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. Thank you for sharing such an excellent piece of research. So well written and methodically carried out, I am sure it will help a lot of us who were undecided about which brand of translucent polymer clay to use.

  2. I can not tell you how much I appreciate your taking this project on as translucents
    have driven me nuts ever since I discovered polymer clay — it just never seemed to
    give me the effect I wanted. Looking forward to trying your methods/clays now.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Anne, I’m just following the directions on the package. I haven’t yet tried “experiments” with other clay brands besides Pardo. I’m with you, I don’t always get the results I want either. I gave up working with trans for a long time because it always seemed to turn brown and ruin my hard work. Bit by bit I find out things that help. There is so much to learn!

  3. Hey, Ginger! Congratulations on being featured today at PolymerClayDaily.com for your translucent experiments! I’m so proud of you, and it couldn’t be more deserved! You are awesome! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your continuing experiments with translucents.

    Lynda

  4. I Ginger ! I will just have one another look at your post (with the tracduction, because I’m not “fuent” in english), but I’m so happy to find a post on translucent… I’m just “working” on that this days !!!! If you want to have a look …
    Kind Regards

    1. Don’t worry. Nowadays we can translate anything with the internet tools. Your earrings, pendant, and “little thing” are really something. Thank you for showing me. I’m bookmarking your blog so I can see what else you create!

      1. Hi Ginger ! And thank you for repliing ! Your post is really a pleasure, and usefull… for exemple, I will try to bake more than I do (around 10 to 20 minutes, no more usually). And thank you for visiting my blog… See you 😉

  5. Hi, What a timely topic. I am always searching for this info. I am dizzy with trying to tell the difference between Premo 5310, 5317, and 5527. I get the idea from their website that they may be a bit confused, too. Any comments would be wildly appreciated. Thanks for the info.

    1. I think you’re right. They’re as confused as we are. I was also confused so I put down the numbers. What surprised me is that the old “Premo w/ Bleach” is also called 5310 but it doesn’t act the same. I thought about comparing it as I still have a brick of it, but figured that would just confuse everyone even more.

  6. What a really interesting comparison thank you so much for doing this and sharing it. I am trying out Cernit as I read Emma Ralphs experiments with Cernit and Pardo a while ago so thought I would give it a try.

    1. I’d never worked with Cernit before. I liked aspects of it and found it promising enough that I put in an order for more yesterday. I hope I can find a way to make it even clearer, like with the Pardo. That would be nice. I liked the way it looked and felt better than Pardo.

  7. Pingback: More on Pardo Translucent Results | Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild Reporter

  8. Pingback: Polymer explained clearly | Polymer Clay Daily

  9. Fabulous, Ginger! What a useful and thoughtful comparison–great examples and methodology. Yes, my co-author and I had decided that Premo White translucent is our go-to trans for lack of color shift and all around strength and availability; but it’s really nice to see the side by side comparisons. Huge thanks!!!

    1. Hi Randee, I think each of these clays has its place (well…most of them). I’ve never been one to use Premo, but now I just might. This has been a fascinating subject for me, both with what I found out in my tests and with all the feedback and information I’ve received from others. I’m so glad you found the information helpful!

    1. Yes, that would be great to share on your Facebook Page. I did find your page and liked it with my own page. Yes, I agree, I think clayers everywhere would appreciate the information. Thank you!

    1. Christine, I’ve been a huge Kato fan for many years. I’ll be interested to run these same tests on Kato with more realistic temperature and times. I suspect it can get a lot clearer, too. I tried to follow your FB link but it seems to be private. I would love for you link my article on Voila. Feel free. Thank you!

  10. Thank you very much for this great experiment with all brands of translucent clay.
    Huge work! Thanks again for sharing your experience.

  11. Great post Ginger! I’m addicted to translucent clay so this info is very valuable. I work a lot with Premo Trans. because of its slight color. It gives things a vintage feel. I love mixing herbs and spices into it for a natural feel. I do like the finish of Fimo and Cernit too. For some reason I can’t get past the smell of Kato. It is a migraine trigger for me. I would love to try some pardo. I’m kicking myself for not picking it up at Hobby Lobby when they still carried it here.

    1. Yeah, Kato has a smell for sure. Very vinyl plastic. Now see, you’re making my point about how the Premo can actually be the superior clay for some situations. Vintage would certainly be one of them. Definitely the right clay for the work you do!

  12. Wonderful, thorough testing methodology, Ginger! For pure translucency, it looks like we have some “clear” winners 😉 And, you make a good final point that for any uses beyond the thinnest “see-through” intents (translucency), other brands characteristics should be taken into account for our particular applications, such as base color, strength, flexibility, etc. I did a pathetically simple test over two years ago of translucents and blacks. http://www.flickr.com/photos/11boldstreet/5155040254/in/set-72157625207679151/ Guess that I’m saying that those of us who can’t readily get our hands on Pardo and Cernit at our nearest hobby stores shouldn’t immediately despair in our translucent choices for most other uses of translucent. (And, isn’t it amazing that we have all these choices?!)

    1. Susan, I thought your test was very good in showing the different colors of the translucent clays and also for showing how well they polished up. They are certainly very diverse materials and act in much different ways. For instance, kato is hard to polish up but Pardo is easy to sand and buff to a high gloss. We certainly do have choices! And I’m thankful for mail order. I don’t like paying shipping charges, but when I find a good supplier I don’t mind buying things online. I’ve actually had much better luck online than locally. Local can be very hit or miss.

  13. Margaret Donnelly

    Very nice comparison, Ginger! I’d suggest going one step further. In working with Kato Polyclay, getting a true, completely clear (and glossy) finish requires the use of a heat gun. When the item comes out of the oven, heat it with a heat gun for a few seconds–you’ll see the translucent go from slightly milky to crystal clear. Try this with all the brands and see if they react the same. Of course, this is contingent upon your desire to achieve that crystal clear, glossy finish! 🙂

    1. Ah, I can see how that would be really important when using the trans in layered cane work or with mokume gane. I will have to try that. Thank you for the idea!

    2. I have tried the “heat gun” treatment with kato translucent and never got the clearing expected. The heat gun works very well on the liquid clay. Do you have to do the heat gun immediately after it comes out of the oven?

    3. What type of heat gun are you speaking of? If this is true it would be quite mind blowing for what I’m making with clay.Fantastic research and information just seeing this in Jan 2017 for the first time. DB.

    1. Someday I want to test each one of these clays and see what the optimal time and temperature combinations are for clarity. We’re only scratching the surface on what we can learn!

      1. That would be fantastic! Thank you for all your testing – such a time saver for the rest of us. I was very interested to see your comments on Kato clay snapping. I don’t do much clay stuff but recently I designed some hair pins which require some bending and I was shocked when the Kato versions snapped (premo was perfect). Didn’t realise temperature was so crucial. Usually instructions say don’t over-bake!

      1. This test is very useful.
        I do not have the opportunity to work Pardo polymer clay or Cernir but I asked myself these questions already between Fimo and Premo.
        Your presentation inspired me. I think to make a chart with the different colored transparent clay Fimo often changing appearance after baking.
        Thank you for following my humble blog.

  14. Thanks for this post. I never work this sensibly to make a meaningful comparison. So far I have nearly always disappointed with translucent clay, but I will try again with higher temperatures (and pardo if I can).

    1. I hope you do try working with the Pardo. It’s got a different feel to it than Premo or Fimo. But it is extremely strong and clear when baked. I plan on doing some more experiments to see if I can’t get rid of those pesky white air bubbles in it. So many ideas!!!

  15. I’ve tried a number of translucent brands also. I actually found Fimo Effect Translucent when baked at 265-270F to be more translucent than when it’s baked at 230F. It’s the only translucent I buy.
    Thanks for sharing this Ginger!!

    1. There needs to be more testing done for sure. I think most of the clays need to be baked at higher and longer temperatures to get better clarity. That test is going on my to-do list!

  16. First I have to thank you for this great length test. I so far prefered Fimo but next order will be Pardo for sure. I love your creativity!

    1. You’re welcome! I already knew how great Pardo was, because I do use it. But I’d never worked with Fimo before and I can now see how it certainly has its place. Very smooth and easy to work with, unlike my usual favorite, Kato. There is so much to learn! Well, hopefully doing these tests has helped others find the right clay for their project. Thanks for stopping by. Happy claying!

    2. I used a thin layer of pardo over a transferred picture, and baked that for 30 minutes at 275 because I was using premo in the project as well and it came out almost as if I’d put a clear gloss on top instead. I did the same thing with premo and it didn’t come out nearly as clear.

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