Inlay Rubber Stamp Designs in Polymer Clay




About: I'm a Renaissance woman. I love to create things with a fantasy, medieval, or geeky edge. I'm also a math/science nerd. I have a passion for all things Halloween. I like to build props, create costume elemen...

I really like the idea of embedding intricate designs in polymer clay--like an inlay. However, I'm not that artistic nor do I want to spend the kind of time such an attempt might require. So I've begun to use rubber stamps to give me that look with very little effort. Here is how I make inlay designs using rubber stamps.

I also have this project as a tutorial on my blog.

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Step 1: The Stuff

You need:
Polymer clay - two colors; one for the background, one for the inlay
Pasta roller or clay roller
Rubber Stamp*
Corn Starch
Dry paint brush
Exacto knife and/or long flexible blade
Waterproof sandpaper

*Not all rubber stamps are going to give a good inlay image and, the inlay design may not be as detailed as the stamped image. Test your image on some scrap clay and look carefully at the shapes in the smooth top surface of your clay as that will be the design of the inlaynot the deeply set detailed design that normally appears when it is used as a stamp.

Step 2: Preparing the Design

Roll your background clay color to a uniform thickness. Don't make it too thin. I like using the thickest two settings on my pasta machine.

Dust the rubber stamp with corn starch and brush away the excess. (I use corn starch because it dissolves in water and washes away easily.)

Step 3: Stamping the Clay

Press the stamp uniformly into the clay. Make sure the top surface is still smooth and that the piece is a uniform thickness. Trim around the design as desired.

Bake the clay according to package instructions. When the clay is cool, rinse it off with cold water to clean off the corn starch. Make sure the clay is very dry before moving on.

Step 4: Creating the Inlay

Press the contrasting inlay color of clay into the design. Press down from the top and push out any voids.

Remove as much clay from the top as possible. Use your clay cutter to scrape off excess clay. Any clay not removed here will be manually sanded away. (I have had a modest amount of success removing excess clay by running the piece through the pasta maker again. I have not had enough success to fully recommend it.)

Step 5: Finishing

Rebake your piece to solidify the inlay.

Once it is cool, use waterproof sandpaper and soapy water to sand away any excess clay from the top. Pay attention to the design, rinsing as you go and only sanding where it is necessary.

It is possible to use progressively finer grades of sandpaper to create a glossy finish. However, I prefer to glaze over the top when the piece is finished.

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    24 Discussions


    1 year ago

    have you tried using colored liquid polymer clay for the second color? I think it would work, depending, and there are a lot of benefits, to include that it’s self leveling and much easier to remove excess! Just a thought. Gonna try this it looks awesome! Thank you!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Could this be used with silverclay do you think? The silverclay could be either the base or the inlay. What would happen to the polumer clay if fired ti a high temperature with a soldering iron?

    5 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I think you would have to use the PMC for the base and the polymer for the inlay. The heat from baking the polymer isn't high enough to hurt the PMC I don't think but firing the PMC would be way too hot for the polymer.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Even with polymer in PMC, which certainly won't be destroyed at moderate oven temperatures, I don't think the polymer would stick to the PMC--at least not for long.  It's a very thin layer and is likely to flake away. 

    It might work if some finishing material were applied after baking to seal in the inlay but I'm not sure what could be used for this purpose, not having worked with PMC.

    A lot of people have had good luck with PMC and polymer clay inlays although it would help to burnish only the raised areas and leave the deeper parts the matte white for better grip. You just need to keep in mind that you won't be able to sand the PMC down after adding the polymer clay layer as the latter would wear away far faster or otherwise get damaged. PMC is easiest sanded before firing anyway as long as it is dry.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I just posted a response to this when I remembered the most gorgeous silver jewelry with colored enamel inlay.  This would be a really neat thing with a PMC base, stamped, baked, and then the center filled with enamel.  I've never worked with it myself so I can give no response about the technique.  The effect, however, is beautiful: Argentum Aurum

    My experience is that polymer clay fired too high will burn, getting black and sticky. I am certain it could not survive a soldering iron. I'll bet this technique could be adapted using PMC products. However, I am not familiar enough with PMC to make any specific recommendations.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    What a great way to make inlays, great thinking and a nice outcome! As a rubber stamper (at home too!) and a polymer clay dabbler I've actually got all of the materials I will need to try and pull this off this coming weekend.


    7 years ago on Step 5

    Wow Awesome. I have just got back in to sculpting to make some Rune Stones for a D&D game. This is a pretty cool and easy way to get some intricate, Thanks.

    Dream Dragon

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Are you aware that this is very like a Medieval Technique?

    and I LOVE those Fairy Doors too.

    1 reply

    I had no idea!  How neat!  My tastes tend toward the modern medieval persuasion.   It would be very cool to mimic encaustic tile work in some of my stuff.  Maybe I should carve stamps to make more medieval looking panels.  Thanks so much for the info and article!


    10 years ago on Step 5

    I've only worked with polymer clay a little, so this might be a stupid question... Are there any special precautions you need to take when re-baking so that you don't burn the background clay?

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 5

    You can re-bake items without hurting them as long as they aren't baked at too high a temperature. In fact, I re-bake things repeatedly, adding layers as I go. It's often easier to add nicer details if the base level is solid. Usually, I use some liquid polymer clay between the baked and unbaked portions for a stronger bond. In this case, I don't do that because I am sealing the top (and because it would be very difficult to add the inlay--it likes to slide around on the liquid clay.) I hope this helps! I'm not that experienced with polymer clay and am learning all of the time. If someone who knows more about polymer clay than me has more to say about re-baking, please comment.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Terrific idea! Now I must go search out my rubber stamp collection and see if I have any I can use for this!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    If you have a stamp with a deep enough relief, you can roll thin layers of your background and your contrast color together, then press the stamp into that, and the colors will mix together to varying degrees.