Tutorial: How to Make Fairy Doors

Posted on June 26, 2017

For the June Program of the Northwest Polymer Clay Guild, I was asked to present how I make fairy doors. For me, this is a sculpting program but canes can also be used to decorate each piece. If you are a caner, you can finish any part of the fairy door (or all of it!) with canes.

There are probably many ways to make these tiny whimsical creations and what I have here, is what works for me. At the meeting I presented three styles:

  • Fixed closed door,
  • Working door with simple pin hinge, and
  • Working door with miniature door hinges.

Fixed Closed door

1. Decide on a design. If you want your door to be symmetrical, I find it best to use a pattern. I included three sample patterns here that you can download for your own use. If you want it smaller, just reduce the size before you print it out.

2. Cut the door frame first, lay it flat on your conditioned polymer clay (three to four layers of conditioned polymer clay at your machine's thickest setting).

For the first sample, I am using this simple rectangular door design.

This is another frame design I love. 
If the overall shape is not to your liking, you can easily make your own pattern; simply fold the paper vertically and cut so it comes out symmetrically. Or if you don't want it symmetrical, like those cute weirdly-shaped doors, just cut the door shape you want then follow the cut you made to make a frame. If you want this to be a working door, one miniature hinge on the lower side would work. Pin-type hinge will not work for this or any non-rectagular or square doors.
This is a simplified hobbit house door, patterned after Bilbo Baggin's house. After you print this and cut your clay, search for a picture of Bilbo Baggin's house to get the details right. For a working door, you can use a miniature hinge; pin-type hinge will also not work for this.
Hi-res door patterns (made for letter size paper). If you want the pattern smaller, reduce the size before you hit the print now button.

2. Condition the polymer clay of choice. I like to paint my doors because I like the effect – it seems to have more country charm. If I'm painting the piece, I will take this opportunity to clean up my workspace and gather all my scrap clay – it's a great way to use up those small leftover bits from previous projects. The different colors will be painted over so it's a great way to use leftover clay.

I also like to use the right color of clay (like brown for door frames or metallic for nuts and bolts); this saves a lot of time coloring and it also gives a cleaner, more polished look. So the choice is yours, if you want to paint or not or which look you prefer better.

After conditioning, make four nice flat layers at your machine's thicket setting and lay the pattern flat. Cut the door frame first. For a closed door, you can use two or three layers for the door frame. Then just subtract one or two layers for the door (if you have a two layer door frame, then one layer for the door or three layers door frame then two or one layer for the door). Cutting them separately, and making the door thinner than the frame, gives the finished piece depth.
I'm using four layers here. I laid the door frame pattern flat before cutting it out.

For a Fixed closed door, I will add an extra layer of clay big enough to cover both frame and door to use as backing. This supports the frame and door to keep them together and at the same time, gives the back a clean and polished look. This does not have to very thick,  even the thinnest or second to the thinnest setting on your conditioning machine should do.

Fit the door inside the frame. Push the edges of the doorframe towards the door carefully to connect them, careful not to distort the shape. When they are sticking together, put them on top of the backing. Check the edges and cut any excess.

3. Decorate. I love using pebbles or bricks for door frames for that old country-house fell. If I have more scraps of colored polymer clay, I would blend this in with a beige and gray carefully as not to mix it too much. I want specks of color to show up since natural pebbles have specks in them too. Then take small round pieces of different sizes and attach them all over the frame. For the door, use your tools to create wooden patterns.

Real pebbles versus my dirty clay pebbles used to decorate the door frame.

4. Details, details, details. Add other features like a peephole (small cookie cutters work great for this), door knocker, metal bars, nails, hinges, door knob, keyhole, coat of arms, etc. Depending on your design and theme, you can also add a lamp, a mailbox, flower pots, etc. when you create the floor or threshold. Experiment with stamps to create patterns and try giving the patterns a contrasting look to.

5. Bake. Let it cool and paint. If using colored polymer clay, I would use the same steps except of course, instead of using scrap clay, condition the clay color of your choice. You can use skinner blend to give it depth and other effects without applying paint to it. You can also use polymer clay canes that has already been prepped (cut and flattened).

Samples of a closed door using polymer clay canes as decorative items. You can also use a layer of canes to decorate the the frame or the door itself. Here, I used colored polymer clay for the door with skinner blend.
Working Door: Pin-type Hinge (same style used for miniature wooden dollhouse doors)

1. Follow previous steps to create door frames and doors except, do not create an extra layer for flat backing. It will not be necessary since we want the door to open. Real doors usually open inwards but for our fairy doors, we will make them open outwards.

Because we need to add hinges to make them working doors, I would make both frame and door thicker like four layers and three respectively.

2. For the first opening door, I used a jewelry pin with a flat end. There will be two pins, one at the top and one at the bottom. At the top, the flat end will be embedded in the top door frame and at the bottom, the flat end will be embedded in the floor.

These are jewelry pins. They can be a bit soft and easy to bend. You can also use ordinary wires, just create a loop at the end to go inside the polymer clay so it is not very easy to pull out. 

3. Create a floor and decorate. I would use three to four layers at the thickest setting. Embed the flat end of the wire on the floor.

4. Bake frame and floor first. Measure your door and cut the clay. Adjust the door to fit the baked frame. Lay your door on a piece of paper with the edge folded to cover the right side. Carefully lay the fitted door flat and slide it from the bottom. The paper should help slide it in. The pin at the top will create a hole in unbaked door. Slide the floor from the bottom and the pin will also slide in the unbaked clay. If you have the edge of the paper hanging on the right side, you can pull this up and check that your door opens and closes. Decorate the door and bake.

The red door is a skinner blend of red and black, making the lower portion darker. I used a small butterfly cookie cutter to create the top hole. Using the same cookie cutter, I cut from a layer thinner of translucent polymer clay and fit it in the hole to create the small window.

5. Carefully slide the door in the frame, keeping the hinge holes aligned with the pins. Add polymer clay and liquid polymer clay to the bottom parts of the frame and then slide in the floor, sliding the pin inside the bottom hole. Bake. And there you have it, an opening fairy door!

This would make a great shadow box. Just add the walls and floor at the back, and then you have a fairy door shadow box which you can decorate with photos or floral polymer clay canes as a miniature garden. So many possibilities!

Working Door: Miniature hinges
1. I bought miniature screws off Ebay and gave the attendees a pair of the butterfly ones. Making this door with real hinges is pretty much the same as the one using metal pins. Details like the screws are really awesome!
Your door and frame should be fully decorated but unbaked before you apply the hinge. Do one side first, I opted for the door side first. Remember that your doors should open out, so test that the hinges open out. Carve out a little notch, big enough for the hinge. This will embed the hinge in the door (and later, the frame) so that it does not stick out. Put liquid polymer clay on the screws before you embed them to help keep them securely in place.

2. The hinges were attached to the door then baked. In this photo, I slid the door in the unbaked frame to test the fit. I opened the door, which took some maneuvering because the hinges were a bit stiff. Adding a little oil to it helped a lot. Then the the other set of screws were embedded to the unbaked door frame side. I slid a plain piece of paper in between the door and the frame to avoid any possibility of touching while they were in the oven. I did not want to risk the two merging together even for small areas. After that's done, then the only thing left to do is to color it, unless you used colored clay, then in that case, you're done!

3. If you're making it into a shadow box, I would bake the shadow box portion separately. Assembly and bake it first then attached the finished box to the finished fairy door.

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