A Tutorial on Polymer Clay Camouflage and Techniques!
Starting with the tail is a technique used for making ‘ridge segments’. A few examples
for this technique would be the tails in ‘Camouflage Geckos’, the horns on ‘Antelope’
and to a differing degree; the ‘Elephant’s’ trunk, (Which may be seen on the Polymer
Clay Gallery page of my website)
With the side of the pointed stylus; make a nice semi-deep line. With a rocking motion;
press in on the sides and along the top to create defined ‘segments’. Try not to press the
centers more than half-way through the clay… Any further than this could result in the
segments breaking apart after baking. But! If for any reason you ever have fragile pieces
break off… a touch of superglue will do the trick! So not to worry… it can be repaired.
Using the Exacto; cut small diagonal slices from the bottom sides of each segment. Then
gently press and smooth the cut areas with the tip of the spade tool.
The finished results of your ‘Ridge Segments’. Note the
smaller tip segment of this particular design.
On the back of the head I have shaped a shallow hollow
and two small humps. This was done with the spade tool
and follows the same idea of pressing in the background to
make the higher areas stand out. Also the two eye sockets
were pushed in using the same tool and a gentle side to side
turning to give a slanted oval shape.
Whenever I do detailing, I usually have several
pictures to work from in order to gain a better
perspective. In this particular instance, I studied
several snake head views. I still ‘do my own
thing’ with drawing the various scales but try to
stick to ‘correctness’ wherever I can. Such as the
scales around the mouth are more square shaped
and the other smaller scales are a mixture of
shapes and sizes.
I am using the pointed stylus to ‘draw’ some of
the head scales but the Exacto is my tool of choice
when cutting body scales. The Exacto is easier to
handle and cuts cleaner.
The eyes are formed from two small balls of
black clay gently formed into a slightly oval
shape. These are pressed into the holes
simultaneously to make the eyes uniform in
size and depth when placed in the socket. You
want them slightly bulging in the center and
gently tapped into place around the edges.
Once the eyes are set; take two small strips of
clay and layer over the tops of the eyes for ‘eye
ridges’. Gently smooth the edges of these
ridges into the surrounding clay and draw some
scales on them.
In creating eyes, I usually place a small black pupil in the center… but because these
eyes are black I simple gently tap the center area and create an ‘Illusion pupil’ and place
a tiny dot of white for eye reflection. After baking, I use a small brush to apply a thin
coating of ‘Flecto Verathane’ to give the eye a nice gleam.
The nostrils were formed using the small ball stylus, with just a bit of gentle side to side
rocking to make them slightly oval. If at any time you have made a hole or indentation
too large; simply fill it in with clay and start again. The same idea applies to detailing... if you are not satisfied; simply smooth the area with your fingers or one of the tools, and
try again. I love working with clay and one of its greatest assets is, “It’s not set in ‘stone’
till its baked. This understanding makes me more relaxed when doing a project because
even if I make a mistake; it’s not baked yet so therefore I can fix it!
Note the direction of the scales as they come off the
head and start down the body. They become a uniform
design of semi-circular shapes. This is done with the
For practice, take a small piece of scrap clay and
starting from one side; cut a small semi-circle with a
slight and gentle lifting as you cut, then another and
another; following each other in a line. After about ten
cuts, return to the first semi-circle and putting the tip of
the Exacto just under the cut lip, begin another ‘chain’
Once you feel confident in ‘cutting scales’, begin on the back of the head with small
scales and proceed over the entire body with a bit larger scales. It will help to study the
pattern in the drawing. *Note… As the body of the snake curves, the lines will start
running at an angle. The way to compensate for this is to fill in the line gaps with extra
scales. In the top left-hand curve area of the above picture, some of these extra scales can
The segmented area shown above (Make sure you create your lined segments before you
begin the scales in this lower area) uses the same technique as the tail, but in a lesser
degree. As you can see, the preliminary ridge lines were laid out but it goes no further.
This is a good side-by-side example of the various differences you can achieve utilizing a
single technique. The holes along the top of the tail were created with indentations from
the tip of the spade tool. The very last step in detailing uses the ’stippling’ technique
learned in making the pebble base. The same very gentle tapping movements cover the
segmented area and the tail.
Carefully lift your completed project from the wax paper
and position it onto the pebbled base. Very gently; so as
not to disturb your detail work; carefully press the snake
onto the base so the clays will adhere during the baking
process. Bake at 250-260 degrees for approx. 20
minutes. After thorough cooling, slide the large end of
the spatula tool under the edges of your base to free it
from the pan. Lift out carefully.
The last step (if you wish), is to mat your artwork and
display it in a shadowbox frame. In the tutorial, ‘Simple
Shadowbox Framing’ (coming soon to PCC), I show you how to do this
yourself very inexpensively.
Note: Click here for the full size Snake Pattern used in this project. Save and print as needed.
©2006 Text and Photos
We want to thank Mary for sharing this excellent tutorial and techniques with Polymer Clay Central. If you have a lesson or tutorial, or something you would like to share with PCC, please email Leigh or Stephen and we will help you prepare your project for the PCC Website!