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The Tools and Materials You Need for Sculpting with Polymer Clay

Of course our fingers are the best tool, but they don't help when you try to make a detailed sculpture. Even so, you don't have to spend all your earnings for sculpting. First I'll talk about the basic materials that you'll need then I have some specific suggestions if you're sure that it's a long term hobby for you.

1. Cutting Knife:

You should really have this enormously sharp knife. It's around 2$. If you have a razor blade knife at home, it also does the job. But this knife is sharper and stronger than any other blade knifes that costs the same. I use it all the time, cutting myself accidentally on a regular basis :)
It comes with five spare knives that you can renew after it gets old so it lasts a long time.

2. Sculpting Tools:

Here is another must. I started with this 20 pieces basic set. (around 5$) The last three you see on the picture is another set of ball tools. (around 2$) The "x"s show the tools that I use the most.

They all have a hard life, they got old, dirty. Some of them become crooked. Sometimes the wood and the metal part got separated and I had to glue them. If we can make sculptures, we can also fix our tools, right?
Then I started using metal dentist tools. (around 20$) I was a gift from my boyfriend (I appropriated them actually :P) Metal tools are stronger than these wood ones but it takes sometime to get used to. The dentist tools are sharper and harder so you should work gentle to avoid leaving sharp marks on the clay. If you think it's a longterm hobby for you, you can start these fancy dentist tools.

3. Acrylic Paints and Brushes:

It is going to hurt your budget to buy all the colors of polymer clay so you need acrylic paints. It also hurts if you buy all the colors of acrylic paint. Starting with the main colors is the best option. I started with no name paints. After a while I started using Winsor and Newton Galeria acrylic paaints. I bought white, black, red, blue and yellow. If there is a color you need that you can't reach mixing the main colors you can also add it to your paint collection. For example after sculpting for a couple of years I understood that I use skin colors a lot and it is really hard to mix it. So I bought a basic skin color.
As you see on the following picture I couldn't reach the purple I wanted so I bought it. That time I know nothing about color theory. I mixed cold and warm colors and my purple got muddy. If you make a research about color theory and buy all the cold and warm main colors you can make your own mixes.

About the brushes, just start with two brushes, one for small details, one for large areas. After you continue sculpting you'll understand what you need. I don't like spending too much on the brushes. I forget to clean them or forget them in the water so they get ruined. If you're a neat person, I recommend you to buy Princeton Catalyst Polytip Bristle Brushes. They are the most recommended acrylic brushes.

4. Polymer Clay:

I first bought main colors of Fimo polymer clay. (56 gr package around 3$) I tried to mix them but I didn't like the colored clays on any brand. The clay is really hard in the package and at first crumbles a lot. You have to condition them for a while. Then it becomes so soft and sticky, it paints your fingers. It's really hard to work with it for me. Fimo Proffesional is better though considering these features I use  Super Sculpey Beige and Firm. Beige and Firm both have great consistency but after baking they are more fragile than the colored clays. So if my sculptures has fragile parts I use Fimo Proffessional.

5. Oven:

You can use the oven you have at home. Not the microwave. Some people don't want to use the oven that they bake food so they have a separate oven for polymer clay. Some people use candles to bake small parts. So it depends on what you want.

According to lab tests, Super Sculpey isn't toxic. Nothing bad happens if you even swallow the clay. Baking it in the oven that you bake food is totally safe, you shouldn't bake the food and the clay together though :D If you burn the clay you should just wipe the oven and you're good to go.

The materials listed below aren't a must, you can consider buying them according to your budget.

6. Pasta Machine:

If you're gonna cry like me while mixing or conditioning the clay, please buy this machine. The price range is 15$-100$. You can buy the cheapest one that I've used for a long time. It's really low quality though, it got crooked a while later. Then I bought Atlas pasta machine (around 50$), it is quite good.

7. Wire and Aluminum Foil:

I usually make a wire armature, then cover it with aluminum and clay. It prevents clay wastage and makes the sculpture stronger. If you're gonna start making big figures you need wire and aluminum foil. Any wire does the job and you can steal the foil from the kitchen :)

8. Pliers:

It helps blending the wire. I think you have one at home :)

9. Paint boxes or something to mix the paint on:

I had these paint containers. Even if they have caps the paint dries after a while. So I don't recommend them. Then I bought small glass jars. It didn't work for me either. Nowadays I mix the paints on a cheap plate. It's easier to clean it.

Now that we've got all we need, it's time to start conditioning the clay, waiting for the baking time, forgetting the sculpture in the oven and burning it, accidentally dropping the sculpture to the floor and breaking it :)

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