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.


  1. 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.

  2. 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!

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