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.


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.

multiple medfirst-roll med

final-sheet med

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

blue-green medblue-green-sheet medopt-4opt-5

When you are planning your colors, keep this chart in mind. Every color needs to cross over another color in order to blend them. If you want a solid color just leave the space.



One of the downsides of the Skinner blend is that often the blended colors you want are in the center and the sides are too dark or too light. There have been many inventive solutions to this problem using simple clay placement.

 Polymer clay artist Carol Simmons has found a math solution for it. The math is complicated so here is a link if you want precise color results.

As you can see you get a lot more of the actual color you want to work with.


 Skinner Blend                     Simmons-Skinner Blend


 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.

Copyright © Chris Campbell Pottery, LLC