Understanding Polymer Clay Glaze, Sealer, and Varnish

Understanding polymer clay glazes, sealer, and varnish is important for getting good results. Learn more at The Blue Bottle Tree.No matter what type of things you like to make with polymer clay, sooner or later the question of sealers comes up. It’s common for new polymer clay crafters to have misconceptions about the subject of varnishes, sealers, and clear coatings. Confused readers often ask me about the differences between types of coatings, particularly how and when you’d want to use them. In this article, I’ll try to clear up confusion and help with understanding polymer clay glazes, sealers, and varnishes.

Note: I recently tested 41 different glazes, sealers, and varnishes on five different brands of clay. You can see which of them scored well, and which got sticky or peeled off. I found that each product behaved differently on each brand of clay. Varnishes and dimensional glazes have high failure rates when used on polymer clay. 

Sealers are Not Necessary

Polymer clay, when cured, is vinyl – similar to a kiddie pool, tablecloth on your deck table, or beach ball. We would never think of varnishing or sealing a beach ball to protect it, right? Likewise there’s no need to seal polymer clay. Adding a clear coating, glaze, or varnish will not make a polymer clay project more durable, waterproof, weatherproof, or heatproof. It will not make a project stronger or protect against breakage. If anything, adding a coating to polymer clay increases the likelihood of it being ruined. Most polymer clay glazes, sealers, varnishes, or clear coatings can become sticky, peel easily, turn cloudy, or crack. This will depend on the brands involved and the conditions they’re exposed to.

You only need to seal and protect what you put ON the surface of your polymer clay project. When you apply mica powders, chalks, glitter, or metal leaf to the surface of your polymer clay project, it will need to be protected if the item is subject to wear. Note that light dustings of chalk or mica, such as rosy cheeks on a sculpture, do not need to be sealed. The same holds true for dots of paint and antiquing in the recessed areas of a design.

Polymer clay is not glossy after baking. You can sand, buff, and polish the clay itself (see below), or you can apply a glossy varnish. To make your clay project less shiny, you could apply a matte varnish. Note that adding a glossy varnish can make translucent polymer clay seem more clear. Just like wetting a beach pebble, a glaze or varnish can make clay appear brighter and/or more translucent.

Varnishes

varnishesThis includes artists’ varnishes, wood varnishes, glazes sold by the clay manufacturers themselves, and even floor finishes. This broad group of products are typically clear to milky white liquids. Some are off-white. Once dried, most will form a stretchy plastic film over your work. It’s best to use a soft brush and apply several thin coats. Brush strokes can be an issue with this category of finish. Applying varnish to heavily textured projects can result in pooling and air bubbles. Varnishes do not camouflage surface imperfections such as fingerprints, rather, they accentuate them. Varnishes are inherently glossy, but can be made to have a satin, semi-gloss, or matte finish by using matting agents. Matting agents are particles that dull the shine of the varnish. Always stir these containers before use as the matting agent can settle in the bottom, leaving just the glossy varnish at the top of the bottle. I’ll now break down this Varnish category into two types, Acrylic Varnish and Polyurethane Varnish.

Best for: Sealing surface treatments, creating a glossy effect, and enriching translucent projects.

Acrylic Varnishes

In this category, you’ll find artist’s acrylic varnishes, craft store varnishes, and polymer clay brand glazes. Acrylic varnishes contain acrylic polymer emulsion, which is an acrylic resin suspended in water. To save costs, they may also contain vinyl acrylic, vinyl stearate, vinyl acetate, polyurethane, or even poly-vinyl acetate (PVA, such as in white glue). The specific formulas are usually a secret, so you’ll never know exactly what is in the varnish you choose.

The only reason this matters is that some of these plastic resins are softened by the plasticizers in polymer clay. (Contrary to myth, plasticizers stay in polymer clay. They do not bake out.) This is why some varnishes, glazes, and sealers work beautifully on wood and paper but become soft or sticky when used on polymer clay. The brand of clay you’re using will make a difference, and some clay-varnish combinations will give you a sticky finish. For this reason, you should always test your particular varnish with the clay you’re using before trusting it to a large or important project. (The same holds true for acrylic paint, by the way.)

Polyurethane Varnish

I’ve separated the polyurethane varnishes because they are marketed differently. But please know that these varnishes still contain acrylic resins. For example, Varathane‘s resin is an acrylic modified urethane. By the same token, many acrylic varnishes contain urethane as part of their resin makeup. So the distinction between these two categories is more one of marketing than chemistry.

Just as with acrylic varnishes, polyurethane is a water-based brush-on varnish and is glossy by nature. Matte version are created by including matting agents. These varnishes are typically clear to off-white, can leave brush strokes, and dry clear and flexible. Depending on the resins included, some brands of polyurethane can be softened by the plasticizers in your polymer clay. Often, as in the case with Varathane, they won’t cure rock-hard, but it won’t be sticky either. Other varnishes can be sticky, though, so always test a new varnish with the clay you’re using.

Resin

Resin creates a nice thick clear coating on polymer clay.Clear-coat resins are poured onto the surface of your project and then they harden to form a hard, durable, and thick clear coating. (Read about using resin with polymer clay here.) Resin coatings are quite thick and syrupy and can be frustrating and messy to use. Resin is self-leveling, which means that you need to let it sit for a while so that the surface becomes even. Bubbles can be a problem, but you can usually pop them by waving a heat gun over the top. And just like honey dribbling off your biscuits (scones to you Brits), resin has an annoying way of running off the surface of your project and making a mess. Instead of using a brush, resins are usually poured on and the sticky liquid is spread on the surface with a toothpick or needle tool. You will use a lot of paper towels with resin projects. Trust me on this. 🙂

Resins are quite hard after curing, and are crystal clear. The surface will be extremely glossy and can’t be easily peeled or lifted from a project. While you can apply resin to curved pieces, it is an advanced technique, so I only recommend applying resin to flat pieces until you have a really good feel for how to use it. Resin is lovely on sparkly or mica covered projects as it will intensify the sparkle. Resin is a rewarding finish, but it has a huge learning curve and your first few projects will likely incur a few tears and swear words. Always apply resin after baking your polymer clay project. It cannot be baked. There are three types of clear-coat resins as follows.

Best for: Giving flat pieces a thick, glossy finish. Can have a magnifying effect, giving deep dimension to glittery and mica covered projects.

Epoxy Resin

Common brands of this resin are Envirotex Lite, Amazing Clear Cast, Little Windows, and ICE Resin. Epoxy resin consists of two parts, part A and part B, which are mixed in equal portions. Once mixed, a chemical reaction begins and the resin gradually hardens. It takes about 24-36 hours to fully harden. Epoxy resin will not cure fully if the mixture is incorrect or if the mixture is not fully mixed before pouring. You can apply more coats.

UV Resin

Common brands of this resin are Lisa Pavelka’s Magic Glos and UltraDome. These resins are very similar in function and application to the epoxy resins, but they cure within 5 minutes when exposed to UV light using a special lamp or a bright sunny day. If you’ve ever had gel nails applied, you’re familiar with the technology here. Interestingly, UV resins are also used as clear-coats for automotive use as well. UV Resin is super easy to use as there’s no mixing. Just apply to your project, wait for it to level, remove bubbles, and cure. But it can still be messy. And the cure will be inhibited and the surface will remain sticky if you use it over paints or varnishes.

Because UV resins cure before they can run off your piece, they can be used on curved surfaces. Just brush them on. Wait just a minute for the brush strokes to settle, then cure under a light. You can do this with any UV resin, but Teresa Pandora Salgado sells kits which include a really nice resin and a big fat brush for applying her DeepShine Resin. If you’re new to UV resin, this is a great way to get started.

Polyester Resin

You won’t commonly see polyester resin used in the craft world as it’s pretty noxious. It’s used similarly to an epoxy resin, except that you use a large volume of resin (part A) and a small volume of hardener (part B). I’ve not used this since I was a kid and helped my dad repair a fiberglass tank, so I’m only mentioning it here as an FYI.

Dimensional Glazes

Dimensional glazes are one type of clear-coat finish that can be applied to polymer clay.Sort of like a cross between a glue and a varnish, dimensional glazes are similar to resin in that they’re syrupy and they can be applied in a thick coating. Common brands are Diamond Glaze, Triple Thick, Mod Podge Dimensional Magic, Aleene’s Jewelry Pendant Gel, and Glossy Accents. You may have seen these liquids used to fill pendant bezels. When poured thick, they will take a few days to fully dry, but they should dry clear and have sort of a resin effect. Dimensional glazes can be applied with a brush and used as glaze or varnish. All dimensional glazes are glossy – there are not matte versions available.

I am not fond of using this class of products with polymer clay. They are notorious for absorbing humidity and becoming cloudy over time. Some brands get sticky on polymer clay. I’m testing the above four brands and three of them are already failing. The fourth is holding up well, so far, but it’s also the one that my readers tell me is the worst. So I don’t hold much hope for using dimensional glazes with polymer clay.

Best for: Thick, glossy coatings. However, I don’t recommend these due to poor performance on polymer clay.

Wax

Waxes can sometimes be used to create a glossy coating on polymer clay.Renaissance Wax has persuasive marketing that’s convinced many people, including many polymer clay artists, that it’s an all-purpose protective material. That’s not exactly true. It is a high quality microcrystalline wax used to coat metals against corrosion and tarnish. It will also enrich the appearance of materials such as tortoise-shell or ivory. Because it’s acid-free, it doesn’t contain chemicals that can degrade artifacts. It is archival. But that doesn’t mean it’s a superior protective coating for all purposes. It can build up and attract dirt.

Renaissance Wax does a lovely job enriching a smooth polymer clay surface. Just apply a thin coating, let dry for a few minutes, then buff with a cloth. This will work sort of like wetting a beach pebble and can enrich a dark clay surface. Wax can also change the appearance of surface treatments, such as paint, chalk, and mica powders. I like to think of waxes as being a surface treatment themselves and not a protectant.

Because waxes apply as a microscopically thin layer to polymer clay, they will do nothing to protect mica powder, glitter, paint, or metal leaf from wear or abrasion, and can even remove them. You will not get a glossy shine with a wax. Instead, you’ll get a burnished sheen, but only when used on an already smooth surface. Wax applied to a textured surface will be white and unattractive.

There are other waxes which work just as well. Neutral shoe polish and paste wax both work nicely on polymer clay to create a warm, enhancing sheen. But frankly, so does Vaseline, at a tiny fraction of the cost.

Best for: Deepening and enriching dark colors, giving a warm sheen to smooth clay.

Liquid Polymer Clay

Liquid polymer clay can be used instead of polymer clay glazes, sealers, and varnishes.Liquid clays are essentially polymer clay without the binders that turn it into a putty. They have many uses, such as acting as a glue, a transfer medium, and a clay thinner. You can also use liquid polymer clays as a glaze or sealer. Liquid clays have the advantage of always being 100% compatible with polymer clay and will not result in stickiness. There are three main well-known brands of liquid polymer clay. You can read more about these liquid clays in my article on using them as a clearcoat here.

Best for: Encasing inclusions, sealing surface treatments. Always clay-safe.

Kato Liquid Polyclay

Also known as Kato Liquid or Kato Sauce, this liquid has the consistency and appearance of thinned white glue. To use as a varnish, apply a very thin coat with your finger or a brush. Allow to level, then bake. After baking, you will need to use a heat gun to make the thin layer of clay crystal clear and shiny.

Fimo Liquid

Fimo Liquid used to be called Fimo Deco Gel. It is a syrupy, runny, cloudy liquid. Apply to your clay, allow to settle, and then bake. It will become clear during baking. Of the three main brands of liquid polymer clay, Fimo Liquid is the only one that will remain fairly clear when cured in a thick layer. To use as a varnish, apply to the clay in a thin coating. Allow to settle and level, then bake. A heat gun will make it more shiny, but it won’t be as shiny as Kato Liquid.

Translucent Liquid Sculpey

This stand-by, also called TLS, is similar to the other liquid clays and can also be used as a glue and thinner. But it does not bake particularly clear. Thick layers will be opaque. It can be effectively used as a varnish, however, by using a cosmetic sponge to dab the TLS onto your clay surface. Wait a few minutes for it to settle and level (a bit) and then bake. Afterward, thin layers will be invisible, but the surface will be matte. If you use a heat gun on cured TLS, it will become glossier, giving a satin finish.

Liquid Sculpey Clear

Brand new on the market, Clear Liquid Sculpey is similar to Kato Liquid Polyclay in that it can give a perfectly clear coating when it’s clarified with a heat gun. Baking it in the oven at normal clay-curing temperatures will result in a cloudy finish. It really does need the high heat of a heat gun. It will be just slightly less shiny than Liquid Kato.

Spray Varnish

Spray varnish can be used as a polymer clay glaze, sealer, and varnish.Spray varnish seems like such a perfect solution. Just take your project out on the porch, spray it real quick, come back in and you’re done. But sadly, very few brands of spray varnish will work with polymer clay. MOST of them will be softened by the plasticizer in polymer clay and stay sticky. PYM II (now discontinued and nearly impossible to find) is a unique spray acrylic coating that does not stay sticky and works well with polymer clay. PYM is not glossy or matte, rather, it’s sort of a semi-gloss finish. Multiple coats will give a more durable finish, but do let it dry between coats. Many thin coats is far better than one thick one. Read about my experiments with spray sealers hereHelmar Crystal Kote Matte is another spray varnish that works well with polymer clay. It is nearly invisible on your project.

You will want to use a spray varnish when you need to quickly seal and stabilize surface treatments such as mica powders, chalks, and glitter. Sprays also work nicely to apply a varnish coating onto textured surfaces.

Best for: Sealing surface treatments, especially mica powders. Great on textured items where varnish would pool.

Embossing Powder

Clear embossing powder is one type of clear-coat finish that can be applied to polymer clay.Embossing powder is a wax-like powder that is traditionally applied to a design on paper, then melted with a heat gun to create a raised, “embossed” design. Clear embossing powder is popularly used in crafts because it can be melted in a special melting pot and then used as a clear coating material. A common variant of this embossing powder is called Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel (UTEE). UTEE can be used to coat polymer clay projects, giving a thick, clear surface like resin. I don’t recommend UTEE for glazing and varnishing purposes with polymer clay because it isn’t very durable. It’s not very flexible and will readily flake off baked polymer clay. It can turn cloudy over time. It is also easily scratched.

Best for: Not recommended as a polymer clay glaze, sealer, or varnish.

Glues

Glues can sometimes be used to create a clear-coat finish that can be applied to polymer clay.I’m adding this as a catch-all category because there are some glues that can be used as a polymer clay glaze, sealer, or varnish.

Mod Podge

Mod Podge is a decoupage medium that paper crafters use as a “sealer”. Therefore new polymer clayers sometimes advocate its use as a glaze, sealer and varnish as well. Mod Podge is a variety of thinned white PVA glue, similar to Elmer’s glue. It is available in glossy, satin, and matte versions. It is white and dries clear. But Mod Podge does not make a good polymer clay glaze or varnish. It is very difficult to apply without obvious brush strokes. After drying, if it dries at all, it can stay sticky in high humidity applications. Water left on the surface will turn white and the Mod Podge will soften. I strongly recommend this not be used as a polymer clay glaze, sealer, or varnish.

CA

Woodworkers know that cyanoacrylate (CA) can make a fantastic coating for wood. But it works very well with polymer clay as well. Cyanoacrylate is also known as superglue. And yes, some varieties of CA are specifically used to create a tough, durable, and clear surface coating. Because a lathe is typically used, it’s beyond the scope for most routine polymer creations. But it’s something I want to explore further at some point. A CA finish is what Ed Street uses to put a super-smooth finish on Toni Ransfield’s pens. You can read more about the process here on Toni’s site.

Liquid Fusion

Liquid Fusion is a urethane glue that is slightly amber colored and crystal clear. It can be poured on the surface of flat polymer clay and left to dry. It will take several days, but you’ll be left with a smooth, glossy, hard finish similar to resin.

Sanding and Buffing

The Sanding and Buffing Polymer Clay eBook includes a bonus tutorial showing how I created this beautiful mica shift piece.When done well, a sanded and buffed smooth polymer clay surface is considered by many to be the best finish. Sanding and buffing is hard to beat because there will never be any brush strokes, stickiness, cloudiness, or other chemical incompatibilities. Smoothly sanded polymer clay is a tactile pleasure that you can’t help but rub between your fingers because it just feels so nice. Unbuffed, a sanded finish will be completely matte. Buff it a bit for a warm satin sheen. If you properly buff smooth polymer clay with a high speed buffer, you can get a finish that is just as smooth and glossy as resin or glass. In fact, it’s quite difficult to get this kind of flawless glossy surface with varnishes or glazes. Sanding and buffing has a reputation for being difficult and can lead to painful fingertips, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you want to know how to get an absolutely perfect shine on polymer clay with sanding and buffing, with minimal effort, I recommend that you check out my Sanding and Buffing eBook. It is a comprehensive 120 page guide that explains everything I know about sanding and buffing. I discuss the types of sandpaper, kinds of buffers, using tumbling machines, Dremel, varnishes, and even whether you even need to sand at all. Here’s where you learn more about the Sanding and Buffing eBook. If you want a shiny, smooth polymer clay surface, this eBook will get you there.

Learn all about getting the best finish on polymer clay with this 120 page Sanding and Buffing Polymer Clay eBook.

70 thoughts on “Understanding Polymer Clay Glaze, Sealer, and Varnish”

  1. Thanks for a great review, Ginger! There are so many things on the market it is often hard to tell what to use and what to avoid! You did not mention Future Floor Finish. Do you have anything to comment about it?

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    1. Hi Robin, Future (now called Pledge Floor Finish) is a pure acrylic “varnish”. It doesn’t have any vinyl or copolymers in it, so it doesn’t seem to be sticky from plasticizer migration. But it is also quite brittle and will crack if you use it on a piece that will be flexed. It’s a good finish, but it does wear off. I’m currently testing the old Future against the newer Pledge Floor Finish and while they do smell different, they so far seem to be quite similar in function.

      1. red motorcycle joyce

        i’m trying the new future floor gloss on some polymer pendants i am making, they look nice do you know if the future product will rub off when the clay is worn next to the skin?

  2. Another great article to add as a reference any time someone asks about glazing, glossing or sealing polymer clay. I have to admit, I spend the first year of claying being obsessed with the plasticy shine that Triple Thick and other products offered. It took several sticky pieces and much experimenting to appreciate a smoothly sanded surface. These days I pretty much use a few sprays of PYM ii for any surface treatment, UV resin for a flat pieces and try to get away without sanding or varnishing most things.

    One thing I’ve been experimenting with recently is powder paint, meant for fishing lures I believe? Picked up the idea from a tutorial and I’m quite please with it. It sets up quickly with a heat gun and seems to provide a durable clear finish. It would fall under the same category as embossing powder but it seems clearer and stronger to me.

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  4. I have found that “triple thick” when used on paper seems to separate some types of purple ink, it may well do the same on inked clay pieces.

      1. Is there a difference when working with nonbake polymer clay in what you recommend.
        Am making small items for fairy lands.
        Thank you
        Judy

        1. Non-bake polymer clay is sort of misleadingly named and is a very different product than the one most of us refer to as polymer clay. I don’t really know much about air-dry clays because the working qualities are so vastly different than oven bake polymer clay. I don’t believe it matters as much what clearcoat you use, however. Air dry clays do not contain plasticizer the way that oven bake polymer clay does and so there isn’t the problem with chemical interactions.

  5. I’ve been experimenting with polymer clay and various varnish and coatings for years. I’ve always found a thin coat of liquid acrylic floor polish (I still have an old bottle of Future for 12 years that has not yellowed) to be the most reliable, as it never has any kind of reaction with the clay over time. I lightly sand the piece first with very fine sandpaper to create a service for the varnish to grab onto so it does not shrink back into itself. Ultra think embossing powder always, always yellows over time. Triple thick, while initially beautiful, turns VERY sticky on polymer clay in just a few months — so much so that piece cannot be handled and will become covered with dust and fuzz as a result. Two-part epoxy resin, the kind that you get at the hardware store, NOT jewelry grade, is toxic, messy, and will yellow over time. UV resin, I use Lisa Pavelka’s, always gives the most beautiful thick shine like glass, can be watered down, can be sanded and polished, can be cured in many layers, and if it scratches just wipe a thin new layer on with your finger (nontoxic) and re-cure. The only issue I’ve had with UV resin, which I knew ahead of time but still experimented with, was that it cannot handle many inclusions, such as large amounts of glitter. The light needs to be able to penetrate the resin in order to cure it, and too many inclusions will block the light. I found a workaround of doing many thin layers with a little bit of inclusions in each works best, such as a steam punk cabochon I made out of small watch parts in six layers. On smooth surfaces I lightly sand the piece with a fine-grit autobody sandpaper first to rough up the surface so the resin has something to grab onto and will not shrink back into itself. I don’t like the rubbery feel that liquid polymer clays give so I don’t usually use them. I’m looking forward to your seeing your results.

  6. Great article, Ginger. I agree about ren wax being a surface treatment rather than a sealer. You can get a rich shine with several layers though. Not sure what you meant about it being white on textured pieces. . .
    One question – in the instructions for Cernit varnish, it recommends baking after the varnish is dry. Is this really necessary? It’s just an extra annoyance as far as I’m concerned. But I am impatient. . .

    1. If you use any pastey wax on a deeply textured item, the wax will fill up the recesses and look white. So I wouldn’t use wax on something that’s been textured with coarse sandpaper, for instance. As for baking the varnish, I don’t think you have to let it dry first. I often put them in the oven when they’re still a bit sticky. I’m impatient as well. The purpose for the baking is to accelerate the curing process, the drying. Also, didn’t know you had Cernit varnish…it’s another good one to use (re my email). Excellent, in fact.

  7. Hi, I’m new to clay, and I made a mistake.
    I painted my baked sculpey clay with acrylic paint and then sealed with mod podge and it was so sticky, so then I tired to undo that with mod podge acrylic spray sealer and it’s worse 🙁
    I guess I wouldn’t mind the stickiness if I didn’t bake and paint tiny coffins! They won’t open, and when they do it’s taking parts of the paint off!
    Are my cute coffins ruined forever? Is there anything I can do to save them from their stickiness?

    THANK YOUUUUUUUU.

    1. Oh no! The only way I know to remove stickiness is to remove the varnish or to paint over it. Both methods have their issues and may not work. Try removing the varnishes by using rubbing alcohol (91% is better). Use a Q-tip and try it in an inconspicuous place. This will likely remove all paint, too. You may also try using water and just soaking it off. Scrub with a firm toothbrush to get all the goop off. Again, this will ruin the painting. If the piece is only a tiny bit sticky, you can usually fix it with a coat of Varathane. But that doesn’t work if the surface has turned to syrup. Good luck!

      1. VARATHANE saved my coffins!

        NO MORE STICKY AND A PERFECT SHINE!!!

        thank you thank you thank you!

        My IG is: mandyscoffins

        Thank you!

  8. I’ve just discovered your great tutorials on baking polymer clay and varnishes, after burning my first effort to within an inch of its life! Thank you so much, I now have clues on everything I need to know beforehand this time. Fabulous information on all counts! Terry

  9. Sharon Robinson

    Ginger, I have seen Ludmila Bakulina using uv nail get to cover her beautiful work. Have you tried it at all or have any views on its longevity??

  10. Sharon Robinson

    Oh another product I have used with great success is Darwi varnish. It comes on both glossy and satin. The glossy is the best I have used. It’s not water based but I still wash out my brush with soap and water and have been using the same brush for over a year. It is super glossy and doesn’t show brush strokes either. The only thing is getting a constant supply.

    1. I have Darwi Vernis and it does give a lovely high gloss. Very nice. But it didn’t score very highly in my sealer tests. It crackled and turned white and flaked off when it was flexed. So definitely make sure you don’t use it on something that’s flexible such as a bangle.

  11. Hi, I have skimmed your article- wow, I feel so lucky to have found your site!!! I am a little overwhelmed with all your information. I am struggling with an illness and a lot of reading is taxing.
    I am trying to plan a project for outdoors, a fairy type mushroom or house theme to do with a friend as a healing marker. I don’t know what type of clay to use… I need something I can add details in, like carve into. I am a little familiar with FIMO. … is Fimo/Sculpy clay weather proof? Do you have to seal it?
    My friend saw “Air hardening clay” and “paper clay” on YouTube but I cannot find info if it is weather proof.
    I am sorry I went off subject…
    ANY info would be helpful.

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  13. If already used clear coat acrylic spray on polymer clay projects, is there a way to get it to dry or stop being sticky? PLEASE PLEASE HELP!

    1. If it’s a tiny bit sticky, you can fix it by coating it with Varathane. But if it’s really goopy, then you need to remove the bad varnish. You can often dissolve it by using 91% isopropyl alcohol, available at the pharmacy. Of course that will also remove any paint or other surface treatments, so always test in an inconspicuous area to be sure of the result before you treat the whole thing.

  14. I’m new to clay. I’m confused. What difference does it make if I choose a medium compatible with acrylic paints if I’ve painted my entire clay project with acrylic paint? I know any sealer, varnish, etc. will slightly penetrate the paint on order to adhere, but will it penetrate deeply enough to effect the clay beneath? I planned on a scrylic clear spray coat, but now wonder. Thanks for a reply!

    1. Because it’s not the paint that ruins the clay. It’s the clay that ruins the paint. The plasticizer in the clay migrates through the paint and out to the varnish. If the paint/varnish is only a tiny bit susceptible, it will be okay. But some varnishes turn into tar on clay, and a little layer of paint won’t be enough of a barrier. But as always, give it a test and see. Many combos work well. But not with spray varnish. Nearly all of them are terribly sticky on clay.

  15. I’ve been making 1 x 2 in. earrings using the image transfer technique and have started using paper from Hillovely on Etsy (Israel). It is the easiest transfer technique I’ve found so far but after baking the colors are a little lighter than they should be. I’ve used Varathane to bring out the colors but it leaves the surface looking a bit streaky. I used a soft brush. Since I can’t sand and burnish the image I have to rely on a sealant or varnish. Any suggestions as to the best type of product to bring out the colors? I’ve tried resin but is very difficulty to work with.
    Love your website and all the tips.

  16. Hi, What a great job you’ve done here.

    However, I don’t see an answer to my particular question.

    I have taken paw prints from my recently deceased, dearest-cat-in-the-world, Murphy. This was from a kit using Sculpey.

    What I would like to do is clear-coat the resultant ornament so that it will not get dusty and hard to clean. Of course, since Sculpey isn’t hard, it would have to be something with some elasticity.

    I don’t feel I can display the ornament without it getting dirty over time, and I’d like to be able to gently wipe it down without damaging the ornament or cracking the glaze. No high expectations, just looking for cleanability.

    Any ideas about that one?

  17. Dear Ms. Allman,
    Thank you for this thorough and helpful review. I came here to ask you a question that is not addressed on the internet except for ONE place*. Can you use polymer clay to make kitchen back splash tiles? Is there a polymer clay that is durable enough to go in back of the kitchen range? (On the rest of the back splash, I can’t image it would get much abuse.) Can any polymer clay handle the heat above a range? What if the tiles are further up on the wall, in back of the range? (I’m desperate here!) I came here to research glazes, hoping that there was one that would keep the polymer clay from getting stained (by spaghetti sauce, for example; I haven’t experimented with that yet), and one that would be durable enough (it certainly doesn’t look like it!). To commission someone to make ceramic tiles is pretty expensive, where I can make a tile that looks exactly as I’d like it to. Please help!
    *The polymer clay ceramic-look tiles were used as a decorative back splash that would not get any abuse.

    1. Polymer clay is a lot more durable than you’d think. I don’t know how much wear and tear (and heat) your backsplash gets, but in my kitchen it’s more just errant spatters of spaghetti sauce. And yes, it will stain, so choose colors that accommodate this. Get an Infrared thermometer gun (like this) and see how hot your backsplash gets during your most crazy cooking sessions. I’ll bet it’s far less than the heat polymer clay withstands during baking. I would prefer to not use any varnish, but you’d be amazed how well it will do. Do some experiments. Maybe make some test tiles and stick them on your current backsplash and see what happens. It’s a project that I’ve been planning to do forever. Go for it!

  18. Hi, thank you for your wonderful page! Found your page when I googled “mod podge to seal clay”.

    I just started out dabbling in clay craft and I am loving it so far! I know this article is about polymer clay. However, would you be able to advise me on paper clay or air dry clay? Will I be able to seal them with mod podge after painting them with acrylic paints?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Acrylic paint sticks to air dry clay much better than polymer clay, so there’s no need to seal it. If you still want to do so, any varnish will work just fine. Mod Podge isn’t a varnish, it’s a decoupaging medium and because the main ingredient is the same as is in white glue, it’s subject to getting sticky with humidity. It’s not meant to be a durable varnish.

  19. Ginger, thank you for all the good information you’re providing to the polymer clay community! I’ve been reading articles on your site for weeks now. I am new to PC (since October 2017), so I’m absorbing everything I can find. I’ve been using PYM II spray on mica powder (Pearl-Ex) surface treatments and am happy with how that looks. The information I haven’t found yet online with regard to sealers and varnishes is whether I can first stabilize the mica powder / Pearl-Ex on cooked clay with PYM II spray . . . and THEN (when the spray is dry) use a UV resin or other coating to give the surface depth. I’d like to play with some UV resin on top of mica surface treatments without smearing the mica! How do the PYM II spray and UV resin do together? Any help or info much appreciated!

    1. I’ve never had trouble doing this. I often use PYM to stabilize mica or other powders before adding another finish. One thing…sometimes UV resin won’t set up if it’s placed over varnishes, so there’s a chance it might interact with the PYM. I’ve not specifically tested this, and each brand of UV resin will be different anyway. But it’s something to be aware of.

  20. Thanks so much for your information. I think I need to prime my polymer clay disc before adding my acrylic painting technique. I use resin to seal it should I also use the resin to prime it? Or do you have another recommendation?

    1. No, you shouldn’t necessarily have to prime it. Most acrylic paint works nicely on most brands of polymer clay. If you get peeling, try scuffing the surface of the baked clay a bit first with some 400 grit sandpaper.

  21. So if I paint a design with acrylic paint on a polymer clay plate do I need any glaze? The acrylic paint is not a metallic or glossy finish, it’s a basic, semi-matte finish so the design won’t be glossy which doesn’t matter much to me.

    1. Acrylic paint does not require a varnish or sealer. That being said, sometimes paint scrapes off easily and you might therefore prefer the protection that a coat of varnish will give.

  22. So I finally decided to get something other than Premo glaze that I have. Something nicer. Read this wonderful, detailed article, made up my mind and went online shopping. And what do you know? Retailers in the US seem to have ran all out of Helmar Crystal Kote Matte Varnish. And PYM II is no longer manufactured! Just my luck. 🙂

    I think I need to re-read the article and try to come up with Plan B.

    P.M. Etsy and a few other retailers still have PYM II.

  23. Hi Ginger, I have this problem with one of my creation a necklace in fimo only becked whitout any paint that became dirty black when put with a black shirt. Can you tell me why?

  24. Ginger, you mentioned vaseline as a protectant… can you say more about that, and how you would apply it? We live where it is well over 100 degrees 9 out of 12 months of the year, and varathanes and such have a tendancy to stay sticky. Thank you!

    1. Hi Caz, Varathane shouldn’t be sticky. Are you sure you’re using the right one? Not all varnishes are equal. That being said, Vaseline isn’t really a protectant like we’d use for chapped lips. It’s more of an enrichment, sort of the same way that would happen if you put vaseline on a dry beach pebble. It will make it appear brighter and the colors richer. That’s what Vaseline will do to your clay project. It doesn’t sink into the material like oil on wood, however, and won’t protect anything.

  25. Fantastic information. I can’t thank you enough.
    Hi. I make necklace pendants, hair pieces, drinking vessel embellishments, pins and so forth. In other words, items that encounter heavy, every day wear and tear. I’m flustered over finishes at the moment. I would like your opinion on which new ones would be best for me to purchase and try. I very much strive to create an end result that resembles it’s poly clay self as little as is possible. I use Kato brand clay, as i find it to be slightly more brittle than Cernit, but still very strong and has the slightly harder finish ideal for jewelry like items. The more like metal and wood it looks, the better. I use a lot of sparkly powder pigments to achieve my desired color, along with rub-n-buff and metal leaf. And i incorporate metal bits, genuine stones and cz rinestones. But I find that my coating on relief points tends to wear off in short time, dulling and completely removing the metallic color underneath. I use a polyurethane spray varnish right now. I imagine I could do with a few extra coats. But in the end, what I really want is a product I don’t have to touch up after a few weeks and that I can proudly ensure to my customers will last for a decent time, while of course still not requiring such a heavy coating that it fills in and blurs the finer details. They are heavy with tiny details. As far as durability goes, I have everything else down pat. So if such a top coat exists, I’m hoping you can tell me which one is for me.
    -Sev

    1. Anytime you use any surface treatment, it will have limited durability. Period. It’s just so thin. All varnishes are merely a thin layer of plastic. So even the best ones are just a thin layer protecting a thin surface treatment. No wonder they wear through! In addition, most varnishes are not as hard on polymer clay as they would be on wood due to chemical interactions. When something is subject to a lot of wear, having anything on the surface will eventually wear through.

      That being said, you might want to explore using resin. It’s thicker and harder and would likely have more durability. Of course, it might not give you the look you’re after.

  26. Ginger, So happy that I found your site, such wonderful information! I am in a pickle trying to repair something for a friend that was custom made. Artist is in another country and there is no time to send it back for repair. It is a Poly clay baked wedding cake topper and the bottom that supports the figures broke in transit. The artist recommended fixing it with a little Mod Podge. I do not believe that will hold. It appears that it was sealed with Mod Podge and I do not want the glue to be incompatible. I am thinking of using an epoxy and also adding some type of support material to the bottom for stability since it is so thin and could break again.
    What would you recommend for a support material that can be glued on the bottom and go on a cake and is epoxy the best choice for gluing the pieces back together as I cannot drill any where to put in a support pin. Thank you,

    1. Your suspicions are correct and Mod Podge will not likely be a suitable repair. Without seeing the piece, I can’t guarantee that any repair will hold because the piece just might be structurally unsound rather than merely a breakage issue. Generally, we use a gel superglue rather than epoxy. I would use Loctite Gel Control to glue the pieces back together. It won’t be a “proper” repair, but it will likely be good enough to last through the wedding.

  27. I have a sealant/troubleshooting question. I sealed a few pieces with Minwax poly before realizing that it’s oil-based, not water-based–so now I’m worried about it getting sticky over time. Can I add a thin coat of liquid polymer over the pieces to re-seal them, over the dried oil-based sealant, to prevent stickiness?

    1. Oil-based varnish can work well with polymer clay. The drawback is that it’s linseed oil based and will therefore be yellow. If it has dried and is not sticky now, then it will likely be just fine. No need to re-seal.

  28. Love all the information! Could you recommend me a product? I’m currently sculpting decent size sculptures and then painting acrylic afterwards. What would be the best product to get to protect the paint from wear?

    1. Why does a sculpture need to be protected from wear? It’s not jewelry, surely? It’s a common misnomer that painted polymer clay needs to be sealed. It doesn’t, unless it will be handled extensively and in that case I’d recommend a varnish called Varathane. You can read about it here: Varathane.

    1. I have heard that there are some food-safe resins. But that is just the material itself, not the application or use on a polymer bowl. It’s important to realize that being “food safe” is an official designation that’s awarded to items after they’ve demonstrated their ability to be safe for food use. Because no testing organization can evaluate how you make a polymer clay bowl, nothing that we make with our hands can be labeled as “food safe”. So no, a polymer bowl won’t be “food safe” by adding resin. But that’s a legal designation, not a practical one. Can you, personally, for personal use, use a food-safe resin on your polymer bowl? It’s up to you. Can you sell them as housewares designed for use with food? Nope. Does that help?

  29. Hi. 2 years ago I made the mistake of spraying polymer ornaments with acrylic sealing spray. They’re ornaments made of my then baby daughters foot prints. They’re still sticky. I’ve kept them though I don’t hang them on the tree every year because of this. Can this issue be remedied? 🙁

  30. Cyndie Simonson

    The info here is wonderful. I am new to PC and I making checkers and backgammon stones. What would be the best sealer for them since they will be handled a lot? I have made them with white clay, with a moderately deep imprint and will be adding color with acrylic paint.

  31. I make baked polymer clay babies for a prolife group. Then I use acrylic paint for hair and eyes. Cheecks and creases are done using chalks. Do you think I need to seal them with any type of product?

    1. It’s really hard to say. The only reason you’d need to seal them is if they’re rubbing or wearing off easily. Polymer clay itself does not need to be sealed. So it’ll be up to you as to whether or not you feel your project would benefit by adding a clearcoat over the top of them.

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