How to Create Lifelike Figures with Polymer Clay

By Sarah Clark
Make a frame for your figures before covering them with wire.

Polymer clay is used to make shapes and figurines. Some beginners to the clay craft may find making lifelike figures difficult. Sometimes molded shapes may look more like cartoons or three-dimensional stick drawings of the intended figure. You can avoid this problem by beginning your project with a wire frame. Cover this wire skeleton with aluminum foil muscles before adding the clay. This adds realistic bulk to your figures. Finish by adding fine details with clay tools to achieve a realist polymer clay model.

Bend the wire to make the basic frame of your figure. The idea here is to make a stick figure of your finished project. Make simple wire legs, arms, head, rib cage and any other skeletal features that apply to your project. Bend the wires around each other so that they hold in place.

Cover your wire frame with pieces of wadded aluminum foil. The foil should emulate the muscles on a real-life figure. Cover the arms, legs, neck and torso of your frame with foil. Fill in the rib cage with large pieces of foil. Make a ball around the wire head in the shape of your figure's real-life head.

Work the polymer clay between your hands to soften it before working with it. Then apply the clay to your figure's frame. Make sure that all of the foil and wire are covered with clay. Add multiple layers of clay if you have to bulk up your figure to a more life-like form.

Use your fingers to mold and shape the clay for the larger details. Use clay sculpting tools like picks, blades and metal ball ends to add finer details, like those in the face. Carve in the details. Remove any excess clay. Use the damp sponge to smooth over the figure, eliminating any fingerprints and other unwanted indentations.

Bake your finished figure on a baking sheet in the oven. Be sure to follow the directions on the clay's package to see how long to bake your figure and at what temperature setting.

About the Author

Sarah Clark has been writing since 1997, with work appearing in Northern Arizona University's "Student Life Organization Newsletter." She holds a B.A. in anthropology with a minor in art history from Northern Arizona University.