A pinch of this and a little bit of that

One of the things I most like about working with polymer clay is the infinite number of colours that can be created. I often start with a predetermined colour scheme taken from a paint swatch or piece of fabric and will then mix the polymer colours to match as closely as I can. Recently, I wanted to create a set of five colours taken from some wool samples. With a mustard yellow, pink, jade green, dark grey and a lovely inky navy to work with, this is how I did it.

Wool.jpg

Firstly, I had to decide which clay colours might be the best to combine to give me the new ones I wanted. I always try to steer clear of simply adding black to darken a colour as it can be overpowering and deaden the new shade. As a rule of thumb, and in order not to waste lots of clay, it’s always better too, to start with the greatest proportion in the lightest colour and then gradually add small amounts of a darker colour to it until you get what you want.

 Ultramarine and Burnt Umber blocks

Ultramarine and Burnt Umber blocks

Bearing these points in mind, I decided to start to mix the navy first. I took Ultramarine (sadly, Sculpey no longer manufacture a darker blue than this) and Burnt Sienna, a rich chocolate brown. I then divided a bar of each clay colour into eighths by lightly marking the surface. I took four parts Ultramarine to one part Burnt Sienna and mixed these until they were completely blended. It worked really well and looked great against the wool. So far, so good.

 Portioning the clay before mixing

Portioning the clay before mixing

 What I thought was a successful navy mix!

What I thought was a successful navy mix!

Next, I moved on to the mustard. It needed a ‘warm’ yellow as its base so I used Cadmium Yellow and again, a portion of Burnt Umber, recording the quantities in my ‘recipe book’. This was a trickier colour to achieve and the first mix was far too dark, looking more like caramel than mustard! For the second attempt, I upped the Yellow and reduced the amount of Umber, again recording the amounts, and this was much more successful.

 I weighed the yellow and brown portions as I didn’t have nice, neat blocks to divide here.

I weighed the yellow and brown portions as I didn’t have nice, neat blocks to divide here.

 Yuk - far too brown.

Yuk - far too brown.

 A much more successful mix.

A much more successful mix.

Working in exactly the same way, I went on and mixed the grey and jade which just left the pink to do. From the picture, you can see that on its own, Fuchsia looked far too bright and needed toning down with a tiny addition of blue. So, again, marking the bars, I took measured amounts of each colour and mixed until I felt I had the right shade.

 The pink is much too bright here, and needs making ‘bluer’

The pink is much too bright here, and needs making ‘bluer’

The final test of colour accuracy is in baking the samples. Although the colours shouldn’t change much (if at all) when baked, they will go from being ‘wet’ clay to ‘cured’. This means that their glossy surface will no longer reflect light but become matt and absorb it, and therefore the colours may appear darker. So, I cut a disc of each and into the oven they went.

 Cutting a disc to test bake

Cutting a disc to test bake

Bringing them out, it was immediately obvious which ‘recipes’ had worked and which ones hadn’t. The mustard, jade and grey were great, but the navy was just too dark and the pink looked more like ‘plum’ and was far too ‘blue’ to be acceptable. So, it was back to mixing more samples, and trying again. Second time round, it was easy. Because I knew from my notes what proportions I had started with, I was able to reduce one colour and add more of another to achieve the shades I wanted very quickly. I know now, what each recipe requires, and in future, I can recreate them again and again and again using the same techniques, very easily .

 Some of the recipes and notes in the book

Some of the recipes and notes in the book

 Another example of the same process using fabric as my starting point

Another example of the same process using fabric as my starting point

 A couple more examples working from paint swatches

A couple more examples working from paint swatches