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Using Alcohol on Polymer Clay

Posted by goregt On May - 31 - 2007

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.

http://www.polymerclayfan.com/sculpting-veins.htm

http://www.polymerclayfan.com/sculpting-hair.htm

http://www.polymerclayfan.com/torso-details.htm

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,

Gerald

2 Responses to “Using Alcohol on Polymer Clay”

  1. juan says:

    thnak again, I was having lots of trouble softening clay”areas with detail and rough parts”you have isnpired me.

  2. Thank you so much for your tips and sharing. I am beginner in clay sculpting, and I think I will spend lots of time reading your blog to improve. Thanks again.

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Nothing special, just a self-taught sculptor having fun with my art and showing all of you the tips and tricks I use to create my own artwork

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