Saturday, December 7, 2013

Good Question: Black Pearl Ex vs Kato Black Liquid vs acrylic paint

Laura Lang wrote to me with a question about using Black Pearl Ex vs Kato Black Liquid vs acrylic paint. My experience with the brands I use is may get similar or different results with other brands. I have specific uses for each type of product:

Black Pearl Ex 

This was my go-to material for almost everything until recently. It mutes the colors a bit for a nice antique look and it is easy to control during removal. The color is called "carbon black" for a is dark, dark, dark flat black. I mix a tiny bit of gold Pearl Ex with it to give some sparkle. A $6 jar will last a long time!

You brush it all over your piece before it goes into the oven. You don't have to put a ton of it on, just make sure it's all covered. It looks scary, but don't be frightened.

You should wear a mask to be safe. I put the powder in a butter tub so I can hold the piece down in the tub and brush it with the powder. It helps keep it contained and reduces the amount that might blow into the air. It's also a good storage bin because it has a lid!

When the piece cools you wet sand it. The 3M "sand blaster" pads are critical for this step. They are flexible which is perfect for the curved surfaces and they remove the darkness gradually.

Regular sandpaper seems to remove the darkness too starkly for my taste. The Sand blaster material removes the dark gradually so you end up with a nice ombre effect to the shadowing like you see below.

The nice thing is that once you've sanded (and perhaps buffed the piece if you want more shine), the shadowing will not rub off. It bakes into the clay for a permanent finish. 

I love using the Pearl Ex concoction on gold Kato clay. It ends up looking like aged wood.

Kato Black Liquid Clay

I had a bottle of this for a while but didn't quite know what to do with it. I recently took a workshop with Barb Fajardo where we used Kato Liquid to fill in the grooves we had made in our pieces. The pieces were impressed, scored, scratched and marked, then cured, then rubbed with Kato Liquid and the excess removed before curing again.

It is very messy but surprisingly easy to control. I put a few drops on the piece and then rub it with my fingers to get it down into the grooves. Then wipe the liquid off the surface with a paper towel (I am brand loyal to Viva paper towels! I like their mostly untextured fiinish.)

I like the end result of the liquid because it's very opaque and has a bit of shine. It makes a nice sharp line in the groove, and doesn't mute the colors too much. You also don't have to sand afterwards if you don't want. However, at a minimum, I always like to give the pieces a quick sanding with 1000 grit to clean them up a bit and polish the surface. Or if I want a higher shine, I do the sandpaper and follow with the buffer. (I don't do the multiple grit process...I don't have the patience. However, if you're trying to create a glass- or metal-like finish, you would put more effort into sanding.)

Acrylic Paint

If you want a color other than black for antiqueing or coloring, you would need to venture into the paint world. The paint goes on your piece after curing the item. I almost never use paint because I think it's difficult to put on and then remove without taking too much off which then requires you to put more on, then wipe it again...and around and around you go. I find it very frustrating. It can also wear off a bead after a while if there's no protective coat. Perhaps that wouldn't happen if you cure it after painting (though I don't know about that for sure...anyone?) or spray it with PYM II or another finish.

I know some of you use oil paint...I've never tried that and don't know anything about the process but it looks interesting. I know Doreen Kassel uses oil paint on her absolutely adorable characters and I would like to take a workshop with her some day.

If you have favorite methods for antiqueing your pieces, shout 'em out!


  1. I have always been partial to acrylic paint to knock back the "new" look and I do finish with PymII. I must say though I love the looks you get with the black Pearl Ex so I think that will be next on my list to try. Thanks for a great, informative article!

  2. I like the Kato Black Liquid to . I tried to stir my new bottle and it was very hard to get it mixing so I layed it on its side on my pasta machine rollers and turned on the motor. Voila !!! I like the way it fills the deeper grooves and doesn't sand out easier than the clay around it like paint does.

    I am not to fond of acrylic paint either for the same reasons . but I have used burnt Umber oil paints baked and sanded and I like the look a lot Leslie Blackford uses it on her work. I use Flax seed oil vitamins ( old out of date) as thinner just pierce the gel capsule and squeeze out the oil .

  3. Good reason to try the bottle of carbon black in my drawers! I have always used the black acrylic as my go to, once I discovered that a slightly damp cosmetic sponge was the perfect removal tool; takes it off the surface in one swipe and leaves a nice deep antiquing in the grooves. But I love the look you get with the pearl ex. I wonder, have you ever tried dry tempera? If it does work, sure would be less expensive--not, as you observe, that it's really an issue...thanks for sharing!

  4. Thank you for sharing; great info! Did you brush the black pearl ex on after baking the beads with a first layer of color? And does it matter if the first layer of color is acrylic or pearlex? Cheers!

  5. You have to brush the black Pearl Ex on before baking otherwise it won't stick.There is no "first layer" of color other than the colored clay and I apply the powder or liquid clay as the second layer. Powder goes on before curing or Liquid after curing (and then cure again.) Does that answer your question?

    1. Yes - thanks so much! The way you blend colors looks like it's painted on - so beautiful. I am just learning to work with this medium. Right now, I work with white clay and then color it with acrylic paint, pearl ex, gilders paste or swellegant. SO many ways to express one's little time - LOL.

  6. Very informative!!! I have always used acrylic paint. After curing I use a tooth brush and dish washer detergent to remove oil from the clay. Then dry the piece. I add acrylic paint and use dry paper towel to remove the excess paint. I always keep a wet paper towel to help me if I want to remove further. Works good - I have never experienced that it rubbed off. I do not use a sealer. I would love to try pearl ex though!! Thank you for sharing!!

  7. I am a newbie to polymer clay and I found this post to be very informative. Thank you so much!



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