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This polymer clay faq. is offered by Jeanne A. E. DeVoto jaed@best.com
Copyright © 1996-97 Jeanne A. E. DeVoto

 2-Welcome to Polymer Clay
 3-Choosing & Mixing Clay
 4-Conditioning Polymer Clay
 5-Using a Pasta Machine
 6-Using a Food Processor
 7-Forming Clay Pieces
 8-Firing Polymer Clay
 9-Clay Pieces
10-Storing Polymer Clay
11-Canework
12-Using Stone Clays
13-Using Translucent Clays
14-Molding & Sculpting
15-Creating Surface Effects
16-Making Polymer Clay Jewelry
17-Safety & Cleanup
18-Equipment
19-More Information Sources
What is translucent clay used for?

Translucent clay can be used for a variety of special effects. You can mix in small amounts of colored clay to produce a watercolor effect. Translucent clay by itself looks something like alabaster. You can lay a thin layer of translucent clay over a strongly-colored pattern to create a milky surface. And translucent clays are often used in combination with colors to produce faux stones like ivory, jade, and amber.

How are translucent clays different from colored clays?

Translucent clay is polymer clay with no pigment (coloring element) or opacifier.

You can use translucent clays for anything you use colored clays for; conditioning, mixing and marbling, canework, or anything else. However, there are a few overall differences. Translucent clays are often softer and stickier when conditioned than the same brand of colored clay. Also, many translucent clays require a lower firing temperature to avoid darkening; see the instructions on the package. (If you're using colored and translucent clay in the same piece, fire at the lower temperature.)

What are the differences between translucent clays?

Most clay manufacturers offer one or more translucent clays.

Sculpey translucent #510 is one of the most transparent of the clays, very soft, and tends to pick up a yellowish tinge when fired longer than the minimum time.

Fimo offers two translucent clays. Fimo art translucent #00, which is only sold in 12-ounce blocks, is preferred for making faux stones because the fired clay develops plaques, tiny imperfections that enhance the clay's resemblance to natural stone. This clay tends to darken at high temperatures. Fimo transparent/opaque #01 is one of the least transparent of the translucent clays, but unlike art translucent, it does not readily change color at normal firing temperatures of 250-275° Fahrenheit and does not plaque as much.

How can I enhance the transparency of my pieces?

The translucent clays are not truly transparent, but here are a few ways to increase their transparency:

These methods produce the translucency you see in semi-precious stones like aventurine or jade - a sense of depth - but not true transparency.

Can I make an object that's truly transparent?

As of now, there are no truly transparent polymer clays (and given the limitations of polymer chemistry, there may never be such clays). You can obtain a near-transparent effect by putting a very thin layer of translucent clay over an object, firing, then wet-sanding and buffing it, although there will be some cloudiness.

You can also use glass marbles or stones as a transparent element of your design along with the clay.

Why does my transparent clay have little flecks in it?

Transparent clays can develop tiny flaws while firing. The effect is called "plaquing". Fimo art translucent #00 in particular tends to plaque. Some artists seek out this effect, because it can be used in faux stones to make the pieces look more like natural stone.

You can reduce the plaquing by using a different translucent clay - for example, Fimo transparent/opaque #01 - or by placing your pieces in a cold oven and then turning it on for firing, then letting the pieces cool down in the oven after firing.

On the other hand, if you want the plaquing effect, you can enhance it by putting your pieces into a preheated oven and removing them as soon as firing is complete. Wet-sanding and buffing will also make the plaquing more visible.

Next---Molding & Sculpting Polymer Clay
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