Helpful Color Tips To Remember When Making Polymer Clay Canes

Reducing Polymer Clay Canes

Do Your Cane Designs Get Lost or Blurred When they are Reduced?

Polymer clay color theory has many facets that are fun to learn about. For example, even though several colors may look good together in a large palette, that does not necessarily mean those colors will work in every one of your cane designs. That’s because of what can happen to certain colors or shades when the cane is reduced.

Cindy 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. Thanks for your help from all of us clayers. ~Lynn

Thanks Lynn for your comment. Here are 3 tips to keep in mind when it comes to color theory and polymer clay canes:

1) Polymer clay colors get more concentrated and darker as they are reduced down. That means you may have to lighten the color a bit if you are making a large cane that will end up getting reduced to a very small size. Try adding white and translucent to some of your deep colors like reds and blues if you don’t want them to look burgundy and navy when they get shrunk down or compressed inside of your cane.

2) Because colors appear darker and more muted as they get smaller in the cane, try using neon type colors when you want strong punches of colors. Colors like florescent yellow or hot pink that would seem too garish when in a larger cane, will become a surprisingly nice tone when reduced.

3) If you find that your colors all seem to blend into each other when they are reduced; and that the detail in your cane design seems to get lost or blurred; try adding thin sheets of black, brown, gray, or white around each color to add definition, separation and contrast.

By the way if you did not already know, my video tutorials in the members library are full of tips like the three I just shared above. These video tips will help you to avoid making mistakes that can often cause frustrations when learning about polymer clay canes. Here are links to a couple of preview clips for the latest cane making videos just posted this month in the library:

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Cindy Lietz, 23 March, 2009

    Here’s another tip for you. A great way to use up those mud colors you’ve accidentally mixed, is to use them in place of black to outline and define the colors in your cane designs.

  2. Bonnie Bruno, 24 March, 2009

    Great idea! I save every little dab of scrap clay. Nothing is wasted. That’s one of the things I love about this medium. Everything gets used.

    Thanks, Cindy, for such a fabulous website. I’ve learned so much over the past couple of months from visiting here.

  3. Cindy Lietz, 24 March, 2009

    Thank you seedplanter! I’m glad to hear that none of your clay gets wasted. There is almost always something you can do with your leftovers and mistakes, if you just think creatively!

  4. JackieB, 03 April, 2009

    I recently tried a little tip using a buffing wheel I wanted to share. Not sure if you had posted this before. I am newer to polymer clay. I dampened the muslin wheel on my buffing machine just slightly with a wet wash cloth, just dabbed wet wash cloth onto the muslin wheel and then buffed my beads. WOW, what a difference using a slightly damp wheel. They shine like glass! (Kato Clay, hand sanded through various grits first) No need for any varnish wich can chip or scratch off the beads. Look as glossy as my varnished beads. A local bead shop wants to purchase my beads but was concerned with the varnish finish. (I used Flecto Varithane or Future, I was able to scratch some of it off the beads with hard scratches of my finger nails)

    Wanted to know if anyone has had the same glassy results with a rock tumbler for those smaller beads that are harder to hand buff? Beads are flying everywhere! How long does the rock tumbler run to shine up the beads? Looking to purchase that next… Thanks for the advice.

    Love the site…now a library member, especially now that I am layed off from my job. Hoping for work soon to support my polymer clay habit….it has been very therapeutic. Or maybe sell a few beads now that I am getting better at the canes. :)

  5. Monica Stockton, 11 April, 2009


    I have a question about the layers of black you mentioned. How thin do you make your layers? If I go too thin, the clay turns into a ribbon – unevenly rolled. [Hard to describe] I also have a problem with the black just taking over my cane. I tried the new teardrop method with just a basic rainbow and added black. The result was a very dark cane. Help!


  6. Cindy Lietz, 14 April, 2009

    @Jackie: Love the damp muslin idea… will have to try that! Thanks for passing that on. To be honest, I have not been able to get the same shine on my beads with a tumbler alone, that I can by sanding and buffing. However, I have found the tumbler saves a lot of time with the sanding of smaller beads. Click the link by my name and read deep into the comments for lots of ideas on tumbling.

    @Monica: I think I know what you mean about ribbons. They could still work even if they seem a little rippled they will flatten out on the cane. You can also lighten your colors if they seem to get too dark once reduced. Hope that helps. Ask me more if you still need more help.

  7. j frederick, 25 November, 2009

    cindy i have a problem with the new transparent clays since they changed them I don’t get get the nice contrast i used to get trying to make like a lace with transparent and white is there any way to remedy this
    thanks for your input

  8. Cindy Lietz, 11 December, 2009

    Which Brand are you using?

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