Using Alcohol With Polymer Clay
Rubbing Alcohol is a great tool that is used to help smooth and blend polymer clay when sculpting. Like the Vaseline tutorial, I have several other tutorials where I give examples on how I use alcohol while sculpting (I’ve included a few examples at the bottom of this page). When I first started sculpting I used water based clay (I had never even heard of polymer clay at that time). With the water based clay I was able to achieve a smoothing and blending effect by using a wet sponge or Q-tip. However, when I started using polymer clays, water did not have the same effect. At first I tried to use water and Q-tip on my polymer clay but the results were pretty poor. After doing a lot of research on the internet I discovered that rubbing alcohol dissolves polymer clays. Thanks to other polymer clay artist I was able to learn that alcohol on a Q-tip, sponge or paint brush has the same effect as water on water based clay. I have experimented with different potencies of rubbing alcohol and found that not all are created equal.
From my own experimentation I have discovered the following:
70% alcohol - takes quite a bit more strokes to blend and smooth the clay. You can get the effect that you are looking for but it is going to take a lot more patience and time.
91% alcohol – seems to be the magic formula since it is not too aggressive and doesn’t require too much effort to use. However overuse can produce a tacky surface on the clay (until the clay dries out).
99% alcohol – recently found 99% alcohol at my local grocery store and thought I would give it a try. The 99% alcohol is pretty aggressive so you have to use it with caution. Another issue is that when you over use it the clay starts to get a white film on it. I do like the 99% alcohol but it is one that I have to use more caution with to avoid erasing some of the finer details in some of my sculptures. Here are a few examples of past tutorials where I have used alcohol during the sculpting process.
Rubbing alcohol may not be used from the beginning to the end in the sculpting process but it is one of the key tools used in sculpting. In fact I would have to say that rubbing alcohol is in my top five sculpting tools that I can not live without. It is the key ingredient that will help you turn a rough work of art into a masterpiece.
Go out and experiment with it and happy sculpting,