The word “resin” is a general term that refers to viscous liquids that can permanently harden. But in the crafting world, we are generally referring to a thick, clear liquid that cures to create a crystal-clear layer. You’ll recognize brand names such as Easy Cast, Envirotex Lite, Lisa Pavelka’s Magic Glos, and any number of imports from China that you can buy on marketplaces like Amazon. You might have seen this type of material coating tables in restaurants or coating small pendants. It’s also poured or cast into molds to create resin items such as paperweights, jewelry, or tiny figurines. But increasingly, we’re using this material as a coating on polymer clay.
A note about the links. I’ve linked to an Amazon listing for the items in this article so that you can see what I’m talking about. Doing this saves me from having to take a photo. Obviously, shop around and order from whatever supplier makes sense where you live. If you’re outside the US, don’t order from Amazon.com! The links to Amazon, btw, are affiliate links which means they’ll pay me a little bit if you do order from them. But please don’t feel that it’s necessary. Buy from your favorite retailer!
What are the types of resin that you can use with polymer clay?
Two main types of resin are used with polymer clay. Both are used as a coating to protect the finish and give a thick, glossy shine. One is UV resin, and the other is epoxy resin. Both types of resin contain a plastic compound that will undergo a chemical reaction and become hard. The difference is what causes, or catalyzes, that chemical reaction.
UV resin uses ultraviolet light to trigger, or catalyze, the chemical reaction that causes the resin to become hard. You can use a light with a special ultraviolet bulb, such as a nail lamp or an ultraviolet flashlight. Because the sun also emits ultraviolet light, you can use the sun to cure your UV resin as well. I have the Lisa Pavelka UV Light and it works well.
UV resin usually hardens with five or ten minutes of light exposure. The stronger the light source, the faster the UV resin will cure. While sunlight will work, be aware that weak winter light and cloudy days can mean a slow or incomplete cure. Using sunlight to cure UV resin means you’ll have to go outside. Be aware that transporting your resin-coated pieces can be tricky. Also, it’s often just windy enough outside that you risk your lightweight polymer clay pieces being flipped over, ruining the resin.
Don’t pour your UV resin while sitting near a sunny window or even with strong light. Even ambient light has some ability to begin the cure process. UV Resin should always be kept in a dark cabinet and preferably in a dark bottle because strong light can cause it to cure, especially over time.
Brands of UV Cure Resin
Common brands of UV resin are Lisa Pavelka’s Magic Glos and this really fast-curing resin from China (their branding needs some work, but we all recognize that label design). Many people also love to use UltraDome resin, but I’ve not tried it.
Epoxy resin has two parts, one part being the resin material and the other part being the hardener (the catalyst). When the two parts (typically labeled A and B) are mixed in the correct proportions, the chemical reaction is catalyzed, and hardening begins.
Epoxy resin usually takes from 12 to 36 hours to cure. This is somewhat temperature dependent, and your pieces will cure faster in a warm room. But don’t assume that more heat is always better. You can’t speed-cure in an oven, for example.
For many processes with polymer clay, it would be great to be able to add more polymer clay after you’ve used resin and bake it once again. Can you do that? Sort of. Some brands of UV resin do have some heat tolerance, and you can give them a short, cool-ish bake. But you risk the resin turning yellow or even cracking and degrading. You should never bake epoxy resin.
Brands of Epoxy Resin
Common brands of epoxy resin are Envirotex Lite, Easy Cast, Amazing Clear Cast, Little Windows, and ICE Resin.
Doming, Coating, and Casting Resins
You’ll notice these terms are often applied to various brands of resin. Let me be clear. These are merely labels that describe how a resin behaves. These names don’t refer to chemical categories. For example, Easy Cast (a casting resin) and Envirotex Lite (a coating resin) have the same ingredients. There is also much overlap within these broad categories. You can easily use a doming resin to make small casts or use a casting resin as a coating. But there are some general points to be aware of.
(Note: there are many types of casting resins such as PMMA, acetal resin, and polyester resin, but they’re entirely different chemicals and usually used for completely different purposes than epoxy and UV resins.)
What is Doming Resin?
As resin hardens, it contracts and shrinks. This allows a thick coating of resin to sort of hump up as it cures, causing a doming effect. Some brands of resin have a stronger shrinkage factor than others. Resin with a strong shrink factor will produce a stronger doming effect.
A drawback of the doming effect is that some resins will pull away from the edges of what you’re coating. They’ll contract and bead up, even to the point of looking like drops of water on a freshly waxed car. If this happens, you’ll often need to apply several coats of resin to get even coverage.
Both doming and coating resins contract during the curing process and some brands are worse than others at giving poor coating coverage. If you’re frustrated with one brand, try another. Also be aware that some brands of polymer clay will be better at “grabbing” the resin than others. Doming resin can also cause thin polymer clay pieces to curl upward.
Coating vs. Casting Resin
The reason this distinction is sometimes made is because resin cures with an exothermic reaction. This means that one of the chemical by-products is heat. If a particular resin formulation is strongly exothermic, it cannot be used as a casting resin. Doing so means there’s too much heat in one space and you’ll get massive amounts of bubbles as the resin degrades while it cures. If you need to create a large casting, make sure to use a resin that’s specifically intended for casting.
While some resins are very thick and are formulated for casting, others are thin and intended to be used as a brush-on coating. Nail salons have been using UV resin for years. You can use UV-cure nail polish on polymer clay, in fact. Clear UV-cure topcoats are a great way to get a clear coating on polymer clay.
Another source of this type of brush-on resin is sold by Teresa Salgado in her Tiny Pandora shop. Teresa calls this Deep Shine. This is a UV cure resin that’s thin enough to brush on with a brush.
Troubles with Resin
While resin is an excellent clear coating, it does have some rather substantial drawbacks. Aside from being expensive and it’s messy to work with, here are some other issues.
Both epoxy and UV resins have a short shelf life, typically a year or less. Older resin turns yellow while in the bottle and if it’s old enough, might not cure completely.
Speaking of yellowing, uncured epoxy resin tends to turn yellow in the bottle with time. This doesn’t matter much when using resin over dark items. But the yellowing of resin will be very apparent over white polymer clay. After curing, ALL epoxy and UV resin will eventually take on a yellow color. This will happen much faster if the cured resin is exposed to high heat or UV light. Keep resin materials out of sunlight.
Soft or Sticky Incomplete Curing
If the resin material doesn’t cure properly (either due to age or improper mixing ratio), it will never fully harden and even can be sticky. Once that happens, it’s difficult or impossible to remove without ruining your item. If the item is only just a tiny bit sticky, you can sometimes make a new batch of resin and give it a thin coat on the surface. Be aware, however, that this layer can sometimes peel off in the future. (Adding a second coat to well-cured resin doesn’t seem to have the problem, however.)
Key to Better Mixing of Epoxy Resin
To get a complete cure with epoxy resin, you need to thoroughly mix perfect proportions. You’ll have less error if you mix up larger volumes. So save up several items so you can pour them all at once. Everyone has their own favorite ways to work with a material, but here are some tips that have worked for me.
- Measure the two parts into a marked medicine cup. Don’t dump out the first part before adding part two. Just add it to the top, using the correct lines on the cup. (eg. pour part A to the 10ml marking, then add part B to reach the 20ml mark) Try to use measuring cups that don’t have little tabs around the inside bottom. That makes it hard to scrape out the resin.
- Pour the cup’s contents into a clean disposable cup. Paper or plastic Dixie cups work nicely for this. (But buy them at the grocery, not Amazon…whoa they’re pricey there!) Use a stir stick to scrape as much out of the medicine cup as possible. Rather than popsicle sticks, use wooden coffee stirrers. They have a square bottom.
- Mix the resin together in a scooping motion, taking care to avoid whipping bubbles into the mix.
- Pour this mixture into another Dixie cup, scraping as much out of the previous cup as possible.
- Using a new stir stick, mix this resin mixture thoroughly. Doing this second cup and stick solves most mixing errors.
- Pour from this cup.
Resin is messy. It’s the kind of thing that you want to do in a dedicated space where children and pets have no access. It also takes a bit of concentration, so you don’t want to be interrupted while dealing with resin. Make sure to have a clean box to put over your epoxy-resin-coated items to keep dust from falling onto them during the 24-hour cure.
Resin flows like syrup, and if your surface isn’t level, the resin will spill over and make a mess. Make sure the table you’re pouring onto is level.
While spills clean up easily with rubbing alcohol, it’s easy to miss little spills because it’s clear. Wear an apron while you work with resin. It can get messy fast.
Due to the mixing process of epoxy resin or just due to the act of pouring itself, it’s common for resin to have lots of small bubbles. These need to be popped before you cure the resin. The best way I’ve found to remove bubbles is as follows:
- Get a pair of magnifying glasses so you can see up close.
- Let the piece sit for a few minutes so the resin can self-level, and the bubbles can rise to the surface.
- Use a heat gun or a candle lighter (the long type) and pass quickly over the surface. This will pop most of the bubbles. You can also use your breath through a straw. You’ll see bubbles pop that you didn’t even know were there. Be careful that you don’t make the resin overflow by blowing it around.
- Inspect again with the magnifying glasses. Look for any bubbles that are lodged down in crevices or textures. Use a needle tool to encourage them to surface.
- Repeat the heat gun step.
- Let self-level for a few minutes. Then cure.
Is Resin Toxic?
Neither epoxy nor UV resin is acutely toxic (technically speaking). It will not poison you. However, because the material in BOTH UV and Epoxy resin is highly allergenic, you should absolutely minimize your exposure. Some people become intensely hypersensitized and have severe allergic reactions. Therefore, organic vapor respirators are recommended but not required. You should also prevent skin exposure (use gloves!) and use proper ventilation when mixing and pouring resin. Once you are sensitized to this material, you will always have an intense allergic reaction to it. And the more exposure you have, the more likely your body will become hypersensitized to it.
Two brands of epoxy resin, Little Windows Brilliant Resin and another one called Art Resin both advertise that they’re non-toxic. They’re not made from something particularly unique. They’re both made of the same general ingredients as the other brands of epoxy resin. Remember, resin is NOT toxic. They’re not lying. But it’s a bit of marketing sleight of hand to avoid mentioning this hypersensitivity issue.
Bottom line… WEAR PROPER PROTECTION WHEN YOU USE RESIN. EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Mixing Things into Resin
You can mix mica powders into resin to make a beautiful shimmer. Powdered chalks or pigments can color resin as well, but can be grainy. Alcohol ink can be used to color resin. Most of the “resin pigments” that you see advertised on online marketplaces (such as this) are actually just packets of mica and pigment powder.
If you color UV resin with any powders or pigments, you might block the light’s ability to reach the resin and cure it.
Speaking of powders…have you seen my new Guide to using Powders with Polymer Clay?
pigments, mica, and more
Are you getting the most out of your little jars of powders?
Guide to Powders
Learn to use mica powders, pigments, metal powders, and dye powders with your polymer clay in this 90 page comprehensive eBook!
Pigments, Mica, and More
Are you getting the most out of your little jars of powders?
Learn to use mica powders, pigments, metal powders, and dye powders with your polymer clay in this 90 page comprehensive eBook!
Is Resin Compatible with Polymer Clay?
Because some materials like varnishes, paints, and glues can be softened by the plasticizers in polymer clay, compatibility with polymer clay is a common concern for clayers. Rest assured, both UV and epoxy resin work perfectly well on cured polymer clay. There are no short or long-term interactions.
When Should You Use Resin?
Resin is best used when a thick, glassy layer is desired. Adding resin has somewhat of a magnifying effect and can make shimmery, sparkly polymer clay projects appear even brighter. It’s the perfect coating for the Holo Effect Technique. Resin also works well to fill shallow depressions to give the appearance of water in fairy gardens or to make dewdrops on leaves and petals.
Resin can make a good shiny coating, but if your item has a lot of texture, you’ll be happier using a varnish for this. Even light-bodied resin is still quite viscous and can make subtle texture disappear.
If your item is fairly smooth and you want a glass-like shine, any resin can give you this effect. Thin coats of brushed-on resin work well for this, too, but only if you have already removed the surface flaws. Brushing resin overa bumpy surface will just accentuate the bumps.
For alternatives to resin, check out my article on Resin Alteratives for Polymer Clay. You can also sand and buff smooth surfaces. While resin is faster, it has a very different effect. Sanding and buffing is only hard and time-consuming if you’re doing it wrong. Luckily, I have a Sanding and Buffing eBook that can help turn that around. I sand and buff some things, and I resin coat others. They’re not interchangeable and it’s always best to choose the finish that give the look that you are aiming for.
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88 thoughts on “Using Resin with Polymer Clay”
I make polymer clay earrings and since I started, 2 years ago, I have used resin to seal my earring backs. Today, I had a customer upset because two pair of her earrings came in with loose backs. The picture she sent showed her earrings that looked like the resin got to hot and just slid off the earring card. Has anyone ever had this issue? Would a different UV resin withstand stronger heat? If so, can someone recommend a different product to try? I was mortified they came to her in that shape. Thank you in advance!
Fully cured resin does not melt and slide off your earrings. But without seeing the photo or having more information, I can’t say what happened. One thing to consider…if the resin was not fully cured and still somewhat soft, it could easily be deformed and flow.
If I cast a chess piece in epoxy resin, and then put paper clay around the resin, will the paper clay stick to the resin? I want to make chess pieces with faces on them, but my chess piece mold won’t work with clay, so I have to cast resin in the mold and then maybe put a layer of clay on top and shape it for the face.
I can only find results about painting resin over clay, and not the other way around (clay over resin), so I was curious if clay sticks to resin.
I’m sorry, I’ve never worked with paper clay and can’t give much information. The best way to find out is to try it.
I am wanting to cover a vase with clay and apply resin. Will the brush-on resin be best, or even work? Or, maybe a spray on?
I’m not aware of a spray resin. Resin will be hard to apply evenly to a 3-D surface. It will run before it’s cured. There IS a spray varnish that might work for you. Spray Varnish for Polymer Clay: We have a winner!
how do I remove a bit of CURED UV resin on an item. I just made some earrings and some require resin to be removed, just a small bit
Probably easiest to scrape or carve it off. Or use your dremel.
I have a question…. I am using sculpey clay to put into a jar with resin covering half… making pebbles and rock look….. is there and bleeding of the sculpey color and what resin do you suggest?
Once baked, polymer clay is solid vinyl. The color will not bleed. As for resin, I’m not an expert on resin. I can only suggest to choose a quality brand name of casting resin.
Hello Ginger! Great post with a wealth of information! I’m currently into a year of returning to making polymer clay earrings and selling in my shop. Since my return of working with clay from 6 years ago, trend wise a lot has changed.
I now use UV resin to coat the front of some of my earrings to give them a high shine! Most recently a popular clay earring artist suggested that’s not a good idea if you plan to sell your jewelry and especially for more than standard pricing of non resin earrings.
The reason suggested is that epoxy resin is said to be stronger and longer lasting than uv rain therefore you can charge your works worth. Do you have any insight before I purchase epoxy for my next projects? Thank you!
I’ve never heard of such a thing. UV resin does tend to yellow faster than epoxy resin, but they will both yellow with time. That has nothing to do with pricing, though. Pricing is a marketing decision. None of these materials have tangible, material worth (ie. it’s all plastic, not gold) so I’m surprised about that strategy.
Hi, Thank you so much for all your info. Other than resin, could you recommend another product that gives a shiny hardened coat to polymer clay projects? I’m trying to create a quality item (jewelry dishes, trays, etc). Thank you very much! ♥
There is no other product that gives the same hard, shiny, clear finish. Please explore this article to get a better understanding of our clearcoat options. https://thebluebottletree.com/understanding-polymer-clay-glaze-sealer-varnish/
1. How can we add two fully cured pieces of polymer clay and resin and help to stay longer in place? and 2.) there is any trick or product application to help the resin better attatch to the polymer when pouring over a cured piece of polymer? I am planning on incorporate resin pieces into polymer pieces. I am thinking in super glue but in my mind using glue in a jewelry piece is not a geat idea. Thank you.
Make sure that the surface of your polymer clay isn’t oily. Resin usually stays attached quite well unless the piece is flexed. I see no need to use anything else to “attach” the resin to the polymer clay. If your resin is popping away from the polymer clay, I would use a different brand of resin. Also, if it’s popping away when you’re drilling a hole through the resin, have a look at this article.
Hi there, I cannot seem to find an answer to this.
When drilling into my cured polymer clay that has cured resin, more than 24+ hours old the resin ‘lifts’ up from the polymer clay and detaches. Is there anyway to stop this from happening? It’s a good quality resin so I don’t think it is that.
Perhaps I should have sanded the clay top first?
I have washed the clay to make sure it wasnt dusty… but I literally can peel the resin off.
What would b up solution!?
Have a look at the article here. I think it’ll help.
Hi Ginger, I’m having trouble with UV resin. I feel I’m doing everything right when it comes to using it. I let it sit for about 3-5 min. Then hit with heat for bubbles to pop. I see no bubbles, but when I cure them and take them out they have bubbles. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.
I would guess you’re using too much heat. But I’m not an expert on resin and you’d likely find better answers in a resin forum or website.
Thanks for this very detailed and useful article! Have you ever tried to pour UV resin over unbaked polymer clay? And have you ever baked clay and UV resin together? I am making miniature jars of canned vegetables and would like to be able to use raw clay, as some veggies fit much more realistically into jars if they are soft. But I am afraid of the chemical reaction over time. Thanks! You have just got a new subscriber 🙂
I made a lovely UV Resin Gemstone that I want to attach to the top of my Polymer clay trinket box. What would be the best way to attach it? Thank you.
I routinely place epoxy resin coated objects into an old oven to speed up resin cure with no ill effects whatsoever . I have been using this technique for many years.
At what temperature, though? That is HIGHLY relevant to your point. I do not recommend that anyone heat their epoxy resin to a higher temperature than what the manufacturer recommends!!!
When using resin with polymer clay, does the hardener have to be added?
You don’t mix resin with polymer clay. You would pour it on top of it. So yes, the resin would need to be catalyzed (with either UV or hardener) or it will remain sticky.
Hi! I have searched everywhere for a reason for an issue I just had with epoxy resin and polymer clay. I have been coating my sculptures in resin for years and not once have I had this issue. The resin seemed to not adhere to the entire clay surface area…so it looks rippley or streaky. I wish I could attach a photo so you could see.
I have no idea what caused it. My house is always the same temperature -usually 75 during the day and 69 at night. Not under any vents. It was baked days prior so was fully cooled. I am so sad because this is a gallery piece and I feel like I completely ruined it. Is there any way to fix this issue? It didn’t pool strangely right away…it was many hours later that I noticed…almost like it ran off.
Thanks in advance!
If you do not apply enough or a thicker coat the resin shrinks or pulls away from edges as it cures. I would try to do another coat and try to fix your issue. I use a paint brush also and male sure I apply a thicker coat. Remember you need to use a lighter to get bubbles out. I find that those step helps to smooth the epoxy also. You just lightly run the lighter close to the layer of resin after applying it. Don’t touch the actual resin just run it over to get bubbles and or smooth the epoxy. I then clean my paint brushes with nail polish remover with acetone and dry it with a folded paper towel.
Hi Ginger…just a quick question regarding the epoxy resin. I have just made two different pieces if jewellery, one with Pinata inks and one without…the inked one seems to be still tacky whilst the other one is fine. Is there some incompatibility perhaps? The resin I used was the Pebeo crystal resin. Thanks…love your website!! Gill
Some resins are inhibited by some materials, so that is certainly possible.
Hi Ginger! I used epoxy resin on my polymer clay studs, and sprinkled glitter before the resin set. The glittery sparkly domes were cool…until I tried to drill holes, and the resin layer separated around the drilled hole. But I have also tried to set resin on a polymer clay stud with drilled holes and that was one messy disaster. Seems there is a sweet spot… best not to have too thick a layer of resin?
Resin is tricky. It doesn’t bond fully to polymer clay, it’s often more brittle than polymer clay, and so when there’s any stress on the item, the resin will often separate.
Hi! My resin is hard & clear when removed from light. Sometime though, after handling it, it looks cloudy or smudged. It is still hard & not sticky. What could cause this? Even alcohol will not remove the smudges…it’s like a glass table or mirror where you can’t get it “clear”…
There are many reasons why resin doesn’t cure completely, depending on the brand and type of resin. You might want to contact the resin manufacturer for tips.
Hi, Ginger, Do you have a favorite UV Resin for polymer clay? Are all UV curing lights about the same? I’ve been looking into Lisa Pavelka’s Magic Gloss as a resin and the SUNUV nail light. Any pros/cons to either?
Sorry, I’ve not done a direct comparison with all the various brands of resin and would only be guessing.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise.
Any chance you’d be up to doing a uv resin comparison? Please
Well, I’m not a resin specialist. And there are MANY brands of resin (and unbranded Chinese repackaged resins) and I’d have to buy them all and test them. You’d need funding and a huge research department for all of that work!
Hi there! Beginner polymer clay jewelry maker here- is it necessary to sand/buff pieces before resining or can you get away with going straight to resining after baking?
No, you don’t need to sand and buff first. But you will have a better finish if the clay is smooth. Make it smooth before baking. But if it’s already baked, you can smooth the surface by sanding.
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