5 Creative Tips For Using Acrylic Craft Paints with Polymer Clay

Quilters Magazine

Show Me Any Craft Supply… Betcha I Can Work It Into a Polymer Clay Project:

A great thing about polymer clay is that you can use it with so many different crafting materials. This is great news because most of us who are attracted to making polymer clay beads, also have an attraction (addiction :? ) to craft supplies in general. So today I’m going to share 5 ways to use acrylic craft paint with your polymer clay…

1) Paint It On Baked Pieces Of Clay: Acrylic paint bonds very nicely with polymer clay. Paint designs, scenes, backgrounds, etc. onto the baked piece like you would paint any other project. Once dry, it can even be buffed to a rich sheen with a soft cloth or buffing wheel.

2) Antique Finish Polymer Clay Beads: A technique called antiquing is a way to bring age and dimension to a textured or stamped polymer clay beads. Dilute any acrylic paint slightly with water and brush into the crevices and embossed designs in your beads. Then wipe off the raised surfaces with a damp cloth. This leaves paint in the recessed areas of the bead, making stamped images or textured patterns show better. They end up with some ‘time-worn’ character that looks very unique. If too much paint has dried on your bead than you were hoping for, the excess can be removed with rubbing alcohol.

3) Used As A Highlight: Dipping a paper towel into some acrylic paint and ‘swiping’ or dry brushing it across the raised surfaces of a polymer clay bead can highlight its texture. This is a nice technique for rubber stamped beads or the embossed images from a texture plate.

4) Used ON Raw Clay: Some polymer clay techniques such as certain mokume gane techniques and crackled finishes are done by painting a layer of acrylic paint (often metallic colors) on a sheet of raw clay and let dry. Then the sheet is stacked or run through the pasta machine to create various crackled effects. Some brands of paint work better for these techniques than others. You will want to find a paint that doesn’t stretch very much after it dries… so that it ends up crackling when you roll it through your pasta machine.

5) Used IN Raw Clay: Although it’s possible to mix wet acrylic paint into raw clay, it can be a tricky process. You see acrylic paints contain water which will not mix with the clay. It’s an oil and water sort of thing. The water in the paint collects in tiny droplets, that later boil or steam during the clay baking process. The steam expands and must escape from the clay, which causes bubbles and little ‘crescent moons’ in the clay. Tiny amounts of thick tube acrylic paint can sometimes be worked into the clay without negative effects, but you will have to experiment to get the effect you want. That being said, for some faux stone effects, plaquing (moons) can be desirable thing.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

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  1. I tried once to paint a layer of acrylic paint on a sheet of raw clay to get the crackled finish you’re talking about, but it never dried completely, even after a few days, it was still sticky…

  2. Yeah I’ve had that problem too with the thicker creamier type acrylics. (These are probably the best kind to try mixing into the clay.)

    You could try drying the paint with a blow dryer or carefully with a heat gun, to see if it will set for you that way. Or try a different brand of paint.

    Man working with polymer clay is sometimes one big experiment, isn’t it?! :-)

    Thanks for your comment Cindy!

  3. Thank you SO MUCH for the rubbing alcohol tip! I just used it on some pieces that had too much acrylic paint patina and it helped tremendously. Now they look great!

  4. You are so welcome intothedawn! Rubbing alcohol is extremely useful in the studio. If you would like to read a tip on how to use it to clean your clay when it gets smears on it from the pasta machine, click the link by my name.

  5. I have had enormous luck with mokume gane using acrylic paints between layers: flickr.com/photos/materialgirlcrafts/3443989600/ The orientation of your brushstrokes will dictate the crackle pattern when the clay is stretched (rolled). I have learned that the crackle is result of the stretching properties of the clay versus those of the dried paint. Since the surface area of the dried paint does not expand when it is rolled out, the clay shows through.

    The paint I use dries pretty quickly, but for thicker layers I use my heat gun. A word of caution: use the gun sparingly and keep it moving. A failure to do so can lead to partial curing (i. e. disaster).

    Happy claying!
    ~Mary Beth

  6. Mary Beth your beads are gorgeous! Thanks for your tips!! You’re right about using the heat gun cautiously. It will cause the clay to cure if you’re not careful. Thanks so much for passing along your knowledge. You do beautiful work!

  7. Cindy,

    I am working on a large pendant for a necklace. I have baked & sanded it. I am now ready for the acrylic paint. Once I add the paint & let it dry, can I add the Future Floor Polish to the painted section? I wanted the pendant to really shine & considered the dipping process you had mentioned in another topic. Do I need to rebake the piece after the acrylic paint dries?

  8. Sure you can add Future to the whole pendant including the painted area if you want to. I actually prefer to brush or Q-tip the Future on rather than dip it. I find it drips too much and leaves blobs. You won’t need to rebake the pendant if you don’t want to. If you decide to though, make sure the temp is low like 100F so the paint or Future doesn’t bubble.


  10. Thanks for your comment Sandra! There is a search box at the top left hand side of every page. If you type “favorite tool’ into the post a list of possible articles will pop up. That is how to find what you need

    I also put a link to the page right by my name.

  11. you can use acrylic paint also to make a gold leaf, instead of paying too much for the real thing, just set the bleached polymer clay into the thinest setting of your pasta machine ( u can use wax paper to avoid “breaking” the sheet) and then paint with the gold acrylic in many layer you want, depends on your taste. You can make bronze sheets, silver, just imagine and do it. The rest is up to your creativity ;) maybe next week when i update my blog Ill bring some projects out to see if you guys aproove ;) …. hugzzzzzz

  12. Cool Cindy, if it stretches you can put them in a lot of use, here I gotta a 0.99 cents discount in my local Michaels for Decoart, Americana and FolkArt so I took a lot of Beautiful colors but many of them were the meatalic colors, (im in a tight budget right now to afford metalic leaves so the necessity is the mother of all creations :P) you can do wonderful with them all, Ill upload smtg as soon as I can to see if you like the idea ;) hugzzzzzzzzzzzzz cindyyyyyy

  13. Dear Cindy,

    I have a question for you. I’ve seen in 2 different books that you could have a crackled effect on polymer clay beads only with crackle varnish and an acrylic paint layer. I bought already 2 different varnishes and I didn’t had success. Then I read in a book that I needed to use a 2 component crackle varnish. Can you please help me with it? Or recommend me to buy a special varnish one?

    Thank you and kind regards from Spain.

  14. Question is not for me but let me just leave my opinion here……Personally Amanda, I use one simple and safe step for crackling “One step Crackle” from decoart, it creates de crackle finish almost instantly and you can choose from fine finish or not, it’s up to you, you also save on the paint cos you just need an acrylic layer of paint and then wait till it dries so you can layer the crackle on it.

  15. hi Gypsy, thank you for your answer. So for crackle I need to put an acrylic layer, before put the varnish? and then a second one for having the effect?
    As I tried to explain in my firts comment I read that I could use the varnish directly on the clay, but not. It’s that correct?
    So, should I leave the 2nd layer to get dry or can I wape off the reminder paint when it’s still wet?Thank you Cindy you are great!

  16. @Amada: Hopefully Gypsy was able to help you well enough. I am not that familiar with the product you are talking about and can’t offer any advice at this time.

    Maybe there is someone else who can help Amada with her question as well. There are a lot of your who are quite knowledgeable about craft supplies.

    @Gypsy: Thank you so much for helping Amada with this! It is very nice of you!

  17. I have been trying all kinds of acrylic paint on raw polymer clay to create a cracking effect but have not been successful. I have tried different brand but the result is the same. Can anyone help me with this problem?

    • @Rezvan: Yeah I had the same problem with trying to crackle acrylic paints. Most of them just seem to bond with the clay and stretch rather than crack. My guess it either needs to be a lower quality of acrylic paint to work (one with less binders in it) or maybe you have to water it down to make it weak before crackling it? I know others are getting it to work, so it is possible. Just haven’t put the time in to figure it out myself. Maybe some one else here has the answer?

  18. I tried watercolors a few weeks ago and had an interesting surprise. It came out well, looking like shell. I had metallic watercolors and painted my favorite sunset colors on raw translucent and then baked as always and it has a wonderful, shiny, pale and soft shimmer to it. Most folks writing about polymer clay say that water colors don’t work on the clay. Glad I follow the credo of experimentation.

    • @Trudy M: I loved how you said,”Glad I follow the credo of experimentation”, Trudy! That is so important to understand. Although following the rules, does help to lessen the number of mistakes, breaking them leads to new cool ideas! Without experimentation, everything stays the same and gets very stale. Thank you so much for coming back and sharing your experiments with us! Everyone benefits from that knowledge.

      So did you seal the watercolors with anything? My thoughts are that the reason people say not to use them on polymer clay, is that they do not have many binders in them and may not adhere to a non porous surface like the clay well over time. A sealer like Sculpey Glaze, UV Resin or PYMII might be a great choice to make them more durable.

      The metallic paints that you used may be somewhat different than regular water colors though. What brand are they? Are they an acrylic based water color? These would be cool things to know.

  19. Seems to me I have this dim memory of my Mom and Godmother feverously working on Christmas crafts at Dad’s workbench, and I remember she got this great crackle using latex paint and then applying layers of cheap hair spray. No lie! LOL.

  20. I learned the credo of experimentation from you, Ms. Cindy Lietz!! I was afraid to touch the clay for a while, and was amassing ridiculous amounts of clay and accessories until I really listened. I have the mat you recommended, the sanding pads, the fishing tackle box. You suggest it, I buy it. But I had to listen to your words of wisdom about creativity to really make things work.

    That being said, I have no idea what brand the metallic watercolors are……I think I threw away the wrapping and there’s no brand name on the box. I will stop by the stationary store to look for it. I haven’t sealed them yet, so I’ll take your advice. I do have sculpey glaze, so I will try that and let you know. I have to sand the sides which are untouched and the back, but I think a dunk in water might kill the colors, so do you think I should just dampen the sanding pad and sand the untouched clay parts?

    Thank you……I know I’ve been reading the blog more than writing, but I’m always around! Hugs.

  21. I have SO MUCH WHITE CLAY!!! I want to make little kawaii charms but I don’t have any colors. I live in a small town and my only “supply” store for miles is a walmart. I’m not overflowing with Money either and I want to make little charms so bad!!! What do I do to color my white clay?

  22. Hi Kitty H, if you have a Walmart near you, you are laughing. Just go to the kiddie section and buy a small box of kiddies wax crayons, really cheap. You have to shave off a few skinny slivers of any colour and squish, mix, twist, pound, blend until it is mixed in. Red crayon will give you lovely shades of pink, add some yellow slivers of wax and experiment. At one time I thought I would just buy white, but you only really get soft shades with this method. You can also use old dry powder eye-shadow, spices from the kitchen ie: turmeric…lovely yellow, paprika gives an incredible shade of pale orange.There are about 101 different things you can add to white clay to get amazing colours. But remember, tiny amounts of clay with even tinier amounts of additions, that way you can do test pieces….and make notes of ones you like.

    What are KAWAII charms? They sound very exotic. Did you know that if you scroll to top of page there is a search button. Just type in “How to add colour to white clay” and I am sure there will be loads of answeres from other clayers who also have heaps of white clay. I have learnt such a lot from other members of this site (thanks everybody) Good luck with your experimentation, thats the fun of PC it is so forgiving!! But mainly have fun:}

    • @Kitty H: Elaine has some excellent ideas for you Kitty! You can also use alcohol inks or tiny amounts of oil paint to tint your clay. Another option is to make your cute little charms all white and then paint them after baking, with acrylic paints. Have fun!

      @Elaine Faulks: Thanks for helping out Kitty like that! From what I have read, Kawaii means ‘cute’ in Japanese. It is a style of little sculpted charms that originated in Japan. They are usually regular house hold things with cute little faces painted on them. Things like a piece of toast with a face or a pencil with a face, etc. It is really popular with young people all over the world. My daughter’s penguin charm would almost qualify as Kawaii, but it isn’t quite animated enough. If you want to read a cute little story about the Green Penguin Charm Willow made years ago and how it got stolen, click the link by my name.

  23. Hi Cindy,
    The all time best paint to antique polymer clay with is Jo Sonja’s wood stain gel. It covers great & doesn’t dry right away so you have time to get it in all the nooks and crannies & wiped off before it dries & leaves lines like the acrylic paint does. Maple is the best shade. I tried them all :O)

  24. Hi Cindy, brand new to this, so not sure where to ask a question, but —- My son who is a very good pencil artist and getting into acrylics wants to paint small scenes or portraits acrylics on polymer clay “canvases” for bezels for necklaces. My question is will the paint adhere well enough to do this after the baking and buffing. Seems I heard of someone doing this but can not find direct clear info on this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  25. Hi Pam, yes your son can paint onto already baked, sanded and buffed polymer clay blanks, no problem. Acrylic paints bond beautifully to polymer and he won’t even need to seal them, if he doesn’t want to. I would make up him some test swatches first to practice on, just to see how the paint sticks to the surface. Super cheap paints don’t have as many binders in them and would be less durable than artist acrylics would be. He can even test, heat setting the paints for extra durability if he wants. Make sure the paint is totally dry, then pop into the oven at 265 F for ten minutes or so. Tell him we would love to see pics when he is done. Sounds wonderful!

  26. Welcome Janice! First, sign up for the newsletters. Then take Cindy’s video beginner course. Then, come here as often as you can, and read, read, read. Use the search box for specific topics like “baking,” etc. And watch Cindy’s YouTube channel. In no time, you’ll be up to snuff and creating beautiful poly clay art. All best!

  27. Hi, Cindy, which one do you think is the best way to avoid plaquing? WheneverI I use translucent clay (I use Fimo Soft) , plaquing moons appear! I was told to not condición the clay a lot, but then, if I need a thin sheet, it tears, and if I put the tears con the bead and roll it, you still can ser the seams in between. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks.

  28. Hi Ana. Trying to help Cindy out as best I can so if you need an urgent response, please use the search on the site and type in “plaquing.”

    It’s the best resource in the world for polymer clay questions. You will find this topic thoroughly covered in many blogs, tutes, videos, and mostly in the comments of those responding who have had great results.

    Some clay brands are known for plaquing, and others, not so much.

    Hope that helps, and all best.

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