How to make polymer clay beads

How to Make Polymer Clay Beads

Polymer clay is a versatile, easy to use material that can be shaped and baked to create long lasting beads and jewelry. With some basic tools and techniques, you can make your own beautiful polymer clay beads for jewelry designs. The process allows you flexibility in size, shape, colors and textures - the options are endless!

Getting Started

First, make sure you have the necessary supplies on hand. At minimum, you’ll need polymer clay (Sculpey and Fimo are common brands), an oven, a smooth work surface, a pasta machine or acrylic roller, tissue blades, and tools for shaping. Optional items include liquid polymer clay for achieving a glassy surface, mica powders for shimmer, acrylic paints, rubber stamps and texture sheets.

Conditioning the Clay

Start by conditioning your clay before use. This warms it up and makes it pliable so it can be shaped without cracking. To condition, knead it vigorously with your hands, or run it through the pasta machine on a thick setting repeatedly. The clay should become smooth, flexible and have an even color and texture when conditioned.

Shaping the Beads

Once conditioned, you can shape your polymer clay beads in many ways using hands, cutters, molds and tools. To make beads the same size, roll the clay to an even thickness and use a bead roller, clay gun or plunger cutter. You can also shape beads freely by hand by rolling clay between your palms or pinching off small pieces then smoothing to achieve spherical shapes. Get creative with unique shapes by molding the clay around items to imprint patterns.

How to make polymer clay bead

Adding Texture

Texture makes beads more interesting! For clay bead designs, impress the surface with rubber stamps, make indentations with tools, brush on powders, or roll texture sheets into the clay. Liquid polymer clay can be used like glue to attach additional decorative items. To ensure uniform sizing with texture, shape the bead then add surface detail.

Creating Holes

Plan any holes before baking so they don’t collapse. Insert a needle tool, paperclip or specialized hole maker into the bead, widening the hole slightly as you remove the tool. Another method is to gently twist a chopstick into the clay. Holes should be big enough for jump rings or cord to pass through after baking.

Baking Polymer Clay Beads

Follow the baking instructions on your clay package, using proper times and temperatures. Typically beads are baked between 230-275°F for 15 to 30 minutes. Lay beads with enough space between on an oven safe tray. Baking cures the clay by hardening it permanently. Once cool, excess clay can be sanded or carved off cleanly.

Applying Finishes

Finally, add any last colors or touches. Buff sanded areas with fine grit sandpaper to smooth and shine. Paint details with acrylics or apply a liquid clay glaze. If desired, brush on a layer of polyurethane sealant to give the beads maximum shine and protection. Add findings like wire, jump rings, magnetic backings or elastic cord to finish off your polymer clay beads and make jewelry!

The Options are Endless!

Follow these basic steps while letting your imagination run wild. Customize colors by mixing clays or layering them before shaping. Use letter and shape cutters for cute designs perfect for kid’s bracelets. Try marbling or “skinner blend” techniques for rainbow beads without having to buy every color. Embed items like seeds, nuts and dried flowers before baking for organic texture. Etch lines, swirls or other patterns into the surface. The possibilities are truly endless when making DIY clay beads for all your jewelry projects!

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