Tutorial: How to Use Polymer Clay for Costume Props and Accessories

clay 101 for cosplay props

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Polymer clay is a type of clay that needs to be baked to harden. You can mold it as much as you want before baking, the clay will not dry out, but once you bake it, you cannot go back. Polymer clay also tends to keep a pretty smooth surface, so it doesn’t require as much sanding as other clays.  (find polymer clay on amazon)

On the other hand, polymer clay is quite fragile when making anything thin, and it can get expensive if you want to make any kind of large prop. You can easily get small amounts of polymer clay for less than $10, which is great for small projects. However, it can add up very quickly if you need to cover a large surface area.

using polymer clay for small props
Polymer clay is best for creating small props and jewelry.

When to use polymer clay

Polymer clay is best for making small props, costume details (like custom buttons and hair clips), and jewelry. Everything you make needs to be able to fit into the oven. You also should try to avoid making anything that’s more than 1-2 inches thick, since these can burn in the oven before they are ever baked through. 

Polymer clay can, however, be molded onto metal jewelry clasps and hooks and baked with the metal pieces. This makes it excellent for creating jewelry. 

If you don’t have a steady hand when painting, you can also get polymer clay in any color of the rainbow. You can create your cosplay craft with whatever colors you want right from the start.

examples of polymer clay
You can use different colors of polymer clay to avoid painting the small pieces after they’re baked. You can also use silicone molds to create detailed shapes with the clay.

How to use polymer clay

You can use polymer clay with your hands or using clay tools. When taking it out of the plastic, you may need to need it for a bit to make it more pliable. It’s best to use a silicone or wax sheet underneath your working area to keep the polymer clay from sticking to surfaces.

  • Baking polymer clay. You should bake polymer clay according to the directions on the brand of clay you bought. Typically this will be at around 275ºF for 30 minutes for every ¼ inch thick your creation is. Then you want to let it dry completely before adding paint or varnish.
  • Adding varnish to polymer clay. It’s best to use varnishes and sealants that are specially made to use with polymer clay. Many typical primers that are used with prop making react with the baking polymer clay to create a sticky surface.
  • Using foam clay with silicone molds. You can also use polymer clay with silicone cooking molds or resin molds. These can help you get specific or detailed shapes that may be difficult or tedious to mold on your own.

Related reading: How to make jewelry with polymer clay

mixing polymer colors
You can combine colors of polymer clay like paint to mix different colors. Don’t forget you can also use black and white to make colors lighter and darker.

Mixing polymer clay colors

Polymer clays have the added advantage of being able to mix whatever colors you want. If you don’t have the color you need on hand, you can knead the polymer clay and mix colors together the same way you would with paint.

Simply take a portion of the two colors you want to combine and mash them together until you have a solid color. For example, combining blue and red clay will give you purple, and combining red and yellow will give you orange. It’s really useful if you need to create unique or specific colors.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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