Saturday, December 22, 2012

Paperclay Ornament Tutorial : Part 4

Day 22: Paperclay Ornament Tutorial : Part 4

 It's time for the funnest part of working with paperclay (in my opinion), painting & varnishing!

Now that we have our completed sculptures that are dry we are ready to start painting. I use just basic acrylic paints from the craft store. If you are on a budget you can just get the basic colors (red, yellow, blue) and mix all of the colors you need, but I like to have some extra colors to make it easier so I don't have to mix a perfect match if i need the same color later.
Here is where I left off yesterday.

One thing that you may want to have for painting/varnishing is an ornament display hanger. You can get them at Hobby Lobby by their glass ornaments in the wood/paper mache area. This way, if you attach your string to hang the ornaments first, you can let them dry on the ornament display in between coats.
Here's a picture of one from so you can see what I'm talking about.

To start, when I paint I use a paper or styrofoam plate as a palette (Though any sort of palette that you prefer will work). The colors below are all the ones I used to paint my sculptures. The toothpicks you see are what I use to mix colors. You can get a big pack of toothpicks at Dollar Tree that will last you a long time!

I keep a water bowl on my desk to wash of my brushes between colors. I recommend that you buy or designate a bowl for art stuff only, & don't ever eat out of it again. Also, I like to keep a old rag at my table to wipe my paintbrush off on (you can also use paper towels or napkins).

I kind of got carried away and didn't take any in-between stage pictures! Sorry! But basically what you will want to do is just work on one section at a time. Since I had 3 similar girls, I did all the skin color on them at once, then all the silver scarves, then I had to start doing the individual colors that were only in one area. 

I had never done curly hair like these before and now I know that they are even more of a pain to paint then they are to sculpt! hehehe. The trick is turning the sculpture in as many angles as you can think of to make sure you didn't leave any spots unpainted in the cracks.

After your basic color layer is dry you can add more coats if you need to or you can start add details. I like to keep my sculptures pretty simple, but you can see that I put on some eyes & spanky's face, as well as stripes on spanky, stripes on the middle girl's silver pants, and a heart on the coffee cup. Everything else is pretty much just a solid color.

One last thing, for spanky's mouth/nose I used a permanent waterproof pen/marker. There are lots of kinds you can use such as Micron Pens (check Hobby Lobby). Or if you are great with tiny details you can use a paintbrush.

Once you are satisfied with how they look you are going to need to let them dry before you varnish them. If you rush too soon on this you will run the risk of having some of the colors smear onto the others. (trust me, I know!) hehe. 

Now that the pieces are totally dry you can start to varnish them. I do this step because it really helps them to "pop"! But if you don't have varnish or don't want to mess with it, you can always use a clear sealing spray. (check the spray paint isle in Hobby Lobby).

I get my varnish at Hobby Lobby in the paint isle. (And remember to bring a 40% off coupon)!
 They usually have one that will say "Gloss Finish" and one like mine that says "Satin Finish". I have only ever tried the satin because it seems very glossy to me. But I have seen people that have used the glossy on specific areas such as eyes to make them look extra shiny. It's really just your preference.

When you pour the varnish on your plate you will see that it looks kind of like a milky white color. Don't worry! It will dry clear and make your pieces look so much cooler. (as well as making them stronger and safer)
What I like to do is paint the entire sculpture with a layer or 2 of plain varnish. On your first layer I recommend varnishing one color area at a time. For example, Do all the brown areas, then all the skin, etc. And try to leave black for last because that is usually the color that I have the most problem with smearing. 

Also, try not to overdo it when you are brushing it on. Try not to brush over the same spot tons of times or it will be more likely to pull up the paint underneath. Just do a few quick swipes in each area.

Once it's all varnished & dry you shouldn't have to worry about it smearing anymore, and you can do another full overall coating if you wish.

If you are like me you will want to add some special glittery spots on your piece as well.
I usually just use a basic clear/white glitter because it will look good on all colors, but you can use colorful glitter if you prefer. 
I have tried different ways of adding glitter. When I first started, I used to paint a section of varnish on the sculpture and then quickly tap on some glitter before it dried. This way was very messy, and although it did look really cool when it was done, it didn't seem to be very permanent because the glitter was just setting on top and could probably rub off over time.

So now the way I do it is much easier. I just put some varnish on my plate and then mix the glitter into it. Then I can use a paintbrush and paint it into the exact areas I want. This way still looks good, and having it mixed in with the varnish is a much more long-lasting way to do it.

 Here is how my sculptures turned out after painting and varnishing them! I didn't add much glitter on these, but there is some on their scarves and on the blue dress for the middle girl.
Sorry for the poor picture quality. My lighting is pretty terrible in my studio & I was painting these at night so I could finish them in time to give them to my mom & sister on Thanksgiving. :) They were very surprised!

 Once you are done, be sure to wash your brushes out very well so you don't ruin them by letting them dry with paint or varnish in them. (I've done it, it sucks).

The last thing you need to do after the ornaments are all done & dry (if you haven't done this already) is to attach a string for them to hang by. I use baker's twine which you can find in lots of cute colors on Etsy (Update: Hobby Lobby & other local craft stores have even started carrying baker's twine now).
 Here's my finished sculpture hanging up on my wall in front of my computer. :) We don't put up a Christmas tree (or decorations for that matter) anymore now that we have Spanky (he just likes to mess with & destroy it).  hehehe.

Thanks for reading! I hope these tips have helped to inspire you!

Want to see the rest of the tutorial? Click on the desired step below:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Find out more about me and my work by visiting my website.


  1. These came out adorable!

  2. Thank you for doing this tutorial! I've been curious for a long time about paperclay, so it was fun to see it in action :)

    1. No problemo :) Glad you enjoyed it. You should definitely give paperclay a try, it is tons of fun!

  3. Thank you for sharing your talent with us. I love working with paperclay but just don't have the time now. Maybe this will encourage me to get back into it again. Great dolls. God bless. Cathy

    1. Hi Cathy,
      Thanks so much for the sweet message, I'm so glad that my tutorial has inspired you to hopefully get back into working with paperclay again :) It's too fun of a material not to play with it at least every once in awhile! :)

  4. Really sweet! I have all my supplies and am going to try my first sculpture soon. One question, how did you out the boots on the middle girls? Did you push them onto the toothpicks while wet? Thanks for this tutorial!