Translucent polymer clay is essentially uncolored polymer clay that allows light to shine through, but it not completely clear. It’s a very useful material that allows you to add the dimension of light transmission to your polymer clay artwork, such as when making faux stone or faux glass. Most brands of polymer clay have a translucent variety in their range of colors (notable exceptions are Fimo Professional, Sculpey Souffle, Papa’s Clay, and CosClay). Brands that do have a translucent variety include Fimo Effect, Kato Polyclay, Premo, Cernit, Pardo, PVClay, Prism & Pro, and Sculpey III.
Each brand of translucent polymer clay has its own characteristics. Some are colorless, others have a distinct color cast. Some are more clear or translucent than others. The clearest brands of translucent polymer clay are Premo, Pardo, and Cernit. Because Premo has a strong color cast, this article will compare the two brands that have exceedingly clear and colorless translucent polymer clay, Cernit and Pardo.
Why Use Translucent Polymer Clay?
Translucent polymer clay isn’t completely clear like glass. When it’s thick, it can look a bit like, well, thick plastic. So there are quite a few tricks to making it look as clear and translucent as possible. I will teach you those tricks in my various tutorials on using translucent polymer clay, such as my Faux Glass Effects tutorial, my Faux Lampwork tutorial, and the Watercolor Agate tutorial. All three tutorials teach a different way to use the material to create a light-filled and dimensional effect. Here are some examples:
While all brands of translucent do have their uses, for optimal clarity and light transmission, you’ll want to use a brand that’s as clear and colorless as possible. But which one is best? I’m focusing on the two types of Pardo Translucent and Cernit Translucent polymer clays in this article so that you can make informed choices between the two. Here we go!
Pardo Professional Art Clay- Transparent
Made by Viva-Decor, a German company, this stiff-to-work clay is the clearest and most translucent polymer clay on the market. It becomes more clear when you bake it at a higher temperature. It can be quite crumbly when it’s older and should be conditioned using a roller rather than a pasta machine. It’s quite stiff when you sheet it, but as it gets thinner, the sheet softens and makes a supple, thin sheet. This clay is best when you need maximum clarity. It’s a bit too frustrating to use in large slabs or when making large vessels. But it makes lovely small beads and such. Pardo Translucent Art Clay also contains a fluorescent optical brightener. For more info on Pardo, read here.
Pardo Translucent Clay – Agate
Also made by Viva-Decor, this clay is part of their former Jewellery Clay line and is therefore soft-bodied and fairly easy to work with. Agate is the uncolored “color” of Pardo’s Translucent Clay line. It is less clear than the uncolored version of the Pardo Art Clay line (above). It also gets a bit more translucent when baked hot. This all-purpose translucent does not contain an optical brightener and therefore doesn’t have the odd violet glow you’ll sometimes see when translucent clays are viewed in natural light. You can read more about Pardo’s line and the difference between their two uncolored translucents in my article “A Tale of Two Pardos“.
And that brings us to Cernit Translucent. Cernit is a Belgian line of clay made by The Clay and Paint Factory and it’s available around the world. It’s become much more popular in recent years, for good reason. It’s an excellent all-around brand of polymer clay. Their translucent line is very nice.
Cernit Translucent is soft and easy to handle. Well, perhaps too soft. This clay tends to behave a bit like taffy and can be quite goopy. When fresh, it has a tendency to flow as you handle it, similar to the cornstarch slurry known as oobleck (yes, polymer clay is non-Newtonian). I personally love that quality about it, but it takes getting used to. You can always leach the clay if needed. This stickiness means the clay tends to stick to itself as you’re creating, which can be challenging when working with thin sheets.
Cernit is uncolored and contains an optical brightener. It is also quite heat tolerant, but it only becomes slightly clearer when baked at higher temperatures. Cernit is also odd in that it stays light and opaque when it’s hot. You’ll have to wait until it’s fully cured to see its translucency. As with all translucent clays, plunging into cold water will make this happen faster, but this process of “quenching” is only temporary. The next day, all the pieces will look the same, regardless of how you cooled them.
Pardo vs. Cernit Comparison
Here are some videos I made showing the comparison of the three brands of clay.
Cernit vs. Pardo, Which is Better?
So, is Cernit or Pardo a better translucent polymer clay? Which one should you choose? Well, as with anything, there is a lot of personal preference. The best thing is to try all three and compare for yourself. That way you can choose the characteristics that actually work for you, your hands, your climate, and your projects. They are all three great clays and you would have great results with any of them. But here are some suggestions.
For the following situations, here are the specific clays that I’d choose:
- Faux Glass Effects – Pardo Professional Art Clay
- Canes with Translucent Background – 50/50 mix of Cernit and Pardo Professional Art Clay has rave reviews from caners.
- Faux Stone Effects – For natural colors, use Pardo Agate. For cool colors, use Cernit.
- Vessels and large objects – Cernit, but leach it if your clay is sticky.
- Hollow vessels or beads – Cernit
- Thin Translucent overlays – Pardo Agate
- Softening Hard Clay – Cernit Translucent works nicely for this. Add up to 50% without much color change.
- Extending Colors You’re Short On – Pardo Agate or Cernit
- Translucent Slabs (earrings) – Either Pardo Agate or Cernit
- Watercolor Agate (also called Marbling) – Pardo Agate or Cernit
- Faux Sea Glass – Pardo Professional Art Clay
- Non-Yellowing Projects – Neither Pardo nor Cernit yellows easily with proper baking
- UV Reactive Designs – Pardo Art Clay or Cernit
- Hot Hands – Pardo Art Clay
- Cold Hands – Cernit
If I could only buy one brand of translucent clay, what would it be? Personally, for the type of work that I do, I would absolutely choose Cernit. But I would also have a few packs of each of the others on hand, too. They’re all very useful. Remember, the differences between the brands are features to use rather than defects to denigrate. These are all very nice brands of clay!
Where to Buy Cernit and/or Pardo?
Some other vendors you will want to explore are:
- Poly Clay Play in the US (Most Cernit and most Pardo)
- The Clay Factory in the US (Some Cernit)
- Polystudio in France (Cernit and most Pardo)
- Hobbyrian in Sweden
- The Clay Hub in the UK (Cernit)
- Clayaround in the UK (Some Cernit and some Pardo)
And you can find more vendors on this page in the Resources section of my website.
Just so you know: While I sometimes receive gifts of clay from suppliers and manufacturers, I do buy most of it myself. My observations and opinions are my own. I’m not an “influencer” or brand ambassador. Giving links to suppliers and reviewing brands is helpful for my readers and the community at large!
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