Few artistic mediums are as versatile and as easy to work with as polymer clay. Beginning crafters and seasoned artists alike can enjoy the endless creative applications it offers, so polymer clay surely has something to offer you too.  

What Is Polymer Clay? 

Just like natural clay from the earth, polymer clay can be molded into an infinite array of forms. But unlike natural clay, polymer clay isn’t made of minerals, water and soil. Instead, it’s made of a type of plastic called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC for short. 

Because polymer clay is made of PVC instead of natural materials, it’s also much more convenient to work with than traditional clay. It doesn’t: 

  • dry out if left on your work surface; 
  • require a kiln to harden; 
  • shrink while drying; or
  • need water to stay moist and malleable. 

Instead, polymer clay is soft and moldable with the help of some gentle kneading (or conditioning, as it’s officially known). You can work with it as long as you’d like until you’re satisfied with the results, and then you can simply bake it in a household oven (or even a toaster oven) to set it in place. 

And as an added bonus, polymer clay is also affordable and easy to find at just about any craft shop or big-box store. 

Polymer Clay Tools

While you don’t need any tools to work with polymer clay, they may be able to help you achieve the results you’re looking for faster and easier. 

Some of the tools you can use include: 

  • molds; 
  • cutters; 
  • rollers; and
  • etching, sculpting, dotting and carving implements.
A woman’s left hand holding an oval pendant decorated with a basket of flowers sculpted from polymer clay. With her right hand, she uses a metal implement to add blades of grass to the basket.
In the Skillshare class “Make a polymer clay necklace with a basket of flowers,” teacher Maha Atef shows how tools can be used to add details to a polymer clay pendant.  

Some polymer clay artists also use accessories like workspace mats, baking racks and even conditioning machines (think pasta rollers for clay), but all of those are entirely optional. 

How to Bake Polymer Clay

Baking polymer clay is a straightforward process, but the best baking temperature will vary depending on the brand of clay you’re using. For the best results, you’ll need to follow five basic steps: 

  1. Preheat your oven according to the instructions that came with your polymer clay. 
  2. Place your polymer clay creations on a metal, glass or other type of oven-safe tray. 
  3. Once your oven has reached the appropriate temperature, bake your polymer clay for the time indicated by its instructions. 
  4. After your polymer clay has finished baking, remove it from the oven and leave it on its tray to cool. 
  5. Once cooled, your polymer clay artworks are ready to be sanded, painted, polished, glazed or otherwise decorated in any other way you’d like. 

Polymer Clay Jewelry

Since it’s lightweight, easy to paint and available in a rainbow of colors, polymer clay is a perfect medium for DIY jewelry. 

Polymer Clay Earrings

Studs, hoops and drop earrings alike can all benefit from a colorful pop of polymer clay

An assortment of white, hot pink and light blue polymer clay earrings arranged on a gray felt mat, along with two pairs of pliers and a small bottle of glue.
In the Skillshare class “Polymer Clay Earrings For Beginners,” teacher Star Crafts showcases a variety of polymer clay earrings. 

You can make your polymer clay earrings as simple (or as ornate) as you’d like, and once you get the hang of it you can craft a pair for every outfit. 

Polymer Clay Rings

Anyone who’s seen clay rings knows they’re trendy for a reason. Colorful, cute and entirely unique, these clay accessories have a place in any jewelry collection. 

A woman’s hand posing with an assortment of pink polymer clay pig rings stacked on each finger.
In the Skillshare class “How to Make Polymer Clay Rings – DIY Pig Ring,” teacher Fey Jensen shows off her collection of handmade polymer clay pig rings. 

Polymer Clay Beads

Necklaces, dreamcatchers, keychains, bracelets, wall hangings—the number of one-of-a-kind items you can make with polymer clay beads is practically unlimited. 

An assortment of colorful clay beads lays in a sunbeam on a white tabletop. A few of the beads are strung on a necklace, while the rest are loose.
In the Skillshare class “Clay Beads and Things,” teacher Amber Wade shows just how many different types and shapes of beads you can make with polymer clay. 

Polymer Clay Charms 

Make any piece of jewelry pop by adorning it with a handcrafted polymer clay charm. You’re not limited to jewelry, though—you can also use charms to decorate your handbags, bookmarks, keyrings and more. 

A close-up of a tiny charm made from polymer clay. The clay has been sculpted into the shape of a slice of rainbow cake, and is decorated with white frosting and vibrant sprinkles.
In the Skillshare class “Make a Rainbow Cake Charm with Polymer Clay,” teacher Janirette Vazquez demonstrates how polymer clay can be used to create colorful, whimsical charms. 

Polymer Clay Art 

Jewelry lovers can certainly have a heyday with polymer clay, but that doesn’t mean sculptors, painters, potters and other types of artists are left out. On the contrary, you can create almost any kind of artwork, from polymer clay sculptures to whimsical charms. 

Polymer Clay Sculpture

What do people, places and things all have in common (besides being nouns, of course)? They can all be sculpted with polymer clay. 

A woman’s hand next to a glass jar with a gold lid. On top of the lid is a tiny succulent garden, with each of the plants being crafted from polymer clay.
In the Skillshare class “Miniature Succulent Garden on a Glass Jar,” teacher Stephanie Kilgast illustrates the impressively small scale of her polymer clay succulents.

Painted Polymer Clay 

While it’s available in a spectrum of colors already, polymer clay can be made even more vibrant and detailed with the help of some paint. 

A woman’s hand holding a miniature green frog sculpted from polymer clay. Two more frog sculptures, one orange and one blue, sit on a white tabletop beside her hand.
In the Skillshare class “How to Sculpt a Miniature Frog in Polymer Clay,” teacher Stephanie Kilgast shows just how realistic a bit of paint can make a polymer clay sculpture look. 

Polymer Clay Miniatures

Good news for dollhouse enthusiasts (and anyone who appreciates all things teeny-tiny): Polymer clay is an ideal medium for creating miniatures both realistic and cartoon-esque.

A silver for resting on a white granite countertop. Resting on the middle of the fork is a tiny white plate of miniature orange slices and one intact orange.
In the Skillshare class “Polymer Clay Food Sculpting: Miniature oranges & tips on canes,” teacher Tanja Jensen proves the itty-bitty scale of her polymer clay plate of oranges. 

Polymer Clay = the Rice of Art

Hear us out: In the culinary world, rice is something of a chameleon. Approachable and easy to prepare, it takes on the flavors of the food around it and can be incorporated into dishes ranging from basic to advanced. 

In the realm of art, polymer clay takes on a similar role. Endlessly versatile, it can be used to create basic shapes, elaborate sculptures and everything in between, and it’s sure to get your creativity flowing if you’ve been feeling uninspired. 

So next time you’re looking for a new craft, give polymer clay a try—tons of tiny, colorful creations await. 

Written by:

Carrie Buchholz-Powers