine can get mixed in with your translucent clay and it’s instantly visible. Use baby wipes to keep your hands and pasta machine spotlessly clean. And use a scrap lump of clay to clean your hands and pasta machine between colors. Here’s so more information about keeping lint and dust out of your clay.
What can I make with translucent polymer clay?
I think the polymer clay community is just beginning to scratch the surface on what can be done with translucent polymer clays. I’ve gathered some examples of beautiful works using translucent polymer clay on this pinboard on Pinterest. I also have another board specifically for items created with Pardo Translucent Art Clay. And for specific instructions, I have written a very comprehensive 70 page tutorial showing how to get five different Faux Glass Effects. Translucent polymer clay also works nicely to make Faux Lampwork beads and pendants.
What is quenching?
In terms of polymer clay, quenching is the process of taking cured polymer clay items right out of the oven and plunging them into ice water. This practice is said to increase the clarity of translucent clay. Some people swear by this and others say it’s an illusion. The rapid temperature change of quenching can lead to cracks in your items. I have tried and tried, and I’ve never been able to see that quenching makes translucent clay more clear. (By the way, quenching does NOT make clay stronger. That is a very often-repeated tale that has grown a life of its own in recent years.)
What are plaques?
Plaquing, also known as mooning, is a pattern of little pockets of air that develop inside of some brands of polymer clay as it cures. All brands and colors of clay will do this. It is a quite predictable pattern of approximately 1/8″ “moons” that show up. Really only visible in translucent clay, plaques don’t seem to be caused by air pockets trapped in the clay during careless conditioning. Rather they seem to be due to gases forming during baking and thicker pieces suffer more. Plaques can be used to great advantage when making faux stones such as jade or opal.
Plaques can be difficult to prevent, but can be somewhat minimized if you bake in such a way that your project warms very slowly. Start in a cold oven and make sure to cover the item well, perhaps even insulating in corn starch or under a lid.
I tried translucent polymer clay once, but it turned brown. Why?
All polymer clay can turn brown when baked too hot or for too long, but it’s going to be more visible and apparent when using translucent clay. To prevent this, make sure you use an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is baking at the correct temperature. It is also important to cover your items when baking. I like to use two disposable aluminum pans, one inverted as a lid, clipped together with a binder clip. Alternatively, some people like to bury their beads in baking soda while baking as this protects them from the heat as well.
Be aware that reducing the temperature below what’s recommended will cause your clay to be underbaked and therefore brittle. For more information about baking your polymer clay creations, check out this four part series on baking polymer clay.
Where can I buy translucent polymer clay?
You can buy translucent Fimo, Premo, and Sculpey III at most hobby stores in the US and Canada. Kato Polyclay is carried by Hobby Lobby. You can get Cernit from Clay Factory and Kato Polyclay from Munro Crafts. There are many other suppliers, too. Check out my article on How to Buy Polymer Clay for a list of my favorite online polymer shops.
For more detailed information about sourcing Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay, I do try to keep updated at Where to Buy Pardo Translucent.
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