How to Color Polymer Clay: The Very Best Methods

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After reading this article, you will know how to paint and color polymer clay the right way. Learn how to avoid annoying bubbles or brittle clay, color clay correctly, and learn how to paint polymer clay in a way, that the color will hold for a very long time and how to seal it, so that the color is waterproof.

How to Color Polymer Clay?

The short answer is there are several ways. To avoid nasty bubbles when baking the polymer clay try to avoid leaving any water inside the clay. So use alcohol-based color, coloring pigments, crayon shavings, or fabric dyes. If you use water-based colors (acrylics for example) leave the clay out in the open for 24 hours to give the water a chance to evaporate before baking it.

If you want to learn how to use polymer clay then consider reading my complete beginner’s guide to polymer clay right here.

So you can use various methods to color Polymer clay. The one thing you should really look out for is not to get any water mixed into the polymer clay.

If too much water is inside the polymer clay when you bake it then there will be either bubble appearing on the surface of your clay or your clay may end up being very brittle.

So make sure that you avoid mixing water with polymer clay as well as you can.

That being said the best way to color polymer clay is to either use alcohol-based colors or color in powder form.

Use Alcohol-Based Colors to Color the Clay

Alcohol-based colors are easy to come by. They can be quite expensive though.

Using alcohol-based colors is a good way to color polymer clay but the best way and the method I would suggest is using colors in dry or powder form.

That being said, here is how to color clay with alcohol-based color.

First up, is the color itself. So, as I mentioned above, there are a lot of colors, that are alcohol-based. Most nonpermanent markers are, for example, Copic markers. So you could color your clay by using the refillers from Copic.

But using Copic refillers is also very expensive and I would only use these if you have them around anyways. Otherwise, the cheapest alcohol-based colors are Alcohol Inks.

You can either make them yourself by mixing a few drops of fabric dye in a cup of high percent rubbing alcohol or you can buy them straight from a crafts store.

You can get a big set of alcohol-based inks for a good price right here on Amazon.

Secondly, color your clay properly. Try to use as little ink as possible when you are coloring your clay. White clay will obviously be easier to color than clay, which already has a color.

Use only 5 or 6 drops and then knead the clay with the color until the color is evenly spread throughout the clay. If the clay is not colored intensely enough for your purposes, then add e few more drops and knead the clay again.

Keep on repeating this process until the clay has the right color for you.

Lastly, let the alcohol evaporate before baking the clay.

This last step is the most important one! Don´t bake the clay right after you color it.

The color is alcohol-based and the alcohol, that is entrapped within the clay may cause some problems if you bake the clay.

So to make sure, that no rest-alcohol is inside the clay when you bake it simply leave the clay out for 3 or 5 hours depending on how much clay you colored. Don´t cover the clay up with anything it has to be exposed to the air in order for the alcohol to evaporate.

You can also knead the clay from time to time while it is drying to give the alcohol a better chance to evaporate completely.

The clay is ready to be baked once all the alcohol has evaporated.

Use Colors in Powder Form

As I mentioned above, this is probably my favorite way to color Polymer Clay.

You don´t have to worry about any water or alcohol being trapped inside the clay, that could ruin your work, and coloring your clay with dry colors will often give you a much more vibrant color than with the other methods.

You can get Color in Powder form in various ways. The easiest way, that I know of, is using crayon shavings.

If you have crayons at home, then definitely use this method! You don´t have to buy anything and the results will be great!

To take a crayon, that has the color of your choosing, and use an Exacto knife or something similar to carefully shave some of the crayons off.

Try to make the pieces, that you shave off, as small as possible. Ideally, it will look like colored sand.

Then take your white polymer clay and knead the crayon shavings in the clay. You will have to knead for a while until the color is evenly spread but you could bake the clay right away if you wanted. Because no liquid is trapped within the clay.

Another way to get color in powder form is straight out buying color pigments from an art and crafts store.

They can be quite expensive, depending on the color, that you want to use. But they are useful for many projects and you can go a long way with just a small amount.

When you want to use pigments to color your polymer clay, then I would recommend Mica Pigment Powder. They are very high quality while still being affordable.

You can buy them right here on Amazon.

Using Acrylic and Other Water-Based Colors

The last and my very least favorite method for coloring polymer clay is using acrylic paint or generally water-based color.

It is possible to color your clay with water-based color but you have to be quite careful when coloring your clay this way.

So Simply put a few drops of undiluted water-based color on your clay and start kneading it until the color is evenly spread.

Try to avoid adding too much of this paint to the clay because the more water gets entrapped within the clay the harder it will be to get rid of it.

When you are satisfied with the color, leave the clay out in the open so that the water can evaporate.

Water takes much much longer to evaporate than alcohol, so let your clay dry for at least 2 or even 3 days. Knead the clay every now and then.

One trick, that can help you to tell if there is still water evaporating is by putting your hand on the surface of the clay. If the clay is significantly colder than its surroundings then water is still evaporating.

This is because when water evaporates it cools down the surface of the clay.

When the clay is close to room temperature, then all the water is evaporated and you can bake it.

Can You Color White Polymer Clay Before Baking?

Yes, you can. You can use alcohol-based colors, powder pigments or crayon shavings to color your polymer clay. Acrylic color and other water-based colors can be used as well but the water within these colors has to evaporate from the clay before you bake it.

As I mentioned above in the article you can color white polymer clay before you bake it. You just have to make sure, that depending on the way, that you color the clay, no alcohol or water rests are within the clay.

The outcome may vary greatly depending on the way, that you color your clay. If you use pigments, then your clay will be colored very deeply with vibrant colors but if you are using alcohol- or water-based colors then the result will be less vibrant and strong.

So keep that in mind.

Can You Mix Paint Into Polymer Clay?

Yes, you can but depending on the kind of paint you may have to let the clay sit in the open for a couple of days before you can bake it safely. If you are using water-based (like Acrylic paint) or alcohol-based paint you have to let the clay sit, so that the alcohol or water can evaporate.

As I mentioned above, depending on the kind of paint, that you are using you have to leave the clay out for quite some time, so that water or alcohol, can evaporate.

If you put the clay in the oven before most of the alcohol or water is gone from the clay, you may have problems with bubbles appearing on the surface of the clay or the clay might even become brittle.

So make sure to give the clay enough time out in the open before baking it.

If you are not sure which kind of polymer clay to choose then check my article out where I tell you exactly how to pick the right kind of clay for your project.

Can You Color Polymer Clay With Food Coloring?

Yes, but depending on the polymer clay, that you are using it might not work. Most food color has sugar, water, and other substances in it, that can hinder the hardening process of the polymer clay in the oven. There are other methods of coloring Polymer Clay, that are easier and safer.

I wouldn´t use food color to color Polymer Clay mainly because of the sugar and syrup, that most food color has in them.

This sugar can hinder the chemical process of the hardening that Polymer Clay is going through once it is heated to the right temperature. So you could end up with a brittle sculpture, that didn´t harden correctly or your Polymer Project could start to get bubbles on the surface because of the water, that is being bound by the sugar.

There are safer ways to color polymer clay, like using colored pigment or alcohol-based color.

Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create interactive props and puzzles for Escape Games and marketing agencies. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.

10 thoughts on “How to Color Polymer Clay: The Very Best Methods”

  1. Can you use Micah powder to color polymer clay? And can you do two colors in one clay piece? Do you shape the clay then bake it or do you bake it then Shape it.

    • Hi Steph,
      I have never worked with Mica powder before but I assume that it is regular Pigment in which case you could use it for coloring Polymer clay. Polymer clay has to be shaped before you put it in the oven. The hardening process is being done in the oven so you can´t shape it anymore after baking it.

    • Hi Samantha,
      that is a good question that I can not confidently answer you.
      It depends on the eyeshadow and what it is made of exactly.
      I would suggest just giving it a try with a small test piece and see how it turns out.

    • Yes. I even buy eyeshadow palettes from the dollar tree. If u add the powder to a lump of white clay, it will only ever make a faintly colored clay but veru shimmery. Or you can dust it across the unbaked clay to add tinted shimmer.

  2. What about mixing with oil paint before baking? Also, I make miniatures (1:12 scale/dollhouse pumpkins right now) and it’s hard to find orange polymer clay this time of year. If I make say a pumpkin using white clay, bake it and then paint with acrylic paint do you like it would result in a realistic look of look cheaply painted? Thank you for this informative article!

    • Hi Jamie,
      I would refrain from using oil paint to color polymer clay. I personally never tried using oil paint before but I heard from several people that it seems to not always work out as well as using acrylic paint for example.

      I personally prefer painting polymer clay over coloring it in the first place mainly because I usually create more complex sculptures and it is simply easier to sculpt them in one color and then paint them afterward.
      So you can bake your pumpkin and then prime it with some paint primer and then finally paint it with some acrylic paint. I would also recommend sealing it with some acrylic sealer to protect your paint job.

      If you do it that way then it won´t look cheap at all. You might need to apply several layers of paint though.

    • Hi Amy,
      that is an interesting question. I never tried it so I can only assume but I think it should be possible. Resin gets hot when it hardens because the hardening process is exothermic which leads me to think that resin dyes should be able to take the heat of the oven when you harden polymer clay. So I think it should work but I can’t say for sure.


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