Using Resin with Polymer Clay

Learn all about using resin with polymer clay.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 Solarez. 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

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 cures with a UV light or sunlight.

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.

This UV cure resin cures very fast and hard.
This UV resin from China sets up extremely fast and is very hard. It also smells really bad. But it is a very good doming resin.

Epoxy Resin

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.

Doming resin will create a slight dome effect with pendants.
Doming resin will create a slight dome effect with pendants.

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.

Doming resin can cause thin polymer clay to curl upward.
These Holo Effect cutter ornaments were coated with the Chinese UV resin mentioned above. The strong contracting effect cause the thin polymer clay to curve 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.

Brush-On Resin

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.

UV nail polish is a UV cure resin that can be used 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.

Shelf Life

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.

Yellowing

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.

All resin yellows over time.
I made this Holo Effect pendant six years ago. It’s been kept in a box. You can see how much the resin has yellowed. I used Envirotex Lite for this project.

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.

It’s Messy

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.

Bubbles

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. Respirators are not required, and although the materials tend to smell bad, the fumes will not poison you. But you should minimize skin exposure and use proper ventilation when mixing and pouring resin. This is because the material tends to create hypersensitivity reactions in some people. In other words, it’s not toxic, but you can become very sensitive or allergic 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.

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?

Colors, Dyes, and Sparkles!

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 over bumpy work will just accentuate the bumps.

For alternatives to resin, check out my article on Understanding Clearcoats with 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 alternatives. Either way, you’ll love using resin with your polymer clay projects.

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40 thoughts on “Using Resin with Polymer Clay”

  1. Is there any kind of safety info on the Chinese UV resin? I love it and it’s cost effective, but I wonder what it’s made of. I know there are different laws in different countries about chemicals. I’d hate to be using some sort of industrial-grade, toxic chemical in my home by accident.

    1. All of these resins are pretty much the same material, whether they’re “industrial” or not. They are not acutely toxic, but they are ALL highly allergenic and some people develop extreme sensitivities to them upon exposure. This is true for all brands of epoxy and UV resins, regardless of the country of origin.

  2. I have been considering making dice from polymer clay and using resin as a casing to keep the edges firm. What resin would you recommend to:

    a) keep edges flat with extremely minimal doming/bulging, and
    b) provide a hard enough surface to keep the dice from cracking when used consistently?

    1. This project would be nearly impossible. Resin flows and rounds naturally. You would need to sand each edge after curing to form a sharp edge. Also, the die would be terribly unbalanced and not able to be used as a real die.

  3. Hi Ginger! I have a quick question that might seem silly to someone who uses polymer clay alot. I have been getting into uv resin and making jewlery and other things with that and have been wanting to incorporate clay into some of the things I am making. I was wondering if I submerge a clay piece completely into resin do I need to bake the clay first or do you think I can get by without baking it at all? I am just wondering how I should go about doing some of the ideas I had in mind. I would really appreciate your input! Thanks 🙂

  4. Ive read your article on resin, looked at lots of tutorials, but cannot find anything relating to glueing a resin coated polymer clay piece (cabochon) to a metal base. In my enthusiasm to try resin I didnt plan ahead and now want to stick my beautiful piece to a metal ring base and would normally do this by baking a layer of polymer to incorporate the two. Would resin between the polymer clay and metal work? Super glue alone is not strong enough. Thanks

    1. The better a cabochon fits into the metal bezel, the less the bond will rely on glue to stay tight. Epoxy glue is nearly identical to resin, so that’s the one that I’d choose. But if superglue is not holding this bond, it worries me that the fit is poor and no glue will be sufficient.

  5. Emily Breaden

    Hi Ginger, just a question witn painted polymer clay and Magic glos resin. I was doing a textured pattern with acrylic paint on cured polymer clay. Once dry i then applied the resin and cured the resin in the uv lamp. Everything looked great untill i started to assemble the peices. The cured resin slid off the piece. It appears that it didnt stick to the acrylic surface i created. Thoughts?

    Thankyou

    1. Resin is being used in all sort of ways lately that are not time-tested. I’m sorry that you ran into trouble with it. Resin is best used when it can integrate with and soak into a surface, such as when it’s used on wood. It sometimes doesn’t work so well when used on acrylic paint. I’ve experienced it myself, too.

  6. Denise Fitzsimmons

    Thank you so much for all the resin information! I have been using a Chinese brand called Limino and it usually works great. However, I have noticed that on a few pieces the resin cracks and lifts from the clay either during the time under the UV lamp or directly afterwards. I find this happens more on larger pieces. Any ideas why this is happening?

    1. If it’s a strong doming resin, it will contract strongly during and after the curing process. While this makes the liquid contract into a dome, it can also cause it to arc upward and off the surface of the polymer. Try a resin that doesn’t dome so well.

  7. Hi Ginger,
    Please help me! I am getting so confused about the type of UV nail lamp to use for resin. I was watching a review on You Tube by Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor of the Melody Susie nail lamp. Cindy was saying that the LED bulbs are great for nails but not for clay and there were some interchangeable UV bulbs for the resin. These must have been sent especially for Cindy as the model on Amazon only comes with with LED bulbs. Does this mean no UV nail lamp is suitable for for resin (they all seem to say UV LED). Please help, I am soo confused now. I have some resin arriving soon. I am in the UK, so weather can be rather unpredictable, so sunlight is not my best option. Help me please Ginger!

    1. I know exactly the confusion you’re referring to. I tried to figure it out and kept running into lots of “our product is the only one that works, the others suck” type of marketing and my “myth-meter” was off the scale. It seems that every “authoritative” source says the same thing and everyone quotes each other.

      I can tell you this. I have several types of UV resin and I have both an LED flashlight and the regular “fluorescent bulb tube” type nail lamp. Both work. So does the sun.

      I think there might be a nugget of truth somewhere in the midst of this, but finding it might be difficult. I suspect that the most important factors are to have fresh UV resin, to avoid using chemicals (alcohol inks and acrylic paints for example) on your item, and to use a bright light. The brighter the light, the faster the cure (generally). But I’m not aware of a reliable difference between the types of resin that correlates to the type of lamp to be used.

  8. I love using UV resin with polymer clay for coating purposes, however a friend of mine asked me if UV resin can be baked. I have never tried it before, so I was wondering if you have any information on this?

    1. Polymer clay bakes at pretty low temperatures, so UV resin doesn’t burst into flames or anything like that. But heat hastens the decomposition process and drastically shortens the lifespan of the UV resin. It tends to turn yellow and you’ll find that it breaks down much sooner than it otherwise would. I also wonder about the safety of doing this. No manufacturer of any resin recommends heating their product to our baking temperature.

  9. Janet A Carulli

    I have been using the UV hard resin to coat the tops of my pedants. My larger ones (1 x 2 inches) are bowing as if the resin is pulling or shrinking. Is there a way around this?

    1. The dome resins or quick cure UV resins sometimes cause this.
      I have seen people:
      Coat both sides of the piece to counter act the bowing.
      Make the clay a bit thicker so it won’t bend with the resin.
      Use a different brand of clay that is stiffer.
      Inset stiff non-bendable wire in the clay to prevent warping.
      Use a different non-dome resin.
      Or non UV resin as it cures slower.

      Maybe try one or more of these tricks.

  10. jessica robbins

    Great article! The brush on UV gel polish seems very interesting to me! Do you think this will make the pendants stronger just as it makes a regular nail polish job much more durable? I have been getting into making crystal pendants embedded into decorative polymer clay “castings” but I am looking for ways to make them much stronger as cracks seem to develop quite easily. Do you think brushing on a layer of the polish will provide a stronger and more protective covering?

    1. Yes, thicker coats of resin will make things stronger. However, polymer clay is incredibly strong as it is, and if you’re getting breakage then your process needs to be examined. Make sure you’re baking long and hot enough and that you’re using a strong brand of clay.

  11. I’ve gotten into resin recently and I love it! I also love how thorough your articles are.

    I do have to say, though, that Magic Glos is by far the worst of the UV resins I’ve tried. It didn’t cure for me under either my traditional UV or LED UV nail lamps, it took forevvvvver in sunlight, it yellowed EXTREMELY quickly, and it shrunk so much that what were flat surfaces are now concave! I’ve had a few test pieces sitting in my window for a few months to observe how they degrade, and the Magic Glos looks like I added yellow to the resin on purpose. The other resins were Resin Obsession’s Super Clear (a two-part epoxy casting resin, which is still indeed super clear) a Chinese UV resin (slightly off-clear, but not what I’d call yellow yet), and two varieties of UV gel top coat (both holding up quite well).

    Maybe I just got a bad bottle or something, but I was extremely unimpressed with Magic Glos, especially for the price. 🙁

  12. Thank you Ginger for all the great information. I love all the uses of resin but have piece milled information and I am surprised the directions are minimal when you purchase these different resins. Until today, I did not understand casting resins vs the doming resins. I am thrilled to have found your site with great information and your desire to have accurate information, thank you. Like everything….you must learn the rules and then you can break them.

  13. Bette J Lorman

    I have noticed that Deep Shine may start to set up even before you get it into the UV lamp. I was waiting a few minutes for bubbles to rise before using the light and it started to form a skin just in my desk lights. I would suggest if you are going to wait a while for bubbles, to do it in a dark place or cover with something to block out the ambient light.
    Thanks for a great article, Ginger.

  14. Hi. I have a cleopatre 2 part resin. I dont know if it still sells. Mine is probably 2 years old. Maybe a little yelow in the bottle, but works good for me. I have got two small bottles that pour drop by drop. I filled with the two components and do very small mixes of 5 drops A and 10 drops af B. Just in case somebody wants to do small volumes.

  15. As usual, Ginger, your post on resin is useful and clear. Thanks for all the work you do to research and write these posts.

    I have wondered about differences related to pouring. I always coat a number of items at the same time. After curing, I’ve noticed that some items have areas where the resin has pulled away and some have trapped bubbles. I’ve wondered if these effects are related to which items I coated right after mixing, when the resin is most fluid, and items I coated last when the resin is starting to thicken. Worth further study!

  16. Great article Ginger! May I add that if you want to cure quickly resin -and you don’t have UV lamp – you can put the item in your kitchen or clay oven for about an hour at 50-70C. Resin will harden during this time and the temperature is not too high even for plastic items. After an hour resin is hard enough to touch, remove it from a mold etc. This way you keep your piece safe of dust and lint as well while curing. I do this trick all the time and I am very pleased with the results.

  17. Robin Stevens

    Thanks for another wonderful article! I have used resin but was confused by the different kinds. This helped a lot!

  18. Chris Crossland

    Thanks for this article, Ginger! I find that there is a lot of confusion, especially for people who have not used either UV or 2-part. This article gives clear, concise information about the pros, cons and versitility of the common resins we all love to hate (sometimes)! I have experienced yellowing, especially in thick applications like water in a koi pond. I do keep my UV resin refrigerated because according to one site that sells it, this will extend the shelf life.

  19. Just an additional comment. There are thousands of resin artists who use acrylic paint in resin. The rule is to never use more than 10% of any paint in your resin. Some resin artists even use oil paints! I have not had good luck with oil paint and stay away from mixing acrylic paints into my resin directly. I do however drop acrylic paints onto partially cured resin. There is no problem with curing in this technique. Now many resin manufacturers are producing their own paints to be used in their resins. Some also make powdered pigments that work well. Resin has become the art material of the decade with at least 30 new manufacturers popping up everywhere—much like the pouring mediums are so popular for the acrylic pours. I think the large number of resin manufacturers is due to all the acrylic pouring that is so popular now. Resin can enhance the colors that were so vibrant when the acrylics were wet, but then dried flatter, and the resin brings back that original vibrancy of the colors.

    1. Thanks Jeannie, I’ve amended the article to take that out. I wonder if there are different types of paint/resin combos because mine didn’t work. Yes, the world of acrylic and resin pouring is HUGE. I hesitated writing this article because I knew I could not be comprehensive enough for all the ways resin is used in the art world. So I tried to focus on just clearing up the confusion and helping polymer clayers take the step into working with resin for the first time. My apologies that I missed (more than a few) points!

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