What Is a Polymer Clay Figurine?

Tara Barnett

A polymer clay figurine is a small sculpture made out of polymer clay. It is possible to represent nearly any item in polymer clay, but people and animals are some of the most popular subjects. The size limitations involved in making a polymer clay figurine are partially related to traditional uses of this type of clay, but it is sometimes difficult to harden items that are very large or thick. These figurines make excellent crafts for all ages, and there are many books and tutorials that teach the basic skills required to get started in this craft.

Animals are a popular choice when making clay figurines.
Animals are a popular choice when making clay figurines.

In all cases, a polymer clay figurine is a sculpture made of polymer clay. This type of clay is usually hardened in an oven, but there are some brands that dry in the air. Almost all brands of polymer clay used for figurines are colored, so the way in which a polymer clay figurine gets its coloring is through using different colors of clay, not by painting. Many artists do use paint to add details to figurines, and varnish is sometimes used to make them shiny.

A variety of tools can be used to shape polymer clay for figurines.
A variety of tools can be used to shape polymer clay for figurines.

Typically representations of people, animals, or objects, clay figurines may also symbolize abstract subjects, but these are somewhat rarer in this medium. Many artists choose to make colorful, cartoonish sculptures out of this material because of the bright colors available and the relatively inexpensive material. In addition to sculpting these items with the fingers, there are a number of tools and molds that can be used to create uniform figurines.

Materials other than clay can be incorporated in order to make highly unique figurines. For example, real shells and small metal items can be added to figurines as details. When these items will not survive the temperatures to which the clay is heated in order to harden, they can be added using glue. Some figurines that are large can be made lighter and less wasteful by creating a core out of aluminum foil on top of which the clay is placed, reducing the amount of clay that must be used.

Most figurines are purely decorative, though they can be made for a variety of purposes. Cake toppers, ornaments, and earrings are all popular uses of these figurines. Classrooms often use polymer clay, and this type of sculpture may be a student's first introduction to working with clay. Even though this medium is popular with children, it can be appropriate for adult projects as well.

Polymer clay is sold in a variety of colors.
Polymer clay is sold in a variety of colors.

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Discussion Comments


@browncoat - I find most artists seem to be making human figures, I suppose because that's what sells the best. I would like to see more clay figures of other things, like animals.

I know there are a few out there who do things like dragons and so forth, but I would like to see more ordinary animals like lions or even cows or goats.

I think it's quite a young art though, since polymer clay was only really invented and became popular a few years ago. So people are still using it in what seems to be popular ways, instead of becoming more experimental.

I'm looking forward to when it becomes an accepted medium alongside oil paints and bronze sculpture and so forth and more artists pick it up.

Then I think we'll start to see more extraordinary artworks.


There are some amazing artists using polymer clay as a medium at the moment. You can find them online if you want to have a look at their galleries. Often polymer clay or sculpture associations or clubs will list their members websites so you can find them and have a look.

I especially like the ones which made human-like figurines depicting different mythological people. Sometimes they will create an entire scene from a story or a myth with so much detail, it's beautiful.

Unfortunately those tend to be very expensive, and rightly so, but it means that I can't really afford them at the moment.

One day, though I plan to have a collection of beautiful polymer clay figurines to call my own.


If you are serious about creating a large figure out of polymer clay you need to use an armature.

This is what the metal framework is called that is a kind of skeleton in the clay.

It doesn't need to be fancy, just a stick figure in the right posture will do. You should try to get wire from an art store though, which will be stiff enough to keep its form, but will bend into the form when you are first shaping it.

You also need to make sure that it will survive the baking process and that it won't react with the clay and rust inside the model or you could end up with problems later on.

There are a number of really good tutorials on this online if you have a look around youtube and different art forums.

If you don't use an armature for larger figures, they won't have the strength to survive, most of the time.

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