SKINNER BLENDS | Chris Campbell

In 1996 Judith Skinner, a former NASA software programmer, encountered some color blending issues while working with her polymer clays. With her technical background, problem analysis came naturally to her. She quickly solved the puzzle of color gradation and began to use the technique in her own work without giving much thought to it. 

Soon other polymer artists noticed her amazing results. She readily shared the process and the “Skinner Blend” technique quickly spread around the polymer clay world. Almost all contemporary color work by polymer clay artists has its basis in Skinner Blends.

 The Skinner Blend technique translates easily to earthen clays with two differences. 

1- Our earthen clays to spread out in width with the pure colors on each side.  

2- We cannot reduce our cane designs with accuracy.

Potters who only need a small amount of colored clay can to use a pasta machine if they place fabric on both sides of the clay to avoid sticking. 

Your slab roller needs to be a two roll system otherwise the colors do not blend well. This means it takes too long … the clay gets over worked, ends up short and cracks easily.

Below are images of the process using dual rollers and pre colored clay.

basic-combo med-2

STEP ONE: Assemble the colors. Here is the start of a sheet of green. You can use as much or as little clay as you need.

STEP TWO: Roll to about 1/2 the original width then flip over so the open ends are always facing the roller. If you are using a rolling pin, flip and have the open ends facing you. Keep rolling and flipping.

 It all looks awful until it starts to look great ... usually after about twenty times through the slab roller.

You can also do many colors at one time. Pay close attention to process as you do this since you will get muddy brown if you mistakenly feed the clay at right angles to the blend.

Below are some other clay layering options for different color effects.

advanced-skinner med

Every color needs to cross over another color in order to blend them. If you want a solid color just leave the space.

EVOLUTION of the Basic Skinner Process over the years


 As you might expect people have taken this even further to get the bright blends they want. I encourage you to Google “Skinner Blends” and be amazed at the wide variety of techniques for both blending and creating canes. Almost anything they can do with polymer clays, we can do with earthen clay bodies.

* Photo credit Chris Campbell, Erika Sanger


© Chris Campbell 2019