Which is the clearest Translucent Polymer Clay?

Which translucent polymerclay is the clearest? When baked hot, Pardo translucent is more clear than any other brand.
Created with Pardo Professional Art Clay, this necklace shows how you can create designs that take advantage of the translucent properties and the clarity of color.

Much has been said recently about Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay. It’s a polymer clay that has been rumored to be the clearest translucent polymer clay on the market. I’ve worked with it, and yes, it is incredibly clear. But is it the clearest translucent polymer clay? Cindy Leitz made a video comparing Pardo to other brands and Emma Ralph did a comparison of Cernit and Pardo Translucent. But I wanted to see them all together. So I did what any mad scientist would do. I ran my own tests. In the spirit of a scientific research paper, here are my findings.

What’s the Clearest Translucent Polymer Clay?

  • Each brand’s translucent clay has its own characteristics. They’re not all alike.
  • Pardo and Cernit’s translucents are the most clear by far, and have little color cast.
  • Premo’s translucent polymer clays are quite clear, but have a beige color cast.
  • Fimo, Sculpey III, and Kato have translucent clays that are not very clear.
  • Any translucent will be cloudy when thick, none are perfectly transparent.
  • Most translucents will brown easily if your oven’s temperature is incorrect.
  • Pardo, however, becomes much more clear when baked hot and is remarkably heat tolerant with little browning.
  • The clearest translucent polymer clay brands work well for faux glass effects.
  • The less clear brands of translucent polymer clay work nicely for faux stone effects and to give a less chalky effect to your colors.
  • For more info about working with translucent clays, check out the Translucent Clay FAQ

Which brand is the clearest translucent polymer clay? Read the article at The Blue Bottle Tree to find out.

Materials and Methods

I compared every polymer clay brand’s translucent that I could find. I conditioned each clay, carefully avoiding the introduction of bubbles. I rolled sample sheets in the thickest setting (#1) on my Atlas pasta machine and the thinnest (#8) that I could make (the machine goes to a #9, but I’ve never had clay come through that alive). The thick setting is about 1/8″ (3mm) and the thinnest is about the thickness of a playing card. I baked all brands according to the directions on the package (which I have to say don’t give the best results). All of the clay I used was recently purchased and appeared to be fresh, with the exception of the Cernit. The package I have is several years old.

The brands of translucent polymer clay I tested, and the temperatures/times used were:

  • Pardo Professional Art Clay, 250°F (121°C) for 30 minutes
  • Cernit, 265°F (130°C) for 30 minutes
  • Kato Polyclay, 300°F (150°C) for 10 minutes
  • Fimo Effect, 230°F (110°C) for 30 minutes
  • Sculpey III, 275°F (135°C) for 15 minutes
  • Premo Translucent, 275°F (135°C) for 30 minutes
  • Premo White Translucent, 275°F (135°C) for 30 minutes

I baked these in a full size oven which has been checked for temperature accuracy. I baked all samples on a ceramic tile inside of a covered foil pan.

Results

Unbaked Clay

A sample of raw uncured translucent polymer clay in several brands was compared for color.
Pardo, Fimo, and Cernit translucent polymer clays start out quite white in the raw state. Kato, Sculpey, and Premo are colored in their raw state. It’s no surprise that the clays stayed that color once they were baked. Interestingly, though, the color had little to do with the translucency once baked.

Thin Sheets

Comparing thin sheets, which is the clearest translucent polymer clay? Read the answer at The Blue Bottle Tree.
Thin sheets of translucent polymer clay show Pardo, Cernit, and Premo to be close rivals for holding the title for most translucent.
Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay, Cernit, Kato Polyclay, Fimo Effect, Sculpey III, and Premo polymer clays are compared for translucency on a black background.
Which is the clearest translucent polymer clay? Comparison of thin sheets of translucent polymer clay displayed on a black background. Note the white flecks in the Pardo Professional Art Clay.

Thick Sheets

Thick sheets of various brands of translucent polymer clay comparing how their color and translucence is once baked.
Comparing translucence of thick sheets of translucent polymer clay on white. Note that you can barely see through any of them, but the Premo does appear to be clearest when thick.
Cured sheets of translucent polymer clay are compared for color and translucence on a black background.
Thick sheets of translucent polymer clay are compared on a black background. You can really see the color here. Sculpey is the most colored and the Premo clays appear quite  colored.

I started this experiment fully expecting that Translucent Pardo Art Clay would be the clearest translucent polymer clay. So imagine my surprise when in this side by side direct comparison we see that Pardo Translucent Art Clay, while very transparent, is not appreciably more transparent than other brands, in particular Cernit and Premo. It is obvious in this photograph, though, that Sculpey III and Kato Translucent are not particularly translucent. (***See note below about Kato Polyclay.)

Results by Brand Name

Pardo Professional Art Clay

The favorite going into this test, it is certainly no slouch. You can read through it as cleanly as several of the other brands. The big plus for Pardo, though, is how white it is. The clay is white when raw, and once baked this does not change. But a troubling feature of Pardo Art Clay is that it forms tiny air bubbles or inclusions. No matter how carefully I conditioned this clay, these little air pockets occurred. If you’re trying to get a glass-like finish, this could be a deal breaker.

Cernit

Cernit was every bit as clear as Pardo. You can easily read through a thin sheet. A thick sheet is not any less clear than the other brands and compared very favorably to Pardo. But note how the texture of Cernit is much more clear with none of the air pockets or inclusions that you see with Pardo. Cernit is also very white and clean.

Kato Polyclay

Kato Polyclay was the most opaque of all the translucent polymer clays tested. It was not as tan as the Sculpey and Premo. It had more of a yellowish tinge. The color and opacity of Kato didn’t appear to change much during baking.

***Note*** I disagree with the directions on the Kato Polyclay package. The package clearly states that 10 minutes is the recommended baking time. But both the thin and thick samples of baked Kato snapped accidentally while I was taking photographs. I work with Kato all the time. It’s my preferred clay brand, and I’ve never had it break like this! But I always bake it at 300°F (150°C) for 30 minutes. I think it would be safe to guess that Kato Polyclay would be more translucent if baked longer than 10 minutes. I’ll check on this someday. But for now, I’m not condemning Kato.

Fimo Effect

I was pleasantly surprised with Fimo Effect. It was easy to work with and the color was absolutely white. While it was not very translucent, it did not impart a color at all.

Sculpey III

Sculpey III is an inexpensive hobby clay which is disliked by serious polymer clay artists, so I was not surprised at its poor performance. I’ll leave working qualities for another day. But for now it’s obvious how this is a strongly colored, quite opaque clay.

Premo Translucent

What a pleasant surprise! Although it does have a color in both the raw and cured state, Premo Translucent is a very translucent clay in both thin and thick sheets.

Premo White Translucent

I will have to admit that I was not expecting Premo White Translucent to perform as well as it did. It is just as translucent as Pardo or Cernit. And although it does have a tan color, that color does not get in the way of being translucent. You can read through both the thick and thin sheets as well as with any other brand. The only drawback is the tint. It is not quite white.

Discussion -Which is the clearest translucent polymer clay?

Is Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay the clearest translucent polymer clay on the market? Yes. And no. No other clay is clearer. Cernit is certainly just as easy to read through and is just as white. But it’s not better than Pardo. Premo White Translucent is just as easy to read through as Pardo, but it has a tint.

So which translucent polymer clay should you buy? It depends on your use. If you’re going to be tinting the clay with alcohol inks, then you really need one that is both translucent and clear white. Pardo or Cernit are going to give you the best results in that case. But if you’re needing a background to pack a millefiori cane then Premo White Translucent is probably your best choice. If you’re wanting a clear layer over your design or you’re working with mokume gane, then I’d pick my clay based on either the physical properties (softness, cure temperature) or the colors I am using. If my design features warm tones then the brownish tinge of the Premo translucent clays would not be a detriment and they’d work well.

So Pardo Art Clay isn’t the clearest translucent polymer clay?

Well, here’s where it gets weird. I performed the above tests using the manufacturer’s recommended temperatures and times. But polymer clay artists are reporting that Translucent Pardo Professional Art clay becomes much more translucent when baked at higher or longer temperatures. Is there any truth to this? You know I had to check, don’t you?

Compare Pardo Translucent Art Clay when baked at low and high temperatures and you can see that it is much clearer when baked at higher temperatures.
When baked at 300°F (150°C) for 30 minutes, Pardo Art Clay is remarkably clearer than when baked at 250°F ( 121°C). I included Cernit just as a comparison. I didn’t bake it at a higher temperature.

I also baked a thin and thick sheet of Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay at 300°F (150°C) for 30 minutes. When baked at this temperature, a waxy residue forms on the surface of the clay and this needs to be removed before painting, gluing, or finishing the piece. But aside from that, wow is it clearer! It is remarkably more clear than Cernit when baked at a higher temperature. The piece also had fewer of the little air bubbles or inclusions. Cindy Lietz baked her test Pardo piece for an hour at 250°F ( 121°C). She found that there were even fewer of the pesky air bubbles. So perhaps baking at 300°F (150°C) for an hour is something to try.

Recommendations

If you can find Translucent Pardo Art Clay, then by all means buy it and have fun. It’s a fantastic clay to work with. But if you can’t find it, or if you’re not comfortable purchasing polymer clay online, then all is not lost.

Translucent Cernit polymer clay is just as white and as clear as Pardo Art Clay when baked at the recommended temperatures. If you want a clean, clear clay which imparts no color to your finished piece, Cernit is an excellent choice. Especially if you can’t tolerate the physical imperfections that Pardo can have. Cernit sort of looks like frosted glass when cured. But it’s not as clear as Pardo baked at higher temperatures.

Premo White Translucent is just as clear as Pardo Art Clay and depending on your use can give you remarkably clear results.

Curious about Pardo Translucent? For more information about Translucent Pardo Professional Art Clay, check out my post that I wrote about it. I discuss strategies for curing it, how it behaves, and I show several examples of its use. I also discuss where to buy it and give a couple of suppliers.

Thoughts

I didn’t write this article to compare physical qualities of the different translucent polymer clay brands. They are very different and sometimes you have to choose your clay based on factors other than translucence. That is part of the art of polymer clay. It’s a highly technical medium which is easy to dabble in but it takes a lot of experience and experimentation to know which materials to choose and how to manipulate the materials to get the results you want. Discussing the features, qualities, uses, and performance of the different brands is something I’ll leave for another day.

In the meantime, I have a bin full of Pardo Translucent. And I’m going to get busy. Stay tuned!

Oh…I almost forgot. I typically post most days on my Facebook Page. Go like my page to get more information as I run future experiments. The Blue Bottle Tree’s Facebook Page.

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97 thoughts on “Which is the clearest Translucent Polymer Clay?”

  1. This is great!! I make scale model supplies for model horses and I’ve been looking for a great salt substitute instead of digging thru cartons of himalayan pink salt, trying to find big chunks 🙂

  2. Monique Herriman

    Hi Ginger, great information! I would like your opinion on a project…I’m making stones for rings for my sisters and I. I am using flowers from my parent’s funeral’s that were professionally freeze dried. The look I would like is clear, no color imparted so that the pieces of flowers are completely visible. This will be the larger center stone of the ring, then on either side I will use my grandmother’s (who has also passed) loose Swarovski Crystals in my parents birthstone colors as accents to the primary stone which is the flowers baked in the clay. Again, I want the clay clear, not the brownish tint…what is your advice and guidance on achieving this, as these stones will be somewhat dome shaped and fairly thick. I will be so grateful for any wisdom you could impart!

    1. Hi Monique, I don’t think this can be accomplished with polymer clay. Look into using an epoxy or UV resin such as Enviro-Tex Lite or Lisa Pavelka’s Magic Glos. Polymer clay will always be cloudy and will obscure the flowers.

  3. Baking polymer clay at higher than recommended temperature can cause harmful fumes to be released. Something to be considered, particularly if using a regular household oven.

    1. “Harmful fumes” is a very nebulous term. In reality, polymer clay is non-toxic and only releases harmful gases when it burns, and it does not burn until it gets close to 350°F. When that happens, the clay turns black and hydrogen chloride gas is released. It’s not toxic, it’s caustic, and can cause lung irritation (because it forms hydrochloric acid upon contact with moist lung tissue). It does not matter if you are using a household oven, a heat gun, or a toaster oven…burning clay is to be avoided. But baking clay slightly hotter, in a controlled manner, is perfectly safe as long as you do not burn the clay.

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  6. Why must the name of Sculpey III be taken in vain simply because it is the clay of choice for the budget minded? I have some wonderfully intricate and beautiful pieces made entirely of Sculpey III. Sculpey III is my go to clay of choice. It’s what I started with and it’s what I stick with. I know what to expect from it and how it will behave under different circumstances. I hate to seem as though I am generalizing one opinion statement from your article, but it seems to be the way of the world to assign lesser status to products and/or services simply because they are the lowest price.

    1. I have a low opinion of Sculpey III because of the hundreds of stories I’ve read of newbies who are heartbroken to find their pieces have broken. When I was a new clayer, I bought all brands and mixed and matched them. Over time it became clear that things made with Sculpey III would crack and fall apart. Just last month, in fact, as switchplate cover that I made from Sculpey III glow in the dark shattered and fell to the ground. It’s mushy too work with, too soft for caning, many of the colors darken during baking, and its translucent…isn’t. Price has nothing to do with my opinion of it. In fact, where I live, it’s the same price as Premo and higher than the price of Kato Polyclay. And besides, clay is so often on sale that there’s really no reason to buy it at full price unless you’re out of a certain color. Every clay has its merits and you’re so right that when you know what to expect from a clay then you have better results. It’s not really a BAD clay, it’s just that it has limitations that cause a lot of frustration because other clays are better suited for the purpose. If you’re making figurines that will not be handled, Sculpey III is an excellent clay. But for jewelry, for anything requiring durability and/or flexibility, there are much better choices.

  7. Wonderful information. Want to go out now and buy Translucent. Having a hard time finding a shop that sells Pardo or Cernit. Can you help? One shop on internet said importer for Pardo has gone out of business.

    1. Hi Pat, yes, Pardo is having a bit of a supply glitch at the moment. The small company which previously imported Viva Decor products from Germany did, indeed, go out of business without notice. But as these things go, people are working to get another Pardo supplier up and running. There will be delays as new purchases are made, shipped, put through customs, etc, so we have no idea when it will be readily available again, sadly. The best bet would be to subscribe to the newsletter at http://www.polyclayplay.com because Trish will likely be the first person to get it when it once again becomes available, and her newsletter will be the best way to stay on top of that. In the meantime, try to find some at a local Hobby Lobby store. Some stores do have some Pardo trans still in stock.

  8. Thank you for this article, it is super helpful and informative. I’m curious about the residue formed on the Pardo clay when baked at higher temperatures though…how did you go about removing it? I’ve read somewhere that sanding doesn’t seem to help.

    1. The residue seems to be waxy, so sanding would just gum up the sandpaper. I usually just use rubbing alcohol and a toothbrush. And try using hot water, too.

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  10. One thing I didn’t see in the discussion was the hardness and ability to take on a high shine without the use of varnish or coatings. I my view Kato wins hands down. The directions Kato gives regarding heating times are way too low. I called the tech guy at the company and he agreed. I heat the clay at 325 for 40 minutes depending on thickness (accurate oven is important), and bump it to 350 for the last 10 minutes. I always preheat the oven. The clay is just much, harder than Premo. I sand with flexible micron papers from Rio Grande and polish with an ultra soft buff on a high speed wheel. The shine I get was impossible, for me at least, to achieve with any other clay.The others are too soft even after extended baking times. Believe me I tried, because it’s not an easy clay to condition.To condition the Kato, I use a dedicated Black and Decker food processor for 1.5 minutes. I can condition 4-6 ounces in one batch this way and it greatly cuts down on the pasta machine rolling chore. I chop the blocks up into little chunks and drop them into the processor over 20 seconds or so. It’s brutal on the motor, but mine has held up fine. I am just careful to not let it overheat. I recently made some “beach stones” using Kato, and when polished they were impossible to tell they were not real unless you picked them up. I tried everything with Premo and there is no comparison. The hardness of Kato not only helps the polish, but the hardness can actually be felt when you touch the objects.I really like the way a polished pieces feels in my hands. Almost like a real stone.

    1. You’ve brought up some fantastic points, Frank. I ran this comparison as a baseline comparison of the various brands’ translucent right out of the package and according to the package directions. I am fully aware that each brand’s clay is not being used to its full capacity in this test. At some point in the future, I want to experiement and find the best conditions for maximum translucency in each clay brand and part of that will include how well it buffs up and holds a shine. Your information is invaluable and I will definitely consider it when I run my future testing.

      I agree completely about Kato being hard, and it’s interesting about how hot you bake it. The tech guy (is it still Tony Aquino?) let me in on that secret years ago, but I didn’t realize you could go quite that hot with it. I think all the clays can go quite a bit hotter than the manuf tells us, but there are other changes, besides strenght and clarity, that happen, too. Each clay is so very different.

      I’ve done marbling which included both Kato and Pardo and then polish with the ultra high micro grits and then buffed. The surface was not completely flat on a micro level because the Pardo wore away more than the Kato. And yes, it’s hard to keep a shine on a surface that’s soft…even normal wear will dull it straight away.

      I also use a food processor to condition difficult clay. Though I’ve not had too much trouble with Kato if it’s fresh. It’s only my old stuff that’s crumbly.

      Thank you so much for your comment and the great information. I know that I will find it useful and hope that others will too. Come back for a visit anytime!

  11. Fabulous information! Thank you for putting in the time to do this. I am new to working with PC, and this was incredibly helpful for my goals.

  12. Ginger, THANKS! What patience you must have to so meticulously do these experiments! They are helpful beyond belief!
    Just wanted to et you know your hard work is so appreciated! See you on Flickr:)

      1. lol I was telling my mother in law I would get to something as soon as I was caught up and she laughed and said that I will never be caught up. She is probably right! Thank you again for testing Pardo Translucent. I have put a link on Poly Clay Play to your review. I hope that is okay with you.

        1. Exactly. Never caught up. My mother is legendary for always telling me that she’s “behind”. Behind what, I ask? I’m so glad you found the article useful. And thank you for the link. I hope people will be even more encouraged to try this versatile clay. Personally when I “get caught up” I want to try Viva Decor’s other products. There are some pretty, pretty things there!

  13. Thanks for doing this test. I usually use Premo, and it’s good to know that it does well in the translucency test. I usually bake at 275°, but I’ll have to try it at 300°.

    Great comparison!

    1. I was also pleased to see that Premo is a good alternative. I used to work with Premo when I did cane work years ago and always liked it. It appears that the newer Premo white translucent is even clearer. We have so many options now!

  14. Jayne Traeger-Bliss

    Your efforts are much appreciated Ginger! Thank you for taking the time to experiment and provide such good detail.

  15. Hi Ginger, This was excellent! I was really interested in all your observations, especially those about cooking Kato clay. We use Kato at Samunnat in Nepal mainly because it handles the monsoon heat. It doesn’t get so sticky and we can work with it a bit more than the other clays which became a bit unworkable. The short cooking time is great for us to with such limited power but I have always wondered if it is long enough! What temperature would you cook at if you were using Kato with Premo translucent? Or would you not combine the two?? We have tried some translucent effects but found the Kato translucent not so translucent (like you). It would be great to be able to get the effects with combining the two clays. Thanks again for the time you put into the research AND for sharing it! Wendy Moore

    1. Hi Wendy, I haven’t specifically tried combing Kato and Premo translucents intentionally, but much of my “mud” clay that I have sitting around and various color mixes does include both Premo and Kato. I usually bake at 275 when doing that and I’ve not had trouble with Kato being weak or staying uncured. But I DO bake everything at longer duration. Without doing test, though, I can’t be sure what to recommend. I’m also wondering if the baking times and temps are going to be different in Nepal anyway because of the elevation? But I agree with you about the mushiness of the clay. There is a reason that I typically use Kato!

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