Step 4: Smoothing the Clay Surface

One of the most frustrating things about working with clay is trying to get a smooth surface. We've already firmed the clay, and that will make it much easier to smooth the clay with your fingers. However, if you want to a very smooth surface that is completely free from bumps, marks and fingerprints, there is another simple trick. Alcohol melts Sculpey.

We can take advantage of this by dipping a paintbrush in rubbing alcohol and then gently brushing the sculpture until the alcohol dries. Minor imperfections (fingerprints) in the clay will be dissolved and essentially buffed out of the surface of the clay. The cool part is that the stronger the alcohol solution is, the "mushier" the surface of the clay will become. This means that you can dilute the alcohol with water to make a less aggressive solution, effectively making a 'finer grain' of liquid sandpaper.

  1. Start with 91% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Brush it over the sculpture to remove large scratches, fingerprints, and tool marks.
  2. Mix water with the alcohol until you have about a 1:1 ratio. Continue brushing the sculpture with this new mix until the surface is as smooth as you can get it.
  3. Use water alone to brush the surface. With much brushing you will be able to get an almost reflective polish

Not smooth enough for you? Well, after you bake sculpey you can take sandpaper and polishers to it just like anything else.
Begin sanding with 300-400 grit sandpaper and go over the entire surface of the clay
Continue sanding with paper of gradually increasing grit density, all the way up to 1600
With dry sanding complete, start  the process again with the 300-400 grit, but this time soak the paper in water first
Use polishing compound and a rotary buffer (I personally like the Dremel polishing kit) to finish off the surface. You will be able to get a glass smooth surface with this method.
<p>Many thanks for the information - very useful.</p>
<p>Awesome! You've packed a lot of good information into your tutorial. Thank you so much.</p>
What were the cats whiskers made out of I didn't really get that part
<p>i know you were not talking to me, but i <em>think</em> it may be wire.</p>
<p>It says that he cut the wire of a paperclip to the desired length, bent to shape and painted them black. </p>
<p>Hi, you get a very good step by step tutorial.<br> Allow you to showcase your work?<br> http://world-of-jewelry.ru/shop/</p>
<p>OMG this is so cute! xx Natalie </p>
<p>do You not use coloured clay?</p>
Hi there thanks for this article! Ive learned so much in less than 10 mins! But I have a quick question! You had said you make different sections and put them together. Here you baked off the burger first and then made the cat. How did you attach the cat after? Or did you rebake it? Thanks!
<p>I love this article! You are very good at sculpting. I was wondering if other paints worked with polymer clay... I don't have any acrylic paint at the moment. Thanks! :)</p>
<p>A very informative Instructable on how to work with clay! Nice job!</p>
It's so adorable! You did an amazing job! :)
<p>Thanks for the tip about the alcohol!</p>
So cute! It looks great:)
<p>I'm so glad I saw your instructable before venturing into clay crafts. I learned some very helpful tips and also have been inspired by your texture techniques. Thanks!</p>
It's like totally adorable
Thanks for the great tips!:)
This is a very useful instructable. <br> <br>But I totally lack artisticness, where do you can buy it?
You can buy polymer clay in craft stores. I use Hobby Lobby and Michaels. If you're starting out they have variety color packs and large single-color (usually white or peach) bricks. If you are looking into buying the small colored bricks instead of painting the final pieces, try to catch a day where all packs of polymer clay are on sale. I consider a 'good' price ~$1 per block.
Thanks Tomdf, polcipalma and GryphonixXIII.
Practice, practice, practice is the best way. Also, who is to say what art is anyway, if people don't like your artwork they probably just have bad taste ;)
En La Plata, en Polibol: 44 2 y 3, y en Batik de calle 7. 26$ los 50gr. Saludos!
26 $ argentinos. Marca comercial: FIMO de Staedtler.
Oh baby! This is just brilliant. Thank you for sharing. I would love to try this, but I'd end up making YOUR sculpture over and over because I just don't have the vision to come up with my own stuff. Unless ... uh oh. I am now off to google idea books.
Well, hey, it's not like that was an original design. The cat, Pusheen, is from a popular webcomic, and the other sculptures are from video games and magic the gathering cards. I don't think there is anything wrong working off of someone else's design as long as you give credit, aren't trying to make money off it, and you have fun doing it. <br> <br>And, if that philosophy doesn't work for ya, copy nature (she doesn't copyright or patent anything.) Sculpt a bear, a pig, a bumble bee, a shark, whatever; sculpting is a lot of fun, you really should try it!
Thanks Tomdf - I did go to a craft store today but their Sculpey was crazy-expensive compared to Amazon.com, so I'm gonna order it. I just need to remember that it's okay to start with a shark if I can't immediately create Rodin's ballerina sculpture!
Very Nice work and the tutorial was very well put together with tons of useful information. Thanks so much!
Ty for the kind words, happy you liked it!
love Pusheen :3
One of the best articles written about polymer clay EVER, informative and cute sculpture. Awesome.
Ty, I really like your use of mica powders btw. I'll be using your instructable to learn how to use them soon.
Thank you so much.
Wonderful and extremely useful. Great i'ble!
That cat is the cutest clay cat every!
&lt;3 Pusheen
To nice! Thanks!
cool website and awesome kitty <br>

About This Instructable




Bio: When I was young I took all of my toys apart just to see inside. Eventually I learned how to put them back together.
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