Polymer Clay Tutorial | Alcohol Ink Effects on Crackled Gold Leaf

Alcohol Inks On Crackled Metal Leaf Polymer Clay

Vid #106: Gorgeous Colors and Metal Crackles Protected Beneath a Glassy Smooth Layer of Translucent:

The diversity of polymer clay never ceases to amaze me. Last week in the members library I demonstrated how to make rough and organic looking faux pebble beads. But this week’s library video project (to be released on Friday May 15th), can be described as classy, elegant and refined. Two extremes, same medium. Don’t you just love it!

In this Vol-012-2 tutorial you will learn how to create a stunning sheet of polymer clay suitable for pendants, earrings and wrapping around beads.

I use black clay for the base, copper metal leaf, Stream Green + Wild Plum colored alcohol inks, and translucent clay. However for your project, you could use any of the metal leafs (gold, silver, copper, etc.) and any combination of ink and clay colors. It’s up to you.

One of the cool tricks you’ll learn in this week’s tutorial video, is how to use translucent clay in a way that allows you to buff and polish your creations to a super glossy finish. Most crackled polymer clay projects are not finished like this, because the surface effects are not protected well enough to allow for sanding.

This cool translucent layering technique can also be used to protect other projects as well… like image transfers. You are going to absolutely love knowing how to do this.

The full version of the video will be available in the library on Friday (May 15). But further down on this page is a little sneak peak clip for you to watch right now if you like.

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Here’s That “Link Below” Referred To at End of the Video
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The full version of the “Crackled Leaf” preview video shown above, is available for purchase at my Polymer Clay Bead Making Videos Library in the Volume-012 Back Issue Package.

The following topics are covered in this “Ink on Crackled Leaf” video:

  • Tips for adding metal leaf to a sheet of raw polymer clay.
  • Tricks for adding alcohol ink to the metal leaf to get vibrant color bleeding effects.
  • How to use your pasta machine so that your crackle pattern crackles the way you want it to.
  • Ways to repair the crackled leaf sections should some come off on the pasta machine rollers.
  • Sealing everything up with an ultra thin layer of translucent which can then be sanded, buffed and polished to a very glossy finish.
  • Ideas for using this translucent trick to protect other delicate surfaces as well… like image transfers.
  • How to avoid trapping those nasty bubbles and air pockets so they don’t show up during the baking process.
  • Using cutters to make matching pendant and earring jewelry sets.
  • Discussion of how to use the tile sandwich baking technique.
  • Future floor finish, varathane, resins and liquid clay options.

  1. Maria, 12 May, 2009

    Hmmm…I wonder how you got inspired to make this video? Can’t wait for Friday!!!

  2. Ken H., 12 May, 2009

    I can’t wait for friday!!!!!!!

  3. Joyce F, 12 May, 2009

    Sometimes it would be nice to have a time machine with a fast-forward button. Will be there on Friday.

  4. Anna Sabina, 12 May, 2009

    THAT ROCKS !!!! I can hardly wait !!! We need the LOST TV version so we can time travel back and forth between tutorials. Doing my Happy Dance now.

  5. Bonnie Jones, 13 May, 2009

    That is beautiful…and I have all the stuff I need to proceed…..what will I do with it when completed???
    don’t know, but will find a way to incorporate into my work….maybe a base for my figures…… you are a genius Cindy. Will check back later.

  6. Silverleaf, 13 May, 2009

    I love it!

    It’s exactly the kind of thing I like. I’ve been using foil a lot myself this week, creating a similar kind of effect by layering coloured translucent clay over cracked foil on black or white. Yours is better.

    You’ve inspired me to order some alcohol inks (since I had to order clay anyway I figured what the heck). Expensive, but hopefully I’ll use them lots and make pretty things.

    **PHOTO ADDED: The following link will take you to a Spotlight Article featuring a picture of Silverleaf’s beautiful work: Crackled Gold Leaf Polymer Clay Techniques

  7. Cindy Lietz, 13 May, 2009

    I’m glad you guys are excited! Can’t wait to show it to you all!

  8. Sue, 14 May, 2009

    Hi Cindy,

    What a great idea for rolling extra-thin sheets of translucent clay! I’ve seen something similar before, but the folder is a really great addition to the technique. I’ll definitely try that next time.

    I had a different workaround… I’ve never tried it with alcohol inks (haven’t managed to get my hands on any!) but it might be useful for the issue with the leaf lifting in patches.

    I roll my background colour on the thickest setting, lay on the metal leaf, then place a layer of translucent rolled at the thinnest setting on top of that (i.e. before the leaf is crackled, so you have a background/metal-leaf/translucent sandwich). I then feed the whole thing through the pasta machine on its thickest setting, rotate it 90 degrees, roll it out one step thinner, rotate it 90 degrees, etc. until I have the crackle effect I want. With the brand of metal leaf I have the “sandwiched” crackles are slightly finer than they would have been if the leaf was crackled on the top, but the effect is still very nice.

    I’ve used this approach to ensure that the translucent layer was thinner than my pasta machine could produce, but I think it would also prevent the inked leaf from lifting off on the rollers in patches.

    (Other times, I just leave the crackled leaf “naked” on top of the background colour, bake it, then add several layers of Kato Clear Medium, curing first in the oven and then with a heat gun between each layer. That doesn’t need sanding at all and gives an even clearer shiny coating on the top… but it might not work with the alcohol inks patterns. I think I’ll have to find some alcohol inks so I can try it!)


  9. Silverleaf, 15 May, 2009

    Yay, my inks arrived today! Just in time for me to try this.

    Unfortunately the package I got had one Wild Plum and two Stream, and no Butterscotch. :( But I called the company I ordered from and they are going to send me a Butterscotch for free – so I got 4 bottles for the price of 3!

    Think I might play with inking Shrinky Plastic as well.

  10. rachel warren, 15 May, 2009

    wow! what a fab technique video this week! I am another one who really looks forward to the friday video, and as usual i am amazed by all the different things you can do wit polymer clay.
    Thanks Cindy, and keep up the good work:)

  11. Ken H., 15 May, 2009

    Could you roll the clay to crackle it with the parchment paper to keep the leaf from pulling off?

    Absolutely fantastic, my mind is already working.

  12. carolyn, 30 January, 2010

    @Ken H.: Ken, This is exactly what I did after my rollers got ‘stuff’ all over them. Only rubbing alcohol would clean the rollers. I didn’t want to have to do that again, so I did the parchment paper thing – hadn’t read your idea yet – great minds and all that! This worked really well.

  13. Laurel B, 15 May, 2009

    Ok, you finally got me with this one. I am becoming a member. You almost had me with the Rock Tumbler but thought I might be able to figure it out on my own (I haven’t) and since lately I have been into transfers, I have got to see/learn this technique. I guess it’s about time I didn’t have to make mistakes and let you do it. LOL. I will ALWAYS make mistakes but maybe a tiny bit less now. Thanks for your help Cindy.

  14. Cheryl Hodges, 15 May, 2009

    Hello Cindy

    That was a great video! I read somewhere if you immerse beads made with translucent clay in ice cold water, it gets even more translucent. Do you do that? Adding translucent clay to protect while sanding is a great idea – can you use it when you add fibers or petals?

    Thanks very much, Cheryl

  15. Silverleaf, 15 May, 2009

    Well this worked okay for me, although I need to work on getting my trans layer thinner (I didn’t have a folder so just used some sheets of ordinary paper, with baking paper touching the clay which wasn’t enough, and the clay stuck to the paper and made things difficult).

    I tried inking the foiled clay before and after crackling and both are good. Inking after crackling solved the problem of foil sticking to the pasta machine so I prefered it that way, less messy.

    I also tried Sue’s suggestion of crackling after applying the trans layer which made the trans come out really thin. This one had the most clarity.

    I was surprised how much more vibrant the ink colours were after baking, very pretty, although I’ll use less ink next time.

    It will be good to see how my experiments look after I sand them.

    **PHOTO ADDED: The following link will take you to a Spotlight Article featuring a picture of Silverleaf’s beautiful work: Crackled Gold Leaf Polymer Clay Techniques

  16. Rob_k, 15 May, 2009

    I see says the blind man….thanks, one of my issues was getting the translucent thin enough, thanks for showing this. I have some very ornate cigar bands, and this is perfect for showing detail and encasing in poly clay. Thanks again Cindy, the price of the membership is saved in the mistakes I will no longer make!

  17. Jennifer M., 15 May, 2009


    I tried the trans over the leaf with alcohol inks and it seemed to of worked. It seems like the inks smear a little but adds a nice effect. Plus, I think I like the crackle effect this way a little better. I did try to let the inks dry some before I put the trans on.

    I was having alot of problems with the leaf and inks coming off while running it through the pasta machine, even on the thickest setting before trying this method.

    Jennifer M.

  18. Jennifer M., 15 May, 2009


    One way to solve the trans sticking the the baking paper is to smear a thin layer of corn starch on the baking paper before adding the trans. I was having problems with the trans sticking and this seems to help.

    Hope this helps :)

    Jennifer M.

  19. Sue Werner, 15 May, 2009

    Hi Cindy,
    Great project! If I were to use this to cover a bead, do you suggest covering the bead with the foiled piece first, then overlaying the translucent over that, or making the sheet as demonstrated and covering the bead core with only one layer?

    Thank you for such a beautiful technique!

  20. Sue, 16 May, 2009

    Cheryl, the ice water trick actually does make translucent clay slightly more translucent. I was pretty sceptical when I heard about it and thought the thermal shock might actually weaken the clay, but it doesn’t seem to. When I have pieces with translucent they go straight into a bath of ice water as soon as I take them out of the oven. It doesn’t make a big difference — on my “real item” tests the ice-watered samples were so similar to the open-air-cooled controls that I thought the slight improvement was just my wishful thinking, but I tried it again with plain sheets of translucent, seeing how well I could read through them, and the ice-watered versions were slightly but definitely better there — but every little bit helps!

    Silverleaf & Jennifer, thanks for letting me know how the apply-translucent-before-crackling approach worked out with the alcohol inks for you. (Now if I could only find some alcohol inks around here, I’d be able to try it out for myself!)

  21. Jennifer M., 16 May, 2009

    When I baked it with the layer of trans over top, it was transparent, but the gold leaf did not look gold, it was a funny color, kind of yellowish. Was the trans too thick? Or will I need to sand/buff to see a difference? Also, what setting on the pasta machine should the trans with the folder be ran through? The thickest setting on mine is #1.

    I thought the trans was thin enough. I did not have folders so I used a couple of sheets of office paper with the parchment paper.


  22. Jocelyn, 17 May, 2009


    Love the addy, lol! Regular paper and thin transparent do not a fun day make. Stuff sticks to everything. I love using the waxed deli paper, the coating causes all but the thinnest clays (when you’ve pulled it by hand to get it the thinnist you can) to peel off beautifully. Grabbed mine from my friend who owns the local deli….comes in a box of prefolded paper. Use it in the pasta machine whenever I make polymer fabric sheets or transluscent. You could probably get the same results using sheets of waxed paper from the grocery store, but I LOVE this product. In Europe, they use some kind of acrylic or plastic double sheet to encase the clay to put through the pasta machine or roll. Seems to work as well as the deli paper from watching videos (yes, Cindy…I cheat, lol) but don’t know what it’s called or where you get it. Maybe someone else could help?

  23. Mary Beth, 18 May, 2009

    I love alcohol inks! And I can’t stand to waste anything (sound familiar?) I have a pic [click my name link to see it] of a way that I utilize small scraps of my inked gold leaf sheets. Enjoy!

  24. Cindy Lietz, 18 May, 2009

    Wow! Thank you everyone for the great feedback on the video! Glad to see you liked it and many of you are trying it already!

    There are so many comments that I will just respond to those who asked specific questions. Thanks to everyone who gave their tips, suggestions and support! You guys are super duper people and I love it!

    @Sue: I love the tips you shared! They are great! Making the this sheet separate has the advantage of not thinning out the base bead too far plus being able to use it for other techniques. I do however like that it avoids the problem of leafing coming off on the rollers, so it also has some advantages. Thanks again for sharing your expertise!

    @Ken: That’s a great idea! It should work!

    @Cheryl: Sue answered the translucent ice bath thing perfectly for you. As far as using the ultra thin sheet of translucent for protecting fibers and flower petals, yes, that would be a perfect use for it!

    @Silverleaf: Excellent suggestions! It’s nice to see someone trying the project right away! As far as inking after cracking that is a great idea! I would probably not do it when I was using a light colored clay though, because the ink would effect the background as well and wouldn’t give the same contrast. But on black it is perfect!

    @Rob: The thin translucent would work beautifully for sealing over cigar bands. Neat idea!

    @Jennifer: It is important for the ink to be completely dry before running through the pasta machine. This will avoid too much mess. As far as using cornstarch to keep it from sticking to the paper is that this also may prevent it from sticky to your gold leaf layer. This may be the reason your gold leaf color was off. It may not have been completely adhered to the layer underneath. My machine thinnest setting is #1. Each machine is different so you just have to start at the thinnest and go from there. You could try freezer paper. That might work better for you. Let me know if you need any more help.

    @Sue W: The easiest way to crackle the gold would be in a flat sheet, so I would make the sheet the way I did and then use piece of it to cover a base bead. Hope that makes sense.

    @Jocelyn: Those sheets sound very handy! Someone else mentioned something like that (sorry I can’t remember who now) in a post the other day. Will have to keep an eye out for those.

    @Mary Beth: Your beads are awesome! Thanks for showing us your pics!

    Hope I didn’t miss anything. Let me know if I did!

  25. Jocelyn, 19 May, 2009

    Just finished watching this video for the third time. I am still learning new things! Watching Cindy work reminds me of watching the old black and white Julia Childs’ French Cooking TV series from PBS/Boston.

    With Julia and Cindy, they show the good, the bad, and the ugly, as it happens live. It just comforts me so much to watch experts have similar problems to mine, and to watch them work it out to a beautiful finish.

    You could have editted the video to leave out some of the metal foil sticking to the rollers or how difficult the transparent clay was to remove from the paper backing. But by leaving it in, it adds so much more.

    It gives me confidence.

    You have beautiful hands Cindy, and I love the way you pronounce “clay.” LOL!

  26. Cindy Lietz, 20 May, 2009

    What a sweet, sweet thing you are Jocelyn! You made my day!

  27. nancy reddick, 04 July, 2009

    Well I had to add my 2 cents worth. I was so excited after the video… got all my things together and away I went. Cindy you make this look so easy girl…(lol) Well the translucent clay stuck to everything ( total disaster). When I finally got to the black clay, foil and ink… I was so excited… it was beautiful ( high hopes) I was talking on the phone to mom, and was telling her how beautiful this was turning out, ( she told me later she almost jumped in her car to come over and see what I was talking about). Well added the translucent clay, cut out my pendants. Carefully placed it in my oven and waited… Oh was I ever disappointed when they were done… they were a blob of black and ghostly white clay… no shine no glitz… I sanded until 4:00am in the morning my fingers were raw… and still no sparkle and I had worked through the translucent and down to the black… but I will not give up… like the idea of using corn starch on the paper with the translucent… Yours were beautiful… but I’ll keep trying… Thank you for the inspiration…

  28. Cindy Lietz, 05 July, 2009

    Oh Nancy, that sounds frustrating! Maybe I can help…

    First of all, which brand of translucent did you use? The fact that it was super sticky sounds like you may have used Sculpey III. I used Premo in the video which is usually much firmer than that. Fimo or Kato will work as well, just don’t use Sculpey III it is too sticky and is also not as translucent when baked.

    Next, if it was one of the brands I recommend, than the clay may need to be leached out a bit by putting it between two sheets of office paper and running through the pasta machine. The clay will stick to the paper and you will have to scrape it off, but it will absorb some of the extra plasticizer and make it less sticky. You will see an oily spot on the paper if you are removing it properly.

    Next, are you making sure the translucent sheet is thin enough? Follow the steps using the card stock and parchment paper. As far as using cornstarch on the translucent, the problem with that is that then the sheet won’t stick to the base clay with the crackle. Also any air pockets between the translucent and the crackled clay will look whitish and opaque.

    Next, are you sanding the piece through several grits of wet/dry sandpaper? You should be starting at 400 grit, then 600, 800, and 1200 then onto buffing, to get a nice shine. To get that glitz, you’re talking about, you will probably need to coat with Future Floor finish or Studio by Sculpey Glaze.

    I put a link by my name that will take you to a post about proper sanding, if you haven’t read that yet.

    I hope this helps. Don’t give up. Once you learn more about the clay and how it behaves you will find you have lots of successes. If you need any more help, don’t hesitate to ask.

  29. nancy reddick, 06 July, 2009

    Cindy you are amazing… thank you for replying back. I did use Premo.. I will try the leaching technique… I do use the technique you talked about when sanding a piece… I will try this again… thanks again… Nancy

  30. Cindy Lietz, 04 September, 2009

    **PHOTO ADDED: A project picture has just been added to a Spotlight Feature showcasing Silverleaf, a member who is very much appreciated here at this supportive polymer clay community. Click on the “Crackled Gold Leaf Polymer Clay Techniques” link by my name to have a look.

  31. Cindy Lietz, 02 October, 2009

    **PHOTOS ADDED: More project pictures have been added to a Spotlight Feature showcasing Kriss Johnson, a member who is very much appreciated here at this supportive polymer clay community. Click on the “Polymer Clay Techniques” link by my name to have a look.

  32. Ifama, 03 December, 2009

    Hi Cindy,
    You know I am a beginner but I tried to do the crackled pieces. I just couldn’t get the trans thin enough and I think I used to much ink, LOL. Still, I think the set i did looks okay, for the first time. However, the problem I have is that when I baked them using the sandwich method (or any method for that matter) my pieces come out of the toaster oven rubbery. I use a thermometer and the oven has one too. I am using Premo. How do I get them to be hard? And I discovered that liquid leaf does not crackle (or I didn’t do something right, again, LOL), thank God I used my acrylic roller instead of my pasta machine, I took note from when I used the regular gold leave and it stuck to the rollers, LOL. Thanks so much for your time.

  33. Cindy Lietz, 03 December, 2009

    Hi Ifama.

    We’ll get this figured out. First of all, don’t use liquid leaf with this technique. It will not work. Second, make sure to let the ink dry before trying to crackle it. Next if the leaf and ink is sticking to your rollers, put it between two sheets of parchment before running through the pasta machine.

    As far as getting the translucent thin enough, are you using a sheet of card stock like it shows in the video? That will be important to getting the translucent as thin as you want it. Don’t forget, you can still stand it thinner after baking so that should help.

    Try those things and let me know how it goes. Good luck!

  34. Cindy Lietz, 03 December, 2009

    Oh sorry Ifama, I meant ‘sand it thinner’ not ‘stand it thinner. Silly me!

  35. Cindy Lietz, 31 March, 2010


    Polymer Clay Projects

    Hello to Everyone,

    Some new Spotlight project pictures that relate to the topic of this page (Crackled Ink and Gold Leaf Technique), have just been added in another post. They were submitted by Cheryl-H. The link by my name will take you to where you can see them, along with a bit of a write up. Hopefully they will inspire you to achieve great things with your own polymer clay projects.

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