Best Paint for Polymer Clay + Tips for Perfect Results

Heads and hands created from polymer clay surrounded by various sculpting tools.

Polymer clay is a type of modeling clay that can be used to create endless items, including ornaments, jewelry, magnets, pots, and more.

Polymer clay doesn’t actually contain clay minerals, but it behaves in the same way as clay in that it is moldable and can be baked to a durable finish. 

What paint do you use on polymer clay? Acrylic paint is a great choice for use on polymer clay. Acrylic paint is a versatile, water-based paint that comes in a wide variety of colors and can be modified to make it longer lasting or for use on items that will remain outdoors.

Whatever art or craft projects you wish to create with polymer clay, there are a few important steps to follow if you want to paint your items with acrylic paint.

This article will teach you how to properly apply acrylic paint to your polymer clay projects in order to ensure spectacular results. 

The Best Way To Paint Polymer Clay

The best way to paint polymer clay is to choose a high-quality heavy-body acrylic paint and to use the right size brushes for the job.

The following tips will help you to create a painted polymer clay project that looks amazing. 

Let Water Evaporate Before Baking

If you decide to paint your polymer clay before baking it, it is essential that you allow time for the water from the paint to fully evaporate before putting the clay in the oven.

Bake Before Painting

It may be easier to paint the polymer clay after baking, as the clay will be hard and dry and easier to paint with a paint brush. 

Make Sure Clay Is Completely Cool Before Painting

Making sure the clay is completely cool will make painting much easier as heat can change the properties of certain types of paint, making it more challenging to apply. 

Use Rubbing Alcohol To Help Paint Adhere to the Clay

If the paint isn’t sticking to the surface of the polymer clay, try dipping a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and rubbing it into the clay.

Best Paint To Use for Polymer Clay

Heavy-body acrylic paint is the best choice for use on polymer clay.

Heavy-body acrylic paint is a thicker consistency paint, which means that it offers better coverage than a lower viscosity, more liquid paint. 

Golden Heavy Body Acrylics

Golden brand Heavy Body Acrylics is a professional grade set of 6 colors that can be mixed to create pretty much any color you can imagine.

The set comes with 2-ounce tubes of paint that can be thinned as needed.

Liquitex Professional Heavy Body Acrylics

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Liquitex is another reliable brand that is known for their high-quality products. Their Professional Heavy Body Acrylic Paint Set comes in a set of 12 richly pigmented colors.

Not only are these paints low odor, they are also sun and water resistant once dry. 

MyArtscape Heavy Body Acrylics

Acrylic Paint Set - 24 x 100ml Bottles with...
  • ACRYLIC PAINTING SUPPLIES - 24 x 100 ml jars of non-toxic professional acrylic paint by MyArtscape
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The MyArtscape set of 24 Heavy Body Acrylics is a great choice for artists who want to take the guesswork out of color mixing.

These paints have a matte finish that is perfect for any polymer clay project that needs a more subtle appearance. 

5 Painting Tips for Polymer Clay

1. Choose More Opaque Paint

If your paint is too transparent, it can make the finished project appear streaky and amateurish. Choose a paint that has a higher opacity, and pay attention to the opacity of different colors!

Some colors, even by the same brand, may require more coats for full coverage than others. 

2. Pick the Right Paint for the Job

If your polymer clay project is going to be outside or in a place where it will be exposed to a lot of moisture, it will be important to choose an acrylic paint that is designed to withstand the elements. 

3. Use the Right Size Brushes

In general, you will want to use smaller brushes for detail work and larger brushes to cover the background area. 

4. Make Sure Clay is Cool Before Painting, or Paint Before Baking

For best results, allow the clay to completely cool after baking before applying paint. The bigger your clay project is, the more time it will require to cool. 

You can also apply paint before you bake the clay. If you choose this route, test the paint on a small piece of scrap clay to make sure that the heat doesn’t change the color of the paint. 

5. Use Sealant To Make Your Project Last Longer

In order to ensure a more durable finish, be sure to apply sealant on your finished project. Sealant is easy to use and comes in different finishes, from high gloss to satin to matte. 

How To Seal Paint on Polymer Clay

To properly seal paint on polymer clay, you will first need to make sure that the paint is completely dry. Sealant can come in spray on or brush-on varieties.

For the spray on variety, hold the sealant 8 to 12 inches away from the project and spray in even, horizontal strokes. Aleene’s Acrylic Sealant is excellent to use and won’t yellow over time.

For the brush-on variety, apply the sealant in a thin layer in the same way as you would paint. You may need to apply more than one layer in order to get full coverage.

Liquitex Professional Varnish is a great option and is smooth and easy to apply.

Let the sealant dry for at least 24 hours before handling the item. 

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Aleene's 26412 Spray Gloss Finish, 6 Oz Acrylic...
  • Acrylic sealer spray provide a protective, clear finish
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Liquitex 126604 Professional High Gloss Varnish,...
  • Archival; Permanent; Non-Removable; Gloss finish
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Can Oil Paints Be Used With Polymer Clay?

Oil paint takes quite a bit longer to dry than acrylic paints, which can be a challenge, particularly if you are interested in applying a sealant.

You may have to wait several weeks before varnishing the clay item.

However, due to its long drying nature, oil paint can also provide opportunities for techniques that are not available with faster drying paints. 

Common Problems When Painting Polymer Clay

If your paint doesn’t seem to stick to the polymer clay or the color of your paint seems different after baking, rest assured that there are solutions to these problems!

1. Paint Not Sticking

If your paint isn’t sticking to the polymer clay, this can be a sign that the surface is too slick for the paint to adhere to.

Solution

Use rubbing alcohol to make the surface of the clay less oily. You can also sand the surface of the clay to roughen it up a bit, which can help with adhesion. 

2. Paint Changed Colors After Baking

The paint was vibrant when it went on, but when you take the clay out of the oven it’s dull and faded. What gives?

Solution

Some paints react negatively to heat, so it’s always best to test paint on a scrap piece of clay before baking your project. You can also try painting the clay after you bake it. 

3. Paint Looks Streaky

Some paints are more transparent than others, giving your polymer clay a streaky look where you can clearly see the brush marks.

Solution

Choose higher opacity paints, and/or paint additional layers on your project.

Some paints will have their opacity level listed on the label, and certain colors tend to be more opaque than others.

4. Paint Chipping

You’ve crafted a magnificent polymer clay sculpture, baked it, and painted it, only to find a few days later that the paint has begun to chip. What do you do to avoid this outcome?

Solution

Be sure to apply multiple layers of paint and to allow each layer of paint to thoroughly dry before applying the next.

If your project will be outdoors or will be handled a lot, it’s a good idea to apply a sealant to the item. 

5. Bubbles in Paint or Brittle Clay After Baking

You painted your polymer clay, stuck it in the oven, and then took it out…only to be confronted with a bubbling mess, or, worse, clay that is crumbly and feels like it’s about to fall apart.

What causes this and what can be done to prevent it in the future?

Solution

Bubbles in the paint or brittle clay after baking are both signs that the water from the paint wasn’t fully evaporated before you popped the clay in the oven.

You can avoid these problems by giving the paint more time to dry before baking the clay or by painting the clay after baking it. 

Related Questions:

Can You Use Paint Pens on Polymer Clay?

You can indeed use paint pens on polymer clay. Be sure to choose a pigment-based pen in order to ensure longer lasting results. 

What Can I Use To Shine Polymer Clay?

Use a high-gloss varnish or sealant if you want to add shine to your polymer clay project. 

Conclusion

Picking a high-viscosity, heavy-body acrylic paint is key to creating gorgeous color for your polymer clay project.

When applying paint prior to baking, be sure to allow adequate time for the water in the paint to evaporate before sticking the clay in the oven.

If you are wanting to increase durability, you will want to apply a sealant to the finished product. 

Last update on 2022-05-18 at 12:18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Cara

Cara

I am a writer and an artist taking opportunities every day to transform my dreams into reality. I love learning new things and am always creating and innovating. I worked as an Art Instructor, teaching painting and art techniques to artists of all levels and ages. I have hosted countless paint parties and taught children’s art classes both in my home as well as an art teacher at a Montessori school.