How to: Polymer Clay Tear Away Sheets

Here are the instructions from Monica Sargeant. Many of us have tried and failed at this technique. Monica has worked out some of the problems and made it more fool proof, her recommendation on using the 32 lb glossy paper seems to really help.

See the previous post for the materials list and my sample.

1. Prepare your images. Find the oldest copier you can, this may be difficult so look around and make as many copies as you can as you will need to experiment. Make your copies on the Hammermill glossy paper at the darkest setting. I have even used the transparency option so it really releases a lot of toner. You can usually feel the toner on the paper. You can also experiment with mirror images for words and phrases, or reversing the black and white. Cut out your image and leave about a 1 inch tab that you can use to remove the paper from the clay.

2. Prepare your polymer clay. Take a fresh package and roll it through your pasta machine at the thickest setting, 3 or 4 times is plenty. Lay your clay sheet on the wax paper. Move your clay sheet and wax paper to your portable surface.

3. Burnishing the Image. With the image side down place your paper on the clay. With the side of your hand or flattened palm, burnish the paper in a vigorous circular motion for at least 2 minutes. You don’t want to smash the image but good pressure and friction are important here. Be sure to go over the entire surface of the image. I have read in one article that you need to let your burnished sheet sit about 6 – 8 inches under a light for about 7 – 10 minutes. I do it but haven’t tested not doing it yet.

4. Reburnishing the Image. Repeat step 3. You should be able to see the plasticizer saturating the paper at this point. This is how you know you are burnishing hard enough. This is your last chance to burnish so really go over the whole surface of the image for the full 2 minutes.

5. The Reveal. Hold on to your wax paper and using the 1 inch tab of your image, pull the paper off of the clay sheet in one motion. If you burnished properly, the polymer clay will have stuck to the carbon toner on the paper image and you will have a polymer clay sheet with the image impression.

6. Bake it! Bake your paper sheet and your clay sheet in an oven for 15 minutes at the suggested 275 degrees. When you take it out of the oven, you can let the paper sheet cool for about 30 seconds then put it under something flat so it will not curl up so much. Make sure you lay your polymer sheet on something flat as soon as it comes out so it too lays nice and flat.

This is a process and if you have the patience and time it works great. I have experimented with different copiers and the old ones are the best. Burnishing is really important, having enough pressure makes a big difference.

By the By, this is not my invention, this is a technique used by polymer clay artists, that was made popular by Celie Fago for the PMC crowd.

You can visit Monica’s site at DelilasDelightJewelry.

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Here’s the copier I use:

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About the Author

ElaineI'm an artist, writer and provider of hard to find tools for metal clay. I blog about metal clay and jewelry making and the business of crafts at All Things Metal Clay.View all posts by Elaine →

12 comments on “How to: Polymer Clay Tear Away Sheets

  1. karen blacker on said:

    My question is this: How do you adequately burnish without “smashing” the clay and creating an uneven surface?

  2. Ah, excellent question. It’s a matter of firm, consistent pressure without pressing down too much. Across firmly, but not down and across, if that makes sense?

    Elaine

  3. Pingback: All Things Metal Clay » Blog Archive » Free Tutorials and Videos: Polymer Clay

  4. Marcia LaGreca on said:

    The tear away method has been a source of angst for me! I’ve been successfull at making adequate tear away sheets, but the impressions don’t seem to be as pronounced as I’d like. I’ve actually worked with some of Celie’s sheets (took one of her PMC classes this past summer), and they make deeper impressions than what I’ve achieved. Also, my results are inconsistent. Sometimes I’ll get decent results, and other times only the image transfers and the clay does not transfer to the sheet.

    From experimentation, it seems like the more conditioned the clay is and the less plasticizer in the clay, the better the results. I’ve even deleted “baking” it 6″ – 8″ under a lamp and have achieved decent results!

    I’ve used the same procedures Celie’s described in one of her books on fresh clay, and the only results I’ve achieved are images transferred from the paper to the clay.

    Any suggestions on how to get more pronounced textures and consistent results? Also, many places update their copiers. Any suggestions on where you’ve found old copiers for public use?

  5. Regarding copiers, buying an old one specifically for this and other craft uses is the only solution I’ve come up with. They’re pretty cheap, too.

  6. Bronnie Barfield on said:

    What type of lamp is needed for this process?

  7. I’ve positioned my clay/tear-aways approx. 7″ under a halogen strip light under one of my kitchen cabinets, and it’s worked well. I’m not so sure it has to do with the type of light, but more about the warmth/heat. I read an article about the process where someone ironed the sheet on top of the clay, instead of backing it! Another thing that’s helped me is to grab the corner of the tear-away and quickly “rip” it away in a low, ripping motion. Hope this helps!

  8. I have 2 questions. Why is the paper backed and if you are going to use a specific shape, should the clay be cut prior to backing?

    Thanks,
    BBee

  9. Correction to my 9-10-10 post. I meant to say “Why is the paper “baked”?

  10. Marcia LaGreca on said:

    I’m glad you clarified, BBee! You don’t have to bake the sheet, but I prefer to bake the sheet and use that for texturing. You would roll out your PMC to your desired thickness, then put the baked textured “tear-away” sheet (texture side down) on top of the clay (or bottom, whichever you prefer). Then roll your PMC again, then remove the sheet to reveal the reverse image in the PMC. You can also bake the polyclay and get a reverse image from what is on the sheet. I prefer to make / bake my texture sheets for my PMC and reuse the polyclay. Hope this makes sense.

  11. Meredith Arnold on said:

    Gwen Gibson originally invented this method with polymer clay. There is a Design Originals book where she includes her instructions for this process. Celie borrowed this process from Gwen but added the innovation of using both the paper with thin layer of polymer clay on it and the polymer clay results as texture plates for use with metal clay. It takes a bit of practice but not a ton.

    • Thanks Meredith! Great to have the name of the book and the history!

      I thought this technique was becoming obsolete, with the changes in the clay formulas. Have you found a way to make it work?

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