Handmade Polymer Clay Earrings are a highly sought after product right now from the small-business world, coveted on Instagram and Etsy alike. But can you paint polymer clay earrings, to level up your designs?
Can you paint polymer clay?
Polymer clay can be painted. For best results paint polymer clay with acrylic paint, as this will not interact negatively with the clay surface. Paint after the polymer clay has baked and sufficiently cooled.
Here’s how you can paint polymer clay earrings to stand out from the crowd, the right way, with my method, advice and design ideas to get you started…
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Can I paint my designs easily?
Yes, it’s cheap, simple and fun to do so, and painting your polymer clay earrings can save you loads of time with tricky little details or more intricate patterns.
Why it’s a great idea:
⦁ Adding paint to your polymer clay earrings can totally change your designs for the better, with more unique and interesting patterns!
⦁ Not only will your amazing earrings be handmade but hand painted too! Double the wow-factor for your Etsy listing by one-upping your competition with this method, and watch the interest in your products increase.
⦁ Plus, with hand painting it’s hard to replicate the EXACT same pattern each time, which only adds to the magic; each design will be slightly different which provides yet another compelling creative touch to your pieces from a sales perspective.
Top tip: painting is also an easier way of adding teeny tiny details, like little eyes to your designs!
What do I paint my earrings with?
You should be painting your designs with acrylic paint, because it’s:
⦁ Wonderfully cheap
⦁ Comes in all the colours you can think of
⦁ It’s very easy to use for beginners and pros alike
Any water based paint is fine, but myself and many polymer clay crafters agree that acrylic is best, for the ease of use and reasons above.
Here are some brands recommended by myself and members of the polymer clay community, available online to shop here.
To get your creative juices flowing, why not think of some fun colour combinations you might like to buy and start adding to your design process?
I love to pick up reds, greens and golds for any Christmas designs I’m doing, plus the staples of black and white of course.
Also orange paint is great for Halloween earring designs! Out of orange clay for pumpkins? Use paint!
Top tip: apply rubbing alcohol to your designs first to remove grease or any oil residue from the polymers of the clay
When should I paint my polymer clay earrings?
After baking – your clay needs to be properly baked and completely dry before you wield your paint brush before it!
This is so no moisture/oil comes out from the clay and disturbs the acrylic paint when it’s swept across the surface of the design, causing that pesky mottled/bubbling effect.
The clay could also have not cured properly and the water may have made it weak and more susceptible to snapping, so make sure it’s properly baked and cooled.
Top tip: Leave the clay for 24hrs after baking to properly cool and harden, before painting.
You technically could paint it before baking, and some brands may say that you can do so, but the above is why I won’t and never will; I don’t want to risk the structural integrity of my little master-pieces! 😉
For more info on how to properly bake polymer clay read: How Long does Polymer Clay Take to Bake? – Quick Guide
How do I paint my polymer clay earrings?
Great, so now you’re ready to paint! Grab your gear and let’s start.
⦁ A mat
⦁ Your pieces
⦁ Cleaning supplies
⦁ Rubbing alcohol
Ah the wonderful test piece, always my favourite bit of advice when working with polymer clay. Get yourself a test piece ready to practice painting on; practice makes perfect.
Do this first! Play around with designs, ideas and see how you like the paint colours.
But most importantly check whether your brand of clay and brand of paint work well together.
Get to know how many coats of acrylic paint is needed to create a complete opaque coat over your clay.
My first tip in preparing your paint is don’t thin down the paint – don’t add water as it may weaken the clay, as above.
Just paint it straight from the pot onto your design, or add a little to a plate or board.
Use rubbing alcohol to prepare the earrings and remove any moisture/oil residue that may have excreted from the clay during baking – the polymers in the clay can cause this, and it will prevent the acrylic adhering to the surface of the design as it is water based.
Oil and water aren’t friends and repel each other!
Not doing this can cause the paint to slip and slide over the surface, instead of sticking properly.
Rub the rubbing alcohol over your clay with a cloth and wait a few moments for it to dry. It’s better to use a cloth than a tissue as sometimes a bit of tissue dust can be left on your design, making the surface of your clay grainy and not smooth for painting.
Use a nice quality brush, plenty can be found online or in hobby stores, or miniature crafting stores. Shop here.
The reason you want a nice brush is so the brush hairs don’t shed onto your design and stick in unwanted places.
Secondly, the smoother and better quality brush hairs, the nicer your paint strokes will come out – think of a cheap brush like an old toothbrush, with the bristles bent out of shape – not the best tool for delicate intricate painting!
A more expensive brush will create lovely smooth and even strokes, with no rough bristle marks.
Using your silicone clay rolling mat should be fine, as it is wipeable and any spilt paint will come away easily with a bit of cleaning.
Keep a clean cloth for drying brushes and something to clean your brushes with nearby, and do a thorough brush clean in between colours – I’ve learnt that rushing this step can ruin your designs, so don’t be like me and do it properly the first time 🙂
Once you’re done, wait for the acrylic paint to dry – this should take 20-30 minutes or so, but I like to leave it for over an hour, just to be safe.
Top tip: Varnish/ acrylic sealer prevents chipping
Let’s talk about the varnishing (or acrylic sealing) step next – widely available in craft stores, DIY stores, online, you should have no trouble getting your hands on some. Shop here.
The sealer (or varnish) is super easy to use: simply wait for your paint to dry and then seal your design with a thin layer, and leave to dry – acrylic sealer and varnish take take between 4-12 hours to dry, so be patient and avoid touching your designs.
You should keep your designs stored somewhere safe, so they won’t get damaged out and about, and little bits of dust and fluff on the air in your home won’t stick to the varnish and mess up your designs in this final stage.
Once fully dried your designs will be scuff, chip and scratch proof and will benefit from an extra layer of hardening – win win!
Design ideas for painting polymer clay earrings
All of the above sounds great right? But what if you’re stumped for painting design ideas? I’ve got you covered!
A few general design ideas for painting polymer clay earrings are to add details to eyes with paint, shading, or highlighting with paint, adding a colour wash and easier pattern adding.
Ideas for pattern/detail designs here:
Paisley pattern, floral patterns, little happy/sad/funny faces, hair, letters and words, leopard print, cow print, snake print, zebra print, polka dot, zig zag, basket weave, chevron, honeycomb, trellis, diamonds, flamestitch, houndstooth, dogs tooth, pinstripes, barcode, abstract.
For more general polymer clay earrings designs, check out: Design Ideas for Polymer Clay Earrings
I hope my ‘Can You Paint Polymer Clay Earrings? A How-to Guide’ was helpful for you and you now feel confident to head to your craft table and have a go at painting your polymer clay earring designs!
My goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to understand the world of polymer clay earring making, so you can go into your new hobby or small business venture with estimates, tips and facts under your belt for a smooth and rewarding start in this craft.
In this article I only scratched the surface of the world of polymer clay, starting with painting.
I also provide articles on: a How-to Guide for beginners, a Sales Guide for selling polymer clay earrings on Etsy, a comprehensive Cost Guide, and a bumper list of earring Design Ideas, so you’re never stumped by clay-makers block!
For more information on getting started with polymer clay earrings, check out:
Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).