How to Make Polymer Clay Earrings
Have you been wanting to make your own polymer clay earrings? Are you overwhelmed about all the tools you need, how to create your own designs, what glue to use for your earrings, how to bake your clay so it doesn't break...there's so much to think about! This post will serve as your comprehensive list for everything you need to know so you can make beautiful (and high quality!) polymer clay earrings.
Plus, I've included a resource at the end if you want to take your polymer clay journey further.
Everything You Need to Make Polymer Clay Earrings
Diving into the polymer clay world for the first time can be really intimidating. There aren't a lot of resources that are current with what's working now and finding makers who are willing to share their secrets is hard. Look no further friend! You're in the right place. Let's dive right in, together.
Polymer Clay Tools
When you're just beginning your journey there's no need to go out and drop a load of $$ just to get started. However, there are tools that, in my opinion, will make your life so much easier if you're able to get them now. Here's what I'd recommend you start with:
- A few bricks of Polymer clay (more on which brand to get below)
- An oven (your regular kitchen oven will do just fine!)
- An acrylic roller like this one
- Some tissue blades - I like this kit
- Card stock, copy paper or parchment paper
- An oven thermometer - this is not optional!
- A simple clay tools kit like this one
- Some findings to finish your earrings (more on exactly what to get below)
That's it! You can keep this super simple if you'd like. If you do want to take it a tiny bit further here are some additional things you can pick up:
- Fine glitter in a variety of colors
- Mica powder in a variety of colors
- Dotting tools (this helps create cool texture)
- Cutters specifically for clay (more on what to look for below)
- Acrylic paint in a variety of colors
Best Polymer Clay for Earrings
The good news about polymer clay is that it's super easy to get your hands on! Most craft stores carry various brands of polymer clay so you could easily head out today (or do a curbside order!) and come home with nearly everything you need to get started. Once you're there you'll see a handful of brands that you can choose from. Here's a breakdown of the most common brands:
- Craft Smart: stay away from using this brand if you're wanting to actually make earrings. It's craft level clay and will be really difficult to condition and won't cure properly.
- Sculpey 3: this is garbage clay. That's all there is to it. I don't even know why it's made. Don't mess with it. 9/10 when someone asks me why their pieces are still breaking even after they bake them properly it's because they've used Sculpey 3.
- Sculpey Premo: this is the clay that I started with and still use some of it to this day. Premo comes in a large variety of colors, is easy to condition and is pretty good quality. I use Premo's primary colors often to mix with other clay brands to make my own custom colors.
- Sculpey Souffle: this is butter in clay form. It's soft, it's heavenly, it's super easy to work with. It also sells out incredibly fast and might be hard to find. Go with Premo if you can't find any Souffle, but definitely pick up a few bars if you get a chance!
- Fimo: there are some makers out there that use exclusively Fimo clay, I'm just not one of them. It's harder to condition and takes longer to prep so I've stayed away from it. But it comes in some beautiful colors!
- Kato: this is another clay I haven't experimented with, but some makers use. Try out a couple of bricks and see what you think!
- Cernit: unfortunately, you won't be able to find Cernit in any stores so most newbies don't start here. I didn't introduce Cernit into my work until nearly a year in, but there are some colors I absolutely love. If you have time to order and wait for clay to come in you should definitely give Cernit a try!
Simple Polymer Clay Earrings Designs
As you set out to make your first pair of polymer clay earrings, it's really tempting to be enthralled by the beautiful designs you see floating around Instagram or Pinterest. However, if this is your first attempt I encourage you to keep it simple!
Where to Find Inspiration
As mentioned above there are plenty of polymer clay earrings floating around on Instagram and Pinterest. However, this is not where I recommend getting your inspiration. In my experience, it's too easy to get "inspired" from someone's design and end up accidentally copying their work. I'd love for you to think outside the box. Here are some of my favorite sources to find inspiration:
- Art museums
- Ceramic pieces
- Wallpaper patterns
- Sheets, throw blankets and pillows
- Floral and plants
What Designs to Start With
Let’s keep it simple! When I first started I made a lot of circle, half circle and donut shape designs because it’s what was readily available to me and easy to make. I highly recommend starting with simple when you’re making your first few pairs so you can begin to understand the weight of polymer clay, design structure and getting your process down.
How to Condition Polymer Clay
This is where the magic lays. Getting a quality piece of clay before you bake ensures a quality earring in the end. Polymer clay needs conditioning in order to properly cure and to remove any air bubbles that may have happened during manufacturing. Conditioning is simply the act of warming up and softening the clay through various ways. You’ll know a piece is conditioned when you fold your clay and there are no cracks along the folded seam.
One weird fact about conditioning is that you’re doing it to soften the clay and to remove any potential air bubbles that were created in the clay while it was made. But the act of conditioning can also create more air bubbles if you don’t do it properly.
Conditioning by Hand
You can absolutely condition by hand, but I highly advise against it. It’s tiresome on your hands, you can only do a little amount at a time, it takes longer and it creates the most opportunity for trapping air bubbles.
Using an Acrylic Roller
Another way to condition and roll out clay is to use an acrylic roller. This method is still partly done “by hand” because you’re having to put your bodyweight into the roller to flatten out the clay. Then you would pick up the clay and fold it then use the roller to flatten it out again. You would repeat this process until the clay is conditioned.
Using a Pasta Roller
This is how I conditioned all my clay for the first 9 or so months of starting my business and I highly recommend investing in a pasta roller if you plan on making more than a few pairs of earrings. I love, love my Atlas roller (yes, it says it’s for pasta, but you can totally use it for clay!).
The idea here is to get your clay flat enough (using the acrylic roller) to fit into your pasta machine on the thickest setting (setting 0 on the Atlas). Then roll your clay through, fold it and roll it again. You’ll want to make sure you insert your clay seam side down so you don’t trap any air bubbles in the clay as it goes through the machine.
You’ll repeat this process a handful of times (it’s different for every color and brand of clay) until it’s soft and not tearing, crumbling or breaking.
How to Cut Polymer Clay Earrings into Shapes
Depending on your weather, studio conditions or brand of polymer clay that you’re working with you’ll find that your clay changes in consistency. Sometimes it’ll be tacky and sticky. Other times dry and crumbly. It’s important to properly condition and use the right surface to cut your clay on so your designs can hold their shape.
How to Create Your Own Designs
You might already have a shape or style that you want to create in earring form. If that's the case you might be struggling to figure out how to actually create that in clay. This is where the tissue blades that I recommended above come in handy! That kit comes with a sturdy, wavy and flexible blade. The flexible blade is my secret (okay, it's not actually a secret) weapon to make organic or custom shapes. You can simply bend and mold that flexible blade to make cuts in your slab. The flexible blade is the only tool I used for months to create most of my arched shape earrings.
How to Make Your Own Cutters for Polymer Clay
You can also use a clean aluminum can to create your own metal cutter. Be careful because those edges will be sharp!
Or, the simplest way to make your own shape is to simply cut out your shape using an Exacto knife. Simply create a path along your slab with your knife and cut out whatever shape your eyeballs desire. This is the best way to make sure you're creating something truly original!
Which Cutters to Use for Polymer Clay
The question I get most often is “where do you get your cutters”. And the answer is - everywhere! As polymer clay (and using it specifically for earrings) has grown more and more popular there are plenty of shops catching up to the trend. Try searching for “cutter for polymer clay” or “small cookie cutters” on Etsy or Amazon. You can even find cutters in your local craft store. Get creative!
What Surface to Use to Cut Clay On
My favorite surface to cut clay on is glass. I purchased a 13x13 glass surface from my local craft store and it’s been my friend for the entirety of my business. It’s easy to wipe down and keep clean, it’s easy to lift off my clay from it (I slide a tissue blade under my pieces) and it’s easy to layout style ideas.
You can also try cutting directly on card stock, copy paper or parchment paper. Try out each of these and see what method you like best!
How Long to Bake Polymer Clay
This is the second most popular question I get when it comes to making polymer clay earrings. How long should I bake polymer clay? What temperature should I bake my pieces? Why do my pieces keep snapping? There’s a lot of factors that go into answering that last question (conditioning and brand of clay having a lot to do with it), but a lot of it does come down to baking.
Just like conditioning, polymer clay needs to be brought to a hot enough (but not too hot) temperature for long enough time to properly cure. The idea is once you reach the right temperature (typically 275 degrees Fahrenheit) your clay will cure.
How to Bake Polymer Clay
I prefer baking my polymer clay in a toaster oven, but your kitchen oven works just fine. Polymer clay is not toxic so it’s fine to bake it in the same place you cook food in. My studio is upstairs from my kitchen and I’m lazy so I bought an oven to keep in the same room with me.
What Surface to Bake Polymer Clay On
I’ve changed my method of surface a couple of times throughout my business and almost every maker I know uses some sort of combination like I’m going to share. However, find what works for you! There are some makers who cannot bake on the same surfaces as I do for some odd reason. I encourage you to bake a few test pieces on various surfaces to find the one that provides the best result for you. Here are some surfaces you can use:
- A glossy, non textured tile (I prefer a marble tile from the hardware store)
- A baking sheet with parchment paper
- A baking sheet with foil
- A baking sheet with card stock paper
- A pizza stone with card stock paper (this is my preferred method)
What Time and Temperature to Bake Polymer Clay
The one thing you’ll probably notice are the directions on the back of your clay. It will say something like bake at 275 degree Fahrenheit for 30 minutes per 6 mm thickness.
This is a lie.
Those directions, in my (and other maker's) experience, aren’t allowing your pieces to bake at long enough time to properly cure. I bake at 275 for 60 minutes.
The idea is to get pieces that are flexible with a good bend after cooling. You can test your pieces by letting them cool for 24 hours then slightly bending them. If they bend easily and go back to their original shape when you let go - you’re good! If they snap it’s time to remedy some things.
What Glue to Use for Polymer Clay Earrings
Since we’re making polymer clay earrings there’s probably going to be a point in your process where you’re attaching posts to clay (the earring has to go in your ear somehow). So how do we attach that post to clay? Most people will tell you they use glue. They’re either lying or they haven’t yet found out that there is literally no glue on the planet that will bond clay to metal forever.
Myself (and tons of other makers) found this out the hard way. We used E6000 to glue posts onto baked clay and at first it worked. But over time (it could be a few weeks or a few months) the post would pop off. Because ultimately that glue gets hot and cold and is flexible enough that it cannot hold the post permanently in place. So we had to find different solutions.
Using UV Resin with Polymer Clay
One way is to use UV Resin to “glue” your post onto the back of baked clay. Simply turn your back upside down, place your post in the center and add a drop or 2 of UV Resin to the back. Then take a toothpick and gently move the resin to the edges of the clay. Be sure to fully cover the metal post with resin. Then pop your piece into a UV Lamp and boom. Done.
Using Bake and Bond with Polymer Clay
Another way is to use Bake and Bond. There are a few different ways to go about doing this but my method is this. Turn your piece of unbaked clay upside down, place a small dollop of bake and bond on your clay, place your post on top of that dollop. Gently press your post into your clay slightly. Then add more bake and bond to cover the entire post and surface of your unbaked piece.
Pop those babies in the oven for an hour at 275 and boom. Done.
How to Assemble Your Polymer Clay Earrings
Whew! You’ve almost made it to the end! I’m super proud of you. Okay now that we’ve made some stunning pieces it’s time to actually assemble them. If you’ve kept it simple (which I hope you have!) there’s just a few steps left before we can be off wearing our newest creations.
What Tools You Need
Unless you’ve made studs, we’re going to need to drill holes in our clay, sand our pieces, and assemble all the components. Here’s what you’ll need at this stage:
- A drill with a ⅜ drill bit
- A buffer with buffing wheel
- Jump rings
- Earring backs
- Ears to wear your gorgeous creations
How to Drill, Sand, and Buff Polymer Clay
This is the kinda boring part of the entire process, but it’s where your pieces come together! If you’ve taken the time to set yourself up with quality pieces before they pop out of the oven then this part can be a breeze.
How to Drill Polymer Clay
When it comes to drilling clay there are a couple of options for you. If you just want to make a few earrings for fun you might want to invest in an actual drill. But if you can, or even just add a ⅜ drill bit to a simple drill you might already have in your toolbox, it will give you really nice clean holes.
All you’ll need to do is place your component on a wooden surface (I just use a block of wood from the craft store) and line up your drill with where you want your hole. Turn on your drill (make sure the speed is low) and drill a hole straight through. It’s definitely worth practicing on a few pieces first!
How to Sand and Buff Polymer Clay
I like to spend time smoothing my pieces of clay before I put them in the oven so that the edges are nice and, well, smooth. But even when I put in that time sometimes there’s still some work that needs done after the fact.
I’m at a point in my practice where I rarely actually need to sand and I can rely on a buffing wheel instead. The buffing tool gives a nice smooth sheen to the edges and back lips of clay. I do not sand the front of my pieces or the entire back. Just the edge and back edge lip.
You’ll simply hold your component in one hand and your buffing tool in the other. You’ll want to turn it on and lightly buff the edge of your piece. Don’t linger on a spot for too long or it’ll dent your clay. Again, like drilling, you’ll want to practice on a few pieces first.
If you do find yourself needing to sand you can pick up a few sanding bits, sand paper at various grits or even use a nail file. Be careful sanding solid colors or dark colors as you might be able to see sanding marks in your clay.
How to Assemble
Now it’s time for assembly! You might find it helpful to rinse your pieces off once you’re done drilling and sanding to make sure they’re nice and clean. Your pieces are totally waterproof so don’t be afraid to give them a little bath!
At this stage you’ll want to gather your jump rings, your pliers and earring backs. Hold one plier in each hand and hold your jump ring with one plier. Gently open your jump ring slightly. Don’t open it too wide or it’ll distort the circle shape. Then simply slide on one of your components onto the jump ring then use your pliers to close it back up.
Repeat this process for all your jump rings needed for your earrings. Then you just need to make sure everything is all lined up, put them in your ear holes and put those backs on! Ta-da!
I hope this comprehensive post on How to Make Polymer Clay Earrings was helpful to you! If it was, would you mind sharing about it? And if you made a pair of earrings using this resource I would love to see them. Please snap a pic and post it over on Instagram and be sure to tag me @emyleesays so I can share your work!
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Polymer Clay Earrings Tutorials
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