What is conditioning?
Conditioning is the
process that makes polymer clay ready to work with.
Most conditioning is done simply by working the
clay with your hands until it reaches a good working
consistency. The warmth of your hands combined with
the physical process of stretching and compressing
the clay changes its texture, making it softer and
I condition clay?
Conditioning clay softens
it, making it easy to work with and mold. It also
makes the clay stickier and less brittle, letting
you roll thin sheets without causing the clay to
crack and break.
Some clay brands so
soft out of the package that you’ll be tempted
not to bother with conditioning, but you will find
that taking the time will improve both the workability
of the clay and the strength of your fired pieces.
How do I condition
The simplest way to
condition polymer clay is to work it with your hands
for several minutes. Take a chunk of clay of a size
you feel comfortable working with, half an ounce
to an ounce or so, and begin squishing it between
your fingers. As the clay warms and softens, start
rolling it between your palms info a snake shape.
Then move your hands against each other in a circular
motion to compress the snake back to a ball. Repeat
this process several times.
How long do
I need to condition the clay?
The time can vary depending
on the type of clay you are using, your style of
conditioning, the amount of clay, and the temperature,
but usually it takes something between three and
The clay’s texture
changes during the conditioning process. As you
get more experienced, you’ll be able to see
and feel this change to tell when your clay is completely
How can I speed
up the conditioning process?
amounts of clay can take enough time and effort
to be annoying, particularly if you have arthritis
in the hands, or are using a stiff clay. There are
a number of ways to make conditioning faster and
less hard of the hands:
You can start the conditioning process by putting
the clay in a warm place for fifteen or twenty minutes.
Just be careful: excessive heat and ultra-violet
light will cause the clay to start curing, making
it unusable. Don’t put the clay in the sun.
If you are using a heat source such as a lamp or
heating pad, make sure the clay does not get much
warmer than your body temperature.
Many artists use a food processor or chop up the
clay. The small chopped bits are easier to work
with than large chunks, and the friction of the
blade warms the clay. After chopping the clay, you
dump out the chopped bits, press them together with
your fingers and continue conditioning as described
agents to the clay
- Eberhard-Faber FIMO
Mix-Quick. It is a solid block of extra plasticizer.
You can add Mix-Quick to your clay up to a third
of the total.
- You can also mix
a few drops of mineral oil into polymer clay. Add
only a small amount, as it is easy to overestimate
the amount you need.
Using a pasta
Another method of conditioning
is to press soft clay into a sheet and put it through
a pasta machine, on the widest setting. Fold the
sheet in half and put it through, fold first, and
repeat this process ten or fifteen times. This method
can be used on already somewhat conditioned clay.
Whichever method you
use, make sure your clay is well conditioned before
you use it, since under-conditioned clay can cause
you problems in workability and reduce the strength
of your finished items.
Is there such
a thing as too much conditioning?
There is not. Some
clays get softer the longer they’re worked
and the warmer they get (e.g. Cernit). If your clay
is getting too soft, you can let it rest for a few
hours or chill for an hour or so to firm it up.
If you added
too much Diluent or mineral oil, try flattening
the clay into a sheet and placing it in between
two or more sheets of printer paper, and leaving
it overnight. The paper will absorb some of the
oil and stiffen the clay. If the clay is still very
soft, you can repeat the process with fresh sheets
of paper. Make sure you do not use the paper with
print on it, otherwise it will be imprinted on your
clay and discolor it.