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How To Sand, Buff + Finish


Polymer Clay

How to : Sand, Buff & Finish Polymer Clay | Beginner's Guide | Comparison Demo of Varnishes & Glazes


This beginner's tutorial details how to go about finishing your polymer clay pieces, including sanding, buffing and adding a final finish or sealant or varnish.


I do a comparison demonstration by coating 3 pieces of clay with 3 different finishes; Fimo Gloss Varnish, Triple Thick Gloss Glaze, and Pledge Floor Care Finish.


This way, you can see how these different finishes look before trying them yourself :) I hope this video is helpful to you, and thanks very much for watching

Finishing clay:

Best to avoid fingerprints if you can, and get the clay as smooth as you can before baking so that you have less finishing to do, which can be time consuming


320 grit up to 600/800 then a max of 1500 or more likely 1200, apparently 320-400 is considered fine, and 600-1200 is super fine, so we’re not working with anything so rough that it will leave big scratches, higher number is more particles per inch and so is finer, maybe 220 for shaping and need to remove material, finer grit = finer scratches, wrap sandpaper around a block or fold a small piece,


Sanding is best done under water


Silicone carbide wet and dry sandpaper, or re-usable pads you can buy, not coarse sandpaper used on wood because then it puts scratches into your work, how long to sand – for as long as it takes to remove scratches left by previous grit, more time on the finer grit, do 5 minutes and see where that gets you,


Use sink or get a large bowl of water and a towel, cold water keeps clay stiffer so is best, a little bit of dishwashing liquid to keep sandpaper clean,


Try and evenly sand whole surface


Rinse dust off sandpaper regularly to stop it clogging up, and change the paper when it wears out (if it stops having much effect on your clay, or you can just see that it’s worn flat compared to when it was new)


If you buff without sanding you won’t get as good a shine


Polishing with and without Dremel – buffing wheel, safety glasses, don’t have long sleeves/scarves/long hair not tied back, read the instructions, unplug the machine when changing the accessories,


Buffing – white denim or other undyed soft fabric (muslin), t-shirt jersey or white micro fibre cloth, rub the clay vigorously against the fabric to add the amount of shine you want, for several minutes,


10000 rpm, hard baked clay a bit shinier, more buffing = more shine


A sealant/protective layer isn’t necessary on bare clay because it’s already impermeable, but if you want a special finish you can add one, or if you add something like gold foil/acrylic paint or anything else that could be rubbed/scratched off, you need to add a protective layer. Options: epoxy resin, renaissance wax polish, liquitex (gloss,matte) varnish, anything that says it can be used on clay like polymer varnishes, jewellery resin, polyurethane wood floor polish (strong and adds shine, stick to water based) e.g. future floor finish or Rustoleum Varathane crystal clear interior finish, Pledge floor care finish, triple thick gloss, resin coating or no finish…not nail polish, if in doubt, test it first, use a cotton bud/Q-tip to apply layers rather than dip and get a thick layer, sprays like PYM II are good for over chalk pastels and powders, experiment on scrap clay, Mod Podge dimensional magic,


Rustoleum clear protective spray for a matte finish, After sanding, can add gloss or wax if you don’t just want a smooth matte finish, Fimo gloss varnish, Glazes by Fimo/sculpey, different brands do their own gloss or matte varnishes/glazes, Can paint with acrylic paint – needs to be protected with a glaze otherwise could scratch off, Paint covers up many sins, and might save you sanding time if you’re impatient (still get a smooth surface but don’t need a shine – don’t need such a high finish and you don’t need to buff), add details with fine paintbrushes and tools with fine points, triple thick gloss glaze,


The ones I’m going to use are fimo varnish, triple thick gloss glaze and Pledge wood floor care finish, price of them per ml, Pledge comes in big bottle and is my favourite, list in order of shine, compare Pledge to gloss and then to fimo, all together; fimo, triple thick then Pledge, triple thick is more like resin


Do not use nail polish as it will go sticky over time, and maybe even go yellow


How to get a high shine – well baked clay, sanded to a fine finish, buffed with a Dremel for a glassy shine,

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4) Take your cookie cutter and use it to make a faint imprint near the edge of the clay.


5) Cut at least a couple of mm around the outside of that imprint to separate that area of clay from the rest, as shown above. This is so that whilst shaping this piece of clay, none of the other clay is distorted/squashed accidentally.

 6) Use a clean finger to slightly wet the surface of the clay. To do this I dipped my finger in water then lightly spread a few drops of water over the surface. Don't rub hard, or rub with a dry finger, because you'll end up marking the surface of the clay. 

7) Carefully place one of the printed images face down on the slightly wet clay surface so that it lies flat and sits within the indent you made as a guide in step 4.

Once it is positioned, don't try and move it as this could result in a blurred image.


8) Use your finger to add a few drops of water to the top of the paper; just enough to saturate all of the paper, but not too wet because you don't want much excess water. Make sure all of the paper is in contact with the clay.

Use a dabbing motion with your finger rather than rubbing your finger across the paper so that you avoid causing the paper to slide.

9) Repeat steps 4-8 as many times as you wish. I made 8 clay charms for this demo but you can obviously make as many (or as few) as you want.

10) Leave the clay to one side until the paper dries; 1 or 2 hours usually, depending on the environment. Don't be tempted to leave the clay much longer than a couple of hours (especially not overnight) as I've found that this makes the paper difficult to remove.

11) Whilst the paper is still stuck on the clay, take a small piece of clingfilm and lay it flat over the top of one of the clay pieces. Make sure it is smooth and doesn't have wrinkles in.

(If you prefer not to use clingfilm you can skip this step.)

12) Take your cookie cutter and position it on top of the clingfilm, making sure it lines up with the indent you created in the clay earlier.

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