Since I've include finishing techniques in my tutorials listed here (Double-sided Textured Beads, Textured Tubes & More, Making Beautiful Buttons), it got me thinking about sharing more in depth on this topic -- what I prefer to use for finishing my pieces and why.

The first question is to glaze or not to glaze?

This all depends on the type of finish you want. A lot of polymer artists prefer their pieces to be natural and unglazed. I prefer that at times myself -- it all depends on the individual piece and the finished look I'm aiming for. You can get a nice sheen by buffing with a soft cloth or towel and you can also get a high shine if you buff with some sort of buffing wheel. If you are aiming for this... your piece needs to have a very smooth finish. This involves sanding your work with different grits of wet/dry sandpaper. I have also found that the smoother your clay is before baking, the less sanding you will have to do afterwards. Some people finish with 1000 grit sandpaper, others go up to 1500 or 2000. I have found that there isn't too much difference in smoothness or shine above 800 grit so it is all a matter of what clay you are working with and your own preference.

Then there is the type of buffing wheels to use. My hubby and I were on a hunt some time ago looking for just the right buffing tool that wouldn't break the bank. Some of our clay colleagues had fabulous buffing machines that were to drool over but we decided to go simply and make more use of the tools like our dremel, we already had. I read up on Desiree McCrory's site about her new buffing pad and so we went on a hunt to find the right fabric to make our own. It is a simple concept but does a beautiful job and leaves a really high sheen! We use a drill press stand so it frees both hands to buff making it easier and safer to use.

To Glaze ..... the How and Why.....

So if you prefer to glaze your pieces, many have asked which one do you use and what works best. This is something that is a little different for everyone but I will share with you what we have learned from our past experiences.

Some polymer clay techniques using inks, mica powders or chalks, require some sort of glaze finish in order to protect them from wearing off. One of the newest type of glazes that polymer clay artists have discovered is the PYM11 (Preserve Your Memories 11). This is amazing stuff and works well as a sealing agent, especially if you are using inks or mica powders. It leaves a soft matte finish so if you prefer your piece to be glossy, you can use PYM11 as a sealer and then coat with Future acrylic afterwards.

PYM11 is only available as an aerosol spray so is a more difficult to use on smaller type beads. It also has a very strong odor so you will want to use this outdoors in the fresh air so you do not breathe in the fumes.

How to Use: Lay your pieces out onto a paper lined tray. Spray your pieces very lightly. Allow to dry (a few minutes) and then turn your tray around so you are spraying from the opposite direction and give a light spray again. Turn your pieces over and repeat for the other side.

Pro: Makes a great sealer when using mica powders, chalks and especially inks.

Con: Only available in an aerosol spray so is a little more difficult to use on smaller type beads.

Type of Finish: soft matte

Diamond Wood Finish by Flecto is the only type of varathane we consider safe to use with your polymer clay. We have tried various other brands (such as Minwax acrylic) and discovered they are not all the same. They would peel and wear off and I'm glad we only experimented with them in a small way first.

The Diamond by Flecto is available in glossy, semi-gloss and satin finishes. It is also available in an aerosol spray which is great for larger type surfaces. In many of our pieces like our animal prints, we prefer to use semi-gloss as it actually gives more of a soft satin gloss look and isn't overly shiny. I fill a small jar to use from instead of using it straight from the can. If it gets a little too thick, you can add a little water to thin it out and it will apply much easier.

How to use: A good quality clean soft paintbrush is the key. If you do not use a good brush or have too much varathane on your brush, it will cause streaks. Apply several very thin coats, allowing to dry thoroughly in between. You might still notice a bit of streaking after the first coat but that will eventually lesson after each application. After your pieces are dry, you can harden your finish a little more by baking your pieces at 200 F for 12-15 minutes. This also helps get rid of any small streaks that might still be showing.

Pro: Dries very quickly between coats and leaves a nice finish.

Con: Not so good on items with a lot of mica powder, chalks or inks as a sealer.

Type of Finish: semi-gloss to satin

The other type of glaze I like to use is Future -- which is now called Pledge with Future. This is our preference when we want our pieces to have a permanent high shine. We especially prefer to use it on pieces that require more wear and tear like pens or mirror compacts. If our pieces have mica powders, inks or chalks applied, we generally spray them first with the PYM11 and then coat with Future to add the shine and add a little more protection.

How to use: You can use a clean soft paintbrush or some people like to use q-tips. Both work great! Apply several thin coats, allowing to dry thoroughly in between. Future takes a little longer to dry so takes a little more patience. I found that if you apply the next coat too soon, it leaves a lot of streaks so I have to wash it off or sand it and start all over so is best to allow to dry completely.

You can also harden your finish more by baking again afterwards at 200 F for 12-15 minutes. This also helps to bring out a little more shine.

Pro: Makes a good hard finish and works well for sealing pieces when using mica powders, chalks, etc. as well as long wearing items such as pens. Also a very pleasant smell.

Con: Very time consuming as several coats need to be applied with lots of drying time between coats.

Type of Finish: glossy to super glossy

Just a note: I had read not to dip your pieces in future but have had several people contact me lately telling me they've had great success with that so I am reviewing that option and will have to experiment for myself with that more.

I hope this helps answer some questions you might have regarding finishing your pieces. Feel free to ask any questions or leave other tips and tricks in the comments here.