Comparing Translucent Polymer Clay Brands

Translucent Polymer ClayVideo #334: Which polymer clay translucent product is right for you? Premo Sculpey, Kato Polyclay, Fimo or Sculpey III?

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • Comparison between 4 Brands of Translucent Polymer Clay:
    – Sculpey III Translucent
    – Premo Sculpey White Translucent (5527)
    – Fimo Effects Transparent White
    – Kato Polyclay Translucent
  • Sample chips of all brands rolled out to two different thicknesses:
    – 1 playing card thick and
    – 6 playing cards thick
  • All samples baked for one hour at recommended temperature for each brand:
    – Sculpey III @ 265F
    – Premo @ 275F
    – Fimo @ 230F
    – Kato @ 300F
    (To be fair, I haven’t tested the longer baking times with Kato, so the 1 hour may have been a detriment to strength rather than a benefit like it is with Sculpey III, Premo and Fimo. Further testing needs to be done to find the ideal baking time for Kato Polyclay.)
  • Comparisons were made with each brand on the following properties:
    – Color
    – Clarity
    – Strength
    – Flexibility
    – Transparency


By the way, if you have a polymer clay question or challenge you’d like me to address in an upcoming video vlog, do post it in the comments below. I’d love to help you find quicker and easier ways to bring up the professionalism in your polymer clay art.

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Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor
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Comments

  1. I’m still using the older formulation of Kato, but an hour of baking time is definitely too long for that, and it is actually weakening again by that stage according to my own testing. Note that the package recommendations for Kato are only 10 minutes baking at 150C/300F, so while an hour of baking is double the package recommendation for Premo, it is SIX TIMES the package recommendation for Kato!

    I use about 40-50 minutes for Kato, and on the shorter side of that for thin or flat pieces. There will be less discolouration than when baked for that time too, although it will still have yellowed somewhat. (I know of one well-known polymer clay artist whose signature pieces require strong clay; her Kato baking time recommendations were the same as what I’d come up with independently, and it was nice to have them confirmed that way.) The strength of the newest formulation might be different, but the older Kato is by far the strongest of all the clay brands I’ve tested.

    Saying all of that, I don’t use Kato Translucent _as_ translucent because it’s the least clear of the translucent clays I’ve tried (I usually apply the “can you read through it” test for that, which up close also shows the internal imperfections that some brands get too).

    Kato Translucent buffs up to a super high shine, so I do sometimes add it to other clays to enhance their final shine. It’s also nice to add a bit to mica clays so that there’s even more visual depth to them (particularly good for mica shift techniques!). And it is good for semi-translucent effects.

    However, when I want a translucent clay in the normal sense, e.g. for a cane background, I too use Premo (::gasp!:: LOL) I haven’t tried what Premo call White Translucent because I still have quite a lot of Premo Frost, but I understand it’s effectively the same thing.

    Pardo Professional Art Clay is actually even clearer than Premo Frost. (I’ll just call it Pardo from now on because that’s a stupidly long name, although there is also Pardo Jewellery Clay which is a different product.)

    Anyway, a couple of photos of my Pardo Translucent sample chip will show what I mean. My sample chips are rolled to 6 playing cards thickness, as illustrated by this first photo.

    This second photo shows how easy it is to see through Pardo Translucent even at 6 playing cards thickness, and you can also see that it’s stil quite white. You can see my equivalent Premo Frost sample chip in the upper left of that photo for comparison… at 6 playing cards thickness it’s relatively hard to even see the sticker on the back of the Premo Frost sample.

    Pretty amazing, eh? The downside is that Pardo becomes very soft and very sticky quite quickly when working it in hot weather. I started using some the other day but found it become totally unworkable before I actually got to use it in the technique I was experimenting with. It’s also relatively hard to get — I order mine from Germany — and the packaging isn’t as conducive to efficient shelving as any of the other brands. Pardo Translucent also needs minimal handling to retain optimum clarity: you get more internal imperfections if it’s handled a lot, and they show up comparatively more because the rest of the clay is so clear.

    • That’s not translucent, that’s bordering on transparent. WOW! I’ve got to get me some PPAC Translucent to try my faux jade on.

      • Wonder how it would do in a faux amber… hehehehe this has gotten my mind spinning again with so many ideas. It might even work better for Cindy’s faux opal too.

      • It should make great faux jade, Ken! I’ve seen real (extremely expensive!) jade that’s much clearer than typical jade, with no discernable internal flaws, and it looked spectacular with gold. (I haven’t made faux jade for ages, and I don’t think I’ve ever tried Cindy’s technique for it, so I’ll have to give that a go soon. Thanks for reminding me about it! :D)

        And it should make wonderful faux amber too. I’ve used Premo Frost for that a couple of times and deliberately overbaked it (hotter than normal, for much, much longer than normal) to get the golden colour instead of using an additive to colour it. The deliberate overbaking had the nice side effect of making it almost transparent; the first experimental batch turned out so clear that I put faux insects inside my second batch (I need practice at making them actually *look* like insects though!). But I haven’t tried it with Pardo, which wouldn’t need all that extra time. If you try it, let us know how it goes!

        • I’ve got to get my hands on some PPAC Trans. first, the one site says late jan or Feb for availability. I’m going to try using the Tim Holtz inks since I think adding bits of another colored clay might take it too far from the clarity that the pardo has. It could be nice to do both types of amber and put them together.

          I’ve done a jade (not Cindy’s :( though) with premo trans., it looks good but there’s just something that’s not right yet. Either there is still too much premo colored clay in the translucent or the translucent just isn’t translucent enough.

          • Most recently I’ve bought Pardo from Marwel Design in Germany if that helps. Here is their Pardo Professional Art Clay (PPAC) product page.

            I’ve also bought PPAC and other products from Poly Clay Play, the company mentioned elsewhere in this thread as a Pardo stockist, and I was very happy with the products and the service from there too. I just found the PPAC availability better from the German site, which is not really surprising since that’s where it’s made!

    • Awesome Sue! Thanks for sharing the ideal time for Kato. I will take that into account when I do my own tests. That is very helpful!! I will be getting some Pardo trans to test myself in the next day or two. A local member offered some of hers for me to try out and share the results with everyone. Looking forward to seeing what it is like!

      • My pleasure, Cindy. :)

        One other thought on baking Kato… If you want it to be somewhat flexible but still strong, bake it for a bit less than I said (maybe 25-30 minutes); it has greater tensile strength at 40 minutes and is much stiffer, but there are some cases where you *want* some flexibility instead. It weakens somewhat if you bake it for too long, and while my own tests show it weakening again by an hour, I actually would have expected it to still be somewhat stronger than it looked in your test: I’ve rolled Kato out as thin as my pasta machine will go, then have put it between paper and rolled it further by hand until I can’t make it go any thinner, and it’s normally still difficult to break or tear. I’m curious now whether the new formula is quite as strong as the old formula… I do have a packet or two of the new formula somewhere so will try that out.

        And it’ll be great to hear your thoughts on Pardo! I’ve played with it and have used it in a few items, but haven’t done any systematic testing on it. (I’ve actually only used the translucent and the metallics, and haven’t got around to the colours yet!)

  2. Great PSA Cindy….love the lab coat!!! Tee Hee.

    Wonder if the ones that yellowed would resist that tendency a little more if totally immersed in bicarb of soda or baking soda while baking? That top coating of bicarb really affects my results from browning or tinting.

    Also, would love to see the results with Pardo. Some of the translucent art I have seen made with it recently seem almost to be “glass like,” which is really exciting.

  3. Jocelyn, I posted a reply earlier which is currently in the moderation queue because I forgot to delete the first part of the image links I included, but when it gets approved there are a couple of Pardo Translucent sample photos to show how clear it is even when relatively thick, plus some brief notes on it. I also noted that an hour of baking time is too long for Kato: it’s weakening again by that point, as well as being overly yellowed (but immersing it in baking soda/bicarb soda as you pointed out should help a bit).

    • Sue, thanks so much for sharing those photos and your fine information. That Pardo is like glass, so amazing, and cannot wait for Fall to have a little in the budget to buy and experiment with it.

  4. I think you should try if you can find some the Viva pardo Translucent . I think it’s whiter than the fimo. Strong , bendable when thin. I liked your research on the trans clay. Love to follow each week.

  5. Thank you guys! I just got an email from a local member Nancy Quinn who has a package of Pardo Translucent that I can test for you guys. Should have it in the next few days and will get a PcT Test Lab filmed as soon as I can. THANK YOU Nancy! You are a total sweetheart. It means a lot to me that you would be so giving!

    The reason I have not yet tried Pardo Professional Art Clay or the other Pardo Jewelry Clay even though I had heard good things about it was a few of reasons.

    First of all, Pardo is not readily available. I only know of one place in the US (PolyClayPlay) that carries it. Nothing in Canada, as far as I know. If it is not easy for my students to find, I usually avoid using it in my tutorials. But now since I am doing these new review and test lab type videos, I am OK with showing you what is out there, even if it is hard to find or even too expensive for most beginners and intermediate clayers. You can always dream… right?

    Secondly, when I did try and order some translucent clay, they were out of stock and not expecting a new shipment until at least February.

    And lastly, shipping clay to Canada is often such a huge pain in the butt. The shipping is often way too expensive, there sometimes brokerage fees and sometimes not, (its a bit of a crap shoot) and it can sit at the border for weeks sometimes. That can be very hard on clay if the storage facility is too hot.

    It would make me more that EXTREMELY HAPPY if Michaels, our one and only craft retailer in Canada , would carry all the brands of polymer clay. They do carry Sculpey III, Super Sculpey, UltraLight, Fimo, Premo, Pluffy, some airdry clays and a couple other non-polymer clays, so it is not too bad. But I would love it if they added, Cernit and Pardo to the aisle as well. That would make it a whole lot easier for me to use the stuff.

    • Ooooo, and the site you recommended reduced the price on Pardo…….

      Thank you Nancy and thank you Cindy for making it possible to test this product asap. “Glass-like” is soooo intriguing, cannot wait to see what you find.

    • Cindy – its a very long time since I contributed to your comments, but I still follow your blog. Inevitably I just have to tell you that I was the first person in the UK to supply Pardo Professional Art Clay and have produced a website to showcase it – I thought your members might be interested. I absolutely love the clay and the translucent is second to none and simply flying off the shelves. I thought it was expensive when I started buying it, but now that all the other suppliers have increased their prices it is actually quite reasonable!
      Incidentally I keep having requests to supply to America and can’t make a decision as to whether to – as you say postage and duties are a block.

      Apropos of Kato – it is still my favourite clay and I absolutely LOVE the smeill – I am quite adicted to the smell and will sit with a load of the clay on my work table simply to take it in. Interesting how different we all are!

  6. Thanks Cindy for doing all the research for us! So far Premo translucent has been my favorite. i’ve heard that Pardo was the best, however trying to get it is near impossible. I heard Hobby Lobby sold it and drove 214 miles (round trip) to a Hobby Lobby to have them tell me they don’t carry it anymore, she said it wasn’t selling. I’ll just continue to use Premo since it works for me and it’s always in stock at Michaels.

    Love the lab coat.

    • One of the last times I was at Hobby Lobby (some months ago) they had Pardo on the Clearance shelf, so I picked up a bunch just to give it a try. Unfortunately, all the translucent must have been gone already as I did not get any. (Haven’t done anything with what I got as I have so little I wanted to research it to ensure I make the most of it as it will be hard to replace if I like it.)

  7. I picked up a few packages of the Pardo on clearance at Hobby Lobby too a few months ago. A lot if it turned to powder when I tried to work with it – it must have been sitting around for a while. One package was OK, another kind of so so, and another…powder. I have been able to use it though. I either sprinkle a couple of colors on some translucent and roll it out, cool effect, or use it to tint the translucent clay. I never bought Pardo before because it was so expensive. Probable the fresh packages work well, but I like the effects I’m getting with the clearance rack clay. If I paid full price for it though and it did that I wouldn’t have been happy. Love the lab coat Cindy! Thanks for doing all the research.

  8. For anyone interested, I’ve just seen a link to another comparison of translucent clays, covering Pardo, Cernit, Kato, Fimo, Sculpey III and Premo. Cindy gets a mention it in too!

  9. I’ve noticed that you didn’t use Premo “Frost”. Which I use as my transparent clay of choice. Have you ever compared Premo’s “Frost” with Premo’s “Transparent white”?

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