Back to School Crafts: Polymer Clay Pens
Looking for some easy and fun back to school craft ideas for the whole family? Making your own polymer clay pens is a great DIY school supplies project for kids of all ages!
- Polymer clay (I used Sculpey III Multipack in Brights)
- Ballpoint stick pens (the smooth kind with white or opaque plastic--NOT the clear plastic)
- Tissue slicing blade (for slicing clay)
- Clay shaping tools and roller
- Craft mat (or other non-stick surface, wax paper, etc.)
- Glass baking pan (lined with wax paper or copy paper)
- Glass seed beads (optional for decoration)
Polymer Clay Pen Basics: Making a Blended Pattern
You will need about ¾ of a 2 oz clay block for each polymer clay pen. In this case, I’m using three colors, so a little more than ¼ of each color (It’s always better to have too much clay than too little). Condition the clay by kneading it until soft and roll it into a ball. Pinch the top of the ball and roll into a teardrop shape. Do this with each color. Place the teardrops as shown in the photo (two on the ends pointing up and one in the middle pointing down). Tip: with blends, try to use colors that are close together on the color wheel (avoid opposite colors like red/green, blue/orange or yellow/purple).
Roll clay into a ball, then a teardrop shape. Roll out the clay and fold and roll again.
Flatten with a roller to connect the teardrops. Roll until you have a flat sheet. Fold the clay sheet in half (width-wise) making sure to line up the bottom with the top. Roll flat again and fold. Do this several times. The colors will start to blend together. Stop at any point along the way where you like the pattern the most. The more you fold and roll, the more blended the colors will become.
Cut a rectangle as wide as your pen is long. Fold the clay around the pen and cut off excess clay.
When finished blending, roll out your clay so that it is the same width as the length of your pen. Remove the pen tip and ink. Place the pen on the clay sheet and use the tissue blade to cut a rectangle. Caution: blade is fairly sharp; an adult should help younger children. (Kids can use the clay tool to cut) Place the pen at the edge of the clay sheet and roll it up with your fingers. Press the edge of the clay onto the pen to secure. Roll the pen until the clay sheet wraps around the pen. Cut off the extra clay and set that aside. Press the two edges where the clay meets on the pen so that there is no longer a visible seam. Roll the pen between your hands and also on a non-stick surface to smooth out the clay and get rid of any air bubbles. If you see any bubbles, you can pop them with a fingernail or clay tool and then smooth out by rolling on a non-stick surface.
Left to right: Join the edges of the clay and smooth out the seam. After smoothing the clay, pinch the extra on the end. Cut off excess clay with the tissue blade.
Pinch off any extra clay at the tip of the pen to create a point and cut off the extra clay. Roll the tip of the pen on a non-stick surface to smooth it out. Cut off extra clay that may hang over the pen opening, and be sure to clear out any clay with your clay tool.
Top: roll the clay to smooth out any bumps and cutting off the extra clay at the tip. Bottom: clear out any clay from inside the pen.
Now you’re ready to bake your pen! Fold a sheet of paper accordion style and place it inside a glass baking pan. Place the pen(s) into the folds of the paper and bake according to the package. I used Sculpey III, which you bake at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, but double check the packaging as some types and brands of clay have different temperatures and baking times. Use adult supervision when working with children while baking clay. Use oven mitts when taking the baking pan out of the oven. Let the baked pens sit for several minutes until cool. Caution: pens will be hot right out of the oven and take a while to cool down.
Place a folded sheet of paper inside the baking dish to separate the pens as they bake.
After the pen has cooled, insert the ink back into the pen and it’s ready to use! Polish the pen with an old pair of jeans to give it a semi-shiny look. Buy extra ink refills or just pull the ink out of another ballpoint pen to refill.
Making a Cane to Create a Pattern
Adding different patterns is fun and easy! To create a spotted look, take leftover clay from your first pen (or create another sheet using the blending method) and roll it up--be sure that you see all of the colors on the outer edges.
Roll out a blended sheet of clay into a cane. Slice circles off with the tissue blade. Place the circles onto the pen.
Continue to roll this into a long, snake shape or “cane.” Then, cut out small, ¼”-⅛” circles with the tissue blade. Place the circles onto the pen in a honeycomb pattern (it’s OK if you don’t fill in 100% of the gaps, just be sure to get them as close together as possible.
Press the circles onto the pen. Roll pen to smooth.
Press all of the circles into the pen and use your thumb to help smooth out the circles and fill in any gaps. Roll to smooth it out, cut off extra clay and bake!
Creating a Swirl Pattern
This is a very simple design, and great for beginners! Roll out about ¾ of a color of clay (I chose red) and wrap it around your pen like you have in the previous examples. Take about ¼ of clay in a different color (I chose blue) and roll it out into a thin “snake.” Wrap the blue clay around the red pen to create a swirl. Cut off any extra clay at the end and then roll out the pen. For a different look, use circles cut from canes to create a swirl around the pen and fill in the rest with another color of clay.
Top: Adding a simple swirl with two colors. Bottom: Using cut canes and a contrasting color.
Add glass seed beads to your polymer clay pens to enhance your design. Follow the directions above for making your desired pattern on your pen. Then press the beads into the pen. Push them in as far as they can go. Roll the pen between your hands to smooth out the clay. Bake as you would any other polymer clay pen.
Add glass seed beads to your pen before baking to enhance your design.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning to make polymer clay pens with this tutorial! They are great back to school crafts and can make the first day of school fun for any age. They also make great teacher gifts! There are so many designs and endless possibilities. Have fun!