Friday, June 19, 2015

Testing ChameleonTM Pens and Polymer Clay - Varnishes

After my blog post about the use of Chameleon Pens on polymer clay (if you missed that post you can read up on it here ) I got a couple of questions about the use of varnish on the finished pieces. I had to admit I did not know if any varnish would affect the surface of the painted clay and so it naturally lead to more testing! So today I would like to share my results of my tests with you.
This was my set up:
I rolled out 3 squares of Sculpey Soufflé Igloo (my preferred surface for the use of ChameleonTM Pens) and stamped them with a stamp with lots of details. I used a stamp from EfCo. It is called “Texture Mat Moments”, just in chase you were interested, and I used a black “Archival ink”  stamp pad from Ranger with it.
After stamping I cured all 3 test tiles for 30 minutes at 275°F/130°C. After they have cooled down completely they were ready to be painted with the ChameleonTM Pens. I use a wide variety of colours and blends to see how they would react. In my experience sometimes only one color of a color combination can be difficult with a certain material or varnish, so it is best to have a wide choice for testing. 

Then I took out all the varnishes that I have in my studio for the actual test. These are the ones I used in no particular order (some of the product bottles have a different label, because I had them for a while and producers changed the look of the labels):

1 Fimo – Semi Gloss Varnish (by Staedtler)
2 Fimo – Gloss Varnish (by Staedtler)
3 Lisa Pavelka´s Magic GlosTM
4 Sculpey´s – Gloss Glaze
5 Ranger´s Glossy AccentsTM
6 Judy Kins´ – DG3 Art Gel
7 MP-Multimedia Spray Varnish (this is a German product that is similar to PYM II , which I can not  easyly get hold of here in Germany. I can not garenty it is exactly the same, but I asume it will give similar results)

Having 9 different varnishes, I cut my testing tiles in 4 quarters to have enough pieces for the varnishes, plus three to be untreated for comparing my tests.
I have some glossy and some matt varnishes, so I expected them to look quite different. Also not all of them require the same way of treatment. So first I will list each single one of the varnishes I tested and finally I will give you my personal results from this test:

1 Fimo – Semi Gloss Varnish (by Staedtler)
I applied the varnish with a small brush. It need to be shaken before use and can be cleaned with water. I added one layer for all my test, so I could compare all varnishes. This varnish has to dry for 24 hours.
The description says the varnish is semi gloss, but I actual find in not very glossy at all. Not even semi. The good thing is that all the colors were not altered by the varnish and it does make the surface a bit smoother than without varnish. So I think it can be used as a coat of protection, when you do not really want to change the look of the original piece.

2 Fimo – Gloss Varnish (by Staedtler)
This varnish comes with a little brush in the bottle (only for the small size I had) and it is also water-based. It does look a tiny bit more glossy than the semi gloss varnish, I tried before. But with one layer this is hardly recognizable. It might be different if you apply more layers. 
Everything else is quite the same as with the gloss varnish of the same make: no color change visible. Needs to dry for 24 hours. Makes the surface a bit smoother than without varnish.

3 Lisa Pavelka´s Magic GlosTM
Magic GlosTM was the first disappointment in my tests: it did change the colors quite a bit. Especially the reds. Also it bend the thin polymer clay base and so the varnish had spots, were the varnish did flow off and leave places without much varnish on them, that do not look good.
I applied it and left it to dry together with the other pieces, but I did not like the color change at all. So no recommendation for this varnish from me.

4 Sculpey´s – Gloss Glaze
Sculpey´s Gloss Glaze is easy to be applied with a small brush. The label says that you should NOT shake it before use (because that will create bubbles in your varnish!) and it can be cleaned up with water and soap. Easy peasy! It dyes completely in 24 hours like the other varnishes I used. And this varnish does have a gloss, like it says on the label! Even with one coat it gives a nice shiny surface, but it is not covering the texture from the stamp impression up. I really like that!
There is no color change or anything. So if you want a little shine and some protection for your pieces, this is a definite option for you!
Unfortunately I did not have any Sculpey´s Satin Glaze  to try out, but as soon as I have some I will definitely add it to my tests!

5 Ranger´s Glossy AccentsTM
This varnish is similar to Magic Gloss, but with two big differences: it does NOT change the colors and it covers the clay completely! Dont shake the bottle (to prevent bubbles to appear in you glaze!) and it is a bit hard to squeeze the bottle to get the varnish out. It is rather thick and forms a thick layer on top of your clay. But you can easily see were you missed a place and so the varnish does cover the whole area, when applied properly.
Just like the Magic GlossTM it does bend a thin sheet of clay a little. If you are aiming for a thick glass like surface, this is the varnish I would recommend!

6 Judy Kins´ – Diamond Glaze 3 Art Gel
Judy Kins´Diamond Glaze is another one of the very thick and shiny varnishes. It is applied similar to Magic GlossTM with squeezing it out of the bottle, which can be quite hard at times. It is not quite as thick as Magic GlossTM though and you have to be careful to apply it to all places on you clay tile! I missed a couple of them in my test.
What is better with Diamond Glaze is that it does not bend the thin clay at all! This is definitely a point to take into consideration, if you what to choose the right varnish to have a thick glass like finish for your pieces. And Diamond Glaze also does not change the Chameleon PenTM colors at all. So I would recommend Diamond Glaze as a very close second to Magic GlossTM.

7 MP-Multimedia Spray Varnish
As I said before the MP-Multimedia Spray Varnish is a German product that is similar to PYM II. I use it instead of PYM II which I can not  easily get hold of. The varnish is sprayed on the surface after shaking the bottle thoroughly. This is best done outside to be on the safe side!
The effect of the spray gives a shine, but not quite as smooth at the Fimo Gloss Glaze, because it is difficult to apply it very evenly with the spray. It dries, like all the other best over night and it does not affect the colors.

8 Golden Varnish – Polymer Varnish with UVLS (gloss)
The Golden Varnish (gloss) needs to be diluted before applying it with a brush. The label suggests 4 parts varnish to 1 part water. After mixing the dilution it is easily applied with a brush. This varnish can be heat set after it is applied. I did that for about 20 minutes at at 275°F/130°C. 
The Golden Varnish (Gloss) gives a nice shine without overdoing it. No effect on the colors at all. And it is barely recognizable that there is a varnish on the clay at all. Something I do like a lot.

9 Golden Varnish – Polymer Varnish with UVLS (matt)
The Golden Varnish (matt) is applied the same way as the Gloss and also heat set. It gives a protective layer over the clay, but it is hard to see that there is any varnish on the clay at all. So this is perfect if you want to protect, but not change the look of your piece!
Here is also no change of color to be seen. I really liked the way this tile turned out!

The following pictures are all from the test tiles with the varnishes on.

In conclusion I can not recommend Magic GlosTM, because of the color change it causes. All other varnishes are good to use, but it depends on the effect you are looking for.

If you want a shiny glass like finish I would go for Gloss Accent or as a second choice Diamond Glaze.
For a shiny surface without a thick glass like layer I would recommend Sculpey´s Gloss Glaze.
And for matt surface I would use Golden Varnish (matt).

All these are good choices to protect your Chameleon PensTM on polymer clay.

 For more information about the Chameleon PensTM take a look at their website.

If you have any questions or like to share your own tips, please let us all know and share in the comments below! 

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