Aug 4, 2009

Battle of the Brands - The Polymer Clay Conundrum

Many of us start with one brand of polymer clay to start, and as we embrace the clays pros, we often eventually get used to the cons as well and work our way around them. But what if you knew which brand was right for you before you even touched the clay? Each polymer clay brand has many characteristics that make it distinct from other brands, so if you are looking for a specific trait in your clay, you might want to read on. Who knows, you might find something better then what you are working with right now.

I have personally tried every popular brand of polymer clay, and there are about five of them. There are also the polymer clays that require painting afterwards, like Studio by Sculpey as well as Super Sculpey... but I will not get into those.

The five most easily attainable clays are Fimo Classic, Fimo Soft, Sculpey III, Premo, and Kato Polyclay. Each have their own distinct characteristics, pros, cons, and baking times. These are my findings in point form:

Fimo Classic
Baking: 230°F / 110°C for 30 mins (per 1/4" thickness) Do not exceed 265°F / 130°C
· The firmest of the clays. Although it has gotten softer after many new formulations over the years. It has suffered many problems in recent years due to unsatisfied sculptors who favoured the old formula over the new ones.
· Difficult to work with, especially for beginners.
· Needs quite a bit of conditioning, preferably by using a mallet or by using a pasta machine.
· Tends to crumble over time, especially if poorly stored.
· Comes in a wide range of wonderful colours, including pastels.
· Great for caning and firm enough to sculpt easily.
· Certain colours can darken in the oven.
· Very hard after baking.

Fimo Soft
Baking: 230°F / 110°C for 30 mins (per 1/4" thickness) Do not exceed 265°F / 130°C
· Extremely easy to work with.
· Good for beginners.
· Softer than Fimo Classic but not as soft as Sculpey III.
· Does not need any conditioning, and can be worked with right out of the package.
· Can get sticky or mushy when over worked.
· Can be britle after baking, but not as britle as Sculpey III.
· Darker colours can bleed into lighter colours.
· Comes in many different colours as well as special effects like stones, textures, metallics, glow in the dark, translucent, etc.

Sculpey III
Baking: 275°F / 130°C for 15 mins (per 1/4" thickness)
· Extremely easy to work with.
· Great for beginners.
· The softest clay to work with.
· Does not need any conditioning, and can be worked with right out of the package.
· Can get sticky or mushy when over worked.
· Can be very britle after baking - the weakest of the clays.
· Colours tend to stay the same before and after baking.
· Translucent Sculpey tends to brown while baking.
· White Sculpey is very bright.
· One of the best colour palettes of clay there is. There is metallics, stone, textures, pearls, translucent, glow in the dark, pastels, fluorescents, etc.
· Not very good for caning, but some people HAVE accomplished it.

Premo! Sculpey
Baking: 275°F / 130°C for 30 mins (per 1/4" thickness)
· My choice as the best clay to work with. Highly recomended!
· Easy to work with.
· Softer than Fimo Classic or Kato, but not as soft as Fimo Soft or Sculpey III.
· Needs minimal conditioning.
· Certain colours can be a little soft, but most are nice and firm.
· One of the strongest clays after baking.
· Colours tend to stay the same before and after baking.
· "Frost" Premo is one of the best translucent clays.
· Has an "artist palette" when it comes to colours. Such as Cadmium Red, Zinc Yellow, etc. Artists find this fantastic, but if you aren't very aquainted with the artists palette, it can be a little difficult to mix colours.
· Not as many "fun colours" compared to other clays.
· It can be very temperature sensative, so it can get mushy on hot days and really hard to work with in the Winter.
· A great "all purpose" clay, and a total happy medium between all other clays.

Kato Polyclay
Baking: 300°F / 150°C for 10 mins (per 1/4" thickness)
· A very firm clay, but not as firm as Fimo Classic.
· Not recommended for beginners.
· Needs conditioning - preferably with a pasta machine.
· Can become crumbly if poorly packaged.
· Does not stay conditioned (workable) for long.
· Baked Kato Polyclay has a natural sheen.
· Surface seems to reject waterbased glazes like Varathane.
· Great for caning.
· Not as many "fun colours" compared to other clays.
· "Translucent" Kato Polyclay is very transparent.
· Strong after baking.
· Has a very strong smell during baking. Almost like the smell of "new doll".
· Tends to *gunk* up the sandpaper if you are sanding it.
· Is very good at smoothing and leaves little fingerprints.
· All colours tend to be the same firmness.


In Conclusion...

My personal favourite clay to work with is Premo. It really is the happy medium of polymer clays, although it isn't exclusively what I work with. I do not work with Fimo Soft or Kato much, but I love Sculpey III for it's awesome colour palette, and I ocassionally use Fimo Classic because it is so firm. If I need a lot of one colour, say... a nice bright red, I tend to combine one each block of the Sculpey III "Red Hot Red" with Fimo Classic "Carmine" and Premo "Cadmium Red"... the result is a fabulous bright hue of red with the firmness of something between Premo and Fimo Classic. It's lovely.

I really dig the "Frost" Premo as opposed to the "Translucent" Premo. The difference is that a bit of bleach has been added to "Frost" which results in much less browning compared to "Translucent".

Mixing brands can be done no problem, all you have to do is adjust the baking time. For example, if you are mixing Fimo Classic and Sculpey, you should go with the lower temperature for Fimo Classic, and possibly bake it a little longer. Just experiment, and use your best judgement!

Comment me with your findings to share your thoughts with the viewers! Who knows, we might all learn something. Happy claying!