Getting Your Polymer Clay Lentil Beads to Swirl Properly [Q&A]

Polymer Clay Orange Swirly Lentil Bead“The other problem I had was I could not get the colors to swirl… Pooh!” ~Malinda-J

Since the Q&A topic posted further down on this page is about polymer clay lentil beads, I figured this Orange Swirly bead pic would be a good fit for today’s photo. It was actually made as an interchangeable pendant for a chain I made a while back. You can see another example of this type of bead in this post: Wiring Polymer Clay Beads to be Used as Interchangeable Pendants

Lentils are my favorite!!! I was also self taught and scanned the internet ALOT for new ideas and new techniques. I still do but I LOVE Cindy’s site because it’s so much more than instruction (which is excellent) but a community which I was sorely lacking. My coffee and I are here every morning to see the next dose of polyclay fabulousness! ~Melinda-H

The remainder of this article will be for Q+A. This gives me the chance to make sure everyone’s questions get answered effectively, and in a timely manner.

Q&A: Getting Your Lentil Beads to Swirl Properly:

Thank you so much for your super fast response Cindy! I was able to get a nice edge finally, with my Lentil Beads! I am having other issues now, For one thing, I’m using Fimo clay and the colors get all over my hands! Is this normal? The black is especially icky and when trying to do the lentil with black and turquoise, it really muddied up the color. The color is even rubbing onto my tools.

The other problem I had was I could not get the colors to swirl. I kept rolling and rolling and rolling (thus muddying up the black just from the contact), but only got the slightest hint of a swirl only at the tip! It is quite cool in the room I’m working, though the clay was soft and easy to work with. Do you think maybe it wasn’t warm enough or does my technique still need work? Pooh!

Other than that I am just loving playing with the clay!”


That is awesome Melinda that you now are getting nice crisp edges on your lentil beads! Sounds like you are easing up on the pressure  like I told you. The thing is, you will need some pressure to get the center to swirl, plus you are probably not swirling for a long enough time.

So here’s what you do… Keep the pressure light until you get a nice clean edge, then add a little more pressure plus a little more time and you will get a great looking swirly lentil bead!

As far as the darker colors smearing a bit when you’re swirling, don’t worry about that. That is mostly just on the surface, so with a good sanding and buffing, any smearing should be removed.

Also remember, with any technique (especially lentil bead rolling) it will take time to master. But when you do, it becomes super fast and easy! Most of all have fun!

** Calling All Community Members: If you have ideas, answers, tips or stories to share in regards to any of the questions or topics posted above, please add your thoughts below. Everyone’s input is greatly appreciated… both here at this post, as well as anywhere else on the site you see people asking for help.

Your comments are what makes this blog such a fun place to hang out and meet so many other supportive polymer clay friends.


Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Silverleaf, 11 March, 2010

    When I first started with lentil beads I made the mistake of not swirling for long enough. It’s kind of scary because it’s easy to think you’ll ruin it if you swirl too much – but I deliberately over-worked a couple to break that mental block and give the me the experience to “feel” how far I could take the swirling in each bead. And now I’m pretty good at it!

    I apologise for having an analogy for everything, but I remember reading that when you’re cooking, you should take out a tiny portion of your food and keep adding seasoning and tasting until it’s just over-seasoned. That way you recognise what it should taste like with just enough seasoning, and you can season the rest of the dish accordingly.

    I’d definitely recommend deliberately ruining some beads to “perfect your seasoning” – you could use old cane ends and scrap clay so you don’t waste anything, then scrap the whole thing at the end. You never know, it might actually turn out awesome! Either way, it’ll give you better judgement of when to stop.

  2. Phaedrakat, 11 March, 2010

    @Silverleaf: I love the analogy – and the cooking tip! I’ve never known that seasoning tip, I will use it in future dishes. This is a good way to help someone with Lentils, they really take lots of practice (at least they did for me…)

  3. Silverleaf, 11 March, 2010

    @Phaedrakat: When I read this I thought you meant COOKING lentils takes a lot of practice! Guess I have food on the brain today… ;)

  4. Kat, 11 March, 2010

    @Silverleaf: I did switch from one topic (cooking) to the other (PC) very fast. Sorry about that. And I always have food on the brain, so…confusion is totally understandable! Thanks for both kinds of tips today!

    Mmmm, lentil soup is good when it’s cold out… ;-D

  5. Silverleaf, 12 March, 2010

    @Kat: Lentil curry is great too! And I made an awesome Moroccan dish last week with lamb, lentils, and dates. I’m totally obsessed with trying new recipes.

    Actually I’m obsessed with trying new things in general, lol. Another reason I love PC so much, there are so many things still to learn.

  6. Phaedrakat, 13 March, 2010

    @Silverleaf: Oh, that food sounds good! Obsessive or not, I’ll bet it’s delish! I don’t do much cooking anymore – I miss it! I used to try everything, too. I sure hope I’m able to cook like that again, someday. I wonder if there’s any correlation between being a good cook & a good polymer clay cook?

  7. Cindy Lietz, 11 March, 2010

    Silverleaf – I LOVE your analogies!!! They make learning fun!!! Keep them coming :-)

  8. Melinda Herron, 11 March, 2010

    Malinda, I also use Fimo and it does stick to your hands, especially the strong colors and black is the worst. I always have hand sanitizer (has alcohol to help remove the clay) and wet wipes near by. And Cindy is right, it may be muddy on the outside but just a little sanding and the design is crisp again! I truly rejoiced when I figured out sanding is my best friend!

  9. carolyn, 11 March, 2010

    Another thing to keep in mind: keep that top picture glass – CD case – acrylic sheet – or whatever – always parallel to your working surface. Don’t rock back and forth. Get a feel for how your fingers are positioned and keep them that way.

    Also, always work in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. Choose one or the other and only move in that direction with the bead you are working on. If you decide you like the back side better, remember to reverse direction if you turn your bead over. If the top is worked clockwise and you turn the bead over, you must work counterclockwise, otherwise you will unswirl your swirl – or end up with a brain cane look.

  10. MalindaJ, 11 March, 2010

    Thank you all so very much!! Happy beading! ; )

  11. Kat, 11 March, 2010

    Lentils can be tough to learn – so these tips you all have provided are really important! Pressure, keeping your plexi-glass level, direction, length of time, etc. all make the difference. Practice is also very important. Can’t forget that. Cindy’s videos are the biggest help of all, of course – that’s a given!

  12. Freda K, 12 March, 2010

    The first couple of times I made swirled lentils they turned out beautiful. Then later when I went back to making them, they wouldn’t swirl. I’m going to try again with the suggestions made here because I love swirls.

  13. Theresa, 12 March, 2010

    Hi Cindy… just wanted to ask what the color recipe was this AM as I never got the newsletter telling the colors. Thank you so much.

    Theresa Noll

  14. Phaedrakat, 13 March, 2010

    @Theresa: Do you normally get the newsletter, or did you just sign up? Sometimes people have trouble with their email at the beginning (newsletter goes to spam folder, etc.) Cindy should be able to help!

  15. Cindy Lietz, 13 March, 2010

    @Koolbraider: Congratulations on your Lentil bead success! Thanks for sharing your tips. Thanks EVERYONE for sharing your tips. You guys are all awesome!

    @Phaedrakat: Thanks for responding to Theresa. Glad to hear your newsletter finally arrived.

    BTW: With all the talk of cooking in this thread, I’m getting hungry! LOL.

  16. Theresa, 13 March, 2010

    Thank you Phaedrakat! I thought I was sending a e-mail to Cindy lol…I sent this from the “contact me” part lol. So, thanks for getting back to me. I did get the newsletter late. I have been getting it for over a year now I believe, and sometimes when Cindy lets us know when we won’t be getting one, I always have my head in the clay and never pay attention lol. It was just late yesterday. Thank you again.

  17. Koolbraider, 13 March, 2010

    Finally, I know how to make “swirlies”! I’ve spent three years trying to do this on my own. Found this site and have spent the morning making great ones: crisp edges and real swirled colors. I found that I could keep track of the roundness of the lentil by watching the contact area between the clay and the clear acrylic. To make a round bead the moving, revolving shadow has to be the same all around while moving the acrylic square..

  18. Anna Sabina, 22 June, 2010

    My sister hired me to make a necklace for a friend. I have really been stressing about this project because I have never met this woman and it is for her son’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Her dress is black and white and my sister suggested medium/royal blue(Premo Colbalt Blue and 1/4 Ultra Marine) , black, white and a splash of fuchsia/violet. I think some swirly lentils will be perfect. I have pretty good luck getting then to swirl properly but have seen some lentils where a small amount glitter has been swirled. It reminds me of the tail of a comet. Have others have tried this technique and what kind of glitter do you use. Glass, plastic, large, small? I wondered if I could get a similar effect with mica powder mixed in with translucent. Many thanks.

  19. carolyn, 23 June, 2010

    @Anna Sabina: Just make sure that once the glitter reaches the center, you swirl only a bit more. I swirled some too much and ended up with the glitter working its way inside the bead and then the bead fell apart. Probably used too much glitter, but remember, once it goes inside the center, it doesn’t come out again.

  20. Silverleaf, 06 July, 2010

    @Anna Sabina: I can’t add anything to what Sue’s already said about glitter and uniform lentils (thanks Sue!) but I did want to add that you can get a cool effect by adding a couple of small pieces of metal leaf onto the clay before you start swirling. Looks awesome with deep blues and silver foil, like a starry sky.

    Coloured transfer foils (like the Jones Tones or Lisa Pavelka foils) look good too, but more subtle. I use bits of foil-covered clay leftover from other projects and use them to completely cover a ball of scrap clay. Roll to close up the cracks and then swirl as usual – you get a really pretty bead that way. Light colours of clay with bright foils work best for me.

  21. Sue F, 22 June, 2010

    I’ve used Jones Tones Glitter for that technique. The bottles that have a size on them say either “size superfine” or “size .008”.

    The mica powders that I have (about 15 of the PearlEx range) would be too fine to give the same effect, but I think the coarser mica powders would work (including the coarser Pearlexes; Cindy said she used Sparkling Copper in her Faux Agates, and that’s large enough).

  22. Anna Sabina, 23 June, 2010

    Ok, got the glitter. Do you mix it in the clay or use a small amount on the surface before swirling.

  23. Sue F, 23 June, 2010

    @Anna Sabina: I mix it into translucent clay and use a thin layer/slice of that where I want the comet-tail to be. The exact technique depends on how consistent I want my swirly lentils.

    If I want a matched set, i.e. all the swirly lentils looking as close to one another as possible, this is what I do:

    1. Roll a log of scrap clay (not too thick a log; it’s going to be covered).

    2. For each colour or pattern that I want to end up swirling into the centre, apply a medium-thickness strip of that colour or pattern down the length of the log. As these strips are added, butt them up against the adjacent coloured or patterned strips, so that you end up with a log with a scrap clay core that is entirely covered by a single layer of coloured/patterned strips.

    3. If I want a translucent-based pattern too, I apply a strip of the translucent pattern in the appropriate location on top of the base coloured/patterned layer. This might be my translucent mixed with glitter, or it might be based on a ghost cane (super-fine longitudinal stripes give a great final effect). The translucent strip needs to be fairly thin. Remember that it’ll get stretched and therefore thinner in the swirling so you can’t start with a super-thin layer, but it still needs to be thin enough so that it ends up super-thin after the swirling is finished, so that the translucent will effectively become clear when cured. I’d then roll the log briefly on my work surface to make sure it’s smooth and round.

    4. Cut the resulting log into evenly sized pieces.

    5. For each of those pieces, pinch the ends inwards, rotating the pieces as you go, until the scrap clay core is entirely hidden and the strips are evenly tapered into the centre at each end.

    6. Roll the piece in your hand to make a smooth ball.

    7. Place the ball on your work surface and orient it so that the points where all the strips come together are straight up and straight down (i.e. all the strips radiating out from the centre as you look straight down from above the ball).

    8. Swirl! (I usually count the number of rotations so I know when I’m in the ballpark of the number required for each bead, although I judge by eye when to stop as I’m not 100% consistent with the pressure I apply when swirling.)

    NB: If you want a set of matching “beach ball” rounds, stop at the end of step 6. If you’re not swirling you can use a thinner layer of coloured/patterned strips, and obviously any translucent layer would start super-thin too. Form it into other shapes at that point as required (I really like rondelles, personally).

    Anyway, I hope that gives you some ideas. Have fun! :D

  24. carolyn, 24 June, 2010

    @Sue F: Oh, Sue, thank you so much for these detailed instructions. I can make fairly good random lentil beads but really did not know how to go about making them uniform. Your willingness to share you wealth of knowledge is one of the things that makes this site so great. You are a wonderful team player and I always listen up when I see a message from you!

  25. Cindy Lietz, 24 June, 2010

    @Sue F: Sue you ROCK! What a great way to get consistent results! Leave it to our resident tester to boil it right down to a Science. Thank you so much for sharing your lentil making techniques!

  26. Sue F, 24 June, 2010

    @carolyn, @Cindy: You’re welcome! :)

    There are a couple of things I forgot to mention in my previous post (as usual!)…

    Firstly, I don’t just put the glitter directly on the outside of the bead because it gives that part of the bead a different level of friction against the work surface and swirling tool, which means the bead won’t swirl as nicely or as evenly. Flecks of glitter can also escape during the swirling when they start out “loose” on the surface, which can spoil the comet-tail effect.

    Also, it’s definitely worthwhile doing the ice water thing when you’ve used translucent on your lentils, e.g. mixed with glitter for comet-tails, or ghost canes for overlay effects. (For anybody who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, it’s to have a bowl of ice water ready when you take your beads out of the oven. Pop the hot beads straight into that and leave them there until fully cool. This makes a small but noticeable improvement to how clear the cured translucent clay is.)

  27. Anna Sabina, 03 July, 2010

    Hey guys. I made some lovely lentil beads uing the giiter mixed in translucent. Ok, so now what? … I usually sand and bufff beads before putting on Future Floor finish. I have been experimenting with a powdered water proofing fishing lure product. You bake it on raw clay, and there is no need to sand or buff. But….it is extremely shiny and that really is not the look I want. I also think it looks a bit gritty. I also have some sculpy glaze that I have never used. Do you put that on before or after you bake the beads? What do you folks suggest.

  28. Phaedrakat, 03 July, 2010

    @Anna Sabina: Hi Anna! Is that the Studio by Sculpey Glaze, or the original Sculpey Gloss? The S by S can be baked on raw clay, but the other type is meant to be used after baking.

    What is this powdered fishing lure product you’re testing? It’s powdered, but makes it glossy? Sounds really interesting—what’s it called? If you do not want your beads glossy, you could sand them with a high grit to get rid of the gloss.

  29. MalindaJ, 03 July, 2010

    Hi Anna, I believe you can put the glaze on before you bake the bead or after you’ve baked and then bake again. I’d love to hear more about this fishing lure product you have!!

  30. Phaedrakat, 03 July, 2010

    @MalindaJ: Whoops! Hi Malinda! Didn’t see your reply—I’m bad about not refreshing the page when I’m reading/answering a post! Nice to see you here, btw, haven’t seen you in awhile!

  31. MalindaJ, 03 July, 2010

    Hey Paedrakat! No probs! I’m a good lurker ; ) I see you and I are both REALLY interested in this new high gloss finish! Sounds great right? Hope you have a great weekend!

  32. Phaedrakat, 07 July, 2010

    @MalindaJ: Hi again, and a belated “Thanks!” for the great weekend wish—hope you had a wonderful one yourself! Yes, I do think this fishing lure product sounds cool, and I can’t wait to find out more! Cindy’s experimenting with it too, I guess, and maybe something else as well. Any new products that make the sanding/buffing stage easier sound fabulous to me—I’m totally ready to hear about them. Guess I’ll keep my ears or eyes open! Enjoy your day, and your clay~
    Kat (Riverside, CA — Where are you from?)

  33. Jocelyn, 04 July, 2010

    Sue F, what a great technique!. Printed this off to try tomorrow, thanks for the share!!!

  34. Anna Sabina, 04 July, 2010

    The fishing lure product is still in the experimentation phase. Cindy and I have talked about this product and sometime in the future we will hear more about it.

  35. Peggy Barnes, 04 July, 2010

    @Anna Sabina: Anna different subject so I will start by apologizing to everyone for that. I have been trying to find out if you belong to facebook. I would like to visit with you about maybe meeting each other someday. I live in Fort Madison, Iowa SE corner. If I remember correct you live in Des Moines. Please contact through facebook if you are a member. My user name is Peggy Barnes. If you do not belong to facebook maybe we can have Cindy get us together through email. I can’t put my email address here so we would have to go through Cindy. Really would love to chat more with you soon.
    Uuuuuugggggs, Peggy

  36. Anna Sabina, 04 July, 2010

    Hey Peggy. Glad to hear from you, yes I am in Des Moines. I would love to chat with a fellow Iowa Clay. I met Chris from Indianola through this site. I looked up you name on Facebook and found 5 Peggy Barnes. Not sure which is yours. Do not do much on Facebook, usually play Bejeweled or help my friend with Farmtown. In fact, I am not sure what name my Facebook account is under…ha…I am such a techie. I also have a blog on Blogspot, imagine that!! Alas, I do not do much with that either till I figure out more about it and get some pictures put up. I put the URL in this post.

  37. Peggy Barnes, 05 July, 2010

    @Anna Sabina: Hi I did the same with your name and I am not sure how many came up but a lot more than 5. I am the one with the (I think adorable) 2 little ones in a hammock. That’s my grandchildren Liberty and Justice from Peoria, IL. Liberty is the one who created my Uuuuuuggggs and Justice is my youngest and last grandchild. All 3 of our daughters can not have any more children. I have to admit 9 keeps us very busy and I have a lot of gifts under my tree at Christmas. All 9 of them are fairly healthy so we are all very blessed and very thankful. I posted a comment on your blog. At least I think I did. The first one I typed I somehow lost at the very end of my typing. Don’t know what I did but I am sure my computer was laughing at me. After hearing about Ken and Carolyn’s wonderful visit I just got the bug to meet with you. I would love to spend some time visiting with another fan of Cindy and Doug’s. The two of them are just the best. I am so thankful I found this blog and Cindy’s tutes. They are the best. Hope to hear from you very soon
    Uuuuugggggs to all, Peggy

  38. kcbirder, 11 July, 2010

    I’ve had great fun making lentils, and I need to try some of the glitter or leaf add-ins.

    I found there’s a big difference between “passive” and “active” swirling. It’s a little hard to describe, but you can roll your lentil under the clear slab in a fairly passive manner, and not much happens.

    If, on the other hand, you’re actively applying pressure inward, the swirl happens more easily. Think of “pulling” the outside of the clay inward….if you’re “tugging” the clay toward the center, evenly as you rotate (takes a bit of a practiced hand, but not bad) you’ll have a nice spiral and pleasing shape. The trick is to keep the work level, of course. The bigger your rotation, the steeper your bicone will be…tiny circles equals a flat bead. While working, it should be medium-steep for better control.

    I picked up a couple thick plex pieces made for clear mount rubber stamps when they were half price at Hobby Lobby. Do be aware they have a grid printed on one side, and the clay will remove that paint, so use the other side on the bead.

    I’m totally a beginner yet…still have to master color mixing and drilling with my little pin vise (can’t get the darn thing straight!) but I’m having lots of fun!

  39. Jocelyn, 11 July, 2010

    @kcbirder: Nice tips, KC! I can “feel it” as I read it, and can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the share.

  40. Anna Sabina, 05 August, 2010

    Posted earlier this summer about the necklace I was making for my sister’s friend. The follow up posts were very helpful on this challenge. I wanted to show you the end result. I have pictures posted on my blog. Thank you so much for all your help and encouragement.


  41. Phaedrakat, 05 August, 2010

    @Anna Sabina: Your lentil beads and necklace turned out beautiful, Anna! I feel sure that your sister’s friend loved it!

  42. Tanya L, 05 August, 2010

    @Anna Sabina: I didn’t know what you meant when you talked about a comet’s tail, but wow! What an effect! This set is absolutely gorgeous.

Copyright © Polymer Clay Tutor Bead and Jewelry Making Tutorials