Your miniature questions are welcome here!

The original Miniatures Question and Answer Blog was the brain child of Nikki Rowe from Witch and Wizards Miniatures. Lately, she realized that she was spreading herself way too thin to continue doing all the things she's involved with well.

Since we all wait in anticipation of what awesome item she'll create next and we all want her to concentrate on making those fabulous mini's that we love, I have agreed to take over the responsiblity of the Miniature Question and Answer blog.

Format is the same. Once a week, on Sunday or Monday, a new question will be posted, researched and, with any luck, answered. You are all welcomed and encouraged to comment with your own answers and suggestions.

If you have a miniature related question you'd like investigated, the best way is to send me an e-mail.

But you can also put it in the comments section as a suggestion for the following week and, hopefully, I'll find it.

Nikki will be deleting the original blog so you will have to "re-follow" here, but I have saved all the questions...and answers and comments and they will be the subject of the first post.

Sounds like fun, eh?



Friday, October 1, 2010

The first question was about Polymer Clay.  The information can be found below.  Please feel free to add any comments if you wish.
nikkinikkinikki72 said... I would like to know about which clay is considered the strongest for fine small work.I make unicorn horns and bones etc and the tiny ends can snap easily.
I’ve tried various brands and mixing in fimo quick mix, but still the clay can break with not too much pressure. I do mix sculpey mould maker in because it makes the baked clay slightly flexible and prevents breaks, but it makes the clay sticky to work with.
Tabitha Corsica said... This is, by far, the best polymer clay site I have found.
Scroll down till you find "About Polymer Clay".
Lots of good stuff here. #36 discusses the strength of various clays. These people have done stress tests, scorch tests, you name it...they tried it. And posted the results.
This is where I learned the "mallet technique" for conditioning really old Fimo. It works, too! There is a lot of information but take the time to read everything.  Main web address is .

Whittaker's Miniatures said.....I seem to remember Vicky Guile saying she uses Kato clay as that good and strong for miniature work. I’ve never used it myself, but it’s one I’d like to try. I guess the best thing to do is buy a couple of basic colours to see if you like it and not make an expensive mistake like I did when I bought a new Sculpey product loving the pastel colours already mixed and found I couldn’t get on with it!!
I have 2 separate questions please. Firstly any advice on preparing and rolling out paperclay? I know I’ve asked before but I can’t get on with it. Do you condition it first, work it, kneed it or use straight out of the pack if rolling out in sheets to make flooring etc ?
Also with uncoloured products like Super sculpey or Pro Soft can you paint it after baking directly or does it need some primer or preparation before using acrylics on it? I tried painting Super sculpey and it wouldn’t stick on the item!

kailysn said... Is there a book or an online resource that lists the ratios of translucent to colored clay for miniature foods? Something like a lemon would take more than a blackberry, for example.
Brian Blacknick said... Great link Tabitha! When I run out of Super Sculpey 3 I'm going to try some of the other clays mentioned in the stress test.
As for painting polymer clay I usually mist it lightly with auto primer before painting with acrylics. It's a good idea to test the spray on a scrap piece of clay first to make sure it is compatible with polymer products!
nikkinikkinikki72 said... For Eva.
I think I understand you right. I bake clay that’s been painted with acrylics; no problem and it always comes out exactly the same.
I have noticed though with some clays (unpainted) the colour can change slightly with several/many bakes. It tends to happen to me when I have used a clay that is translucent or part translucent. I am unsure why. I read somewhere it can make clays with translucent in them have a slight pink/flesh colour if baked too many times. This has happened to me once.I paint straight onto polymer with acrylics mostly.
For Kate.....I try to use paperclay straight out of the packet. It dries quite quickly and will lose moisture if handles too much. I tend to slice off what’s needed and roll straight away. You can mist with water as you work if it dries a little.
To roll it and stop the sticking to your rolling pin I would use an acrylic rolling pin like from a cake decorating shop and work on a glass/glazed surface.
Don’t roll straight up and down but work from the middle to the edge, then turn and roll the middle to the edge again, and keep doing this.
If you only roll from the middle to the edge and then lift the clay from the part that has not been rolled you shouldn’t have a problem.
Just keep doing that.
Sometimes when painting polymer you may have to wash it to remove some of the conditioners added to the polymer. But I never do and have always been able to paint straight onto it with acrylics once baked.
You could also colour it with pastels and a soft brush before baking.
In my comment above I’ve mentioned primer. I tend to use a matt varnish spray, but for most small items I don’t use any primer.
Hi Kailsyn....The Angie Scarr book would be a good idea for you. At the start of her first book she talks you through mixes and in the tutorials through the book. It also covers lemons and oranges in the fruit section.
Here is a link. It’s the one with a market stall on the front.
I have not used the most recent book so not sure what’s in that.
But to save you money, on youtube there are loads of tutorials for making mini fruit, especially lemons.
For Brian....Thank you for that advice!  Good idea to run tests, especially for the lady above that wants to use translucents.   A good idea is to keep notes and run a few tests for mixing clays like a lemon or orange mix. Marked a to e,f,g etc and notes kept of the ratios used for each. You can find what’s perfect then.
Tabitha Corsica said... Regarding inexpensive "rolling pin" is a piece of pvc pipe. I also just slice off what I need and roll away. On rare occasion, the paperclay may be too wet or sticky. Sprinkle very lightly with corn starch. When my friend Larry was teaching a class, he ordered tons directly from the company and it came in really wet and sticky. I think when it sits on a store shelf awhile it dries out some.

Regarding different polymer clays, I agree that it is probably best to run some tests using your own oven and always keeps notes. I'm sometimes bad at that.
I have found that different poly clays take paint differently. The "ethnic brown" ProSculpt I used for the masks took the paint really well after baking but the Fimo I used when I made the little pots with faces a while back didn't. I think artists acrylics work better than craft acrylics. Washing the piece with anoil removing dish soap, like Dawn, helps the paint adhere better. So does baking for a short time after the first coat. Nikki suggested I "paint" first with a little thinned white glue, let dry and then paint as usual. That helped also.
Lorraine Escapita said... Some more about Eva's question on prosculpt discoloration:
I have been experimenting making a doll with prosculpt. I have been sculpting and baking only sections at a time which requires re-baking of the whole thing. For example, I made the torso and baked it, then I added the thighs and baked it again, then I added an arm and baked a third time, etc. I've found that if I cover the parts that have already been baked with foil, there doesn't seem to be any discoloration.
Be sure to cover it good though, I accidentally left the knees hanging out the last time I baked and now they are noticeably darker than the thighs. Sometimes I use tape to help, regular office tape (doesn't seem to be affected by the oven).
Debbie said... You might find this web site useful:-

Also this one which has done numerous tests on all the Polymer Clays for strength etc:-

Janice said... Many thanks Nikki for starting this Blog. A great idea.
I have both of Angie Scarr's books and they are very helpful but the original book, the one with the market stall on the front, was written before fimo changed their colours so some of the mixtures are no longer accurate.
The newer masterclass book would be much more useful.
I use 3 large square glass floor tiles as my working surface that were left over from my bathroom floor. Inexpensive and just the right size. I find the paperclay does not stick badly to this surface. Even fimo seems to stick less too and is much easier to remove once baked. Plus you can leave all your work on the tile and pop it staight in the oven.
Tabitha Corsica said... Someone, I forget who just now, posted that she baked her polymer clay on a tea towel (or something like that). It elimates the shiney surface that occurs where the clay has touched to tile or foil. And I guess the temp is low enough that the towel is not affected.
Debie Lyons said... I use genesis heat set paints and if I am making arms and legs I put the work on a piece of wadding. Stops the shiny bit.
I think the thing with working with polymer is that the more you mess with it, cook it etc the more it tends to produce a less than perfect effect.
To stop brittleness I drop everything in very cold water as soon as it comes out of the oven.
The thing polymer clay has plastic tendencies as does ordinary ceramic clay. If you bend or push against something hard enough it will snap. It depends on what sort of usage the piece will have which affects is longevity (sp).
Janice said... After a very annoying and frustrating day can I put up two topics for the future please?  Aging paper that you have printed on so all the ink doesn't run and....
Using scenic water so that items seem to float, in fact using scenic water full stop.
Eliza said... I love this blog idea! I'd like to discuss materials that don't hold up over time. For example, I know that clear plastic and paper turn yellow eventually. Are there other materials that we should be extra careful about using? What are some substitutes or tricks to ensure the miniatures we make will last?
Catherine said... I have a question :-) How do people that make dolls keep the clay clean while they are working on it? I clean the area I work on all my tools, wash my hands often, don't smoke cigarettes (in the house), wear white while I work and still my clay gets dirty somehow. I am starting to wonder if my hands extrude dirt of the pores. lol

Tabitha Corsica said... Yes, Catherine...I find I have a similar problem. I sometimes think I should be in a sealed room or something. lol
Also for figure artists: do you use wire armature? And if so, it is bare wire or cloth covered? I am about to undertake a "non-human" figure in polymer clay but I really think he's going to need some support to keep the shape whilst baking (and even probably afterward). I once saw a rather nasty picture of a doll who fingers had literally exploded. It was speculated that the wire within was the to avoid that, if possible.

Debbie said... Catherine, try scrubbing your hands, drying them and then rubbing Talc or Cornstarch over your hands.
Tabs I've been reading a book about making armatures. A lot of artists use foil on the armature as it gives the clay something to grip onto..

nikkinikkinikki72 said... My friend Debie from piskies and other doll artists have told me that once everything is clean and dry, if you use a little bit of the clay or blue tac and rub it all over your hands, in between your fingers and all over your tools and work surface it will pick up any last little bits you can’t see... they're hiding .
PolymerClayTutor said... My favorite clay to work with is Premo Sculpey. It is very strong, easy to work with and the colors mix beautifully. But Fimo and Kato clay are good as well, if properly cured.
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to polymer clay clay strength is for the clay to be properly baked. Most people under bake their clay.
This happens because the temperature in most ovens is very inconsistent. Heating up and cooling down. Which means your polymer piece may only be at the correct curing temperature for a short period of time.
To compensate for this many professional clayers bake their beads and miniatures for 1 hour or more. If at the proper temp it will not burn since burning is caused only by high temps not time. Use an oven thermometer and lengthen the baking time and you will see incredible results with your polymer clay projects!

~Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor

Snowfern said... I wash my hands before starting work on polymer clay, then just before I sit down to start I do a final wipe down of the work area (and my hands) with a piece of cheap baby wipes. The baby wipes also helps cleans off any clay from my hands in between switching colours.

Haffina said... If you are baking translucent or part translucent clays one way to prevent discolouration is to bake covered in corn starch or baking soda. It washes off easily after. It is also good for any light coloured clays that are more prone to darkening than darker clays.

Kim in Tampa said... Hi Great Blog! Do you have any idea about the Pardo art clay? I've heard great things and just ordered some. It is pricey so I'm hoping it is as good as I've heard. You can leave a message at in the comments section or just leave the answer here if you have it and are so inclined. Thanks and have a great day! :)

1 comment:

Kathi said...

This is a great blog for beginners like me! I'm very interested in learning tried and true techniques! Right now I'm working on some tiny polymer clay things. They are ready to bake. Thanks for the tips shared here! I'm sure they will save me lots of time and trouble. :D