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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 Exacto knife.

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’ of semi-circles.

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 be seen.

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.

Return to Beginning

Mary Lamoray
©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!

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