Miniature swans tutorial using polymer clay


In this step-by-step tutorial, Lynn Allingham shows you how to make a pair of beautiful swans using polymer clay from her book Mini Menagerie.

The Queen may own all the swans in the United Kingdom, but she can’t have these! With this simple project you can create your very own pair of elegant swans using polymer clay, a type of modelling clay commonly used in miniature making. These beautiful creatures make fantastic gifts or you can keep them all to yourself. 

The extract is taken from Mini Menagerie by Lynn Allingham, RRP £16.99, GMC Publications. Pop a penguin in your handbag, take an elephant on holiday or chill out on the sofa with a sloth. With these tiny polymer clay projects you can have fun with these adorable animals no matter what size your home is. Including a gorgeous giraffe, cute cat, sweet swan and fabulous flamingo, the projects have clear step-by-step instructions that will ensure your miniature creatures are perfectly formed.  If you love this project you can get the book from our online shop WITH an automatic 10% off just for being you, PLUS free UK P+P! 

How to make miniature swans using polymer clay

You will need

Materials

  • Polymer clay in white
  • Soft pastel in beige
  • Acrylic paint in white, black and orange
  • About 30 white feathers
  • 1⁄8in (3mm)-thick piece of wood, for propping during baking
  • Tacky PVA glue
  • Clear gloss liquid

Equipment

  • Pokey tool
  • Cosmetic applicator
  • Bare craft blade
  • Fine paintbrush
  • Small flat-wash paintbrush
  • Fine-point pencil 
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers

Top tip! When working with light coloured clay, be sure to thoroughly clean your hands and work surface before beginning, to avoid any dirt or dust transferring onto the white surface. Don't worry if the surface does become dirty – this can be rectified after baking.

Method

For the body

1. Take two separate pieces of white clay, each roughly 5⁄8in (1.5cm) in diameter or the size of a regular marble. Use photographic reference to lightly shape each piece of clay to resemble the body of a sitting swan, as pictured. Keep the sides of the body relatively flat.

For the head and neck

2. Take two separate pieces of white clay 3⁄8in (1cm) in diameter. Use photographic reference to lightly shape each piece to resemble the head, beak and neck of a swan. At this stage, don't rush – take your time to create a shape that you are happy with.

3. Take a small piece of white clay and roll into two 1⁄16in (1mm) balls. Use the side of a pokey tool to push and blend one ball onto the top of each swan beak, as pictured. This detail represents a small lump that swans have on their beaks called a basal knob. 

4. Use photographic reference to continue to shape and bend each swan’s neck into position. Once all shaping is complete, use a bare blade to trim excess clay from the base of the neck. Flatten and stretch the cut base so that it is ready to be positioned onto the swan body, as pictured. 

5. Attach the swan heads to the bodies. Lightly position the head onto the body, then blend the clay using the side of a pokey tool to create a seamless join. Use your fingers to smooth out any remaining lines.

6. Use a pokey tool to create light linear texture on the head and long neck of each swan. Be sure to apply texture to all sides of the head and neck and also to the tail feather at the back of the body, as pictured.

Baking preparation

7. The swans will bake best when laid on their side. Slide the small piece of wood underneath the swans’ necks – this'll keep the necks in the correct position during the baking process. Bake as recommended. 

Drawn detail

8. Use photographic reference and a pencil with a fine point to draw facial detail onto the clay surface of each swan. Take your time on this stage – create simple lines that will be easy to follow when painting.

 

Painted detail

9. Use a fine paintbrush to apply orange acrylic paint on each beak detail. Fill in all previously drawn detail with black acrylic paint. Take your time to apply fine detail on the eyes and beak of each swan. Paint a small dot on each pupil with white acrylic to resemble light reflection and leave to dry. 

For the plumage

10. Cut a few white feathers into small sections. Use a small flat-wash paintbrush to apply small amounts of tacky PVA to the tail and backsides of each swan. Lightly attach feathers to these parts first, as pictured.  

11. Take lots of white feathers and cut the tops out of them to create pieces measuring 5⁄8–13⁄16 in (1.5–2cm) in length. As before, apply these pieces of feather to both sides of each swan. Build up layers, working from the back to front. Apply as many layers as you wish so as to achieve beautiful plumage, as pictured. Leave all to dry completely.

Finishing touches

12. Swans can be a little grubby, so it’s only right that we show a little of that in our miniature. Use a cosmetic applicator to sporadically apply small dabs of beige pastel to the neck and plumage of each swan. 

13. Use a fine paintbrush to apply clear gloss liquid to the beaks and eyes of each swan to really bring them alive. Leave to dry completely.


If you enjoyed this cute project, you can find plenty more in Lynn Allingham's book Mini MenagerieOr discover what else you can make with polymer clay over on our blog, like these miniature strawberry cupcakes!