How to Bake Polymer Clay so that Your Whites Stay White

Baking Polymer Clay - Tenting

Having Problems Keeping White Polymer Clay Beads from Getting Tarnished During the Baking Process?

Has this ever happened to you? You put some crisp white beads in the oven to bake, and out comes some grey-brown-purple tinged beads! Yuck! Especially yuck if they were snowman beads like the ones I made one time!

I’ve learned a few polymer clay lessons in my time, but learning how to keep white beads white was a useful one. This lesson I learned via the Internet, the public library and a fair amount of research.

So to keep your light colored polymer clays light, here are the instructions:

1) Keep your work area clean. Your white clay beads will never be white no matter how much sanding you do, if your clay is filled with bits of lint, hair, other clay and debris from your workspace. Wipe it down with baby wipes, rubbing alcohol or baby oil regularly to keep it clean.

2) Keep your hands clean. There is really no point rolling a white ball of clay in your hands, if your hands are still red from the last batch. Baby wipes, baby oil or rubbing alcohol works here too.

3) Clean your oven. If you have a spilled over cherry pie in the bottom of your oven, the smoke will end up tarnishing your beads. Smoke does not help white beads at all! This is yet another reason why a dedicated toaster oven is a good idea.

4) Use an oven thermometer. Light clays are really sensitive to high heat so make sure the temperature is right by always using an oven thermometer. Oven elements get old. Just because it was OK last time doesn’t mean it’s OK this time.

5) Tent your beads. Take a piece of office paper or parchment paper and crease it down the center lengthwise. Then place it on top of your rack of beads, like a tent. Make sure the tent does not touch the element! This will keep any direct heat from hitting the beads and scorching them. You can also get the same effect by putting your bead rack inside of a dutch oven or some other lidded oven-safe baking dish. Another way, is to completely bury your beads in a bed of cornstarch to protect them from discoloration.

I hope these instructions for keeping your polymer clay beads white when you want them white was a valuable lesson! If you have any tips and tricks to add please let me know. There were enough discolored snowmen this past winter without us beaders adding to them!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


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Comments

  1. Cindy, it’s been a while since I’ve visited so thought I’d better add you to google reader.
    These are fabulous tips…got one more for ya…avoid dark colored clothing, particularly wool…if they molt strands end up all through your white clay no matter how careful you are.
    One more tip…avoid white! LOL

    xMel

    • I too have learned by lesson about burning beads…I tented my beads that were on the Amco Bead rack with reyonlds foil instead of parchment paper..put a piece of clay pottery on the bottom of the toaster oven. I did use brown parchment paper to rest some of my pendants..boy did I get burned marshmallows…. The toaster oven was a big one so I thought I was safe to walk away for a few minutes…had a thermometer in it to regulate the temp..but it( as you said keep going up and down..
      Now I am going to try just one piece of clay. on the bead rack. on a ceramic tile and watch it carefully…Hoping for better results..I am open to suggestions from anyone out there that can insure this does not happen again.

      • @Natalie Herbin: Hi Natalie, are you getting better results now that you’ve had more baking practice? If you need more help, there are tons of baking tips here at the blog…try using the search box (or follow the links in this comment thread…they lead to several different baking tips/posts/articles.) As you can imagine, this is one of the most “talked about” topics of all, since curing the clay properly is extremely important! Be sure to read the comments under the articles, as this is where so much of the Q & A happens!

        Hope you’re enjoying yourself — clay on! ;D

  2. hehehehe Yeah… Avoiding white would be one way to solve the problem!! Though, have you ever seen those beads Dan Cormier made in his White Series? They are so gorgeous, they make you think it is possible to only buy one color of clay, white!

    Thanks for sharing the sweater tip. I once was inspired to make a set of beads with little snips of thread in them, all because of some translucent clay I got some angora sweater fluff in!

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..The Polymer Clay Dremel Tool Makes Buffing Beads Fun

  3. Dear Cindy,

    Thanks for the tips (I can sure use them)!

    Here is a little lesson I learned the hard way…

    Last night I was using white clay to make a pendant. I noticed some tiny specks of color on the white as I worked. I then realized that the stamp that I had used to make an impression on the white clay had not been cleaned the last time I used it, and some of the blue color from the stamp had transfered onto my white clay.

    I quickly learned that I need to be sure all of my tools are diligently cleaned before I begin a new project!

    Thanks again :)

    Cindy Erickson

  4. That is great advice Cindy!

    Thank you for posting it! There are times when ink on your stamp is a good thing. If you pre-ink yuor rubberstamp before pressing into your clay it will leave an ink image in the impressed areas. It will also help to relelease the stamp from the clay.

    Of course this is only good if you do it right because if you have to smush it up and try again, the ink will get mixed into the clay. Which in that case you get a new color of clay, which isn’t always a bad thing!

    Cindy Lietz’s last post..Bead Making Conspiracy – Polymer Clay Tutor’s Evil Plan Exposed

  5. Cindy – I noticed some of your recipes include Premo and Fimo and I believe Fimo is cured at a lower temp. Is it a problem to cure the mixture at 275 degrees?

  6. Lots of artists have been mixing the brands for a long time. I like to bake Premo and Fimo at 265 degrees for an hour. So I have never had a problem mixing them. A ten degree fluctuation isn’t that much of a difference anyway. Just cure at the lowest temp of the two clays and you will be fine.

  7. Hi, I am new to Polymer Clay and have a few questions. I am sure you have answered them somewhere but I cant find it so here goes…

    Does the Polymer Clay piece have to be completely dry before baking (like PMC)?

    Do I introduce the piece in the toaster oven when the oven is cold, wait till it gets to 275 degrees and THEN count the 20 minutes? Or should the piece be introduced with the oven pre-heated at 275???

    I know these are very basic questions but I don’t like the texture of the pieces that I have cooked and I am wondering if I am doing it right.

    Thank you for a wonderful page and all your information, Marina

  8. Hi Marina, Great questions!

    No, polymer clay is not a water based clay that need to dry out before baking like PMC (Precious Metal Clay or Art Clay Silver). You just make your polymer clay piece and bake it, without any drying time.

    As far as putting clay in a cold oven or a pre-heated oven, that depends on who you talk to. Usually preheated prevents that big temp spike that happens when the oven is trying to get up to temperature. So I prefer pre-heated.

    I bake all my pieces, regardless of size for 1 hour or more. This ensures proper curing and a nice hard bead. As far as the texture of the clay when baked, that depends on the brand of clay. Each brand feels a little different when baked,, so that will be a preference thing.

    Click the link by my name for more info on baking and type the word ‘brands’ into the search box at the top of the page for more info on the different brands of polymer clay. There are also links at the top of the page for course information and video library details.

    If you need more help, ask.

  9. Cindy, I bought the oven thermometer, got it just right, put in my beads. One hour later when I checked 80% were fine but 20% had turned dark, all in the back L corner of the oven. Then I realized they were Kato clay. I think that bakes at a lower temp. The rest were mixed clay and they were fine. So I shall try the bleach trick. Marlowe

  10. Check your electric set up, and if it meets the right code, purchase a couple of rheostats. These devices monitor the amount of energy being passed to the powered object, and can assist in turning down temps to a “non-baking” level for use with polymer clay.

    I dragged mine out from the “stained glass” box and use it on a heating pad (covered with a small folded tea towel), so that I can keep the temp low, without spikes.

    The nite before, I pull out the clay and canes I want to work with, and by the time I get up, everything is the perfect temperature and consistency, and ready to roll.

  11. @Marlowe: Kato clay likes the higher temps. In fact it does really well at 300F degrees. I’m thinking that it may be that the back of your oven is hotter. Make sure you are baking on a ceramic tile, which will help even out the overall oven temp. Also baking in a bed of cornstarch and tenting your beads will protect them quite a bit from scorching. Click the link by my name for more info. Type the word ‘baking’ into the search box at the top of the page for even more info.

    @Jocelyn: That is an interesting idea you brought up. Could work for warming up old canes quite nicely. Thanks for sharing that!

  12. Hi Cindy!

    I’m a new subscriber and loving the back issues. So much so that my credit card company called to verify my card hadn’t been stolen because I had so many charges to you!

    I’m a research junkie, and I researchered the clay subject extensively– I like to have as much info as possible.

    My question is this: Have you tried boiling clay (stovetop or microwave) instead of baking it? I’ve read that white clay stays very white if cured by that method.

    Thanks!

    Becky in FL

  13. Hi Becky! What a sweetheart, welcome! (Cute story. The credit card company was probably thinking, “What the heck is polymer clay anyways? And why would one lady want all these videos?” Little do they know how cool polymer clay is!) :-)

    In regards to your question on boiling, yes I’ve tried it and it does keep the beads quite white. The problem is that water boils at 212F (100C) and the clay cures at 230F-275F (110C-135C). Although the clay appears to be cured when boiled, I feel it hasn’t cured properly and has the potential for becoming brittle over time.

    What some people like to do is to boil first than bake further. I find it more of a hassle than what it is worth unless you are making a huge amount of beads at once and you want pile them up in the oven.

    Baking on a bead rack and tenting it with paper will also help your beads from discoloring.

    Baking in cornstarch is another option and will keep your clay white as well. You should have a video on that, but you can click the link by my name for more info. Just remember to only put your beads in the cornstarch, right before baking or the cornstarch will leach away some of the plasticizer and possibly cause breakage.

    As far as more topics to research, this blog is jammed packed. If you click on the HOME link at the top of the page and scroll down, you will see there are hundreds of great articles for you to read and absorb.

    Also, feel free to ask any questions you like at any of the posts. I am here to help!

  14. Although I know that Premo is better for beads, I thought it would be a good idea to use up my Sculpey III while I practice techniques that are new to me.

    I made a 4-color jellyroll cane from Sculpey III, then cut slices to put into the measuring tool for my tri-roller. I didn’t care if the cane got distorted as I sliced it because I was mushing the slices together for rolling. The beads came out great and the colors were beautiful and vivid. I was attempting to duplicating the colors that I saw in a friend’s fleece jacket.

    I baked the beads in my brand-new bead-baking rack with a piece of parchment paper tented over them. I baked for about an hour with my oven thermometer fluctuating from 250 to 285. I thought that the clay wouldn’t burn unless the oven went over 300.

    Anyway, the beads that came out of the oven were barely recognizable. They had darkened so much that they look like multiple shades of gray instead of turquoise, blue-violet, violet, and blue-green. I sanded the living daylights out of them, but they were too deeply scorched.

    So, do I need to bake at a lower temperature? I mixed each of my colors with silver. Do the mica colors burn more easily? Does Sculpey III burn more easily than Premo?

    I know that I can bake my beads totally covered it cornstarch, but I’d prefer to use the baking rack now that I’ve purchased it.

  15. Sorry to hear that Linda. :-( You could have a combination of a few problems. First of all, your oven most likely spiked higher than you think. It takes time for thermometers to catch up and the constant cooling down and heating up often gets missed. Next there could be a problem with the thermometer itself. Many of them are inaccurate. And lastly, Sculpey III tends to scorch easily.

    What I would do is bring the temp down a little and test that with just a couple of beads. See if that helps. You may need to bury the Sculpey III beads in cornstarch if you still run into problems.

    Also, before throwing out those scorched beads, you could try tossing them into some bleach to see if that helps. The link by my name will take you to an article about that.

    If they still won’t improve, you can always cover them with new clay and re-bake, or chop them up for faux stones. Clay, good or bad should never be wasted. There is always something fun that can be done with it!

  16. Thanks so much for that feedback, Cindy. My toaster oven is very difficult to regulate and I wasn’t watching it carefully that day, so there is a good possiblity that it spiked higher than I thought it had. I’ll keep a close eye on the temps next time I bake.

    I don’t have much Sculpey III left and I don’t have plans to buy any more of it. I really don’t like working with it anyway, so I guess I’ll use the Premo from now on, even when I experiment.

    I promise not to throw the beads away! I’m the only one who will know they changed color. I looked at them again today and they’re not that bad looking, they just don’t have the vivid colors I was looking for. I’ll see what happens if I soak them in bleach overnight. Even if they brighten up a little I think it will please me.

  17. @ Cindy: I soaked the scorched beads in bleach and I think they lightened up a bit, but of course the vivid colors didn’t come back. Instead of Turquoise, Violet, Blue-Violet, and Blue-Green, they ended up with kind of a stormy ocean look. The colors are Blue-Grey, Eggplant, and Greenish-Blue-Grey now.

    I sanded with an electric toothbrushfrom 320 up to 2000 grits, then buffed them with my Dremel, but they still seemed too dull. So I put some Future on them and that geve them more depth. They remind me of polished slate. Then I strung them with some seed beads and crystals into a necklace that looks nice against lavender and pastel blue-green.

    I had one lentil bead from that same jellyroll cane that I hadn’t baked yet. As you told me, baking it buried in cornstarch made a huge difference. So from now on, that’s what I’ll be doing.

    If I didn’t have you and this group, there’s a good chance that I would have given up on clay after burning those beads. Thanks!

  18. Hi Cindy, just found you today and started my membership. I also purchased the Volume 9 Back Issue. I have been playing with clay for years, have umpteen books, but find your videos much easier for me to follow. Thanks!

    And I have a question about baking the flower beads in cornstarch. Are you baking the whole container, how much longer do you have to bake, and is the cornstarch reusable for multiple times?

    • @Cheryl Dixon: Hi Cheryl, welcome! You’re going to love it here. There’s so much information, and the videos are great, as you know. Just so you know, the search box at the top left of each page can help you find info on just about anything. For instance, this article on Cornstarch answers your questions above. I found it by typing “cornstarch” into the box. But the quick answers are yes, she baked the entire container, she adds time to the baking (at least an hour,) and yes, you can use the cornstarch over & over. Here’s one more article on using cornstarch with polymer clay.

      Don’t forget to read the comments under the articles also. There’s often more or new information there that was not discussed in the article or the video! An example of this is not to leave your beads sitting in a bed of cornstarch too long before baking. Like overnight. Wait until your beads are almost ready to bake, then put them in your container of c/s. Otherwise, if left too long, the plasticizers will leach out into the cornstarch. It’s fine for short periods, though. Or just a small amount, like what’s on your fingertips is fine. Welcome again, and happy claying!

  19. Thanks for your reply Phaedrakat. My next payday will result in the purchase of several more back issue videos. I am in the final three weeks of a class to finish my masters degree and cannot wait to get back to basketmaking, jewelry making and polymer clay! I had to bring out some clay and try the mobius beads though, I made some with some old canes I had and because I had used some softer clay they turned out beautifully!

    I have to tell you this story, you will appreciate it. Several years ago when I started with polymer clay and learned to make canes my husband told the dog to hide her bones or I would start covering them with clay since I was covering everything else I could get my hands on. A friend came over one day when I was working on some cane projects and she wanted to know about the clay. My husband told her, “Be careful now, the first cane’s free!” making reference to how drug dealers pull in their addicted customers! I told him they put something in the clay that makes you keep going back for more!

    Thanks Cindy for the videos and the blogs! Have a wonderful and blessed weekend.

    Cheryl

  20. Can I use the cornstarch method for all colours of clay?

    I’ve been creating some round pieces, and I don’t want to lie them flat on the cookie sheet, as they get shiny flat edges! and I have things with double sides, not just one sided.

    So how would I go about baking these types of things, without using a beading rack (since I am not going that route, as i’m not specifically making beads)

    Thanks!

    • @Cordy: Hi Cordy! Yes, you can use the cornstarch method for any clay color. After baking, you can wash away any cornstarch residue. If that doesn’t get it all, the rest will be removed when you do your sanding.

      There are other ways to bake round beads or other objects. You can make your own “bead rack” using Folded Card Stock.

      You can use a regular piece of card stock under your clay (or paper, index card, etc.) if you just want to keep from getting shiny spots. Besides the cornstarch, some other ways to bake rounded items are on polyester batting or crumpled paper toweling. I’ve heard of people using baking soda or diatomaceous earth, as well.

      Make sure you always use an oven thermometer to be sure you’re baking at the correct temperature. Ovens can spike and have hot spots, as well, so check the temp in various spots, then keep an eye on your projects & the temperature while baking. It’s a good idea to bake your pieces for an hour or so at the correct temperature, to ensure they are completely cured. Read this article for more info — It’s Okay to Bend Baking Rules.

      If you need info on any other topic, you can use the search box at the top left of each page. Type in “how to bake round beads” or “baking in cornstarch” or whatever subject you’re interested in. Be sure to read the comments under the article, as well. There’s often even more info there, due to someone asking/answering a question. Good luck with your projects, and just leave another comment if you can’t find the info you’re looking for! ~Kat, Riverside, CA US

  21. Thank you SO much for the reply!!

    This has been honestly, the most helpful (and awesome!) polymer clay website I’ve found thus far!

    I’ll be sure to pick up an oven thermometer this weekend.

    I’m just very happy for this cornstarch method. I bought some wet/dry sandpaper to use afterwards as well!

    • @grace reyes: As long as you monitor the temperature of your oven with a separate oven thermometer (step 4 above,) you shouldn’t have problems with burning your beads. If you are watching them carefully, you will notice if your beads start to burn. Polymer clay has a distinctively bad smell when it burns, so you can tell quickly, and then turn the oven off and remove the beads. You do not have to be afraid of it. It just smells bad (probably the most it would do is irritate your throat if you breathed a LOT of the smoke from burned clay.) You would have to breathe the fumes for a very long time or burn beads on a regular basis to have a toxicity problem. Just follow the baking directions here at the website, watch your beads while baking, monitor the temperature with a thermometer, and you’ll be fine!

      There’s lots of baking information here at the website, just type “baking tips” or “how to bake” into the search box at the top of the page and you’ll get a list of great articles on the topic. Be sure to read the comments under the articles, as there’s often even more info, tips and tricks than in the original post itself. If you fall in love with polymer clay like I have, you might want to get the Polymer Clay Basics Course (link at top of the page.) It has 39 short-and-to-the-point videos that teach you how to work with polymer clay. Cindy’s videos are wonderful, she has a fantastic teaching style and the videos themselves make it easy to see the details of what she’s doing. They’re really well-done. I hope you can joing us here, you’ll love it!
      ~Kat, Riverside, CA, USA —Where are you from?

  22. a lot of thanks, :-) actually im from the philippines and one time im surfing on the net and seen a lot about the polymer clay so iv got interested and i would love to try it he he he

  23. Hello, thank you for sharing you info on baking polymer clays. I’m wondering if I have a broil control will that help with burn marks that I get when I use “bake” control on my toaster oven? Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon.
    Rain

  24. Oh geez! I didn’t review what I just wrote to you lol! I have a broil control on my toaster oven, I cooked my piece for an 1 hour and turned it over and round to cook evenly, not sure if I need to do this? After the hour I took out of oven to cool. My toaster oven has a “toast control” what is your thoughts on using that control to cook my piece. Thank you again. Rain

    • @Rain D: Have the same model, lol. To prevent burns, use a tent and monitor temps. Turning stuff around is probably a great idea for a thorough cure. Temp needs to stay for 1 hour, so if the toast control works that long for the right range, use it.

  25. To be on the safe side, be sure to pick up an oven thermometer so you know the temperature is in the right range. I see them at dollar stores all the time. That way you know your clay’s getting a full cure (at 275F — or whatever temp called for…) ~Kat :D

  26. THE best cleaner for polymer clay – for your hands and tools and surface is BioGreen Clean. It’s fabulous!! I use it all the time – it’s non-toxic has no smell, you can wash your pets with it it is so safe. I love the stuff. Ten times better than baby wipes.

  27. My daughter’s art teacher had them use Sculpey original (terra cotta color) to make some flat sculptures in class (her’s is a flower that is about 10 inches long/wide) and then sent them home to be baked and then returned to class. However, I have never used it before myself and am scared by a lot of the things I am reading on other sites – do use foil, don’t use foil, do use “greaseproof” paper, use regular paper, use a natural stone tile, use a pizza stone – but not if you ever want to use it for pizza again, and most of all – be careful of the fumes.

    So, what do I place it on to bake it? I don’t have an oven thermometer and so should I use cornstarch to cover the whole thing to avoid burns? How long and at what temp should I bake it? I have a pizza stone that stays in the oven all the time, do I remove it before placing the clay in the oven, even if they aren’t touching? etc., etc., etc.

    Thank you!

    • Hi SK W, it sounds like a great project your daughter is working on. Too bad her art teacher didn’t know a little more about baking polymer clay so he/she could have passed along some more in depth knowledge. No worries, you came to the right place!

      A smooth ceramic tile, your pizza stone or a glass baking dish is your best bet for baking on, since it holds the temp more evenly than metal. (Don’t worry, you can still cook with it later if you line it properly.) Just lay a piece of parchment paper or a few sheets of plain office paper on the tile/stone/dish underneath your piece as a barrier. Also make a crease in another piece of paper or a file folder and place it like a tent over your piece. This will help prevent darkening or scorching of the clay. Place your piece in the center of the oven and not too close to the elements. You don’t want the paper to catch fire or your piece to burn. Paper is fine at this temperature, as long as it doesn’t touch the element.

      If you can get an oven thermometer that would be a very helpful thing to pick up. Ovens rarely bake at the temp that the dial says. If you think your oven is fairly accurate, then you should be OK if you watch the piece closely. Bake your piece at 265F – 275F for 1 hr. It may smell slightly while baking but shouldn’t be too strong. If it stinks or turns brown then it is burning.

      The fumes are not an issue if you keep the temperature within the range and the clay does not burn. If you do burn the clay. Turn off the oven, open the windows to air out the place and then clean your oven after so your next batch of cookies doesn’t taste like clay. The clay itself is non-toxic but the smoke from burnt clay can be an irritant, so you will want to avoid that.

      With that information, everything should work out well. Baking for a full hour at the right temp should cure your daughter’s piece so that it is strong and durable and the nice terracotta color it is suppose to be.

      If you need anymore help, there is tons of info on this blog. Just use the search box at the top of this page. And feel free to send the other parents and the teacher to this answer I wrote for you. Hopefully all the kids end up with some great looking projects!

  28. Hi, Cindy,

    I was struck by a comment in the blog about Kato clay it mentioned tenting to keep old oils from contaminating light colored new pieces, does that mean that if you use your conventional oven that there is residue in there that can contaminate your food? If so would tenting keep that from happening or should you always have an oven dedicated to just polymer clay? I do have a toaster oven but my kitchen oven is spot on ( I just watched Mary Poppins with the grandaughter can you tell ) lol, with the temp.

    I suppose I can put the thermometer in there and mark the dial with a pen to indicate where the temps really are. I had been ill for so long when I started this that I just didn’t think everything through, I think I need to set my oven on self clean and cremate any trace of residue. Besides it is post holidays and there are still traces of some of the ” goodies ” left here and there those too might discolor light clay, that is if I can even use for that purpose again.

    Also after writing about the difficulty in sanding and polishing small round beads I found a rock polisher and now need to know how to use it without turning my beads to sand. I don’t want to experiment as that would mean waste and that just goes against the grain. ( that was punny ) ok way I’m too caffienated.

    • Hi Cheryl, great questions! Most of them you will find are actually already answered on this blog. If you type ‘baking’ or ‘rock polisher’ for example in the the search box at the top of the page you will find several articles, videos, and tutorials on the subject. Make sure to read the comments that people post as well. There is a wealth of information there as well. If you still need help after going through the materials, do ask. We are here to help!

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