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It’s pretty common for characters from all sorts of anime, comics, or games to be wearing jewelry that you just can’t find at a store. Sometimes the jewelry pieces have symbolism that has meaning to the character, and sometimes it’s iconic enough that you don’t want to replace it with a generic necklace, bracelet, or earring.
When you run into this predicament, it’s time to develop a new set of skills and make your own jewelry. The good news is, there are a number of different mediums you can use to make what you need, none of which are difficult to learn how to use.
Polymer clay is the easiest material to get started with for jewelry making. In fact, you might have used this same material for basic crafts when you were younger. This is a type of clay that you can mold as much as you want and then bake in the oven to harden the clay and finalize your piece of jewelry.
Polymer clay is also completely non-toxic, so you can use it indoors and around pets without worrying about anyone’s health. You can also work directly with your hands when sculpting or molding. Or use clay tools, that’s fine too.
When to use clay for cosplay jewelry
Polymer clay can be used for almost any kind of small jewelry piece. It is often used to create pendants, beads, hair clips, earrings, and keychains. Once the clay is heated and hardened, you can glue it to hair clips and pins, or drill holes on the clay to add it to an earring or necklace.
Clay is great if you need to make any complicated or organic shapes with your jewelry since you can easily mold it or create a texture on the surface of the clay. You can purchase polymer clay in a rainbow of colors to use for your props and jewelry, or you can get it in white and paint the finished piece (which is usually what I do). If you struggle to paint your props neatly, using the separate colors of polymer clay while molding can let you skip that process altogether.
You can use other types of clay for jewelry making too. I’ve used paper clay in the past. I have come to find that polymer clay works best for smaller pieces of jewelry since the end result is less fragile than other types of clay. However, if you are making large prop pieces, paper clay is the better option since it is much cheaper to get in larger amounts and it’s less fragile when it is dense.
How to use polymer clay to make custom shapes
The biggest advantage of polymer clay is that it can easily be molded into whatever shape you want. Using your hands and clay tools, you can design just about any small piece of jewelry that you need for your character’s costume.
To protect the table or surface you’re working on, I recommend placing a sheet of parchment paper (the kind you cook with) on the table. You can keep it from moving around or rolling pup by taping it around a piece of cardboard or a cutting board.
- Polymer clay
- Optional: polymer clay softener
- Acrylic paint (or you can use polymer clay in separate colors)
- Polymer finishing varnish
- Mold your jewelry piece. Use your hands or clay tools to help you mold the clay into the shape you want. Use reference pictures to help you. If the clay is too hard to work with, add some polymer clay softener to help it become more mold-able.
- Set your pieces on a baking sheet. If you need your polymer piece to stay in position, you can add wads of aluminum foil to keep it in place. Remember, once you bake it you can’t go back and change it, so you want to make sure nothing is dropping or messy looking before you place it in the oven.
- Bake the clay. The baking instructions might be slightly different depending on the brand of clay you have, so always check their instructions. In general, you’ll bake it at 275ºF for 30 minutes per every quarter-inch thick the piece is. So if you have a thicker half-inch piece, it will be in the oven for an hour, etc.
- Allow the clay to cool. After you remove the clay from the oven, allow it to cool before you handle it. This is the period where the clay is the most fragile, and you don’t want to risk breaking it.
- If you are painting the piece, prime it first. If you used different colored clay, you can skip to step 7. Otherwise, you want to use a basic primer (such as mod podge) to get the surface of the clay ready for painting.
- Paint your creation. Carefully paint your piece. You can use metallic paints if you want it to look more like metal jewelry.
- Apply finishing varnish. To get a nice, shiny, finished look, apply a layer of varnish on top. You can use mod podge if you want, but a varnish made for polymer clay will usually give you a better result.
How to use polymer clay with a silicone mold
You can also use polymer clay with molds. If you find a silicone (or plastic) mold in the shape you’re looking for, it’s easy to create the pieces you need for your costume. You can use these same molds for resin, which I’ll talk about in the next section.
- Polymer clay
- A silicone mold (it’s okay if it was meant for cooking, resin making, or any other purpose)
- Baby powder
- Silver paint (or whatever paint you want to use)
- Metal earring pieces
- Polymer finishing varnish
- Add a small amount of baby powder to the inside of your mold. This will ensure that the polymer clay does not stick to the inside of the mold.
- Squash your clay into the mold. Make sure to get the clay into all of the corners. Most silicone molds are bakeable, so you can bake the clay in the mold if you want to.
- Unless you are baking it in the mold, remove the clay and add any other details. If you just want to use the basic shape that the mold offers, you can bake it directly inside the mold. Just be sure that the silicone you’re using is heat-resistant and bakeable.
- Add any metal hooks or connectors for earrings, bracelets, etc. You can add metal jewelry studs or hooks before you bake the piece. Since polymer is baked at low temperatures, the metal will not melt in the oven.
- Bake your polymer clay. You’ll bake it at 275ºF for 30 minutes per every quarter-inch thick the piece is. If your clay piece is very thin, you can half the time it’s spending in the oven.
- Paint the clay. You can paint the clay silver, gold, pewter, or whatever color you want. Acrylic paints are perfectly safe to use with polymer clay. When you’re happy with the result add a varnish for a shiny finish.