Let’s face it: we all love buying new tools, but they sure can put a dent in our wallets. Luckily, you probably already have the makings of unique collagraphic texture sheets as close as your kitchen or studio junk drawer. A collagraphic texture sheet is a collage that has been sealed with a polymer sealer so you can use it with metal clay. These texture sheets are simple to create, and ideas for different textures are limited only by your imagination.
(This pendant was textured with a cheesecloth texture sheet. To create a dramatic effect, only part of the clay was textured.)
Project Materials and Supplies
Mat board or scrap cardboard
Tools & Supplies
White craft or school glue
Small mixing container
Inexpensive, small, flat nylon or synthetic brushes or foam brushes
Polymer sealer (e.g., DecoArt® Multi-Purpose Sealer)
Clay roller (for polymer clay)
Playing cards or color-coded plastic rolling slats (for polymer clay)
Water mister or cornstarch
Mark Your board: To start, cut a piece of mat board approximately 5” x 7” [12.7cm x 17.8cm]. With a ruler and a pencil, draw a vertical line 1.5” [3.8cm] in from each of the short sides of the board . (For this texture sheet I’m using a pencil with white lead so that the lines will be easy to see against my dark-colored mat board.) Marking off these 1.5” borders will help you organize your design and also allow room for your spacer slats or playing cards when you’re rolling out clay on the texture.
Brush on the glue and add the texture. Starting in the center of your mat board, brush a thin coat of the glue mixture on the center section of the mat board between the pencil lines .
With scissors, cut a piece of cheesecloth large enough to cover the center section of
the mat board and place it on top of the glue. Use a paintbrush to push the cheesecloth into the glue  and to apply more glue mixture to coat the cheesecloth with it completely. You can move the cheesecloth around with your brush to open up the weave and/or push the fibers together to make a denser texture . Set the mat board aside to dry.
Apply the sealer: When the glue mixture is dry to the touch, brush a liberal coat of polymer sealer  over the entire mat board, including the side areas with no added texture. It is important to seal everything because any unsealed areas of the mat board can absorb and become stained by clay release agents, polymer clay plasticizers or moisture from metal clay. The sealer has a tendency to collect in the recesses of the texture, so use a dry brush to lift out the excess . Set the mat board aside to dry. This should take about an hour. If the board warps, bend it gently in the opposite direction or place it under a heavy book for a while to flatten it.
Do a test impression on polymer clay. Before you use your sheet to texture metal clay, you can do a test impression on polymer clay to determine which parts of the texture sheet will yield the best results. Condition some polymer clay and use a clay roller to roll it out between stacks of playing cards or plastic rolling slats into a smooth slab large enough to cover most of the texture sheet. Mist one side of the polymer clay slab with water or dust it with cornstarch (either acts as a release agent), then place that side of the clay on top of the texture sheet. Roll or press the polymer clay slab onto the texture as though it were a slab of metal clay.
The polymer clay test impression allows you to decide in advance which part of the texture sheet you want to use when you are ready to texture your metal clay. One of the advantages of testing with polymer clay is that it does not dry out while you’re using it. So if you don’t get a good impression on your first attempt, you can gather it, re-condition it briefly and re-roll it to get a better impression.
Editor’s note: You may want to cure the textured polymer clay slab according to the package directions and store it with your texture sheet to help you plan out future designs.
Prepare the texture sheet for metal clay: Make sure that no traces of polymer clay remain on your texture sheet before you use it with metal clay. When you are ready to texture your metal clay, apply a good clay release agent. Tip: Cool Slip  is great for getting into all the recesses of the texture sheet because you can spray it on, but olive oil or Badger® Balm also can be used.
Other items you can use for creating texture sheets include dried leaves, torn paper, lace, rice, dried spaghetti or other pasta, fennel seeds, lentils and string, to mention just a few. You are limited only by your imagination. For best results, make the textures less than .5mm [.02″] deep.
Piece #1 The texture sheet for this brooch was texture on this channel set ring. 5 created with dried leaves arranged in a radial pattern.
Piece #2 Raffia and string were used to make the texture on this channel set ring.