7 Tips To Avoid Leaving Finger Prints on Polymer Clay Beads

Polymer Clay Beads - Fingerprints

The enemy of all polymer clay bead makers… the dreaded fingerprint:

Finger prints on your finished beads really look unprofessional. Although you can always sand them out after baking, the fewer prints that you get on your beads in the first place, the less sanding you will have to do later.

The following tips are just a few of the things you can do when making polymer clay beads, to avoid putting your prints on them:

1) Work with firm clay. Soft squishy clay will show finger prints the worst. Start with one of the firmer brands such as Fimo Classic, Kato Polyclay and Premo. If the clay you are using is too soft, you can firm it up by leaching out some of the plasticizers.

2) Work with cool clay. If the clay is soft and finger prints badly because it is too warm, then let it rest. After rolling or shaping a bead always let the bead sit for a bit before doing a final roll or piercing with the bead wire. You can even place the clay in the fridge for awhile to firm it up.

3) Wear gloves. Personally I don’t really like wearing latex gloves, my hands get all sweaty in them but they are excellent for extra smooth beads. You can always just use them for the final roll and for piercing if they bug you as well. Finger cots or the cut off fingers from the gloves can work as well if you prefer.

4) Use water. Spray a little water on your hands before doing a final roll and the finger prints disappear.

5) Use cornstarch. I like to rub the surfaces of my fingers and palms with cornstarch to avoid finger printing my beads.

6) Use a light touch. Grabbing your bead with a ‘death grip’ will surely leave some prints behind! Hold your beads as lightly as you possibly can and there will be a lot less finger prints to remove after baking.

7) Smooth fingerprints away with baby oil. Baby oil or mineral oil is a great diluent for polymer clay. If you rub a few drops on your beads with your finger, you can smooth out any wrinkles or fingerprints left behind. The surface will look all ‘smeary’ but that will easily sand away after baking. It’s way easier to sand off excess baby oil than it is to sand away fingerprints.

I know there are a few more tricks for keeping those nasty fingerprints off of your polymer clay beads. There’s a comments section below if you would like to share some ideas. I’d love to hear what works for you.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


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Comments

  1. Wow, I just found your site, Cindy. Excellent tips and instructions, and a fantastic website to boot! YOU ARE A POLYMER SUPER HERO! Finally a way to conquer the dastardly This-Clay’s-Too-Dang-Soft-n-Mushy Villian and his menacing Fingerprint Gang! Oh, man, I’ll be up all nite now playing around with these tricks! THANK YOU!!

  2. Hi Cindy,

    I love the tips of wearing JUST the fingers of the latex gloves! Who would have thought!?! Thanks for thinking outside the box (and the glove) for all of us :)

    Sincerely, Cindy Erickson

  3. I tried the gloves, too. They left wrinkles that were worse looking than the finger prints.
    How do you:
    “you can firm it up by leaching out some of the plasticizers”?
    Although I will probably find it on your great site if I keep looking.

    Thanks,
    Marianne

  4. Marianne, you need to make sure that your gloves are quite tight if you are going to use them, to avoid wrinkles. There is a video in my bead course that teaches you how to leach the plasticizers out of the clay to make it firmer.

  5. Ooooh! These are VERY wonderful ideas! I’m a "clay newbie" as I’ve only been trying my hand at this for about 3 months now. I’ve been trying so hard to find my "niche" whether it’s beading, sculpting, miniatures, what have you and though I haven’t found it yet, but your tips in this have been amazing!

    You are truly talented. Keep up the great work!

  6. I know that cornstarch will weaken the clay. So it is advisable to use water as a release agent, etc. If you use cornstarch for a release agent be sure and put your excess clay bits in your scrap clay pile. THANKS LYNN

  7. Cindy I wanted you to know that Grant Diffendaffer was the one whom I heard that cornstarch made your clay weak. I hope you do not mind feed back like that? I like your color recipes and really would like more. I do have a problem with picking colors that look good together. I like earthtones and they do not reduce well, and tend to get lost in my designs when reduced. I have been working with polymer clay for quite some years now. I have a lot of molds, tools, clay, etc. Thanks for your help from all of us clayers.

  8. Thanks for your comments Lynn. First to let you know… no I don’t mind at all, the type of feedback you provided above. Everyone benefits from this kind of information!

    I know that Grant Diffendaffer is a very experienced clayer and I’m sure he knows what he is talking about. However in my experience, I must say that I have never come across any strength issues using cornstarch. His statement does make me curious though, and think that it would be fun to do some ‘lab tests’ with this idea.

    It could depend on the technique and whether or not the cornstarch has been worked into the clay or if it’s just on the surface. Either way that would be a great thing to test!

    Thank you for letting me know about this and you can look forward to some videos down the road in the weekly newsletter proving or disproving his statement! He might be right or it could just be one of those ‘Urban Clayer Myths’! No disrespect to Grant of course :-)

    As far as color mixing I know that is tricky for a lot of people and that is one of the reasons I started doing color recipes and color palettes.

    As far as your canes are concerned, consider wrapping each earthtone color in a thin sheet of white or black to give them more distinction. You may find they reduce better that way. Let me know if this works for you.

    I love it that you and other experienced clayers spend time here at the blog. Your comments and feedback is welcome anytime.

  9. I’m new to beading. I’m making a keepsake pendant/charm for a necklace using a fingerprint I have formed in Polymer clay. It is baked and the only one I have. I can not get another! I don’t want to ruin it and need to make at least four. I would prefer the outcome to be an impression into the clay. What is the safest way to do this without ruining my only mold?

  10. Jill if I understand you correctly, you want copies of the fingerprint you have in a baked piece of polymer clay. So if you want it to look the same, you will have to make a mold of your mold, so to speak. Just spray your original mold with water and press a piece of light colored scrap clay into the finger print, to make a reverse mold. Separate from your original and then bake. Then you can make your charms from your new mold.

    The reason I suggest you use light clay for your mold, is that you don’t want any dye from a color like black or red to stick to your original print. Other than that there are no real worries about harming your original.

  11. Thank you! I made a practice piece with my own finger print and it works. So I want it to look like silver and bought some iridescent silver acrylic paint. Have you noticed this to look cheap? Would I be better off trying to find a silver polymer clay? Thank you for your help!

  12. You’re very welcome Jill! I wouldn’t paint the whole thing solid with the silver paint, it could look kinda cheap all right. What you could do instead is just antique it with silver paint after baking or rub the surface with silver mica powder before baking. If you decide to use silver clay, I would still use one of these techniques to get a nice finish. Click on the link by my name to find out more about antiquing polymer clay with acrylic paint.

  13. I’m new at clay and don’t pretend to know much. Your finger print info is great. Some times, I take the plastic wrap that the clay came in and place it over my work, bead, what ever and smooth lightly with my finger. Finger prints go away. Lightly is the key, being careful not to distort the work. Have a
    Blessed Day.

  14. I’m glad you can use baby oil because I have a little bottle of Sculpty clay softener and lots of baby oil…..Yeah! Also reading Jill’s finger pendant idea I got a great idea for a funny extra to give friends of mine that are gardeners. Make a green thumb,drill and tie it to a garden tool gift.

  15. @Linda: Thanks for the tip, its a good one! BTW I went to your Etsy Store and your work is wonderful! In my opinion you are way undercharging for it. People will pay what something is worth. When you charge too little like that, they think it must be not worth it. Bet your sales would go up (and your profit) if you doubled or tripled your prices. Go look at Heather Power’s store, Humble Beads, for ideas on pricing. I would hate to see you burn out because you were not making enough money for your time!

    @MaryEllen: What a cute idea! Bet your friends would get a kick out of that!

  16. I am having a devil of a time with the white sculpey.I try to use bath oil or vaseline for conditional and water. Any way, what ever I do,no matter how long I knead it, it is full of wrinkles. and before I bake it is very hard to get the wrinkles out with any method. I am so frustrated. I don’t know if the clay is old or what. then one of my pendants cracked in the oven. any ideas?
    .

  17. Hi Debra, sorry to hear you are having trouble. It’s not you, it’s the clay!

    I take it that you are using Sculpey III or Sculpey Original. Both those clays are so soft that they are very difficult to work with. Plus after being baking, they just are not that strong. Especially the Sculpey III.

    Try a block of Premo Sculpey instead. It is an artist quality clay and is not only very strong when baked, but very easy to work with as well.

    You can still use up your old stuff for bead cores, making molds and such. But you will find you are far less frustrated when you us a good clay.

    Click the link by my name for more info on brands.

  18. I thought latex gloves would help, but it turns out I hate the glove marks. When I want to get rid of fingerprints I brush a soft brush over the surface, or dip a paintbrush in rubbing alcohol and brush it over the surface.

  19. Yeah I hate wearing latex gloves too! The only way they work well is when they are super tight and then my hands always feel like they are suffocating! A brush with rubbing alcohol works really well, especially on sculpted items. Thanks so much for sharing your tip!

  20. Jackie mentioned another way to get rid of fingerprints on the Blend and Switch Tutorial == intro-video page. Check out her comments using the link—there are several of them in that thread.

    The technique is done using Sculpey Clay Softener (a diluent you can find at Michael’s and many other places where clay supplies are sold.) Paint it on your beads to smooth fingerprints, then bake. After baking, rinse off any excess softener, then sand or tumble as usual. This idea was also mentioned by a few other members, as well. Sounds really promising, and I can’t wait to try it myself! ~Kat

    • @Phaedrakat: Kat, thanks for bringing that to this page. It does sound promising. It’s funny, I was just thinking this morning I’d love to make a lot of small round beads – like 4 or 5 mm, for a project I have in mind, but the idea of sanding all of them made me throw that idea right out the window! Now I’m wondering if I use the Studio by Sculpey, because of the suede-like finish, and use this on them.. hhmm. This may take the suede-y texture away, too. But with cornstarch I may miss spots.. Guess I’ll have to experiment! Thanks Kat!

  21. Kat, another classic. Thanks for bringing it back to the view finder. Those who dislike the gloves may find that just cutting off the fingers (they have to be tight to stick) lets your hand breath but still gives you that covering. Also, look in online or business supply for finger cots, which are the same thing only made to stay on, lol.

    Acetone has also been mentioned here several times as a liquid application that removes finger prints. Hit the search box for specifics.

  22. Another way to remove fingerprints (and it’s great for your hands):

    Reaching into the Bag of Tricks: Smoothing
    Posted in Bag O’ Tricks, News and Comment on October 17, 2008 by Tommie

    While a close inspection of my sculpting will no doubt prove it is not the case… I have actually been asked in classes if I have no or unusually shallow fingerprints. I think my fingerprints are normal ones. The key to making it look like I have no fingerprints lies in the various techniques and potions that I use to smooth my work. I will run down a few tips here, and maybe if you have had struggles or haven’t found the method that best suits you, I can be of some small benefit.

    First off I like to use a relatively stiff and dry clay. Some clays like fimo can be very stiff but seem to have an almost oily surface feel that will take fingerprints like crazy. Other clays may be dry enough but way too soft. The key is finding one that best suits you. Most often I use Kato Polyclay mixed with Super Sculpey or ProSculpt. Sometimes leaching is required to get the clay to the proper consistency.

    I also try to grip the clay very lightly. As Katherine Dewey taught me years ago, it’s better to drop something than to smash it out of shape by holding it too tightly. Sometimes I will even use a stand, a bead tool, or a hemostat to hold the piece on which I am working.

    I try to use the largest possible tool that will still do the job. While not a fingerprint issue, this does really help lessen tool marks left on the clay.

    tommiej.wordpress.com/

    “Lastly comes the potions, goops, sludges, and slurry that I use. For different problems I use different stuff. I do use 91% alcohol, lighter fluid, Sculpey Clay Softener (formerly called Diluent), and spit. Over the last few months though there is something I have gone back to over and over again. Lander Cocoa Butter Skin Cream works wonders for me. This is a product most often found in Dollar Stores, but I found several sites online by doing a google search. I use a little bit of the stuff (and I mean a LITTLE) on a brush or on the tool that I am using at the time, and it glides merrily along. It is less messy due to its creamy consistency, it smells nice, is good on your hands, and if you get it at the dollar store you can get what seems to be a lifetime supply for a buck. Give it a shot one of these days. I can’t promise that it will work for everyone like it does for me, but if not, you are out a buck and will have the softest hands on the block.

    Tommie”

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