Understanding Mica Shifts – Metallic/Pearl Polymer Clay

The Magic Of Mica Shift - Polymer Clay TutorVideo #630: It all has to do with how the tiny mica particles in the clay are aligned… and how they reflect the light.

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • The Magic of Mica – Understanding the Secrets of Metallic and Pearl Polymer Clays.
  • There are some very sparkly, metallic and pearl polymer clays out there… Premo Accents are particularly beautiful because of their high mica particle content.
  • They come in all kinds of different colors. Premo has the following metallic and pearl colors: Gold, 18K Gold, Antique Gold, Copper, Bronze, Silver, Pearl, Bright Green Pearl, Magenta Pearl, Purple Pearl, Peacock Pearl and Blue Pearl.
  • There are some things that you need to understand about these Metallic and Pearl Clays.
  • Often called mica clay because there are mica powders in the clay to give them sparkle.
  • If you just grab a chunk of metallic clay (I used Regular Gold Metallic Premo Accents) and rolled it into a ball, the color will appear to be marbled.
  • This marbled look is because the mica particles in the clay are unevenly aligned and are reflecting light in different directions.
  • I show an example of a checkerboard pattern made only from one color of clay (Gold Premo). From the look of the sample it appears as though I have used two different colors of clay.
  • These two shades coming from a single color block of clay, is possible because of the way the mica particles in the clay were aligned and how they were cut.
  • I show some other beads and samples where this color shifting property is used to create beautiful effects.
  • One technique that takes advantage of this unique property is called Mica Shift. In the technique the clay is sheeted until the particles are aligned and an impression is made into the surface using a rubber stamp.
  • Other objects can be used for stamping as well.
  • When you stamp an “aligned” sheet of metallic clay, the impressions serve to re-align the mica particles and the finished surface has the illusion of being dimensional, even though it is completely smooth.
  • One way to describe why the mica particles do this is to think of them as ultra tiny bits of glitter or mirror shards.
  • Mica particles are flat particles that are shiny on the top sides and dark on the edge sides, much like a piece of mirrored glass.
  • When the particles are sitting in the clay at funny angles, light gets lost in the random edges and makes the clay look dark.
  • Where the particles are laying flat, their shiny surfaces bounce the light off and make the clay look bright and shiny.
  • Rolling the clay through a pasta machine repeatedly, forces the tiny mica particles to lie flat… making the sheet of clay look all shiny… because the particles become aligned.
  • However, when you cut into the slab of clay and then look at the sides, you are now looking at the sides of the particles… which are dark.
  • In the checkerboard pattern, the clay was cut and pieced together in a manner where both the top shiny pieces and the side dark pieces were shown in the different sections side by side. This made it appear like two colors of clay were used, when in reality there was only one.
  • Hopefully this all make sense to you and I was able to help you to understand the unique properties of this wondrous clay better!

Do you have any suggestions for videos on tips, techniques or products you would like to learn more about? Let me know in the comments section below!

My goal is to help you to learn quicker and easier ways to bring up the professionalism in your polymer clay art.

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Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor
  1. Anna Sabina, 19 February, 2015

    Great explanation of a very technical concept. I love Mica Shift and I appreciate all you have done with pearlized clays. Once again,your practical approach opens new possibilities.


  2. Kathay Iskrzycki, 20 February, 2015

    you must have done everything that I will suggest so I will ask anyway maybe you can start all over LOL with all you know for all the new clay artist…..could you demo rolled beads and also there is something I have seen where you roll round beads then roll them in salt then bake them, it looks like the bead has holes all over it….. thank you Kathay

  3. elaine faulks, 20 February, 2015

    Mica shift is one of my favourite techniques, and as you say in your explaination Cindy, they really have that 3D effect but are perfectly smooth. I made some buttons in this Premo 18K gold when it first appeared in the shops. People had to pick them up and feel them as couldn’t believe how smooth they were on the surface. The checkerboard effect was stunning, will have to try that soon. Thanks for great mini tute…..cheers xx……

  4. Julia G, 20 February, 2015

    I haven’t actually tried mica shift yet, but certainly will! Does anyone know who first did it? Some polymer clay techniques are amazing and I can’t help wonder ” who first thought to even try that?”
    Thank you Cindy, I really enjoyed this one. I would have gotten NOWHERE ( polymer clay-wise) if I hadn’t found you.

  5. Cindy Lietz, 13 March, 2015

    Hi Julia, I have no idea who was the first to figure out mica shift. That is a good question!

  6. Jocelyn C, 14 March, 2015

    Hopefully, I can shed some light on the origins of mica shift.

    First, the Glass Attic:


    “The basic special effects possible from using mica clays were introduced by 3 main PIONEERS, as far as I know:
    …canes –slices from which are taken, sometimes applied to sheets …Pier Voulkos
    …blocks (or “ingots”) of stacked sheets of aligned clay — cut into thick slices and recombined, even in different orientations… can be cut apart, or twisted… other surface techniques…. Mike Buesseler
    ..(“ghost image”) …sheets of thin layers can be stacked –then stamped or otherwise impressed and shaved to reveal the patterns beneath the surface …Jami Miller”

    Unfortunately, the links no longer work.

    Mike Beussler:


    Pier Voulkos

    See below, but, especially, look for her work laminating metallic shift effects on furniture. It was a collaboration with another artist, and when the work was published, it blew my mind.

    Last, google the name of the three artists mentioned, I used the following format: “artist name polymer clay mica shift”

    Tons of website, pinterest and facebook links to oogle, but to me, the best feast for the eyes is to go to the top and click on images. Stunning work.

  7. Lesley S, 26 February, 2015

    I’ve subscribed to Cindy Lietz for years now, and have learned so much from her…. it’s about the best value I can think of! Plus … she’s charming and her videos are always fun to watch! :-)

  8. Theresa N, 26 February, 2015

    Yes… she seems to take the hard out and leaves the easy.

  9. Elfie S, 27 February, 2015

    I too have been a subscriber to Cindy for years,, she is amazing!!

  10. Kathay Iskrzycki, 01 March, 2015

    I have seen someplace where you roll beads in salt then bake them, it looks like the beads have holes all over it. What kind of salt do you use? Can you demo this?….. thank you Kathay I

  11. Cindy Lietz, 13 March, 2015

    Hi Kathay, that is a great one for me to do a demo of… thanks for the suggestion! (BTW you use coarse salt.)

  12. Kathay Iskrzycki, 15 March, 2015

    Cindy someone told me that you can add mica powers to clay for mica shift have you heard about this? I was wondering if you could do this to translucent clay… Kathay

  13. Jocelyn C, 19 March, 2015

    Hi Kathay!

    Yes you can. But you need to experiment a little and test bake, before you do a huge batch and are disappointed with the results. As always, the first place to check is the “search box” here. I’d check anything that comes up that has “mica shift” in the title, because some of the demos, tutes, and blogs have comment sections loaded with info from folks who have done it.

    Myself, I find that you can use mica powder, right on up to grades of mica flakes to produce stunning shift effects. Learned always to start the process of mixing in a plastic bag, because it flies all over as you start incorporating it. Keep notes.

    Mica amounts vary based on the type of clay (regular colored, transparent, etc.), the deepness of pigment of the color, alcohol tinting levels, etc. You can take black and add enough black mica to get a fabu black shift.

    I love rocks and minerals, and one of my last major finds was a basketball sized chunk of mica in a pegmatite blast site. The big stable part I donated to the local children’s museum, but the rest I can play with. I have a set of screens from geology class, and have bags from 1/4 inch chips downwards. All sizes have produced mica shift effects.

    Too much fun. Hope this helped, and all best.

  14. Kathay Iskrzycki, 19 March, 2015


    Thank you so much for all your great information…….looking forward to trying all new possibility’s……Kathay

  15. Jocelyn C, 20 March, 2015

    You are more than welcome. Please share pics!!!!

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