Author Topic: How do you smooth polymer clay?  (Read 26460 times)

Offline MrClay

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How do you smooth polymer clay?
« on: January 02, 2012, 03:25:48 PM GMT GMT »
I've seen lots of the works in progress and was wondering how they get that smooth look.  How do you smooth it and not show tool marks?

I am using this:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000SVRSRY
http://www.amazon.com/Butler-G-U-M-Gum-Stimulator-600R/dp/B000GFZPWM

and I have lots of brushes.

Thanks.  (I looked at some of the guides but didn't see anything immediate.)

Offline Burano

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2012, 04:07:47 PM GMT GMT »
In most cases it's sufficient with a flat metal tool. (Like some of the ones shown in the first link you posted)

Also (with some putty, such as super sculpey) may use a fine synthetic brush wet in a bit of alcohol or dubbin.

And once the putty is baked, you can always use fine sandpaper to remove any unwanted marks on the surface of the model.

Offline MrClay

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2012, 07:01:11 PM GMT GMT »
Thanks.  My just has press marks all over it where I have been holding the model and using the tools to pull and push material.  I'm just sculpting a leg below the knee but its got all the press marks.

Offline Burano

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2012, 01:56:56 AM GMT GMT »
Thanks.  My just has press marks all over it where I have been holding the model and using the tools to pull and push material.  I'm just sculpting a leg below the knee but its got all the press marks.


Maybe this viedo is useful.

http://www.figurines-tv.com/kws/modules/video/popup.php?video=http://www.figurines-tv.com/videos%20completes/allanrhinoftv.flv&ext=flv

Offline MrClay

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2012, 05:03:08 AM GMT GMT »
If I go to 36:27 the legs look rough, but then the video transitions at 36:41 and magically the left leg is smooth, looks good, but they didn't show how they got that.  He then scores it to make it look better.  At 37:14 he uses his brush and dips into something and I think this is where the smoothing comes from.

What is he dipping the brush into?  Am I correct that this is where the smoothing comes from, the brush dipped in whatever?

Thank you again for the video and your time.

Offline Caerban

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2012, 12:23:37 PM GMT GMT »
I think he mentions white spirit. You can use a lot of things on your brush to smooth depending on the degree of smoothing you want.
These are a few that I use on polymer clay in ascending order of strength:
Water
Rubbing alcohol (surgical spirit)
Nail varnish remover
Acetone
They all rely on dissolving the top layer of clay and then using this dissolved mush to fill in the cracks, except the water which basically just smooths the mechanical action of the brush. I work mainly in larger OOAK busts though so for the scale of a mini I doubt you need anything much stronger than the alcohol. Just a note though, I suspect the leg in the video is mostly smoothed through purely mechanical means, I'd recommend a metal or smooth wooden spoon shaped tool to do most of the work. The chemical stuff is mostly just used to take the edge of things like skin texture, to make it more realistic.

Offline MrClay

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2012, 01:29:33 AM GMT GMT »
My miniature looks like chewing gum spit out.

You're telling me this was done with just tools?

http://minicreateurs.com/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?5502.0#post_9882
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-_iJeCR1iyk4/TshPdKwi3VI/AAAAAAAABmY/_y5DhFoWOqE/s1600/Khalib.jpg
oh man.  I don't see how to even begin to emulate that smooth texture.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2012, 01:41:43 AM GMT GMT by MrClay »

Offline Badsmile

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2012, 09:37:59 AM GMT GMT »
have you tried using your fingers* to smooth stuff ? It works pretty well. Without pressure and just going in one direction leaves the surface smooth as arse. If your fingers are too big for some places, then use polished metal tools, works fine. A brush I myself only use when I have to smooth very small areas in the face or the eyeballs and alike, for most of the other things I mainly use either my fingers or the metal tools. As for toolmarks, it depends on how much pressure you put into the tool, most poly clays will change form already from the weight of the tool itself. It's more like being nice and caressing your model than sculpting with unbound power and pressure. Theright amount of pressure at the right time is essential for a nice finish I'd say.

* When using fingers to smooth, try to do this without any pressure, just slightly touching the surface and then dragging your finger in one direction. don't stop in the middle and pull your finger off, try to make this movement along the whole surface so you don't leave ay fingerprints. hard to explain without seeing it.... Just grab a piece of putty flatten it out on a cork and try to smooth it with your fingers without applying pressure, works fine.
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Offline Vermis

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2012, 02:48:46 PM GMT GMT »
My miniature looks like chewing gum spit out.

I don't want to sound like I'm taking the proverbial, but you're just starting out. :)  It'll take some time and practise to get to grips with the clay and the way it behaves.  It usually includes this...

As for toolmarks, it depends on how much pressure you put into the tool, most poly clays will change form already from the weight of the tool itself. It's more like being nice and caressing your model than sculpting with unbound power and pressure. The right amount of pressure at the right time is essential for a nice finish I'd say.

QFT!

I use water to dampen my tools, for the reason Caerban mentioned.  Useful as the oil in the clay repels the water - except with fimo, where the kaolin filler absorbs it.

Offline Bergil

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2012, 03:36:57 PM GMT GMT »
I'm still having trouble using metal and even wooden tools for smoothing putty. Still using clay shapers and awful lot.

I feel like I'm missing out on something but I have gotten rather used to just using clay shapers half the time.

The main issue is that it can get rather expensive, tend to go through those clay shapers like a dose of salts.

Offline Vermis

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2012, 07:21:52 PM GMT GMT »
I'm still having trouble using metal and even wooden tools for smoothing putty. Still using clay shapers and awful lot.

Can't fault you for using clay shapers, but what putty and shapes of tool are you using?

And on that note...

I am using this:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000SVRSRY
http://www.amazon.com/Butler-G-U-M-Gum-Stimulator-600R/dp/B000GFZPWM

Your mileage may vary, but for smoothing with metal (or wooden) tools I like using a small, round or leaf-shaped head.  Slightly convex - not so flat that the edges of the head drag in the putty or clay, but not so round in cross-section that the 'middle' drags too.  From the photo of the set you bought I'd recommend trying out #5-7 - the beale, vehe, and one that looks like a cross between the two - and maybe the lecron at the end.

Although that's mostly dragging front-to-back, in line with the tool.  I've seen others smooth putty well by stroking round or flat tools (like toothpicks, darning needles, blunted knives, and other shaped wood, metal and plastic, even teflon...) sideways over the surface; so experiment a bit, see what works best for you, and practise with that.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2012, 08:15:29 PM GMT GMT by Vermis »

Offline zemjw

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2012, 11:25:16 AM GMT GMT »
Bergil,

Quote
The main issue is that it can get rather expensive, tend to go through those clay shapers like a dose of salts.

I got the latest catalogue from greatart.co.uk yesterday. They have a sale on, with some sizes of clayshapers going for £5.00 per set - link

Might be an opportunity to stock up :-)

Offline Bergil

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2012, 12:35:55 PM GMT GMT »
I'm still having trouble using metal and even wooden tools for smoothing putty. Still using clay shapers and awful lot.

Can't fault you for using clay shapers, but what putty and shapes of tool are you using?

Well, I'm always using a 50/50 mix of gs/bs. I do have some super sculpy pink, pro create, and Cernit that was given to me but I've never actually used any of them.

Not sure what it's called... Chisel shaped head and flat on either side. as this is the forum to do it I'll go on a bit. I find It's great for shaping and applying indentations early on with a gs/bx mix as the putty is very soft. A little later on using the wide edge is great for smoothing and pulling putty this way and that. turn it on it's side and you've got a thin wedge to do a bit more detail with and you can use the pointy edge bit too!

Basically I use this tool the most because I find it rather dextrous.

Then there are two different 'cup' shapes, mostly used for tamping down putty at the egdes. Then the pointed clay shaper is used for chamfering edges where a bit of control is required.

Occasionally use a pin and some knitting tools from time to time when it is required. (I don't knit tho!)

Hope that makes sense?

Bergil,

Quote
The main issue is that it can get rather expensive, tend to go through those clay shapers like a dose of salts.

I got the latest catalogue from greatart.co.uk yesterday. They have a sale on, with some sizes of clayshapers going for £5.00 per set - link

Might be an opportunity to stock up :-)

Wonderful stuff, thanks for the link!

Offline Vermis

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2012, 08:09:02 PM GMT GMT »
Well, I'm always using a 50/50 mix of gs/bs.
Chisel shaped head
Hope that makes sense?

Aye. :)  Are the pins and knitting needles the only metal tools you've used?

Offline Bergil

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Re: How do you smooth polymer clay?
« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2012, 08:18:02 PM GMT GMT »
Aye. :)  Are the pins and knitting needles the only metal tools you've used?

Well not knitting needles, the tools have very small hooks at the end.

I've occasionally used a wax five type thing in trying to work out what the hell it was ;-) Some of the dental tools have had a shape I felt like using once or twice or a hook that has proved useful.0|Hbut at the end of the day, pins and hooks are the only metal things I use.