How to Sculpt an Elf in Polymer Clay: A Beginner's Guide to Figure Sculpture | Amanda P Artist | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

How to Sculpt an Elf in Polymer Clay: A Beginner's Guide to Figure Sculpture

teacher avatar Amanda P Artist, Artist / Sculptor

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (43m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. What You Need

    • 3. Creating a Design

    • 4. Forming an Armature

    • 5. How to Keep it Clean

    • 6. Sculpting the Head

    • 7. How to Cure Polymer Clay

    • 8. Sculpting the Ears, Hair & Hat

    • 9. Sculpting the Body

    • 10. Sculpting the Arms

    • 11. Sculpting the Legs

    • 12. Painting the Sculpture

    • 13. Conclusion

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class


Have you ever wanted to learn how to sculpt people in polymer clay?

This fun and creative class will show you step by step how to sculpt a funny little elf sculpture out of polymer clay. In this course I will cover subjects like:

  • What you will need
  • How to create your sculpture's skeleton / armature
  • Sculpting techniques to achieve your design
  • How to sculpt the different parts of the figure
  • How to cure the clay
  • How to colour your figure with realistic tones
  • and more!

This course is descriptive enough for beginners, but even intermediate sculptors will have fun here.

I have been sculpting for over 16 years. It is my hope that I can share some handy techniques to help you forward on your sculpting journey. I look forward to seeing you in the course soon.


Please note, if children take this course it will need to be done with adult supervision.

Music by Bensound and Adiel Media

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Amanda P Artist

Artist / Sculptor


Hi! I'm Amanda.

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed crafting. I loved to make and play with my own dolls. As I got older, I started creating stop motion animation films. Not long after that I focused in on creating artist doll sculptures out of polymer clay. I've been doing this now since 2003.

It is my hope to be able to share with you this amazingly creative craft so you can enjoy your very own sculptures. With a low barrier to entry, being able to cure your sculptures in your kitchen oven, anyone can make use of these fun classes.

I hope to see you soon!






See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: Hi, My name is Amanda and I'm a figurative sculptor. One of my favorite mediums to work with is Paula McLain, and off being sculpting with it for over 15 years. Now, in this course, I would like to show you how I make this chubby little elf. This course is designed for people who are just stunning out with figurative sculpting. I won't go into a lot of depth about anatomy in this course. This character is very stylized. He's designed so that you don't need to learn a lot about anatomy and science. You can just jump straight in and have some fun, so get your tools ready and let's jump into the course. 2. What You Need: the first thing you'll need is some wire. This is every day galvanized steel gardening. While, as you can see, it doesn't bend very easily. This will allow for a strong sculpture. The lack off give will stop the clay pots from bending and cracking. This is not the same as aluminium. While aluminium wire is often used in dolls that have opposable limbs, as you can see, it is very easily bent, unlike the steel, while it will bend repeatedly without weakening the while, this makes it very useful when you want to pose a fabric body dull repeatedly without having the wire break. However, it doesn't provide much strength for the sort of sculptures were creating. Don't spend your money on aluminium wire for this project. It is more expensive and won't do the job as well as the cheaper galvanized steel. While you can get steel while in different sizes, this is a much smaller gauged stainless steel. While you don't have to use a specific gauge of while, just be sure, toe have a thicker gauge for parts that need strength and a small gauge to use for wrapping or securing the thick A wire together it can be stainless steel or galvanised steel. While birth will do the same thing. Just ensure it is not plain steel or it could rust inside your sculpture. Be sure to have some needle nose pliers on hand to cut and maneuver the wire. You also needs a masking tape. You can use everyday aluminium foil paper to bulk out your sculptures. You can use the masking tape to completely cover the foil paper. Sorry. Ensure the masking tape is off good quality and quite sticky. You don't want appealing up while you're trying to sculpt. You will also need some tools. You don't need anything special. I can usually create an entire sculpture with just three tools. I have a hobby knife to cut the clay. I also have a gum stimulator, which is simply a rubber tipped pointed tool. You can buy silicon tools that have much the same shape. I also have a stainless steel dental tool. It has a small, pointed spoon shape on the end, which helps to smooth the clay. Alternatively, you can use a kitchen knife, a toothpick and your fingers. You will need some flesh turn polo. McLay any brand that you're comfortable using is fine. Just be sure that you were getting a flesh colored clay. They come in all sorts of shades, depending on the ethnicity of your sculpture that you would like to create. I like to use female professional. It's a very strong clay, and when you start to sell your work, it's important to Nari that your sculpture is going to survive postage to the customer. I find this clay tends not to break in postage. You will need some acrylic paints. I usually use raw umber to define the features read to blush the skin and give it life. Why blue and black for the eyes and any other colors that suit my design. You also need paintbrushes to go with it. I will often have an assortment of sizes. I also use liquid Tex professional Matt Medium. It is a mat seal off the paint's this seal. It doesn't go sticky like a lot of other sealers can get on Polo McLay. You can also use the's in an airbrush so you can get a very fine even koerting. These materials can be found in places like your grocery store, hard Westell art stores and online places like eBay, Etsy or Amazon. 3. Creating a Design: The first thing you will need to do is come up with an idea for our sculpture. The best way to solidify your concept is to draw a sketch. You don't have to worry too much if you're not much of a Dora. Neither am I. Simply get your idea down on paper. So you have a point to build from today, I am going to be redoing a concept I came up with nearly 10 years ago. The idea was a very chubby elf, so I'm going to draw a sketch of this for the demonstration. Now I am by no means an expert out during, so just do it the best way. You know how, really, It's just a way to get your thoughts on paper. I'm going to stop with the face, his chubby cheeks and neck point it is, and a long, squiggly hat and the rest of his body sitting like he really doesn't care about how exposed to use. Now that we have an idea down on paper, we can use this to plan out the amateur or the skeleton off the sculpture. This will be used to give the sculptor strength and ensure that we don't use too much of our valuable clay. So I am just drawing a quick sketch off my characters standing straight up. So it's easier to plan the armature Now. I know this is roughly how big I want him to be. So already I can see that the head is going to be really thick. So I'm going to bulk this out with another material I can see his hat is going to need a wire support. All bulk his body out to and at some wire to strengthen the legs and the arms. 4. Forming an Armature: we have to determine how to construct the Amish. Oh, I think the wire from the hat can go all the way through to the leg. I think one arm can go all the way down to the other leg. The other arm can run down along the spine. This should be a solid enough construction. Grab your galvanized steel wire and cut off a portion. Using your guide, bend the pieces off the wild into the shapes you need. It's best to use needle nosed pliers for this, as it can be quite difficult to bend at a sharp angle. Now you need to reinforce thes pieces. Use your thin steel wire to secure all the pieces together. Wrappers tightly as you can wrap the wire in masking tape to provide some extra strength. Now you can pack some aluminium foil around the amateur to bulk out the head and the body. When you're packing, the foil B showed a packet very tightly. If the foil crushes down when you were trying to sculpt on top of it, it can ruin your work. Also, any trapped air will try to escape when you cure the clay, which can cause problems. Once that's done, cover the whole amateur in masking tape. The paper backing off the tape helps the clay to stick to the wire. 5. How to Keep it Clean: when you work with polymer clay, cleanliness is extremely important. Pullum, a clay, can be somewhat sticky and attract a lot of dust and grime. We have to keep our work area and ourselves very clean. The easiest way to do this is with some paper towel and rubbing alcohol. Start by spraying the work area and why did dry with some paper towel. Also, wipe down your sculpting tools. It's important that your tools have Noda or residue on them. Your tools will be touching the clay a lot, and you don't want it embedding anything into the clay. Wipe your hands, too. If the alcohol is too harsh on your skin, you soap. But be sure to wipe your hands on paper towels and no on hand. Tell you don't want the lint from the towel to transfer to your hands on the same line. It's important to wear clothes that don't shed a lot of fibers. And be sure to tie your hair back so that you don't touch it a lot. All of these things will help you keep your clay clean. 6. Sculpting the Head: Now we can move on to sculpting the head. I'm going to start with moving him into his pose. I don't normally do this straight away because the amateur can get in the way. But because this guy's sorry chubby, it might be difficult to position the why later. If any parts off the amateur are uneven, now is the time to adjust it. AARP In your packet of skin colored polo McLay. Before you start working with the clay, you will need to condition the clay. This means that you will need to make it soft and malleable because femur is fairly soft already, you can often need the clay in your fingers, provided the clay isn't too cold. It's fairly cold where I am at the moment, so I know I'm going to have to put a little bit more work into conditioning the clay than I normally would. You can definitely use a pasta machine to roll it out and need it that way, which can help immensely. If you want to save your hands for the sake of starting out with as little tools as possible, I'm just going to do it by hand. Start with a small piece and native until it's soft and stretchy. Flatten the peace out until it's about 1/4 of an inch thick. Lay it over the amateur, pressing it into the tape. If the clay is soft, it should stick to the mosque ing tape repeated again with another piece of clay. You will see that the two pieces of clay are connected. We can fix this quite easily. While the clay is still very soft. We can blend this together without fingers, using your thumb smooth over the clay in a soft swiping motion. Don't press too hard. You don't want to miss. Shape your overall form. You want to gently bring these two pieces together without worrying about if it's perfectly smooth. Yet once the two pieces are joined, go over it again with your thumb to smooth it out. You want to use very soft, sweeping motions. If your fingers are very dry and cracked, you might need to use a silicon tool to achieve the same result. Cracked skin can actually leave, mocks in the clay, need another piece of clay and form a big dome shape. This is going to be his cheek. Attach the cheek to the face. Do the same for the other cheek. If your hands start to get sole from kneading the clay, you can warm up the clay a little by rolling it out with your hand. Just be sure to need it with your fingers afterwards. As this method can trap some air pockets into the clay, press the other cheek onto the face on the opposite side. He looks a little funny now, but this will be the basis for the face. Smooth clay with your thumb or a tool as you work. Now we're going to make the nurse. We need to phone a shape similar to a teardrop or a toll pyramid. Smooth it onto the face. You'll need to use a small tool to do this with so you don't lose too much of the shape. Gently use a tool to swat down the very edges of the nurse. Don't dig in too deep. All the nerves will become misshapen. Remember, it doesn't take much to fuse the two pieces together. Smooth over the area with your fingers to get rid of any tool marks with the face all smoothed out, we can get started on the facial features. Let's stop with the eyes. Using a small tool or a toothpick mark out where you want the eyes to sit. I draw a little beady eye shape into the clay. It's best to use little pressing Martians rather than carving it out. Carving the clay can cause it to crumble up, which is something you want to avoid. You want all of these shapes to stay fairly smooth now repeat the process for the other. I keep checking the second I lines up with the first so that your sculpture has some symmetry. After this, we can create some more detail. I like to line out where his top eyelid will be and then swoop upwards to create the brow. Smooth out. Any rough mocks from your tool. Now you can further define the eyelids and brow as desired. Do the same on the other side. I have noticed that when I try to create this second brow burn that there isn't quite as much clay to push around as the other side. If I were to just use what was he are, it wouldn't be symmetrical. This is where it's beneficial toe. Add some clay and make adjustments to the shape as you go. Don't be afraid. Toe. Add or take away until it looks right to you. Remember to smooth your work as you go. There's nothing worse than sculpting all of the fine details just to find that you have to lose them in an effort to smooth out your work, I find that the eye is looking a little flat for my taste. Using my tool, I tucking the edges of the I to make it look more rounded. Now he's got much more BT cartoon eyes to create the nostrils. You will need appointed tool like a toothpick or a silicon shaper. Self tools work best here as they will not cut into the clay. Too much perking up from the bottom of the nurse. Form two nostrils on either side. Try not to make them too close together. It can look funny if the outside of the nostrils are really fake because the holes are really close. Using your tool, define the crease around the nostril, tucking in the bottom slightly. I'm also going to define the tip of the nurse just to give him a bit more character. Now we can get started on the mouth. Press increases coming from the nose. The top lip is going to tuck under this former flat triangle to form a pointy top lip. Press it carefully under the creases you created. Use your tool to smooth it under and make sure it's attached. Don't press too hard or it will distort the clay. I can see that one side of his face doesn't have as much cheek as the other side. Sir, I'm going to bulk this out a bit more with some more clay. Now I can work with the bottom lip. Roll out a little cylinder of clay, tuck it under the top lip. The bottom lip shouldn't stick out further than the top lip. Sorry. Ensure you haven't made the cylinder too thick. Work around the lips making show that it's old Nate and talked in. I don't know the piece of clay onto his lip. This will form the fat around his chin using your fingers. Define a little bump where his chin is perking through his fat. Make sure the face is all smooth. Now he's ready to cure for the first time 7. How to Cure Polymer Clay: good. We're going to do something called Siri's Baking. This is where we cure the clay intermittently so we don't run our previous work while we're sculpting other parts of the body, so we will need to cure the head. Now use a 10 or a tray and add some corn flour. The corn flour will provide a cushion for the sculpture to sit on when the clay is baking in the oven. It tends to go are soft before it gets solid. If it were to sit on a hard surface, it would get a flat, shiny spot on the clay. The cornflower will stop this happening and is easy to wash off later. Layer vis um foil on top to protect the sculpture from the force of the fan in the oven and provide a more even temperature. Now you can put this in your kitchen oven according to the manufacturer's directions on your packet of clay. 8. Sculpting the Ears, Hair & Hat: Once a sculpture has completely cooled in the oven, you can take it out and clean it up. We have going to create the is first condition, a small piece of clay and form. A little triangle for pointy is. Press them onto the head and blend. You want to position the ears halfway back on the head between the eyes and the NAR's. It should be behind where his jawline would be. Do the same on the other side. Using a soft tool, you can define the inner and outer curve off the year. Using a more solar tool. You can round out the ear hole, do the same to the other side. Now we can work on his hair conditional, lodge a piece of clay and flatten it out So it's just a few millimeters thick. Stretch it out and wrap it around the head where you want the head to full. Cut some gaps in the hair so it looks like it's falling in pieces rather than perfectly sitting together. You can also call some bits up so it can give the hair some movement. Using appointed tool, stop pressing in little lines to emulate the hair if it's all sitting a little too perfect , try pressing in some deep aligns with a curve tool so that the hair looks like it's sitting in Bunches on the head. This makes the hair sit a little bit more realistically, work your way all around the head, condition a large piece of clay and flatten it out. We're going to wrap this around the while coming out of his head, so we conform the hot, smooth it out and blended in. I'd like to give his heart a little bit of character, so I'm going to add a little square patch to his hat. I can also emulate some of the stitches in his hat by drawing little dotted lines where the stitches will go. The back of his hat would be a good place to sign the artwork. Be sure to take the time to sign your work before it's baked. It's much easier to do this while the clay is still soft. Place the sculpture back into the baking tonight on the corn flour. Bake the sculpture again according to the manufacturer's directions 9. Sculpting the Body: after the sculpture is completely cool, you can start work on the body. We will be able to hold onto the head while we sculpt the body so that we don't ruin any of our work. Condition some clay and start to bulk out the body. Focus on getting the overall shape before you start adding the details. Blend and smooth it with your fingers as you go. Keep holding onto the head so you don't squash any of the royal clay. Once it's bulked out, you can add two pieces of clay for the pectoral muscles on his upper chest. You can add some more rolls if you like to find the roles with a tool, you want to press in some creases. Take your time and move slowly. You want to make sure that all of your forms are very rounded. Add to tiny pieces of clay to form his nipples, blended in carefully without removing the point of the nipple. Men's nipples are generally fairly small, so trying not to make the area too big. You want to blend it in so it's nice and smooth and has a very gradual point. Double check over the area of the body and make sure that everything is nice and smooth. Now we get to start on the arms. 10. Sculpting the Arms: we will create the arms conditions some clay and wrap it around the wire on the arms. When you are wrapping the clay around the while, be sure to press firmly. You want to press out any air pockets. If there are any gaps between the clay and the while, the clay will likely be fragile and crack. I've decided the arms might be a little bit long to keep his cartoon appearance. I want the arms to be short and stumpy alters. Trim a little piece of the while. That's much better. Remember the design we created? His arms didn't reach past his hip. Use your design as a guide. Once you have the overall shape, you can use a tool to blend it into the body. Don't press it too hot, or it might leave a large dent around the arm. Using a tool. Create a crease around his wrist. This will to find where the hand is on the back of his arm. Define a little nub where his elbow is. You can create some folds around the area to condition a very small piece of clay to create his thumb. Attach it to the side of his palm. Use your tool to blend it in. Remember, you want to smooth down the very edges off this form. You're trying to maintain the overall shape whilst still attaching the peace. If you smooth too much of the form, you won't have any shape left for the thumb. You don't need to add much detail to form the fingers. Use a shop tool or played to cut in little fingers into the hand. Uses soft tool to round off the fingers. Sorry, the cut marks are not too flat. I've decided that his other hand will look good resting on his belly. Sorry. Using my needle nose pliers, I will bend the wire up and over the belly, needs a more clay and attach it to the while. Be careful not to ruin the body while you're doing this, press it onto the while to remove any air pockets. Using your tool, you can define the shape of the arm at little creases to the arm where his rolls of fat a bunching up if you need to. You can google some references off arm fat to give you a could guide. Create his fingers much the same way you did. On the other hand, now we can move on to sculpting the legs 11. Sculpting the Legs: sculpting the legs works much the same way is sculpting the arms. Knead the clay until it's warm and stretchy and press it onto the while being sure not to trap any air pockets, usual fingers and a tool to define the shape off his legs and his feet to find the creases around his thighs and his knees to ensure his toes are not too thick. You can pinch the end of his foot where you're going to carve in his toes the same way that you created the fingers. You can carve in the toes with a tool for the toes. You're looking to create very rounded shapes, especially on the underside off his foot. This way it looks like he has little round tower pods do the same with the other leg. Now that all the forms that there you can focus on finishing the sculpture off, he's going to need some little shorts or pants. You can create some short simply by pressing in a little crease around his legs and waste. Check over the whole sculpture to make sure he's smooth, clean and ready to be cured. Then you can place him on the corn flour in your baking tin. Place in foil paper over top and cure him again according to the directions on your packet of clay. I will be leaving mine in the oven Familia Nahla to ensure he is strong. Allow to cool entirely in the oven before painting. 12. Painting the Sculpture: when the sculpture is cured and completely cool to the touch, it's time to pay for my pain pallor. I like to use a piece of aluminium foil paper. This way I can throw it into the bin when I'm finished. Instead of trying to wash hard pains down the sink to get the pain to a nice watery consistency, I'll be using some liquefying medium. This is entirely optional. Larry Plain Water will do the same sort of thing. I just find that I need the less lays of pain when I use liquefying medium instead of water , I'll be starting with raw amba Oh Doc Brown acrylic paint. I will need a paintbrush and a tissue neatly folded and ready to use. First. I stopped by putting some paint on my palette. I make some liquefying medium award out to the paint so that the color is thin and translucent. I check on a piece of paper that it's a good color and consistency. Then I went down the sculpture just so it's a little damp, not dripping. I laid up my brush with the liquefied color and brush it into all of the creases. Then, immediately after before the paint has had a chance to dry completely, I wiped the paint off with the tissue. This will leave behind a hint of a shadow in the creases, which will make the features pop. Be sure not to let the paint get too thick or dry on the sculpture or the sculpture can look money. When you have gone over the sculpture with the Dhaka paint, we can make his skin come to life with some red paint water down some red paint the same way that you did with the brown paint. However, this time, instead of going over the entire sculpture, you will want to focus just on the key areas. I stopped with his cheeks just about his eyelids, the tip of his nerves, his lips. His is his nipples, his hands, feet and joints. If there are any parts that look a little lifeless, touch it with a tiny amount of red. With an exception to his lips. Charnel toe apply too much red paint. You want him to look rosy, but you don't want him to look sunburned. If you get some pain where you don't want it, you can wipe it off with some water or scratch it off with your nail or a blade. Now we will finish him off to paint his hair. You will want to use the pain at the full strength so the color is opaque with a small brush. Paint his hair being very careful not to get pain on his face or body. Color the hat and the pants the same way you can use the brown pain to accentuate the stitches in the hot and the pants. You can also define your signature in the back of the hat to paint the eyes. Simply color the main I area white and paint blue and black for the iris and people be sure to use a very tiny paintbrush. If you would like to add some Seela to protect your pain, are recommends using the liquid text map medium at some to your paint palette and imply to your sculpture in thin layers. The city of the cart, the less Shawnee it will be allow to dry completely between Kurtz. Now you finish this fun little guy 13. Conclusion: Thank you so much for taking this course. I hope you enjoyed yourself and made something fun. Your class project will be to create your very own chubby off character. Have some fun with it. Go ahead and add your own personal touches. Be sure to share your project because I would love to see your creation. Also, if you enjoyed this course, I would love to hear some feedback. It would help me greatly in creating any courses in the future. Thank you so much again. And I'll see you next time. Bye.