Painting The Polymer Clay Reference Face

Share this post

Painting polymer clay reference face sidewaysMy polymer clay journey through Fairies gnomes and trolls is off to a good start. As I mentioned in my last post, I chose to begin with a ‘pre-project’ by sculpting a reference face. This would provide me with a comparison to see how much my skills have improved after making my way through the book.

There’s still time to join me on this journey. Simply click to grab your own copy of Maureen Carlson’s Fairies gnomes and trolls (amazon affiliate link)

Painting polymer clay reference face out of the ovenSince this face is about learning, I’m not looking for perfection. My poor little goblin came out of the oven with some cracks in his face. I think this is fairly common, especially when dealing with larger amounts of clay. This guy is over 2 inches tall and has clay as thick as an inch in some parts of his face.

Why He Cracked

When adding clay there is always the risk of trapping air bubbles. Air molecules will expand when heated in the oven. And since they are trapped they will ‘force’ their way out of the clay leaving behind little cracks or ‘moons’. Some sculptors will remove the moons, add clay back in and re-bake. I’m choosing to love this guy with all of his imperfections and proceeding with the painting as is.

Antiquing the Face With Acrylics and Water

Despite his cracks, my goblin’s face is a single boring color. Yet a real goblin face (yes they are real) will have darker and lighter patches depending on the thickness of the skin and how close the blood flows to the surface. Take a minue to check your face in the mirror. Notice that you have darker and lighter areas.

Painting polymer clay reference face water paint mixThis is accomplished by ‘washing’ the face with a thin layer of watered down paint. I keep telling myself that I’ll invest in more paint colors. But for now I used what I had and mixed up some variation of yellow and brown till I had a color slightly darker than his face.

Painting polymer clay reference face acrylic paint wash

I added enough water to make the paint very runny, and then added liberal amounts to his face. I made sure the watery paint was able to seep into all the cracks and crevices. Natural crevices like nostrils and eyelids give him ‘life, and unnatural ‘cracks’ give him his weathered features. I think he looks like a very sweet and very wise goblin, complete with battle scars and wrinkles.

Before the paint was able to dry I wiped most of it away with a paper towel. The small amount that was absorbed by the clay was just enough to accomplish the desired ‘antiquing’.

Painting The Eyes

A major advantage of working with such a large face, is the ability to focus on and improve my skills as they relate to the facial features. Tiny sculptures get simply painted eyes. This guy gave me the opportunity to really study everything from the iris outline to the dot of light in the pupil. I worked really hard on the eyes, and while not perfect, I am really proud of the results pictured below:

Painting polymer clay reference face iris Painting polymer clay reference face pupils


Painting the Final Details

I have yet to figure out how to paint lips. I found red to be too strong and brown too dull. I settled on another wacky mixture that looks sorta kinda ok. If you have a good resource on lip color I would love to read about it in the comments below.

I finished this guy with some more brown paint on the eyelids for eyelashes, some more brown paint for age spots, and voila, here he is, ready to oversee my next sculpture:

Painting polymer clay reference face 2Painting polymer clay reference face sidePainting polymer clay reference face sidewaysPainting polymer clay reference face top

Your feedback in critiques will be greatly appreciated in the comments below.

For my next project I will be putting an exciting twist on ‘The Secret Door’ project on page 27. This will be the second project of my journey, catch it all RIGHT HERE

MagicByLeah e-Newsletter

How does a polymer clay fairy get its wings? Which tools are used to create a micro-mini mermaid? Click HERE to sign up for the MagicByLeah email Newsletter and stay up to date with my latest sculptures and progressing magical creatures


  1. Barbara says

    Hi, I like to create with clay too and gnomes, fairies and trolls are some of my favorite people also. I think your goblin’s face is perfect. Its just the way it should be. I like it. I did the green man face on page42. I cant wait to see your next posting.

    • MagicByLeah says

      Thank you Barbara, I’d love to see your green man. I’m still on the Fairy door but the faces will be following shortly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *