Mod Podge on Polymer Clay: Good or Bad Idea?

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Is Mod Podge on polymer clay a good or bad idea? Are you a Sculpey (or other brand) enthusiast wondering about the next step….varnishing your finished clay treasures? One of the big questions is SHOULD you varnish your polymer clay pieces; and if so, with what? Time to talk about my own experiences doing both – what to do, and what to avoid doing!

And from there, we will show you some ideas for getting you where you want to go.

✅ If you’re just curious, or in a hurry…this varnishing product is the most popular with our readers. It dries clear, doesn’t leave sticky rsidue….And it’s water based, too.

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mod podge on polymer clay

First…Do You NEED to Varnish Polymer Clay?

First off, though…do you really need to varnish your finished clay pieces? Short answer – no…long answer sometimes it can be a good idea. Look at your clay piece now – does it have extra details? Did you paint it, are there tiny details you want to preserve? Did you add a more chalky/matte type of application like mica powder to it – something that you may want to prevent scratching?

I said “no” originally because let’s be honest, polymer clay dries hard as nails; it’s practically a plastic substance. If you use one of the colored-already blocks of clay, it will look great all on its own, and hold up well. The main thing I could see is wanting to give it a glossy finish. Some Sculpey colors now even come in metallic and pearlescent colors, which don’t need anything else to enhance.

What Happened When I Used Mod Podge on My Polymer Clay Work?

Now me, I usually use the basic white (Original) and flesh tone (Super Sculpey), which I end up painting in colors of my choosing. This sculpture I did right here…..I painted it a pretty rosey gold and added some loose glitter for fun, and later on I applied a light coat of Mod Podge….now I’m kinda sorry I did, because it has a sticky feel to it.

It has nothing to do with time, as I did this project last year…. I guess I could blame the humidity, maybe…could be a different story in a more arid climate.  Who knows? Check out the sculpture below… This is one I made back in 2009; it’s similar looking (to be honest, I kind of like this one better.) I applied a unique kind of “crackle antiquing” varnish to it and it dried without a hitch (or tacky feel.)

So I’ve been looking for other ways to protect this sculpture that won’t lead to stickiness. Mod Podge and similar varnishes, are glue based, and despite their advantages, are going to be susceptible to moisture or humidity.

Next thing I used was a coat of Krylon Clear polyurethane. I had visited a discussion forum prior to this in which a respondent told someone else who was having the same problem to apply a coat of acrylic sealant such as this. It works good, and I’d definitely recommend this product especially if you plan on hanging something outdoors long term.

But as I found out the nest day (sometimes it takes a day to find out for sure) yep…it’s just as sticky 😠

I ended up putting it in the oven…same time and temp I use to bake Sculpey in the first place…220 degrees and 15 minutes, as per advice I found earlier. This is how I set some jars I tinted once using food color and Mod Podge and both of them turned out excellent and NOT sticky at all, so I figure it was worth a try. Repeat on the other side.

So for future reference, what can you do or use to avoid some of that trial and error? Sculpey makes a proprietary gloss…It has been awhile since I used it. I have hung out in clay-related forums a lot…and some of the answers people have for what varnish or glaze tools they like the best may surprise you. . You may or may not be familiar with any of them:

Proprietary Glazes

Polyform Sculpey Glaze, 1-Ounce, Glossy - Pack of 2Polyform Sculpey Glaze, 1-Ounce, Glossy – Pack of 2See on Amazon

To cut down on the guesswork, and ensure a more predictable result, I always try to stick with the proprietary brand that the clay is under, which, i presume, has been tested  for compatibility. Since Sculpey, Cernit, Fimo and Kato (most popular brands) all have their own flagship varnishes, it makes sense to stick with them.

Of course, if you’re using a different one, you’re more than welcome to do a test on a small area to see how it turns out. Since I’m a Sculpey stalwart  I make good use of their varnishing product readily.

It comes in  satin, semi gloss and gloss finishes and easily applies with a medium round brush. Sometimes a few bubbles appear, of which I’ll pop with a toothpick. This is the Satin one – my preferred finish.

Gilding Wax For Clay Crafts

I’ve heard of people using something like Future floor wax, but I doubt I will ever go this route. Last time I used it for its intended purpose, the floor (linoleum) had all this sticky residue…ugh. So definitely not for clay. It’s probably a moot point anyway, as I don’t even know if this household staple is still around.

This is a different type of wax, though….Gilding wax works really well on polymer clay..it won’t make it as glossy looking though; rather it will produce a natural appearance and enhance the textures of your project if you tend to do a lot of multi-media on it, and plus, it’s pretty cheap too. It is also quick drying.

Varathane Finish For Clay
Varathane 200061H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Half PintVarathane 200061H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Half PintSee on Amazon

A lot of clayers tout this as their favorite varnish. So naturally I wanted to find out more about this product. You may have heard about it used on furniture.

Varathane makes the top of the list for the best. You can get it in a small can (pint size, shown here, which is just right for small projects) but it also comes in quart size too., and use a simple brush for application, and plus it is water based. You can get it in one of three finishes: Gloss, Satin, and Semi-gloss. The odor is not too strong, and you can clean up after you are done with soap and water.

But a lot of people seemed to rave about how well it worked, and that included clay artists too. So I’ve put it down on the list  for later…next time I’m at one of the local home improvement places. So I hope to update you for later!

Which of these finishing products are you familiar with? Have any of them worked for you before? Tell us what you think!

Top image credit: Carolyn Williams

4 thoughts on “Mod Podge on Polymer Clay: Good or Bad Idea?”

  1. Thanks for the valuable information! I’m just starting this new hobby. Very excited.

  2. I am looking for a clear glossy finish that will not amber with time. Do you have a recommendation?

  3. I think Varathane will be your best bet; you should be able to find it in a glossy finish. Regardless of whatever brand you choose, be sure it’s “archival” quality (meaning formulated so that it won’t be likely to turn yellow.)

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