I've suggested before that someone interested in making realistic miniature foods (out of polymer clay, at least) really ought to get some liquid clay and play around with it. Today, I'll offer a few insights that I've gathered so far in my own experiments with liquid clay in mini-making.
Top Ten Tips for Using Liquid Clay with Miniature Foods
(in no particular order)
1. Often, when working with teensy things, you'll find it helpful to cure them in stages. (That way, you'll have something to hold on to without constantly worrying about leaving fingerprints or completely squashing your carefully sculpted work.) A dab of liquid clay (hereafter shortened to "LC") acts as a glue between cured and raw clay, when you're ready to continue working on a partially cured piece.
2. Adding a little mica powder (pearl is a good all-around choice, but others can work, too, depending on the application) lends a slight sparkle to your LC mixes. This shimmer can be useful in duplicating the appearance of sugary glazes, certain gravies, and so on.
3. Know the properties of different brands of LC and use them to your advantage. Kato and Fimo liquids are clearer than TLS, so use them when you need only the slightest hint of color.
4. Another hint related to the one above-- For more transparent food items (glazes, translucent syrups, jams), tint your LC with alcohol ink, when possible. This yields more transparent colors. (Obviously, you'll also want to use a brand of LC that cures clearly-- Kato or Fimo.)
5. For opaque food items (chocolate sauce, nacho cheese), try oil paint or powdered pigments to add more opaque color. (In this case, you can use any brand of LC-- clarity is not an issue.)
6. While I generally prefer to use cheap mineral oil for mixing my icings, you can always use LC for that, too. Just mix a few drops into regular clay of the color you'd like your icing to be. Continue mixing and adding LC (a drop or two at a time, as needed) until you like the consistency of the mix. (If you get the mix too sticky, you can thicken it back up by adding more regular clay to the mix.)
7. Don't forget that you can combine regular clay and LC. A gravy made of LC can be poured over tiny "meat and veggies" (bits of regular clay in the right shapes, sizes, and colors) to make a convincing bowl of "stew". (Obviously, in this case, you'd want to use your most translucent LC and coloring agent, or else you may not see much of your veggies through the gravy, and instead of "stew", you'll get "weird, bumpy brown stuff". ;o)
8. Pay attention to sheen. Is the food you're imitating matte or glossy? TLS cures to a more matte finish than Kato or Fimo liquids. If Kato is cured at a higher temperature (or hit briefly with a heat gun), it takes on a higher gloss. (Of course, you can always apply the pc-friendly finish of your choice, once a piece is cured.)
9. If you want a "thick shine" on a piece-- more dimension than you can get with Varathane or Future-- you might try a clear brand (Kato or Fimo) of LC. This could be useful for the suggestion of a little water on top of a pot of veggies, for instance. (You could also use epoxy resin for this, but if you're like me, you may prefer to stick with clay as much as possible. I am going to try resin, one of these days, but honestly, I'm a little scared of the stuff. (g))
10. Don't forget your artist's pastels (or other powdered pigments). Those same powders that make your loaves of bread brown so realistically can be applied to cured LC to add a touch of toastiness. (You'll need to seal the powders in with a pc-friendly finish, if the piece will be handled or worn, as in jewelry.)
~ * ~ * ~ * ~I am becoming more and more enamored of liquid clay-- not only for miniature-making, but in other polymer clay projects, as well. The more I see of the stuff, the more amazed I am by the possibilities.