Creating Lifelike Figures in Polymer Clay

I saw a seller at a craft fair with the most amazing figurines. At first I assumed they were made of porcelain, but the artist told me they were actually polymer clay.  She said she had learnt how to make them from the book, Creating Lifelike Figures in Polymer Clay, by Katherine Dewey.

A few days later I saw this very book in my local bookshop and so, of course, I had to get it.

This book is very encouraging.  Although the pictured figures are really amazing, everything is broken down in to small steps so that even a fairly new polymer clay artist would not feel too daunted to give it a go.

Polymer clay arms, ready to use

Creating Lifelike Figures in Polymer Clay

There are 144 heavily-illustrated pages,a good index and an easy-to-use contents page.

The book measures 11 inches tall (about 28 cms) and 8 1/2 inches wide (about 22 cms).

Let’s have a look at the various chapters.

A Medium For Everyone

The first part covers, in detail, the different types of polymer clay and how to get great flesh coloured blends – for a wide range of skin colours.  This section also includes how to know when the clay is kneaded enough to use (something beginners may worry about) and a sectionon Safety Fundamentals.Detailed instructions for creating various figures are included

Figure Fundamentals

Part two looks indetails at modelling the basic human shape.  Lots of tips on measuring, proportions and other useful info.

Detailing a hand

Fundamental Tools

Part three is where Katherine talks about the tools you can use in your creating. There is only a very short list of “essential tools”, plus great information on how to make your own from everyday items!

One tool I rather liked was the Eyeball Mold – how to make a mold so you can get perfect eyeballs every time, very handy indeed.

This part concludes with details of what you need for baking and finishing, plus mentions some useful, but non-essential, tools you may like.

Basic instructions for working with polymer clay

Face to Face

In part four Katherine looks at modelling a face, usually the most important part of a figure. This complex process is broken down into clear, well illustrated steps.  I was able to get a surprisingly good head finished, first time, using these instructions.

There follows details of how to make life-like eyes, including how to mix and paint the irises, and how to fit them into the head in a realistic manner.

Next there is an interesting section on the differences between the skull shapes of different ethnicities, and how this affects the overall head shape, followed by details of how to adapt your basic head to the different looks of various ethnic groups.

A very detailed section follows on how to model the mouth, nose and how to give your head a male of female look.  Followed by more on making mouths more expressive – here is where you learn how to make your characters really come to life!

Next she covers creating older characters and adding ears.

A very thorough chapter, with lots of useful information.

Detailing a face

The Body in Question

Part five leads, as you might expect into creating a body for your new head.  There are diagrams to show the various proportions and shapes of the torso.

Next Katherine explains how to create an armature and basic body.  This is very detailed and again I found it easy to get a satisfactory result myself.

After showing how to add the head to the body (so it stays on!) there is a section on making a heroic torso and a fat body.

She also discusses whether you should bake at various stages of creating, or wait until you have finished – there are pros and cons to both options.

Lots of clear illustrations throughout

A Leg to Stand On

As in previous chapters, part 6 gives very detailed information on the anatomy of the part in question, this time the legs.  There follows instructions on how to make legs and feet, looking in detail at the various muscles that gives a leg its shape.

Again there is a bit on creating a “heroic leg”.

And then details of how to attach the legs and set the pose, including information on creating seated figures.

Creating Lifelike Figures in Polymer Clay - the back of the book

A Show of Hands


And on to creating arms and hands.  This chapter follows the same process as the previous chapter, with very detailed step-by-step instructions for creating realistic arms and hands.

Modelling an arm in easy steps

Measure for Measure

Part eight is all about how to change the scale of the figures you create.  The instructions in the book are to make figures that are 1:6 scale – the same size as a Barbie doll.  In this chapter Katherine looks at how to adapt to making different sizes. There are lots of hints and instructions on how to make smaller figures – something that can be tricky.

Adding details to skin textures

Costumes of Clay

The next chapter looks at how to dress your new figure, with polymer clay of course.  Lots of examples and detailed instructions here, as throughout the book.

Adding clothes to polymer clay figures

Finishing Touches

The final chapter, Part 10, has information on painting faces and complexions as well as how to create polymer clay hair.  There is also a section on how to add clay covered fibre hair too.

Next Katherine talks about creating a base for your creation to stand on – great for ensuring that standing figures stay standing!

A couple of pages on how to make fairy wings, such as those seen on the figure on the cover of the book, is a nice addition.

The book concludes with some beautiful pictures of some of Katherine’s own creations – very inspiring and with even more handy hints.

Finishing the hair off


If you are considering creating realistic figures in polymer clay then this book might be rather a must-have. Every aspect is covered. Even an experienced modeller is bound to find some handy hints and new ideas to try in here.

If you are very new to polymer clay you may want to try making some simpler projects first, to get you used to handling the clay in general. I recommend the book, Polymer Clay Cookbook (click to see my review) which is great for a beginner.

Having said that, the instructions are very clear and heavily illustrated so I would think that someone who is just starting with polymer clay could create a basic figure they are happy with.

I also own Katherine Dewey’s beautiful book Creating Life-Like Animals in Polymer Clay which is very like this one, but, of course, covers creating different types of animals.  Click the title, of link below, to see my review of that book, here on the Tin Teddy Blog.

Creating Life-Like Animals in Polymer Clay by Katherine Dewey


I have been very impressed with this book.  It is so packed with info and handy hints for using polymer clay and covers everything one could want to know about creating figures in this medium.

The illustrations are beautiful and inspiring and even if you never actually make a figure, I suspect many crafters will enjoy flicking through this book.

The book has so many illutstratons

Links to Creating Lifelike Figures in Polymer Clay on Amazon

Here are links to the book on (left) and If you buy from any of these links, I may receive a small commission from the shop for sending custom their way. This is at no cost to yourself. Thank you.

Creating Lifelike Figures in Polymer Clay by Katherine Dewey – a Craft Book Review
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