Raw polymer clay colors are beautiful, but what really matters is what they look like after they’re baked.
I tried to compare apples to apples by using similar colors from each brand. I find it helpful to see all of them in one photograph. More than one blue is needed with some brands, which is why there are eight colors for some and nine for others.
My goal was to educate myself on the colors in each brand. I also wanted to learn which colors shift and how to compensate so hopefully I can avoid being surprised by the colors that come out of the oven.
I’ve written more detailed blog posts on each brand which include more color mixtures:
In doing these color tests, I tried to bring out the best in each brand. Kato and Fimo were double-baked because that makes an improvement. See Double-Baking to Avoid Plaquing in Polymer Clay.
The other brands were baked in a preheated oven at the manufacturer’s recommended temperature for 30 minutes. All were baked in two aluminum baking tins, one inverted as a lid with two small ceramic tiles inside.
OVERALL SUMMARY OF BRANDS
All brands, except Soufflé, offer quality primary and secondary colors. Primaries, secondaries, black, white, translucent, pearl and metallics are generally all I use. I prefer to mix my own colors unless I need a large quantity of a color that’s available packaged.
Some brands have a small range of colors, others have a large range with glitter, glow-in-the-dark, inclusions, colored translucents, etc.
Soufflé colors didn’t darken in the oven, which was amazing. White turns yellowish when baked longer. Soufflé doesn’t offer the normal primary or secondary colors, translucent or metallics. Instead they have a nice range of muted colors. Soufflé is a softer clay, but holds its form and isn’t sticky.
Pardo colors stayed the truest when baked among all other brands. White stayed very white and grayed only slightly when baked multiple times. Pardo translucent is the clearest of all brands. The blue is a bit dark. Pardo is the firmest clay I tested and needs gentle conditioning and handling. See video. It bakes at the lowest temperature.
Kato was next best for lack of color shifting. White tends to yellow the more it’s baked and translucent yellows a lot. Kato benefits from double-baking. Translucent does better when used in thin layers cured for the minimum time possible. Kato is generally a firm clay. It bakes at the highest temperature.
Premo did well for lack of color shifting. White stayed the whitest of all brands, regardless of baking duration, but unfortunately it broke. Translucent turned a light beige. Translucent does better when used in thin layers cured for the minimum time possible. The ultramarine and purple are quite dark. Premo was generally the softest, stickiest brand.
Fimo Pro colors shifted quite a bit. White and translucent turn orangish when baked too much. Fimo benefits from double-baking. Translucent does better when used in thin layers cured for the minimum time possible. The purple is a bit dark. Fimo Pro is a firmer clay, though not as firm as Pardo.
Cernit Number One colors shifted the most. Opaque white stayed the whitest of all brands, regardless of baking duration. Translucent Cernit was the second clearest of the brands tested. Cernit is generally a firm clay.
COLORS THAT SHIFT
Magenta and green were the worst for darkening when baked, across the board.
Turquoise, blue, violet and purple were the second worst for darkening when baked.
Red, orange and yellow generally didn’t have a problem.
White and translucent can turn a little gray, yellow or orange, depending upon brand.
HOW TO COMPENSATE
The easiest way to compensate for color shifting is to add a little white clay.
You can add a lighter color, but it can change the hue, for example, adding cyan to violet or adding yellow to green.
You can try adding translucent, if the brand of translucent doesn’t tend to turn yellow or orange.
To reduce color shifting in white and translucent, I’ve found that two aluminum baking tins, one inverted as a lid, with two small ceramic tiles inside works the best. See Baking Polymer Clay Without Yellowing or Cracking.
Double-baking or ramp baking also helps Fimo and Kato in particular.
Use an oven thermometer to assure your temperature isn’t too high and bake only for the duration necessary to avoid breakage.
BAKING TEST CHIPS
I’ve learned the hard way that baking color test chips before making a project is really important. I like Cernit Number One, but it shifts color when baked so I compensate for it.
In the photo above, I first mixed small quantities of the colors I wanted. They’re the first piece of each color on the left. Then, I ripped off a small piece of each, baked them and put them on top of the raw clay.
All baked pieces were a little dark, so I added a little more white. The new pieces of raw clay with more white are on the right.
Next, I ripped off small pieces of the new clay, baked them and put them on top of the new raw clay. The baked pieces came really close to matching my original raw clay color. Now, I can confidently mix larger batches to match the raw pieces of clay on the right.
The darkest purple and the dark warm gray became extremely dark when baked, so even dark colors need a little white added.
It takes a little time to bake test chips, but it makes a better end result without unhappy surprises.
BEHIND THE SCENES
It can be a challenge to get true colors when photographing. The photo below shows the lighting setup in my basement studio using true color LED bulbs. I still had to use Photoshop to increase the exposure, but not so much that the white clay bleached out.
The photo below is my stack of color tests. I made many color mixtures I didn’t photograph, just to see what happened.
P.S. I bought all these products myself and received nothing from the manufacturers.