Oolong's Zoo

Polymer Clay Critters and Other Sculptures

A string of pearlsSeated critterSeated critter (front view)Spirit of FrankieSpirit of FrankieSpirit of FrankieSugru cat 2We don't make good wives

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Different Kinds of Polymer Clay

There are many types of polymer clay available, if you know where to look, and they all have advantages and disadvantages. Many people will argue passionately for one variety or another, but I have noticed that some of the major brands are surprisingly inconsistent between colours, and possibly between batches – so sometimes I see someone dismissing Premo Sculpey in favour of Fimo Soft, on the grounds that the latter is too soft and floppy, but sometimes I see the opposite.

Sculpey III and Fimo Soft are the varieties I see for sale most often in the UK; Fimo Soft has largely supplanted Fimo ‘Classic’, probably because most people – kids especially – can’t be bothered with the extensive kneading the latter requires. However, the Soft kind is sometimes too soft, failing to hold delicate shapes or support the weight of a sculpture on legs. Sculpey III is if anything even softer, while in my experience Premo Sculpey is slightly firmer, but still a good deal less work than Fimo Classic. How firm you like your polymer clay has a lot to do with how hot your hands are, your patience, and the delicacy of the sculpture you are trying to achieve.

Much more significant than the differences between these mainstream brands is the leap from them to Super Sculpey or Super Sculpey Firm. These are far better at holding delicate shapes and fine detail, making them much more appropriate for some kinds of work. They do take a lot more kneading to make them pliable, but I find that only a minute or two of squashing and rolling gets them ready to use. Their big disadvantage is in the colours: Whereas the more common brands of polymer clay come in a dizzying range of attractive colours, standard Super Sculpey is always roughly the colour of northern-European skin, while the Firm variety is a sort of granite-grey. Obviously that’s great if you happen to want to make something in one of those colours, but otherwise you’ll be looking at a paint job at the end of it; of course some people are very happy painting their sculptures, but it’s not for everyone.

Achieving quite similar effects are Puppenfimo, also known as ‘miniature doll Fimo’, and Sculpey Living Doll. Aimed chiefly at the ‘art doll’ market, these are slightly softer than Super Sculpey, and the latter is available in several different fleshly colours. They retain a slight softness when cooked, and make for tough little sculptures which are slightly translucent, like human flesh.

Many other kinds of polymer clay are available – Creall-Therm, Cernit, Kato and Makin’s all have their own brands, about which I have heard good things, while Fimo and Sculpey have a range of other varieties which I haven’t touched on here. New products are devised on a regular basis – polymer science is very much a living field, and the polymer clay companies are spurred on to ingenious new applications by current high levels of interest in polymer clay as an artistic medium.

posted by frm at 12:10 pm  

10 Comments »

  1. Different opinions and reactions to various polymer clays is often surprising. For example, my experience with Super Sculpey is that it all but melts in my hands, though I still need to try Super Sculpey Firm to see how it compares.

    Great blog, I especially like the step-by-step kitty sculpture photos. I’ll have to check back.

    Comment by V. Neely — 9, February 2007 @ 5:18 pm

  2. Thanks V! Indeed, I’ve more than once been puzzled by people’s opinions of various clays. If you find Super Sculpey too soft, what do you like working with?! I find it significantly tougher than Premo… but maybe that’s just down to different batches, or something! I wonder.

    Comment by Oolong — 9, February 2007 @ 5:35 pm

  3. I will say this: I’ve opened up packages of Premo that were hard and crumbly, and I’ve opened up packages of Premo that were way too soft. Usually they’re somewhere in between, a softness I’m happy with. I’ve read that the age of the clay and also whether it’s already been exposed to heat can effect the quality. Maybe I just got an unlucky with my batch of Super Sculpey…

    Would it be okay to add a link to your site/blog from my site?

    Comment by V. Neely — 9, February 2007 @ 7:22 pm

  4. It is odd how inconsistent the various brands are, isn’t it? I think you must have just been unlucky with Super Sculpey, I’ve definitely found it to be tougher than Premo.

    Of course you can link to my site/blog! I’ve linked to yours already. :) I’ve also given you a review on StumbleUpon

    Comment by Oolong — 10, February 2007 @ 10:23 pm

  5. I love, love, love your animal sculptures! Terrific! :)

    Comment by Ben Can Dance — 30, June 2007 @ 5:43 am

  6. thanks for your post. I need this to make a college job in Mechanics of Material.

    Comment by nash — 1, December 2007 @ 10:05 am

  7. This is helpful, I’m looking to make toys similar to Meredith Dittmar’s “My Guys” series with a group of kids and am currently looking for the cheapest and most appropriate polymer clay that first and second graders can work with. If you haven’t heard of her, you should check her out, very impressive artwork.

    Comment by Sherri — 11, April 2008 @ 2:17 pm

  8. try uro hot set by newclay in devon. Same stuff cheap and good……made in Britain also.

    Comment by andy — 24, May 2008 @ 9:09 pm

  9. I’ve found that the amount of clay I buy also affects the softness and smooth texture of the clay. I have purchased sculpey III in the small blocks many times and have worked with it successfully, but yesterday I purchased a large classroom bulk pack and the clay inside was amazingly much easier to manipulate once warmed. It wasn’t too floppy when it needed to hold shape either, though I did find myself needing to leave it alone to cool a tiny bit so that I could smooth my sculpture without it collapsing.
    Oh, and also, the metallic sculpies have all crumbled on me. I assume this is because of what they put in it to make it shine, but still… It doesn’t even stick to itself well when warm.

    Comment by Katie — 3, July 2008 @ 3:19 pm

  10. Thanks for the information:-)

    Comment by Sculpey Polymer Clay — 11, June 2010 @ 4:56 pm

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