Looking for the perfect candy heart for your sweetheart this Valentine's Day? Don't waste time searching through candy bags! Instead, use polymer clay and image transfers to make your own customized conversation hearts.
* Polymer Clay: Small amounts of several pastel colors. Here's the formulas I used to match the colors of the Necco brand candy hearts. (White refers to a 2:1 mix of Premo white and UltraLight; all other colors are by Premo.)
Yellow heart: 1 part Cadmium Yellow; 4 parts white
Orange heart: 1 part Orange; 7 parts white
Green heart: 1 part Green; 7 parts white
Pink heart: 1 part Fuchsia; 1/4 part Cadmium Yellow; 5 parts white
Purple heart: 1 part Purple; 1/2 part UltraMarine Blue; 6 parts white
* Tools: Scissors, needle tool or toothpick, stiff-bristled paintbrush, clay knife
* Color laser printer or color copier
* Rubbing alcohol
* Corn starch or baby powder
* Candy heart (optional)
* Amazing Mold Putty (optional)
Step 1: Make a Candy Heart Mold (Optional)
If you have one of the real candies, you can use it and Amazing Mold Putty to make a mold. Just follow the instructions on the mold putty package. (I've also got some mold-making tips here.) Note: Mold the blank side of the heart, unless you actually want to copy the texture from the words.
Allow the mold to set. Once it's ready, press a 1/4 teaspoon ball of clay into the mold. Use a scraper tool or a clay knife to remove excess clay from the back. Pop the heart out and correct any molding flaws.
If you don't want to make a mold, you can easily hand-form the heart based on a real candy heart (or a photo of one).
Step 2: Print the Message to Transfer
Use a color laser printer or color copier to print the words you'll transfer onto the hearts. Cut the transfer as close to the letters as possible. I've attached printable files with a few phrases you can use for your hearts. These files already have the phrases in "mirror image," which you'll need for doing the transfers.
If you're creating your own transfers, I recommend using the "Stamp Act" font, 8 pt size, with kerning set to 1.5 pt -- you can get this font free from Harold's Fonts. If you're doing your own, be sure to select mirror image on your printer's settings before you print.
Step 3: Apply Transfer to Clay
Lightly press the transfer sheet, printed side down, onto the clay. Don't press down too hard as this will cause a line at the paper's edge.
Step 4: Brush on Rubbing Alcohol
Use a soft paintbrush to paint a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto the back of the paper. Be careful not to move the paper, since this can cause smudging. Let the alcohol dry completely (til you can no longer see the letters through the paper), then repeat this step twice.
If you prefer, you can leave the transfer sitting overnight instead of using rubbing alcohol.
Step 5: Add Powder
Real candy hearts have a light chalky residue. To get a similar effect on your polymer clay hearts, load a stiff-bristled paintbrush with corn starch or baby powder. With the transfer still in place, use a pouncing motion to tap the front (around the transfer) and on the sides and back.
Step 6: Trace Letters
The messages on real candy hearts aren't just on the surface -- they're actually embedded in the heart. Here's how to get a similar effect on your polymer clay hearts.
Brush the transfer lightly with rubbing alcohol once more. You should be able to see the letters through the paper. Use a toothpick or needle tool to trace the letters, creating an indentation in the clay. This step often makes it easier to remove the paper as well: as you're tracing the letters, you may see an edge start to stick up. Once you're done tracing, use tweezers or a needle tool to coax the paper up the rest of the way. Your message should be transferred onto the clay.
Be careful not to touch the transferred letters, as the ink is still wet and will easily smear. If you're not in a big hurry, I'd encourage you to let this sit a few hours til the ink dries. That'll help prevent smearing. But if you're in a hurry, continue on and just be really careful not to touch the ink.
Step 7: Touch Up & Bake
There may be a ridge where the edge of the paper was. Decide how much this bothers you. You can use the rounded end of a paintbrush (or a variety of other tools) to help smooth this out -- but be careful not to smear the ink. You can also add some texture and baby powder to this area if it needs it -- but it's much easier to do this if you let the ink dry first.
Once you're happy with the heart, cure it in the oven according to the clay manufacturer's recommended time and temperature.