Shiny Beads – 6 Tips for Getting a Polymer Clay Gloss Finish

Shiny Polymer Clay

How To Get Your Polymer Clay Beads To Sparkle Like Glass:

One of the wonderful qualities about polymer clay is that it can be polished to a very glassy finish… if you use the proper techniques. Below are 6 tips to help make your beads shine.

Included with each tip are valuable resource links that will provide you with more detailed info about each topic:

1) Choose the Right Clay:

No matter how much you sand and buff, certain types of polymer clay will never get a glassy finish. Read the following article to learn about some important characteristics about the various brands of clay, including which ones will give you the brightest and shiniest beads:

  • Fimo Clay, Premo, Sculpey – Which is Best for Cane Making and Sculpting: With so many polyclay brands to choose from, how do you know which one is best.

2) Avoid Fingerprints:

Even when you choose the right clay, there will be no point in buffing your beads if they are covered in fingerprints. It is possible to sand away those nasty imprints, but a better approach is to avoid leaving them in the first place. Read this article to keep your fingers from leaving their mark:

3) Bake Beads Properly:

You can’t get a nice finish on your beads if they haven’t been baked hard enough. Most home ovens and toaster ovens generate inconsistent temperatures. This can make it difficult to determine the length of time to bake your clay. Read this article if you want to know who to get the best results every time:

  • When Baking Beads, It’s OK to Sometimes Break the Rules: How Long Do You Bake Your Beads? How’s that Working For You?

4) Sand Your Beads:

The only way you can get a nice smooth, glassy and professional looking finish on your beads is to use a little elbow grease. Sanding your beads properly takes just a few simple supplies and a little know how. Read this article to find out exactly how to go about sanding your beads right:

5) Buff with Power:

Since your hands can’t possibly move as fast as a power tool, they just won’t buff your beads as well as a rotary device like the Dremel which can spin as fast as 5000 rpm. Power buffing is one of the big reasons many polymer clay bead artists are able to get such a glassy shine on their beads. However, don’t try to save time by skipping the sanding steps. If your beads have flaws that were not previously sanded out, buffing will just magnify them and make your beads look worse.

Since using a Dremel is a big part of the buffing process, I have included several articles for you to read before proceeding to the sixth tip:

  • The Polymer Clay Dremel Tool Makes Buffing Beads Fun: Ladies, there’s a reason whey guys love power tools.
  • Buffing Polymer Clay Beads with a Dremel Multipro Rotary Tool: Are you still polishing polymer clay by hand? Kick it up a notch and learn how to use the Dremel power tool.
  • Dremel Tool Safety Tips for Polishing Polymer Clay Beads and Jewelry: Learn How To Use a Rotary Tool Safely with these Eight Tips.
  • Polymer Clay Tutorial | Sew Your Own Dremel Buffing Wheel and Save: Polishing Polymer Clay Beads With Homemade Sewn Fabric Wheels.
  • Polymer Clay Tutorial | Make Felt Buffing Wheels for a Dremel Tool: But Beware… Not All Felts Are Suitable For Buffing Polymer Clay Beads.

6) Add Some Liquid Shine:

Only after you have properly sanded and buffed your beads, should you ever consider coating them with a glossy liquid finish. Nothing looks worse than a gloppy shiny coating on a poorly finished bead. In fact, if you really do an excellent job at the sanding and buffing, you may not need any additional coating at all. But when you do want to add a liquid  finish, read this article BEFORE buying something from the local craft store:

  • Polymer Clay Finishes – Which One Is Best? Choosing the Right Polymer Clay Finish for Your Beads Can Be Puzzling.

So, I hope that list of resource links helps you to achieve a perfect glass like shine on your polymer clay beads. By the way, if you learn better by watching videos, most everything above is covered in my 39 part Polymer Clay Bead Making for Beginners Course.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


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Comments

  1. Wow, what a series of tutorials. It is so great to relearn these techniques. What I like about Cindy’s tutorials is that she tells you a number of way to do a technique and we can chose the one that works the best for us. I also like how she responds to others feedback because then we can learn a few tricks from them too.
    I was debating about going to the International Polymer Clay Artist Retreat in Chicago in July. It is only a 6 hour drive and a great learning opportunity. I decided not to go for a number of reasons with the main one being $$$ and the because I am new to this PC stuff and have not had time to practice and practice and practice the new things. At times I feel overwhelmed by all the really neat thinks I see and read about; I wish I could quit my “day job” and just do and sell PC creations. I like Cindy’s lessons and video tutorials because I can go back and remind myself of things I had forgotten. For me the IPCA retreat would be overwhelmed at this time but definitely plan to attend within the next 2 years. For all of those going to the retreat …HOORRRAY AND I AM JEALOUS.
    For me if I don’t have the basics down my work will look crappy no matter how experienced the instructor. It is kind of like painting a room, if you don’t prep the walls, mend the cracks, fill the holes and sand the rough spots it is going to look crappy. Thanks Cindy for sharing your vast knowledge and “making mistakes” so we don’t have to.

  2. Ahh you are so cute Anna! You are trying so hard, I doubt your work looks crappy. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

    If it makes you feel any better, I won’t be going to the retreat either. Though it would be cool to be surrounded by the masters and have an entire weekend dedicated to celebrating polymer clay, wouldn’t it?!

    Just keep doing what you’re doing and who knows… someday polymer clay could be your main source of income! Then you could be doing what you love for a living and you and I could meet up at one of these poly clay functions!

    Thanks for everything you contribute here. It is great having your around!

  3. It is the same product. I called the 800 number on the bottle and they verified the product name has changed. I am in the process of seeing if I can use a spray bottle to apply the Future. Has anybody tried that?

  4. Anna and Joyce:

    I’m not sure if the rumors I heard are true, but some are saying that the Pledge with Future is ‘almost’ the same… but with a surfactant which changes the way it works. Haven’t used the new stuff yet myself, so I have no idea if that is correct or not.

    Could be that the company said it was the same product because it works the same on floors. It would be nice to know if the formula was identical or not and whether the change was in name only.

    I like the idea of trying a sprayer. You would want one with a super fine mist and you would need to spray lightly to avoid drips. Might work though. Let us know!

  5. Excellent comment about the exact formula. I will send an e-mail to the website. My guess the person answering the 800 customer service number will not be able to answer that question. Will let the group know what I find out.

  6. Hi there, I am finding all your tips so, so helpful. I have just started making jewellery and thought I would experiment making my own beads in polymer clay, having had a dummy run a couple of years ago. I have just sanded and buffed and sanded and buffed and you’re quite right, just by putting in that extra mile, the results are quite fabulous. Many, many thanks, Helen

  7. I made some beautiful beads using a faux mokume gane technique last night, and the large beautiful pendant cracked in about 4 places! I’m not sure what caused this, since I’ve actually never had a piece just crack before. Could it because I used scrap clay for the inside or because I put it into a already hot oven?

    Thanks for the help,

    Karrah

  8. You know Karrah I’m kind of stumped! I’ve never had that happen before either and I’ve been trying to think through what could have caused the cracking.

    I guess it is possible that the scrap clay or the hot oven did it, but that doesn’t really seem like the cause, since I’ve done both those things without issue.

    Is it possible there was water or an air pocket inside that expanded when it got hot and cracked the piece? It is the only thing I can think of.

    Has anyone one else had this problem before? Has anyone solved it? Now I am very curious!

  9. Could sweat from my hands cause enough moisture to cause that problem? That’s the only way that any moisture got into the clay. I have really warm hands and they always get pretty moist when I’m using them…

    An air pocket seems the most likely since I wrapped the piece with the gane sheet, maybe somehow I didn’t seal it enough between the scrap and the sheet…?

    I was totally stumped too.

  10. I don’t know if sweat would cause that problem for you Karrah. It probably is more likely to be air. Try using liquid sculpey (TLS) as a ‘glue’ before sticking down your sheet of mokume gane and roll with a brayer to make sure all the air is out next time and see if that works for you. Maybe it was just one of those mystery crafting events? Hope it doesn’t happen again! :-)

  11. Yep. Need a big adjustable spray nozzle. If a bead, made a pin board, and imbed it to stick in the hole. If another piece, custom make the pin board to balance the object and spray away. Works great.

    By accident, the cat knocked the gold stuff all over the place, and that was pretty, because you can build up the layers to suit and imbed the flakes.

    Best part is no fingerprints from handling.

  12. ” Cindy Lietz from Alcohol Ink and Crackled Gold Leaf @ 6:14 pm

    Great idea Jocelyn! Thanks for sharing it!

    What kind of spray are you using?”

    Oops. Sorry! Wish we had a “quote” button. Future Acrylic Clear Liquid.

  13. That’s OK Jocelyn. :-)
    (Unless the quote is from way up in the comments, you don’t need to repeat it at all. It’s more of a relaxed conversational style around here. Just answer the question and most people will be able to follow along.)

    Oh I see from your additional email, you are putting the Future in an airbrush and spraying it on. How clever! I haven’t tried airbrushing yet. I looks fun!

  14. The air spray gun is a great idea if the Future Wax doesn’t clog it! They use it to spray the finest veneers on wood, so why not clay?

    I was referring to the spray bottle, I found I need one with an adjustable nozzle to get the flow I liked.

    Micromark sells them: “Description Spray head fits Scenic Cement bottle. Nozzle adjusts from fine mist to steady stream. Includes 8 oz. bottle.”

    In between soaked the nozzle in some solvent my Dad gave me that dissolved the residue and cleared the hole. Wish I could remember what. Didn’t degrade the plastic.

  15. Oh I’m sorry I guess I got what you’re saying wrong. Spray bottle is also a cool idea. Never thought of that! Will have to give it a try.

    I’m thinking rubbing alcohol would work as a solvent. It breaks down Future finish and shouldn’t harm the plastic nozzle.

  16. I really don’t like sanding too much. Right now, I’ve been making these disc beads that are fairly thin and flat. I used flower canes and laid slices on conditioned transluscent clay, burnished them into the clay, then cut them using a round shape cutter & punched holes in them with coffee stirrers. I’ve found the easiest way to get a smooth, if somewhat matte, finish is to put my 400 grit sandpaper in a flat bottomed bowl filled with about an inch of water. I place the bead in the water and use a circular motion to sand the bead smooth on both sides. I stand the bead on it’s end to finish the edges. This technique keeps the sandpaper from getting gunky and clogged. I change the water when it gets murky.

    Once I’m satisfied that the beads are smooth, I finish them with Sculpey glaze that I’ve thinned with a bit of water. When that’s dry, I use a 600 or 800 grit to smooth that out a bit. The beads end up looking like frosted glass with milliofori patterns pressed into them. There’s a dimensional effect to the flowers. Pretty cool! I hang the beads on ear wires with jump rings.

  17. Your beads sound beautiful Clarrisa! The sanding method you described is a good one.

    I have a few posts on sanding that you may have some interest in plus some on using a rock polisher which speeds things up a bit. There is also a video on the tumbler method if that interests you. Click the link by my name for more info on that.

    Thanks for sharing your tips!

  18. Hi Cindy… I just saw an interesting tutorial that shows how to make a polymer clay sander from an old electric toothbrush: jewelrylessons.com/jewel/node/23412

  19. Yeah I’ve seen people do that before Genevieve. It’s a neat idea. The upside to using a tool like that is that it is small and easy to hold. The downside is that the sand paper pads are super tiny and you would be replacing them all the time. For me I’d find it to be a bit of a hassle.

    I’ve got a little palm sander called a Black and Decker Mouse which is about the size of a computer mouse. I’ve been meaning to dig that out of the shop and give it a try. At least with that sander the sanding pad is bigger and you could sand a lot of beads before having to change it.

    I’ll report on how it works when I get around to trying it.

  20. @ Genevieve

    Love that tut link. Noticed that someone mentioned using double backed Velcro as a way to attach the sandpaper in the comments.

    Also have seen folks rave about doing the same thing with those larger battery charged power scrubbers for the bathroom, too.

    Nothing triggers an MS flare faster for me than hand sanding stuff in a bowl of water. One of the reasons I put the clay down for awhile. Cannot wait to try using these ideas, and setting up the Lortone tumbler again. F-r-e-e-d-o-m!

  21. Hi All: This thread is kind of old now, but I thought I would add my 2-cents’ worth! I was out in my garage using my tabletop drill press to drill bead holes (which does a super job!) when I happened to notice my orbital car wax buffer. I dug it out and tried it on buffing a finished flat piece and it worked great! Of course, you have to hold it in 1 hand and hold the piece being buffed in the other, but it is not too awkward as the orbital wax buffer I have is not too powerful. I think you could even put it in the bench vise if you have one–I haven’t tried it yet, but it should work. Gave a beautiful shine without much effort. These can be found relatively cheaply, too.

  22. @Becky C.: Smart thinking, putting the machine to work for you like that! I like it when new ideas are added to these old threads…they’re often full of information, and the new comment draws attention to it. Thanks for the tip…I’ll add this to my list of things to look out for at yard sales (in case my Dremel bites the dust… Noooo!!) Oh, and I’m envious of your tabletop drill press…. ;D

  23. Hi Cindy, I like your blog! What a wealth of information! I have a couple questions:
    I don’t make beads, but I love making fairies and mermaids out of polymer clay. I use Sculpey III and I often experience the problem of wings and fins burning and coming out discolored – due to them being so thin in comparison to the rest of the project. Is that only because my oven is too hot?
    Also, any tips on how to store clay, and keeping colors separate? Thanks!

    • Hi Rachel, the reason for your wings discoloring or burning, isn’t so much an issue that they are thin, it is more an issue that they are getting too hot, plus the fact the Sculpey III tends to discolor easily. Switch over to Premo Sculpey and use an oven thermometer, and you will have less issues with browning clay.

      And here is a link to a video page with some ideas for storing polymer clay.

      Hope that answers your question!

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