1Baking Polymer Clay
1Use a needle to recreate a vent hole if your model has an air pocket. For models that have a closed-off pocket of air, include a vent hole to prevent cracking due to temperature changes in the oven. Pierce the clay with a needle all the way through until you reach the inner air pocket.
- If you don’t have an air pocket in your model, don’t worry about creating vent holes!
- Be sure to pierce at least 1 hole for each air pocket to ensure proper venting.
- For example, many clay models of animals have an air pocket inside to make them lighter. Additionally, jewelry like earrings and pendants can have air pockets, especially if they’re very intricate pieces.
Keep in mind, some clays aren’t meant to be hardened, such as oil-based modeling clay, so check the packaging of the clay that you’re using to make sure it’s possible!
2Read the directions on the package to locate the baking temperature. Most brands have the amount of temperature labeled on the package, which can range from 212.5 to 300 °F (100.3 to 148.9 °C). Check the packaging to see if the baking temperature changes based on the thickness of the clay, and set the temperature on the oven.
- If you’re using multiple different brands of clay in one model, go with the directions for the brand that you used the most. If you’re not sure, set the temperature to 265 °F (129 °C).
3Place the clay on a ceramic baking dish. While the oven heats up, transfer your clay model onto a piece of oven-safe ceramic. You can use a baking dish, like a ceramic pie dish, or even a ceramic tile.
- Ceramic holds heat well and prevents the temperature from changing too quickly when the oven door is opened.
- Avoid using metal or glass, which tend to fluctuate in temperature.
4Bake the clay immediately after painting or glazing. One of the great things about painting polymer clay is that you don’t need to let the paint dry before baking the clay. As soon as you’re finished covering the model in 1-2 coats of paint, fire up the oven to prepare for baking.
- Adding a glaze or paint might add to the baking time of your model. In general, for each coat or paint or glaze, add 3-5 minutes onto the baking time.
5Bake the clay for the amount of time specified on the package. Most brands of clay have a bake time somewhere between 10-30 minutes, depending on the thickness and color of the clay. As a general rule, bake for the amount of time specified on the package for each 1⁄4 in (0.64 cm) of thickness.
- For example, if the package says to bake for 15 minutes, and your clay is 1⁄2 in (1.3 cm) thick, then you would bake the clay for 30 minutes.
- If you’ve lost the packaging, it’s generally safer to bake at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, like 30-40 minutes.
6Fill a large bowl with ice and water while the clay is baking. Get a large cooking pot or bucket that will fit your clay model. Then, fill it with ice water, with about 2 inches (5.1 cm) of space at for the water displacement.
- You want the clay to be completely submerged in the water, so try to use as large of a pot as possible.
7Remove the clay from the oven and dunk it into the water immediately. Once the clay has reached its baking time, use a spatula to separate it from the ceramic. Carefully transfer the model to the pot, and submerge it in the ice bath for at least 30 seconds to prevent the clay from over-baking. Then, carefully remove the model with your hands or a pair of tongs.
- When you remove the clay from the oven, it might be somewhat soft on the outside, and some tools, like tongs, can leave marks and indentations on the hot clay. Only use the tongs to remove the clay from the ice bath, not put it in.
- If you’re not sure how to transfer the model, try submerging it while it’s still on the ceramic.
2Drying Self-Hardening Clay
1Let the clay sit for 24-48 hours to dry. Keep the clay in a dry, well-ventilated area, and leave it undisturbed. Every 4-6 hours, check on the clay to look for cracks or chips, and make sure the clay is hardening. The drying time will vary based on the thickness of the clay and the moisture in the air, but most types of air dry clays will be completely dry within 72 hours.
- If your clay isn’t hardening after 12 hours or so, try increasing the temperature by blowing the clay with a hair dryer, or placing it in the oven on the lowest temperature for 1-2 hours. Check on the clay often.
2Repair any cracks that appear during the drying process. As the clay begins to dry, you might notice some cracks or dents forming in the clay that weren’t there before. To smooth them over, dip your fingers into a glass of clean water, and rub the water over the imperfection a few times to smooth it out.
- If you notice larger cracks forming throughout the drying process, you may need to rework the project by reviving the clay. This involves adding a small amount of water to the clay, and placing it in a plastic bag to sit for about 10 minutes. Then, knead the clay and continue adding small amounts of water until it is usable.
3Turn the clay after 12-24 hours have passed. If your clay model is multidimensional, like a pot or a piece of jewelry, flip the piece over to let the bottom dry. You should do this about halfway through the drying time, which will vary depending on the type of clay you’re using.
- When handling the clay, be very careful. Try to avoid touching it for longer than you absolutely need to.
4Wait to paint the clay until after it has dried.Adding color or a design to your clay is easy. Simply wait until the clay has dried, and use a paintbrush to apply acrylic or tempera paint. Then, let the paint dry for 24 hours, and protect the paint by using a spray-on or brush-on paint sealant all over the clay.
- If you’re making an intricate design on a clay pot, for example, make sure you use a thin, fine paintbrush, and seal the entire pot after the paint has dried.
Why doesn't modeling clay harden?
Because modeling clay is oil-based. If you put the clay in the oven it will melt and could start a fire.
Will painting modeling clay make it harder?
The paint on the modeling clay will harden, but the structure will still be fragile to the touch.
After hardening, how can I loosen the clay to make another model?
You can't loosen any hardened clay. Either it's modeling clay, and it won't ever harden; or it's one of the other 3 types mentioned, and it isn't designed to be remoldable.
What happens to the polymer clay if you over bake it? Sometimes I have pieces that are thicker in one spot than others and may require more baking time.
You can't over-bake polymer. It doesn't actually "bake," it cures. Once any portion of it gets to a cured state, it will stay that way as long as you can keep the temperature steady and below its burning point. To ensure the temperature is steady in the air around the clay, place aluminum foil over it or put it in an oven-proof container. You can even use a cardboard box if it will be sitting at least several inches from the heating element since the temperature should be below 300F (check manufacturer's instructions) and paper/cardboard burns at 451F.
How do I dry modeling clay if I have finished a complex figure not knowing the texture of the clay?
You can't. But if you want, you can paint it and the paint will harden.
How can I tell what kind of clay it is?
By the feeling of the clay. If it's super soft and smells toxic, it is salt based and is also known as play dough. If the clay feels plaster-ish (hard and pasty), this is likely to be polymerclay, and the last type is modeling clay, which feels soft and does not air dry.
Can modeling clay be put in the freezer to make it harden?
Yes, but after a while after taking it out, it again becomes soft. It just temporarily becomes hard.
Can the clay be frozen?
Yes, but if you put it in the freeze for a long time then take it out, it will become soft again.
How long do I need to put the modeling clay in the oven?
It says that you can't do that or it'll melt.
I need to repair a model I made some time ago. Is it okay to attach new pieces and re-bake the whole thing?
Yes, as long as it’s below its burning point. You can also bake the details you would like to add separately, and then glue them on to the finished piece.
Ask a Question
- When baking clay, try to avoid opening the oven door. This can cause heat to escape or lead to cracks in the clay due to abrupt temperature changes.
- Be patient! For some brands, it can take up to 72 hours for the clay to harden completely. If you touch it or move it before that time, you risk ruining your project.
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