Monday, January 16, 2017

Embossing Powders on Polymer Clay

Update 8/17/28:
 :(  The embossing powder on clay doesn't hold up over the long run. It gets gummy and un-shiny.  If your need for super glossy only has to last a short while, go ahead and try it.
A few weeks ago I bought a heat gun and then last week I saw a video on Instagram in which gold embossing powder was used on calligraphy. These two unrelated events caused two more things to happen: I thought, "Hey! I can use embossing powders because now I have a heat gun." And I headed off Michael's to get some embossing powders.

At first I just got gold and white, and a mixed sample kit of black and silver, along with two Perfect Pearls glue pens (brush and bullets points), and an adhesive applicator with a sponge top.

My initial thought about the embossing powder was, "Yay! Finally, there's a way a way to make bold, opaque metallic lines on a bead. (And, also, now I want to learn modern calligraphy!)

So the first experiments were these:

But then, two more things happened:
1. As I heated the bead while it was mounted on a skewer, I saw the similarity to flameworking.
2. Now that I knew the powders were functioning as I had hoped, I bought more powders: sparkly gold, white, black, bronze, sparkly black, silver, clear, and chunky gold.

I pulled some not-so-good beads out of my stash and used the embossing powders as faux flameworking, though I think the finished products look more like ceramics than glass.

I put a cured bead on a skewer. The bead had been made on a skewer so the hole was tight enough that the bead didn't slide up and down and then I went to town...

The original bead was mostly turquoise with some gold and yellow on it. I very, very lightly coated the bead with the Perfect Pearls adhesive in a sponge top applicator. I sprinkled a tiny bit of scrap powder all over the bead and hit it with the heat gun on the lower speed.
I have a Black & Decker heat gun with two speeds. The lower speed doesn't blow the powder off if you hold it at a distance and only move closer when the powder starts to melt.

After the first layer of powder is on, you no longer need the glue. If you turn the skewer while heating the bead the surface will be warm enough to make the powder stick.

Next I sprinkled on some white. I sprinkle the powder directly from the container. Put a piece of paper below where you're working to catch any excess and put it back into the container.
Or, if that's too much trouble, dump all your powder "scraps" into one container and use it as the base for your next beads.

More gold.
Sometimes I put layers of clear between the opaque layers to give the illusion of depth.

...and chunky gold...

If you keep the heat in one spot, the powder will begin to break up (a little bit is good but don't over-do it -- the melted powder will flow if you're not careful.)

Keep the bead on the stick a while to let it cool off. But if you get impatient and you touch it while it's still warm and leave a fingerprint, no worries! Just hit it with the heat again and the fingerprint will melt right out.
If you get a few bubbles from air trapped between the layers, wait until the bead cools a little, pat the bubble with your finger, and then melt the fingerprint.

In the example below I didn't want to cover up the pretty colors underneath so I put the adhesive on the bead and sprinkled it only with clear powder and the chunky gold bits which I had mixed together.

I made a video to show the basic process. You can't see detail but you'll get the idea.
(If you can't view it on your phone, view it on a laptop. I don't know why, but the video that was shot and edited on my phone, cannot now be viewed on my phone when I try to launch it from the blog. Go figure.)

I tested the beads to see how well the finish holds up. I threw the clear one above 
 10 times and there's not a scratch or crack on it. See the video...


  1. So much fun!!! And I love the way you just followed the thread of curiosity to get to the finished product. Also love the quality control experiment!
    Thanks Rebecca

  2. Merci beaucoup pour ce beau tuto.

  3. I tried this years ago and the clear embossing powder turned whitish as time passed (maybe after about a year of just being in a drawer). Have you had any sit for a long time yet? Your work is absolutely beautiful and makes me want to try it again!

  4. Pamela... Good to know! thanks? I haven't had any of them for that long. Just since January and so far so good. I'll keep an eye on them to see what happens.

  5. Rebecca can you tell us what the adhesive applicator with a sponge top is? I cannot find anything online that matches up so far. Thanks these look fantastic.

    1. Actually I should change what I wrote up above because I've discovered that using a little bit of liquid clay works better than the glue that's really meant for paper. To get the first layer of embossing powder to stick to the bead, the liquid clay works perfectly.

  6. Awesome! I have a blue beads, drawers full of embossing powder, liquid Sculpy, and heat gun! Guess I know what I'm gonna do next week ! Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Great information and beautiful work! Thank you.



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