Saturday, May 24, 2008

Playing with Liquid Clays

I've been experimenting with liquid clays recently, trying different brands and mixing different substances into them.  I've used Translucent Liquid Sculpey (TLS) a lot, especially for "gluing" baked clay to baked clay, but it isn't as clear as I want for a project I'm working on using sort of a cloissonne effect.  I'm looking for clear, vibrant colors to use for translucent butterfly wings and I want some subtle variations in colors.  To figure out what to use for my project, I compared Fimo Gel with Kato Clear Medium.

 Fimo Gel starts out the clearest and is wonderfully clear after baking at normal temperatures, i.e. the 265° specified on the bottle.  I was disappointed with Kato Clear when baked at 275°, the temperature specified on the bottle, and even after using a heat gun on it.  But then I read a paper about Kato Liquid that was handed out by Tony Aquino of Van Aken at the Synergy Conference.  "When cured at 275° it will give you a flat finish.  The recommended curing temperature is 300° for 20 minutes.  This temperature will result in a matte finish.  To increase gloss and clarity, cure an additional 10 minutes at 350° or wave a heat gun over the area until gloss is achieved."  When I followed this procedure, I got a nice glossy and clear result  with the Kato Medium.  

I found some "artist's pigments" at a local store and tried mixing them into the liquid clays. These are "no name" pigments from China and I don't think they are ground as finely as some more expensive ones may be.  I got a nice clear yellow and a bright red when mixed with both Kato and Fimo liquids, but the blues were grainy and mixing two pigments did not produce very nice secondary colors.  I found that oil paints worked very well although some of them were more opaque than others.  There are lots of colors and they blend very well, so I could get a nice range of hues.  Pinata Inks are very translucent and some of the colors really pop, but the color range is limited.  I had problems with bubbling when I baked the clay right after mixing, but letting them sit for a couple of hours until the alcohol evaporates seems to solve that problem.

When I tried making my butterfly wings (small example in the first photo), I found that the Fimo Gel was difficult to get into the tiny spaces formed by the black ribs where they come together.  I used a toothpick to apply the liquid clay, and although the Kato tended to drip, it flowed very easily into the smallest spaces.  The Fimo Gel wings had some problems with bubbles, although I haven't had that problem in the past when I applied the clear gel with a brush.  

It turns out that all three liquid clays have their advantages and I will probably use them all for different purposes.  TLS is great glue.  Fimo Gel works very well as a clear sealer over mica powders and gold leaf and does not have to be baked at high temperatures, making it safe to use with translucent clay.  Kato blends well, flows into small spaces and had no bubble problems, but having to bake at 350° or use a heat gun at the same temperature could cause problems in some situations.

In my next post, I'll show you my prototype butterflies.  And in the future, when I can get hold of some Kato Color Liquid Clay, I will see how that compares to my homemade mixes.


Debra said...

Thankyou for this, I have some TLS I purchased over a year ago and have not had the heart to open it lol, Im scared pmsl, though I have seen many wonderful items made with it I just cant bring myself to start working with it, I think its called procrastination (SP) anyway I make miniature items for my dollshouses too so am dying to start working with this stuff, If only I can get over my fear of it lol. Cheers Debra Australia.

rhymesWithEmily said...

This may be silly but I'm wondering how you made the black ribs of the wings. If you could share some techniques I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

Cynthia Blanton said...

Hi Emily. The black ribs of the butterfly wings are just extruded black clay.

SF said...

Hi. I am glad I found your blog, very informative.

I was wondering though, the packaging states that it must be baked at 130 celcius whilst the clay (Fimo) says it must be baked 110 celcius if I am not mistaken. If the liquid is used on clays, then which temperature should I use?

Do advise.


Cynthia Blanton said...


I'm not sure how to answer your question about baking temps. The Kato liquids and Kato clays can be baked at the same high temperatures. I don't use Fimo clay, so I don't know what temp it requires. You may have to experiment with different combinations of solid and liquid clays.

angela said...

Hi there after much searching I came across your blog and I wondered if you could help me? I am an art student and am trying to sculpt blood onto a model (its a newborn baby) As the liquid should have a natural flow, do all the liquids need to be baked? I am also working on scars that need to be applied directly to a manquin, is the material still flexible when baked? Any tips or hints or other products you have come across would be greatlt apprecated....I have big ideas but little material expertise!

Thank you Angela

Cynthia Blanton said...


All of the liquid polymer clays must be baked which I'm sure the newborn baby would not appreciate. The clay is flexible after baking so you could pour it onto something that can be baked and then apply it to the baby or a mannequin. The thing to be baked should be smooth so you can easily remove the clay after baking.You would need to use some kind of adhesive, most likely, to apply it to your models.

I'm not aware of other materials that could be used. Movie makeup artists create all kinds of scars and blood effects, but I don't know what they use.

Good luck with your projects.


Cynthia Blanton said...


Try a movie mask-making or special effects materials distributor. Here is one in Toronto. You can look at the stuff they have and see if anything would work for you. Then you can find a place in the US or wherever you are. Maybe some type of silicone rubber.

Anonymous said...

I am just beginning to explore this medium although I am a seasoned potter. I happened on your blog and just want to thank you for your generosity in taking time to share your hard work and useful discoveries.