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A Tutorial on Polymer Clay Camouflage and Techniques!

Click for a Larger View My particular style of art is a type of 'Relief Sculpture'. It has a flat back and is built upwards; creating pieces that can be beautifully shadow box framed or in some cases, displayed on small easels, made into magnets or jewelry centerpieces.

This tutorial includes a printable design pattern for the "Rattlesnake" in the project (linked on the last page of the lesson; this pattern is ‘copyright-free material’). However, you do not have to follow this pattern; I have included it for those of you who may wish to use it for practice. My own work is done ‘freehand’ and by studying pictures and scenes in books and real life. This helps in anatomical correctness and composition. Using The pattern in this design alongside the pictorial explanations shows how the average person can achieve anatomical correctness in their creations without the perfecting of sculpting skills. Of course your sculpting skills will improve over practiced time and as you develop the practical applications of these simple techniques. This should encourage you to freely step out and try your hand at something new and very rewarding!

Tools:
These tools (Kemper) are pretty much the only ones I use for all projects. I especially appreciate them because they are double-ended, with exception of the ‘Exacto Knife’. The specific stock numbers are as follows: A3N Lace Tool (pointed stylus/spade); DBSL (double-ball stylus); PAS (spatula). The Exacto Knife’ can be purchased at hardware stores. The other essential is wax paper. I use a large piece about a foot long and fold it over a couple times. This allows a stable working and cutting surface as well as the ability to move my project unhindered in any direction. It also protects the table-top.

The Process

The Base:
The ‘Camouflage’ base begins with a flat piece of clay; preferably rolled out in a Pasta Maker. Make the base approx. 1/8 inch thick. The size will depend upon the chosen design for your project. If you choose to use the ‘Rattlesnake’ pattern for practice; print it out and then cut along the lines as neatly as possible. It doesn’t have to be perfect; the main goal is to have anatomical correctness and you will find that your creation takes on a ‘life of it’s own’ as you begin to sculpt. So following the design perfectly is not necessary… it’s only a guide.

Lay the cut pattern over your base and add more clay if needed. The shape of your base should compliment the design… in this case, I chose a rectangle. Shapes are not limited to geometric designs either. A really nice compliment is the ‘freeform’ base. This type is simply a base that follows the outline of the project and gives a really cool abstract feel to the piece.

Don’t be concerned if the base has little imperfections here and there; they will be covered by the time your work is completed. Now place the base in the center of the pan you will be baking it in and start the next steps.

The next step is preparing and slicing your mixture.

Mixtures: A good mixture consists of randomly grabbing bits of clays till I have a big handful; about the size of a baseball. These types of mixes can have bits of white or black which add really pretty accents but I don’t recommend you use a lot of either color. White, because it tends to be very stark; and black because it can be overwhelming and mute the mix too much.

I "squash" the baseball a few times and then begin to break off bits of clay about the size of a large, single peanut; dropping them in a pile in a sporadic fashion. When I’m finished breaking up all the clay, I scoop them up and press them into a ball. I knead the clay while pulling and twisting at the same time. This is a crucial step in bringing out really good patterns to work from. Be careful though; if you knead too much, the colors will lose their individuality and be lost in a muted background. Only a minute or so of mixing is usually all that is needed and I then roll the clay into a long "sausage-thick, rope". It is now ready for slicing.

When working with a ’Camouflage’ project, you want to make sure you have prepared enough mixture to see you through to the end. Try to over estimate the amount needed and any unused portions can go for other projects. It’s always a good rule of thumb to have a little more than not enough.

Note: Another really great way to ‘specialize’ your project is to buy pre-made cane rolls. The choices are wonderfully diverse and any number of beautiful designs can be inexpensively purchased on ebay or Polymer Clay sites!

Using a Sculpey Super Slicer (available from Polymer Clay Stores and product sites), cut the entire rope into 1/4" slices and place in a pile on a separate sheet of wax paper.



Take several slices and cut them into 3 uneven sections and carefully shape into irregular ‘pebbles’. Shape them with a very light touch so as not to disturb the color mixture. Place the ‘pebbles’ in a sporadic fashion over the entire base; try not to let them touch each other too much. Press them gently into the base, smoothing the edges as you go. The amount of ’pebbles’ needed will depend upon the size of your base. Cut more as you need them. Once the larger ones are in place; take tiny ’pinches’ of clay from one of the slices and carefully form small irregular shapes and place these sporadically as well. The picture on the right shows the completed desired effect.



The last step in the base is to cover the remaining non-pebbled area with ’stippling’ texture. This is a simple technique yet provides a great overall look. It is a bit tedious, but very well worth the effort! Using the sm. ball stylus; cover the surface with a gentle, rapid-fire type tapping. Repeat the tapping until a small area is done and then move on until the whole base is covered. (The reason the surface isn’t textured before adding the ‘pebbles’ is because it would be erased while you worked on smoothing and pressing the tiny pebbles as well as the edges of the larger ones) When finished, set it aside; you will return to it later.

(I used a red base for more clarity, that’s why it doesn’t match the one on the cover)

Now We Work on the Design...



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