How to condition Polymer Clay

Conditioning Polymer Clay

If you’re new to polymer clay you may have heard about conditioning the clay prior to use. This is a short guide on how to condition polymer clay as this is one of the most important steps you can take.

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What is conditioning?

Firstly, don’t run into the bathroom and start squirting conditioner over your clay. That will make a gloopy mess. Conditioning clay is to ensure that it’s malleable and easy to work with… But not too malleable. You want it just right so it’s easy to handle and doesn’t fall apart in a brittle pile. In addition, you can tell the difference once it’s baked. Unconditioned clay will usually not be as flexible as conditioned clay making it susceptible to breakages.

How to condition polymer clay

You’ve just bought a block of clay, you open the packet, it feels great, works really well and you’re able to handle it with ease. This makes the clay so much easier to condition. firstly cut off a piece that you would like to use and just play around with it. Stretch it, pull it, roll it, flatten it. Do this a few times and you’ll have a nice piece to continue using. You can even put it in a pasta machine. But what happens when it’s not like the perfect block as mentioned?

The clay falls to a bitty mess when I stretch it. How can I condition it?

This will need a bit of love to get to the right point. As you can see from the image above, this is what happens when clay gets a bit old… It turns far too brittle. Attempting to make anything out of this at the moment will result in brittle frustration and after baking wouldn’t hold up to any form of punishment.

First you want to make sure the clay isn’t cold. To get around this, I usually pop it in a food bag and stick it in my pocket or sit on it for a while. You don’t want to heat this up too much (Like in an oven…) as you will just end up baking the clay. You just want to warm it up a little bit. Once it’s a bit warmer, take it out of the bag and try flattening it out using a roller. Bits might break off but place them on the top and roll a bit more. Fold it in half, roll again and keep doing this over and over again. If you feel it getting a bit cold again, put it in your pocket or sit on it.

To speed up the process as well you can use mineral or baby oils but this can cause issues if not mixed in correctly. Apply it to a paintbrush first and do a single pass over the clay. Fold it up and roll it in, keep doing this until it feels like it’s fully mixed in. This is my preferred method but use with caution.

When you can roll it in-between your fingers without bits breaking off then it should be ready to use.

Any other ways?

A couple of other ways to condition your polymer clay. First is to mix the brittle clay with already conditioned clay. It’ll be fully conditioned when both colours are merged together and you have no streaks visible on the clay.

The second way is to use liquid clay, you can apply a small amount of this to brittle clay and work it in. This will soften the clay up to where it needs to be and you can continue using it as intended.

My clay is too soft, What can I do?

This can go two ways, the clay can be too hard and brittle, it can also be too soft and “Wet”. To get around this there are two different things you can do. I usually do them both at the same time.

Firstly you want to roll out the clay then sandwich it between a couple of sheets of A4 paper. This will leech the plasticizers out of the clay making it more stiff. You don’t want to do this too much though, as it’ll end up too brittle.

Secondly you can pop it in the fridge for 20 – 30 minutes. Cool clay is usually a lot more stiff and makes it easier to work with. As I mentioned doing both of these for 30 minutes is a good way of making really soft clay a little bit stiffer.


Hopefully this will help you with conditioning clay and allow your projects to be perfect every time. Like with anything that is versatile though, there are many ways of conditioning. Above are just a few of my favourites which have helped me out in the past.

Want some further Polymer Clay information, Check out our introductory guide here, or if you’re looking for inspiration check out some of our Inspirational Lists

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