Wet Sanding Polymer Clay Tutorial: Make Clay Jewelry and Beads Shine

Polymer Clay Sandpaper

8 Sanding Tips for Polishing Polymer Clay to a Beautiful Finish:

If you have read any of the other articles here on my blog, you will know how much importance I feel it is to sand your polymer clay beads. It is probably the most important step if you want your jewelry projects to have that professional look. Here’s some tips on how to do it correctly:

1) Use Silicone Carbide wet/dry sandpaper, not the regular woodworking or DIY home improvement sand paper.

2) Sand polymer clay wet and add a drop of dish soap into your water dip to help reduce clogging of the sandpaper.

3) Wash out sand paper when it gets clogged. A soft brush and dish soap works well for this. Clogged paper doesn’t do much but give you a sore arm from sanding forever.

4) Start with a low numbered grit like 320 or 400. Then progress through higher grits such as 600, 800, 1200 and 1500. Some artists even go to 2000 grit but it is harder to find.

5) The best industrial grade sanding materials are found in auto supply stores. It is tough and you can often find packs with a variety of grits.

6) Cheap sandpapers tend to curl up and wear out faster, so buy the best brand you can afford. Ask because each store carries different brands. 3M makes a great product so look for it if you can.

7) Change sheets often. Sandpaper doesn’t last forever. If you can’t feel a bit of a ‘tooth’ to the paper, it is probably worn out. You might want to always keep a small square of brand new stuff in all the grits so you have something to compare it to.

8) A polymer clay bead or pendant that has been baked hard for at least an hour, will sand way easier and smoother than one that is under baked.

For more information on how to set up your sanding kit here’s a couple of other articles to read:

If you have any other sanding tips for making shiny polymer clay beads and jewelry, I’d love to hear them. Or if you have a question, I’m here to help.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Kimberlee, 20 September, 2008

    This is a good concise list of tips.

    Sometimes I find that there are small gouges (like fine lines) or less flat parts on my pieces while I’m sanding them. Do you recommend sanding with dry sandpaper before wet to take out these larger imperfections?

  2. Cindy Lietz, 21 September, 2008

    Actually Kimberlee why don’t you read the article I wrote called: Sanding Polymer Clay with Drywall Sandpaper Means Less Gouging. (Click the link by my name.)

    This will help you with your problem!

  3. Karen F, 31 July, 2015

    I love the info but can you please tell me how long you sand each piece, i.e. 5 mins for each level of sandpaper?


  4. Cindy Lietz, 04 August, 2015

    Unfortunately there is no set amount of time that is the most ideal at each grit. It depends on how smooth your piece was to begin with and how detailed it is, etc. But if you try to make sure to sand for long enough to remove the scratches from the previous grit, then you can move on to the next one. % minutes at each grit usually would be just fine, but it could vary depending on the piece.

  5. Pamela, 22 September, 2008

    I stumbled across your web site by doing a google search on how to make polymer clay colors. Your site is so informative and user friendly. Thankx!!!

  6. Karrah S, 25 February, 2009

    I have a hard time getting my beads really shiny. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. What is the best last step after sanding with the progressively finer grits and buffing with denim to get that gorgeous shine?

  7. Cindy Lietz, 28 February, 2009

    In order to get the gorgeous shine you are talking about Karrah, you are going to need a power tool like a Dremel or a bench buffer to do the job. To learn more about using a Dremel Tool, click the link by my name.

  8. Consuelo, 07 December, 2009

    Hello Cindy, I’m having some problems with my beads. I’ve seen all your course tutorials but can’t get to know when my beads are well cooked. I sanded lots of them and then buffed but they don’t shine. How can i resolve this? is it that i haven’t cooked it enough or is it that i haven’t sanded enough? in Chile i haven’t found sands smother than 400, but is really soft, cpuol that be my problem? Thank you!

  9. Cindy Lietz, 07 December, 2009

    Hi Consuelo,

    I posted your email question here at the blog because there is information in the article above, that should be helpful for you.

    It is hard to give you exact advice without actually seeing everything that you are doing. But you have identified 2 things that are in fact very important when it comes to getting your beads to shine… proper baking and sanding with high grit wet dry sandpaper.

    You will definitely need to find some wet dry sandpaper higher than 400 grit. You may have to go to an automotive supply store to find it in your area. Body shops use this product for finishing the paint on cars.

    There is a link by my name will take you to another article that you should read for more info about shiny beads.

    For even more info, also be sure to use the search box at the top of the home page of this blog. Use keywords like, shiny, sanding, sandpaper, wet dry, baking… to find lots and lots of helpful information.

    If you have specific questions that the blog articles don’t answer, then you are welcome to post follow up questions in the comment sections underneath the relevant articles.

    Hope this helps.

  10. Sue C, 12 July, 2010

    Hi Cindy,

    I have a question for you about sanding my beads. I took a piece of sandpaper that came with a kit I purchased and started to try sanding one of my beads. To my surprise the bead looks like the color is being removed, looks faded, and rough. Is this what happens when one sands a bead? Is this normal? I am tempted to only lightly sand little rough spots and then coat the beads with future floor polish. I have not received my entire sandpaper order so maybe with finer sandpaper I will have better results.


  11. Phaedrakat, 14 July, 2010

    @Sue C: Hi Sue, do you know what grit the sandpaper is? You don’t want to start with something TOO heavy, or it will remove too much of your clay. When you sand your beads, though, you will have some of the clay material come off onto the sandpaper. You need to keep rinsing your sandpaper to wash off the “dust” as mentioned in the article above. If more clay is coming off than just clay dust and small irregularities, then your sandpaper is too rough, or your beads aren’t thoroughly baked. Are you baking your beads for a full hour at the recommended temperature?

    When you sand your beads, they do get a little bit dull-looking at first. As you progress through the grits, your bead will get super-smooth, and then when you buff it you’ll see the full glossy color. So, yes, it is normal—unless you’re putting deep scratches in the beads, or large amounts of material are coming off.

    You’re probably going to have to wait for your other papers to get in to get perfectly sanded beads. But if the paper you have is like a 400 grit, and you bake your beads nice and hard, you can get them smooth enough to remove fingerprints and marks. Then it will look better if you put need to put gloss on them (you don’t want to put Future on an unsanded bead, or it will highlight any lines or fingerprints.) Good luck!~Kat

  12. Tanya L, 14 July, 2010

    @Phaedrakat: Kat, I needed the advice about not using Future on unsanded beads when I made my first 2 big batches of beads. I can see every little ridge from my finger tips perfectly! Of course, I didn’t even know about this site then, dog-gone it. Now I’m trying to play catch-up, LOL!

  13. Phaedrakat, 16 July, 2010

    @Tanya L: I know what you mean. I did the same thing with my beads. I originally learned PC from books, and they never explain all the little “details” that make such a huge difference! Cindy’s site here is amazing. It made me a much better clayer, and it sounds like it’s helping you, too. Sure you’re having to play catch up, but at least you’re on the right track now! Cindy’s little tricks and tips will help both of us avoid those kind of mistakes in the “Future”. (Sorry about that almost pun!) Also, with you here now, we’ve gained another friend here at this community! :~)   ~Kat

  14. Tanya L, 19 July, 2010

    @Phaedrakat: Thanks Kat. I absolutely LOVE it here! Everyone here is so great – welcoming and friendly. And the talent here is mind boggling! Love your pun, by the way. You always make me laugh!

  15. Tanya L, 19 July, 2010

    @Phaedrakat: Oh, and I hope you’re at least starting to feel better.. Actually, I hope everyone’s feeling good!

  16. TrudyM, 04 May, 2011

    Okay, I’m waiting for my sanding pads to arrive for the beads I finally made. Got a question and I haven’t been able to find the answer. Under what circumstances would you not sand a bead. Since there are all kinds of inclusions, paints, inks, etc. – would you sand a painted piece?

  17. Phaedrakat, 15 May, 2011

    @TrudyM: Hi Trudy, anytime you sand a bead, you’re going to remove a thin layer of clay and/or whatever is on top of the bead. So there are lots of reasons not to sand a bead, at least the usual way. Still, you want to end up with smooth, properly-finished beads…so you have to find work-arounds, or do steps out of order, add a protective barrier to “sand through”, etc….

    If you’re covering beads with paint, sanding them would just remove it again. What you can do is sand the cured clay beads first, before painting, to remove imperfections. You don’t have to do all the grits, just enough to remove fingerprints & smooth the surface. Besides, it’s good to leave some “tooth” for the paint to cling to. Then add your paint, inks, and/or other decorations…

    One instance where you would sand a painted piece is if you wanted a distressed look, like the cool stuff Cindy shows in her Distressed Paint Finish video.

    It’s fine to sand beads with inclusions (the kind you mix in first with translucent clay…like glitter, embossing powder, spices, flower petals, colored sand, etc.) Because even though you’re sanding away some of the exterior, the inclusions can still be seen in the finished bead. If you want to use inks, mica powders, foils, etc. on the outside of a bead, you can make it sandable by adding a protective layer of translucent or liquid clay. Then, when you sand, you’re only removing some of the protective barrier, not your decorative colors/powders/inks…

    You can avoid having to sand by taking extra-special care with your clay while in its raw state. For instance, if you’re making beads with mica powders, foils, etc., try using gloves or cornstarch…or use “fingerprints” in the search box for other ideas on how to avoiding them. That way you won’t have to worry about sanding away flaws in your finished piece. You wouldn’t want to remove the “bling” — or undo anything else you did to decorate your bead…

    I’m not sure how to word it, but I guess the answer to your question is this: you should always sand a bead…unless you can’t — unless sanding it would undo the effect you took steps to achieve in the first place! I hope this helped a bit…& hope I didn’t misunderstand your question! ~Kat :D

    PS: There’s tons of info & blog posts on things mentioned in this reply (inclusions, painting, cornstarch, avoiding fingerprints, adding bling, foils and much more!) A search will lead you to them, or you can always ask another question… :D

  18. TrudyM, 15 May, 2011

    Wow, Kat, you gave me the encyclopedia. Thank you so much for taking the time to give me some extra tutoring. Don’t worry, I’ve done the research here and elsewhere and collected all of Cindy’s articles on sanding and finishing. I’ve sanded some beads and buffed and yes, I’ve fallen in love with the process and the feel. Even thought that someday I’d get a buffing wheel. In the meantime I do a mean buff on an old pair of jeans.

    I guess I was thinking of a pair of earrings I made (I don’t sell, I just enjoy creating) in celebration of the Jackson Pollack exhibit I went to. I threw caution to the wind (as he did), and with a black sheet of clay, textured, dropped paint, textured again, cut out into huge discs and then baked. I love them. They’re funky, earthy without a shimmer and I thought of Pollack laying an unstretched piece of canvas on the floor and doing his thing and figured, I’ll defy the rules and leave as is. These earrings are my favorite polymer anything so far because I had fun and felt truly myself.

    I’ll now go back to basics which are so important to learn in order to really express myself. Tomorrow…..lentil beads! shine and all! Again, thank you for all you bring to us newbies at the blog. I really appreciate you.

  19. Phaedrakat, 04 June, 2011

    @TrudyM: Sorry for all the extra reading! Sometimes I don’t realize (or forget) how much experience someone has…and rattle on WAY too long! ;D Thanks for what you said, too…

    Your earrings sound beautiful, and the paint/texture technique seems simple yet really fun! I’ll have to try it myself. It’s no wonder the earrings are favorites, expressing yourself like that is what it’s all about. Enjoy making your lentils, & “throwing caution”…just have fun! :D

  20. TrudyM, 15 May, 2011

    Oh and by the way, I love the sanding pads. They’re amazing!

  21. TrudyM, 05 June, 2011

    Kat: I am still a newbie and I love that you shared so much. Always appreciated. I do get lost sometimes on this journey. I also wasn’t specific in my question. So thank you!!

  22. Jocelyn, 05 June, 2011

    Also, if you investigate a few online shops, you’ll find that places like firemountaingems.com offer both the flat pad system, and two options of all the same grits on stick pads and rolled. With these you can get to almost every fingerprint, lol.

    Using the micropad system has entirely changed my view of sanding, and I find I no longer dread it, and dream of sanding assistant fairies.

  23. Sue F, 06 June, 2011

    Speaking of Micro Mesh, while I don’t like their Soft Touch sanding pads at all (i.e. the type Cindy used in her video) , I *LOVE* their regular sanding sheets. These cloth-backed abrasive sheets come in a variety of sizes (I bought 150mm x 300mm), and you can wrap them around sanding supports of whatever shape or stiffness suits each item to be sanded or just use them directly.

    I bought mine from the The Sandpaper Man:

    (If you’re an Aussie and you really want the Soft Touch Pads, The Sandpaper Man has them too.)

  24. Reyna Castano, 24 July, 2011

    Will sanding leave marks? If so, how do I remove them?

  25. Cindy Lietz, 25 July, 2011

    @Reyna Castano: If you go through all the grits properly, you will remove any marks that the sandpaper/abrasive makes.

  26. Reyna Castano, 29 July, 2011

    In other words, I can leave marks/scratches on my baked polymer clay and feel comfortable, because as soon as I sand the piece they will come off?

  27. Cindy Lietz, 30 July, 2011

    @Reyna Castano: A general rule of thumb is… the fewer marks/scratches you leave on your beads prior to baking, the less sanding you will have to do after baking. So really it all comes down to how much you like the sanding process. Most people prefer to sand as little as possible ;-)

  28. Reyna Castano, 28 August, 2011

    Does it have to be regular wetordry sandpaper or ultrafine wetordry sanpaper?
    Also, I have been looking for the pack that contains various grits and I can’t find it anywhere. Where do you guys get yours from? I live in L.A.

  29. Cindy Lietz, 06 September, 2011

    Usually the wet/dry sandpaper grits that are used in working with polymer clay are the ultra fine grits. I look in the auto supply department of big box stores or if you have an auto body shop in your area that is a good place to go. I buy 400, 600, 800, 1200 and 2000 if I can find it. My new favorite is to use Micro-Mesh Abrasives instead though. I feel they do a faster, smoother job than the regular wet/dry papers do. I wrote about it some time ago here: Micro-Mesh Abrasives

  30. Karen Field, 05 May, 2015

    Hi Cindy!

    I too am struggling with this sanding issue! My question is how long should you sand the piece with each piece of sandpaper? How long with the 400 and then how long with the 600 etc.? I have tried sanding items and I get nothing even close to a shiny piece :(


  31. Jocelyn C, 11 May, 2015

    Hi Karen!

    Couple of things that help reduce the process, first finish using water to smooth away all fingerprints and dings so that when the product comes out of baking you don’t have major work to do.

    Next, put on some music. Try two songs at each grit level. Make sure you change your water after each grit, so that bigger pieces of grit mixed in don’t continue to cause more work. Also rinse out each of the sanding blocks or cloth so they don’t accidentally bring larger grit back in.

    If two songs at each level don’t cut it, bump it up to three songs at each level. Your fingertips should soon tell you the differences in smoothness as you progress up the ladder.

    Seems like a piece finished professionally for sale takes about 30 – 45 min of sanding through the grits. Then, the buffing…..which is actually the last stage and brings up the gloss finish.

    Use the search facility to pull up Cindy’s blogs, tutes and comments on finishing, sanding, and buffing, you’ll find plenty of supportive information.

    Mostly, it’s the quality of the time invested in sanding, which is why I suggest musical accompaniment. It’s soothing, provides timing, and you develop the skill quickly when you focus on the details of each stage.

    There are folks that love hand sanding. For others, you might want to invest in a rock tumbler or JoolTool to speed the process along. Google under search for more information on both of these approaches.

    Wish you the best of luck.

  32. Cindy Lietz, 11 May, 2015

    Thanks Jocelyn for coming to Karen’s rescue (and mine)! You are such a wonderful help around here!!

  33. Karen F, 31 July, 2015

    Hi Jocelyn! Thanks so much for your quick response! I do have a tumbler but would the metal shot not “kill” the piece or is there another way! I love the idea of doing your sanding to music!! I have looked everywhere for this answer but couldn’t find anything and voila her you are! Thanks again!

  34. Jocelyn C, 19 November, 2017

    Karen! OMG, Ieft you hanging for almost two years! I am humiliated and beg your pardon.

    Use of a tumbler, small medium or large or a vibrating tumbler, can be the death of your tenure in elderly/disabled housing units. I love were I am and consider the body bag exit the way to go, lol. In as much respectful silence that my neighbors have gifted me with over the years, so any constant machine noise/vibration is out.

    Maybe I can set something up at my off site storage unit, offer to pay off the meter for the electricity used to run the tumblers far away from neighbors. Need to take a bus to get there for maintenance, but, doable. Left blissfully quiet at home.

    But, for you, the benefits will be amazing. Smoothly finished pieces all over, ready for buffing, surface treatments, the ski is the limit.

    Dunno, might be super thick and just not processing suggestions, as this site is great and known for, so it might be me. I simply cannot isolate a way to use the smaller rolling rock tumbler and vibratory tumbler in an insulated way that prevent immediate neighbor contact from either side.

    Do enter search terms life “tumblers” because you get money’s worth in links here. All best, and again, sincere apologies.

  35. Cindy Lietz, 20 November, 2017

    Great answer Jocelyn! Thank you so much for helping out! :)

  36. Susan Higgins, 29 July, 2015


    Check out this method for getting a shiny look by burnishing pottery before baking. I wonder if it would work on polymer clay. If you do try it and it works, this would make a good video.

  37. Carrie Harvey, 31 July, 2015

    No – they are burnishing an unfired but dry pot so the surface is no longer soft.

  38. Susan Higgins, 31 July, 2015

    Thanks for the reply. It makes sense now.

  39. Hannah R, 06 September, 2015

    This may have been asked already, but I am having trouble sanding and buffing the insides of my donut cobochons and beads. The top and bottom and around the outside end up being really shiny, but the inside stays really dull. Any tips on how to reach the inside better? I have tried gluing some sand paper to a pencil wrapped in foam, but that didn’t work very well. Any ideas would be very welcome.


  40. Cindy Lietz, 07 September, 2015

    Hi Hannah, I will put your suggestion on the list for future videos. One of the things you can do is use the MicroMesh Pads. If you use the search box you can learn more about them. They are smaller and flexible with a soft foam base so they work into smaller areas quite well. You can also simply roll up your sandpaper into a tight log and use that. Good luck!

  41. Karen Field, 28 April, 2016

    Hi All!

    I am a bit confused on how to sand jewelry that has a texture on top? Do I just do it as regular and how do you get the parts below the texture to shine like the top?

  42. Cindy Lietz, 28 April, 2016

    Hi Karen, you can’t really sand the deeper areas of a texture. And many textures really can’t be sanded too much either. You can usually wax and buff a piece though, as long as you have a fluffy buff to get into the crevices. Most pieces that are highly textured, look good without being sanded. But if you must have a shiny finish on a textured piece, you can use a varnish, or other finish if you want. Just type finishes in to the search box at the top of the page, to learn more.

  43. Karen Field, 28 April, 2016

    Hi Cindy

    Thanks for your reply! I will definitely use some varnish on my texture pieces and after doing some digging I found those amazing Micro Mesh Pads! May I ask where you got yours only because the link you have on where to get them don’t ship to Canada.

    Thanks again!

  44. Cindy Lietz, 29 April, 2016

    I got mine from Terry Morris at epoxyjewelry.com. He has shipped me things in the past. I am pretty sure he still will, but you may need to look into that. Another place you can usually get MicroMesh products is at LeeValley. You could try there. Let us know where you end up getting them from. We have lots of Canadians that I am sure would appreciate the information.

  45. Riya Kumar, 09 November, 2017

    hi Cindy, i use sandpaper for pendent( that are flat) but i am not ble to use sandpaper on polymer clay round bead because if i use on bead that change the shape:( :(….please suggest me the solution for round bead….

  46. Jocelyn C, 09 November, 2017


    This was my Dad’s help/hack, when he saw my plight with bad hands and no tumbler…

    Took an old wooden box, ah, decent size so all the beads you need similarly sized and finished can roll around freely, then velcro or hot glue gun in the right sized sandpaper, bottom and sides. Roll those babies around in that box. It works. Change out your grit sizes as needed.

    All best.

  47. Cindy Lietz, 10 November, 2017

    That’s a neat idea Jocelyn! Thanks for sharing!

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