This is a tutorial for a colorful mini coral reef ring - perfect for summer!
- A large ball of sand colored polymer clay
- Small bits of colorful clay - scrap clay is perfect! Since there's a lot of delicate details, you'll want to use a clay that is flexible after baking. In this tutorial, I'm using Sophie and Toffee polymer clay since I find that it's the most flexible, but you can use any brand (Sculpey, Fimo, etc.)
- A needle tool and nail art dotting tool (or the rounded end of a pin)
- Sandpaper and a toothbrush
- An X-acto knife
- A ring base and adhesive (E-6000)
- An oven
- Some sort of platform to sculpt on, so you can easily see the details in your work
- Polymer clay glaze (I like using water-based varathane polyurethane)
Let's get started!
Step 1: Sand!
Take a small ball of sand-colored clay. Flatten and texture using sand paper.
TIP: If it doesn't flatten to the exact shape you want, you can reshape it with a toothbrush. The bristles will keep you from losing the texture
>__< please ignore the chipped nail polish
Step 2: Begin Adding Coral :D
Here is where you will start taking creative reign on your coral! Steps 3 - 8 will show you different ways you can add onto your patch of coral.
Step 3: Lettuce Coral
To make something that resembles lettuce coral, start by taking a small ball of clay, and flattening it into a thin disk.
- Pinch the center to make a horn-like shape, using your needle tool to help guide your clay.
- Attach this to your sand, and blend using your needle tool to secure. Use the needle tool to arrange and adjust the coral (like adding extra little folds to make it look more natural).
Step 4: Seagrass-looking-things
This is something I like to use to fill up space. It's also the most delicate, so make sure to use the clay that bakes the strongest/most flexible for this!
- Roll out a thin snake of clay, tapering off at one end.
- Using an X-acto knife, cut the blade of grass to your desired length.
- Repeat until you get a small clump.
- Attach this clump to your sand, and blend to secure.
Tip: I've only tried making the grass with Sophie and Toffee clay, and haven't had issues with them breaking except for the very top of the tips if I've rolled out the clay too thinly. They still look pointed and grass-like without the tips, but be careful when you're using less flexible clays. You may not want to roll them out as thinly as I did here until you test out a few pieces first.
Step 5: Pipe Coral
These are probably the most tricky to make. Sometimes it takes me a few tries to get a single usable pipe, but they add a pretty cool effect!
- Take a small ball of clay
- Stab it through with your needle tool
- Roll around until you get a smoother, more even, pipe-like shape. Slowly try to remove your needle as you're doing this
- Trim off the end that doesn't look good so that your pipe is your desired length, and attach to your sand
Tip: Cornstarch and baby powder are great at keeping the clay from sticking too much to your needle! Lightly poke it into a small bit of cornstarch and dust off the excess before adding your clay, and it should slide right off when you're done rolling!
Step 6: Seastar!
I like adding a tiny sea star to contrast with the rest of the coral!
- Like with the sea-grass, roll out a bit of clay with one end tapering off. Unlike the grass, make this point thicker, and slightly more rounded.
- Cut off the corner to your desired length for a sea star leg.
- Repeat 4 more times.
- Using your needle tool, blend these legs together in a star shape.
- Use the toothbrush and needle tool to gently add texture and detail (I like using the toothbrush to make the bumpy sea star texture, then drawing lines from each point with the needle tool)
- Add this to your sand
TIP: You can use a bit of bake-and-bond or liquid clay to help attach this, since you can't blend it into the sand as much as with the other corals
Step 7: Filling in Gaps (option 1)
Here's one technique I like using to hide the blended part where the other corals are attached to the sand.
- Take a few tiny balls of clay, and press them gently into your sand, near the base of the other corals.
- Use a dotting tool to add texture
Step 8: Filling in Gaps (option 2)
This is another technique I like to use to fill in some of those empty spaces and hide unsightly blending.
- Add bits of soft, brightly colored clay to the gap you're trying to cover
- Texture using your needle tool, scratching the clay in a small, circular motion (just like texturing cake slices!)
TIP: I think this effect looks best with soft and slightly translucent polymer clay. I find that mixing translucent Sculpey III with other colors gives a nice, soft clay...but maybe every block of translucent Sculpey I've used has just coincidentally always been really soft.
Step 9: Baking
Bake according to your clay packaging directions. Typically it tends to be around 275°F or 130°C, but be sure to read the directions on your clay specifically. The clay I'm using here bakes at 120°-130°C, slightly lower than the regular temperature.
TIP: Be careful to bake your clay thoroughly. Under-baking causes crumbly clay! Also watch your oven and beware of burning!
TIP: I like to quench my clay pieces to make them stronger. Since this piece has some delicate details, quenching is recommended. To do this, prepare a container with an ice bath, and place your piece into the cold water immediately after baking. Leave it in for a few minutes, and it should be slightly stronger!
Step 10: Finishing Touches
You can leave this as a miniature, or glue this onto a ring base using a small dab of E-6000 glue.
If you wish, you can also glaze using any type of polymer clay glaze to protect and strengthen it.
Another option is to put it in resin, in a mini pond! The possibilities are endless ~