A couple of days ago I wrote about optical brighteners, or fluorescent dyes, in polymer clay. Some colors and brands of polymer clay glow brightly under UV light or black light and others don’t. It’s an interesting concept, but did you realize that you can use these UV reactive characteristics to your advantage in polymer clay designs? Today I’ll give you a few examples of designs I made with these glowing UV reactive polymer clays and talk about ways that you can use these glowing characteristics to create fun UV reactive designs that glow wherever there is black light such as Halloween parties, haunted houses, rave parties, night clubs, or even just for your own fun. I’ll give you some tips for working with these materials, show you some techniques that work well, and I’ll even have a challenge for you to submit your own UV reactive polymer clay designs.
In regular light, polymer clay with fluorescent dye doesn’t look much different from clay without it. That, actually, is a fantastic characteristic because it means you can create designs that look one way in daylight and a completely different design will appear when the black light comes on. You can create UV reactive polymer clay designs that are more colorful under black light. Or ones that glow brightly so they can be seen from across a dark room. But you can also make designs that are invisible in daylight and will only be visible under black light. Here’s your chance to make hidden images and secret messages, too!
Not sure which polymer clays are UV reactive under black light and which ones aren’t? I tested the white and translucent of most polymer clay brands and you can see the pictures in my post where I introduced optical brighteners in polymer clay. But if you’ll look at your supply of polymer clay under black light, you’ll likely notice that many of the colors glow and many don’t. Use this difference to create some fascinating UV reactive polymer clay designs that look great under black light.
Techniques to Try for UV Reactive Designs
There are many ways that you can create UV reactive polymer clay designs. I’m thinking glowing skulls on a bracelet, kaleidoscope canes with fluorescent patterns forming a design, or even glowing eyes and fangs on a happy monster that only looks scary in the dark. This is just asking to be used for scary Halloween designs, trippy psychedelic patterns, and nerdy science and fantasy figurines. But if you need some techniques to get you started, here are some very simple ways that I tried. See if this gets your design muscles twitching to get started!
Sutton Slice is a fun technique created by Lisa Pavelka where clay of one color is embedded into a texture stamp, the excess is removed with a blade, and that embedded clay is pulled out of the stamp by pressing it onto a sheet of clay of a different color. You can learn how to do this great technique by watching this video by Polyform’s Iris Weiss. The great thing for us today, though, is that you can put one of the UV reactive, fluorescent polymer clays (such as white Premo) in the stamp and then use a non fluorescent clay (such as white Kato) for the background. This would result in a raised white design on a white background. But under black light, the raised design would be revealed as glowing brightly against a dark background, giving great contrast. Add a few glow in the dark accents and you create a really gorgeous design.
Recently I showed you how to create faux cameos by molding a charm with silicone putty and then using that mold with polymer clay to create a raised design on a flat background, similar to a cameo. If you use a glowing clay on a non-glowing background (or vice versa) you can create striking faux cameo designs that are mild-mannered by day and spooky scary bright by black light!
Have something to special to say, but want to keep it secret until the time is right? Create a pendant with a hidden word. Just take a sheet of non-glowing polymer clay (such as white Kato) and use letter stamps to press a message into the clay. Bake the clay, then backfill those depressed letters with a glowing clay such as white Premo. Bake again. Then you can wet-sand the extra clay so that the only Premo remaining is deep within the letters. Keep checking with your black light as you sand so you will know when enough clay has been removed. Then you’ll have a piece of clay with a hidden message that will only be visible with black light. Fun!
Another way to make hidden messages is to make tiny circles of clay in both colors of white, so that you have glowing and non-glowing circles. To do this, just roll out a sheet of clay and cut tiny circles with a straw or 1/8″ circle cutter. Remove the clay between the circles, and bake. Now you can use these circles (of both types of white clay) to create your design. I just arranged them on a dark background. In daylight it just looks like a grid of white dots on blue. But under black light the message is revealed!
Fimo Deco Gel
Because Fimo Liquid Deco Gel glows brightly under UV light but is perfectly clear in daylight, you can use it to paint areas in a design that you might want to glow brightly under black light. You could use it as an accent in a design or to cover elements that you want to stand out when the lights go out.
Working with UV Reactive Polymer Clay Designs
In general, polymer clay is polymer clay and there’s no difference between the glowing brands and colors of polymer clay and the brands and colors that don’t glow. The clay doesn’t behave any differently, so you can work with it and bake with it as usual. But there are some tips that are helpful because it’s really easy to get two colors of white clay mixed up while you’re working.
- Keep each clay separate while working. Pay close attention so you don’t toss scraps of Premo onto the pile of Kato. I like to keep my polymer clay in ziploc bags once the packs are opened anyway, so this works well to keep the clay contained.
- If you get confused about which clay you’re using, use your black light to double-check.
- Wash your hands and wipe down all your tools and pasta machine when switching from one color to the next. Residue from a glowing clay will easily contaminate a non-glowing clay and you won’t notice it until your design is affected.
- It’s okay to mix brands of clay. There’s no problem baking Premo at the 300°F (150°C) that Kato requires. Just make sure you have covered the clay (especially if it’s white or translucent) and are baking according to the tips in my articles on baking your polymer clay.
- Bake your design soon after creating it. If you leave it sitting around, the fluorescent dye will diffuse into the non-glowing clay, creating a blurry effect.
- Resin and sealers such as Varathane don’t seem to affect the UV reactive glowing of these clays. They still seem to glow just as brightly when sealed and/or varnished. However, this might not be true for all sealers, so do test it first.
- Mica powder such as Pearl-Ex will dull the glow slightly because it is made of solid particles.
Okay, does that sound fun? Well, time for you to get a black light, check out your clay stash, and get busy with a UV reactive polymer clay creation that looks great under black light. I can’t wait to see what amazing creations you come up with!