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Sculpting Techniques & Tips

Sculpting Techniques & Tips

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Sculpting is an enjoyable hobby that can turn profession if you're not careful! Here are a few sculpting techniques to help out with your sculpting venture. Learn how to sculpt with more detailed instructions.

Sculpting Techniques and Tips:

Keep hands clean whenever dealing with polymer clay sculpting. Dirt sticks to the clay like a magnet to the fridge.

Use mirrors to really see your sculpting from another angle.

Dab rubbing alcohol gently on the sculpture to smooth out the surface of your project. Wait for the alcohol to dry completely before putting sculpting into the oven to prevent flare-ups that will likely ruin your project.

Paint sculpting after baking.

Use acrylic or water mixable oil-based paints but avoid lacquer-based enamel paints. These latter paints have a funny reaction to the clay. It is easier to paint on top of a layer of primer. Airbrush, mica powders, and pastels are also useful techniques. Mica powders are especially spectacular effects that shimmer when the light hits it.

Heat guns can create unique effects such as a shine on the surface. Be careful which clay projects you use it on, though. Painted projects made with non-heat set paints may have adverse effects.

Make sure you are sitting comfortably while you sculpt to prevent unnecessary back and neck strain.

Work on small details "off site" before adding them to the sculpture.

Use a glass surface so you can put pictures or diagrams under it and try out different angles and effects.

Bulk up an armature with foil or wire mesh to reduce the amount of clay needed for the entire project and to ensure the clay bakes all the way through.

You can use a glue gun to set a particular area so as not to ruin it while working on other parts.

Soften the hard clay with a paintbrush and light water.

A good spinning plate is good for sculpting. You can even use a Lazy Susan.

A plaster of Paris base will retain moisture and prevent the sculpture from drying out as quickly.

Spray a very fine mist of water frequently to keep the project moist (but not too much or too often, you don't want the clay to be wet). Unlike plastiline clay, which has to be softened to use, ceramic clay is very moist and manageable from the offset and hardens with time.

Polymer clay can damage wood, so it' best to have a mat or surface used exclusively for clay.

on Temperature:

Use ceramic tiles or pieces to keep oven temperature from getting too hot too fast.

Check oven temperature frequently. The proper temperature should be between 225-275? Farenheit. Some people prefer the "ramping" method, which is a series of stages in which the temperature is gradually increased. This will also produce a hard and slightly darkened finished product. Ramping can start any from 175-200? degrees and upwards. Check on the sculpture and the oven temperature (using a separate oven thermometer) periodically.

Let the oven preheat for 20-30 minutes before checking the temperature and placing your clay inside.

To prevent those shiny spots from appearing on the bottom of your clay, place the pieces onto a sheet of batting or other soft NON-FLAMMABLE material.

Cover thin pieces with aluminum foil when curing a project of multiple thicknesses. This will allow thicker pieces to cure without browning the thinner pieces.

Trouble Shooting:

If clay is too soft, roll out sheets and lay out between two sheets of white paper. Then place heavy objects on top and leave it overnight.

If too dry, add diluents or clay softener.

Clean out oven thoroughly after using for clay if you intend to cook food inside. You are better off getting a small toaster oven exclusively for clay baking. You can also wrap the sculpture in foil or large roasting bags.

Larger sculptures that require armatures may benefit from a slow dry process, which entails keeping the clay moist as it dries. Once a basic level of hardness is achieved, the sculpture is cut into pieces, armature removed, and pieces bonded back together using slurry or clay slip (clay mixed with lots of water to produce a cement). Additional clay should be used to conceal the seams. You can then bake the sculpture as regular.

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