Translucent Polymer Clay Secrets for Surviving on a Deserted Island

Flower Cane Translucent Background.jpg

Whether It’s Fimo, Kato, or Premo Sculpey… Translucent Clay is an Essentiality!

Every brand of polymer clay has a their own version of translucent. Although each one is similar, there are some differences too. Some comparison notes are posted in this article: Translucent Sculpey Clay, Fimo Clay, Premo, Cernit, Kato

At this time, none of the manufacturers make a totally clear translucent polymer clay (not sure if that would even be possible). However, when using translucent for filling in polymer clay background spaces in flower canes and ghost canes, you can get close-to-invisible by cutting your cane slices very thin.

Another feature to translucent polymer clay is the ability for light to penetrate the surface. This adds a ‘depth’ quality that you simply can’t achieve using other types of non-polymer clays, such as earth-based ceramic clay.

Just look at the variegated sculpted Rose bead in the photo above and you can see just how much light can penetrate even a 50:50 mix of translucent and regular opaque polymer clay.

Translucent clay can also be used for making:

You can also use translucent clay to create some pretty cool tinting and illumination effects using alcohol inks and powdered pigments.

I once said, that if I was stranded on a deserted island and could have only three polymer clay supplies, they would be a blade, a pasta machine and a HUGE block of translucent clay! I guess I’d have to do my baking on a black rock in the sun, or over the open fire… Survivor style HeHe!

So which brand of translucent polymer clay do you prefer, and why? Also… please share your stories about cool stuff you have made using translucent polymer clay.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


  1. Anna Sabina, 09 July, 2009

    Have not found a favorite yet. I have a big block of Premo Frost which is supposed to be the whitest but I found it really soft and gummy to work with. One problem I have had with translucent is leaving too much around the outside of canes and cutting too thick. It looks like a dirty light gray/beige.
    .

  2. Sue, 09 July, 2009

    I use Kato for everything except for translucent where I also use Premo Frost. Kato is noticeably whiter, Premo Frost is noticeably clearer, so the brand (or mix) I use depends on what I want to do.

    A complicating factor is that Kato is much, much stronger when baked at a higher temperature than that recommended for Premo, so I can’t always just use Premo Frost for the translucent bits. (If I really need something clearer than Kato translucent, I sometimes bake a base Kato item at its preferred higher temperature, then add a finishing layer including the translucent bits in Premo Frost, and bake the whole thing again at Premo’s temperature. Or I just use Kato Clear Medium instead! ;D)

    I mainly use translucent clay for three things:

    – Faux semi-precious stones such as faux marble, faux opal, faux agate, faux jade, etc., or to help things like faux lapis lazuli look more realistic. Faux semi-precious stones are great fun to make and there are almost infinite possibilities. I often use the same techniques that I’d apply when reproducing “real” semi-precious stones, but with different colours, and make up my own kinds of stones.

    – Canework, particularly (a) ghost canes with geometric designs that I can overlay on other designs, (b) kaleidoscope canes (also great fun!), and (c) background/filler or to provide “windows” in more traditional canes.

    – An extender for when I want more of a colour clay than I have on hand.

  3. Sue, 09 July, 2009

    A quick clarification: what I call “kaleidoscope canes” above are probably more commonly known as mosaic canes. I’ve just got “kaleidoscope” stuck in my head for that type of cane for some reason…

  4. Polyanya, 09 July, 2009

    Not tried my Kato translucent yet only used Premo. I was experimenting making faux opals so had several pea sized colours to mix in – the beads when baked looked dirty so I wrapped the remaining bulls eye canes in a washed out violet, reduced them all down and made a lace cane, this was favourite cane for a long time.

  5. Cindy Graveline, 09 July, 2009

    I use Sculpey or Fimo, depending where I go to buy it, but they are way too squishy… I just received this morning a sampler pack of Kato, and I gonna try the translucent really soon…

  6. Karen A. Scofield, 09 July, 2009

    Kato or Premo Frost (used in my faux items).

  7. Jocelyn, 09 July, 2009

    I use old formula Kato. See Premo or other in my future.

    If a clear protective finish is what you’d like you can also try clear embossing powder found in the stamping section.

    If you work slowly and carefully, you can build up quite a nice layer of clear/transparent. You can also add fine particles to the clear powder to get sparkle or aged effects once you melt and set it with a heat gun.

    Only works for a few clay applications, the object needs to be flat so that the finish doesn’t slide off while it’s setting. I’ve seen folks encapsulate images and postage stamps successfully.

    Will go look for some links and post them below. Back!

    Try this one, it’s good: rubberstamping.about.com/od/gettingstarted/a/ClearEmbossing.htm

  8. Arlene Harrison, 09 July, 2009

    I’ve recently tried 3 different options. Normally I use Premo – regular, not frost – but I was doing some experimenting using the alcohol inks on gold leaf technique that you had on here not too long ago and wanted something that would bake clearer than the Premo. I tried both Kato and Sculpey III and I could not tell any major difference between the three except that the Kato was hard to condition and the Sculpey III was too soft. So I’ll stick to my Premo and use the ice water bath method to clear them up. I’ve also had success using a heat gun but I’m generally not that patient!

  9. Lori, 10 July, 2009

    I use the “bleached” translucent Fimo, aka Frost.
    I will swap my secrets of using this translucent in cool ways for the how-to on the varigated roses!! ?

  10. Cheryl, 10 July, 2009

    Do you plunge the beads in ice water as soon as they are out of the oven?

  11. Ken H., 11 July, 2009

    Just watched my new back issue #5 videos, I have a question:
    will the foils crack on top of translucent as well as they would on the opaque clay? Thinking about making a “ghost sheet” instead of a ghost cane. would this work?

  12. Ken H., 11 July, 2009

    @Cheryl

    that’s what I do, drop them into the ice bath right out of the oven.

  13. Cindy Lietz, 11 July, 2009

    Sorry I’m running short on time, so I can’t respond to each of you like I would like to. Excellent comments and tips everyone! Thank you so much for your comments! :-)

    Just to respond to the couple of questions…

    @Lori: I am not sure exactly what you mean by swapping secrets for the how-to. Could you explain further so I can properly answer your request?

    @Cheryl: Ken is right, plunging your beads straight from the oven into ice water does help with making the translucent clearer. Not by much mind you, but every little bit helps.

    @Ken: Yes, the foil will crack nicely on a sheet of translucent and therefore you idea to make a ‘ghost sheet’, is a good one!

  14. lynn watts, 11 July, 2009

    I have used the sculpey 111 and the kato. I like kato, it is hard to condition but I like the results. I tint my trans,make canes and cover candle holders with the cane slices. It lets the light thru when the candle is lit. It really looks nice depending on your cane slices you use. The candle holders is the ones you have left over when you buy a candle and it is used up, or the ones you can buy at the thrift stores. I have bought alot from there. I also use wine glasses, etc. Lynn W.

  15. Ken H., 12 July, 2009

    Well here is the report on the faux jade roses, the formula for the jade came out fantastic, the roses – not so much – I think I made the petals too thin, after dropping them in the ice bath, I went to pull them out and some of the outer petals started to crack off, they look beautiful though and I will be applying future tomorrow, also did a few beads while I had my tools out, the beads are unbelievable, I have one coat of future so far and they already shine like polished jade, and they actually have the internal glow that jade has. Well one out of two isn’t bad, will try the roses again making the petals a little thicker next time. Good Night everyone.

  16. Cindy Lietz, 17 July, 2009

    @Lynn: Your candle holders sound lovely! I would love to see pictures of them. If you click the Jupiter Beads link by my name you will see a post about the new Spotlight articles I am writing, featuring the work of people who come to this blog. I would be happy to feature your work

    @Ken: Same for you Ken… would love to see your Jade flowers good or bad. You know from being at this site for awhile that there is as much to learn from mistakes as there is from successes. I would love to see pictures from you on both the jade projects that went right and the ones that went wrong plus how you solved the issues.

  17. Ken H., 17 July, 2009

    I hope to try again this week end. After watching part two of the raku video i’m begining to wonder if the roses weren’t baked long enough, when your sheet started to crumble after the inital heat treatment it was VERY reminicent of what happened to the outer petals of some of the roses. I am also going to try different colors of jade this weekend (I guess you could say I’m in my jade period). I want to get Jade under by belt before I move on to the next faux I want to try – Lapis.

  18. Gina A, 10 January, 2013

    Isn’t Premo Frost the older name for Premo White? I have been working on small, round charms to use as kind of a signature on my jewelry and I use Premo Frost. I am attaching them to the clasps and it makes for a unique look. I love how clear Premo Frost is…but if the Premo White is different/better…I would love to try it.

  19. Cindy Lietz, 13 January, 2013

    Hi Gina, yes Frost is now called Premo White Translucent. They just renamed it and have claimed it has not changed. I haven’t really noticed any difference other than it may be a little softer… but then again, it could be that my White Translucent was just super ‘fresh’. Your signature charms sound cool. Would love to see them!

  20. Sue W, 22 November, 2013

    Hi Cindy,

    Can you explain the use of the transparent / translucent clay. I have had directions that call for it. What is the purpose or advantages of using it.

    Thank You,
    Sue

  21. Jocelyn c, 25 November, 2013

    Hi Sue!

    Whenever need information, this place is an encyclopedia of comments and blogs. Just pop “translucent” into the search facility and you will be amazed.

    I love it, because when something is translucent it reminds me of my first love, stained glass church windows. Over time, I’ve learned to add translucent to most everything I use.

    It adds a sheen and a clarity to colors when baked and properly finished. It softens all clay brands and combos quickly when added to a processor, which keeps me creating faster. When used with darker and lighter colors, it can bring incredible depth to a piece (like faux wood or burls tutes here) which you don’t see unless it’s thoroughly finished.

    Without translucent, we could not make night lites and glow in the window light objects.

    LOL! I could spend the next 5 years just playing with translucent clay.

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