AIR DRY CLAY:
THE COMPLETE GUIDE
In this article we tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about this type of modeling clay. What it consists of, what characteristics it has, necessary guidelines about its drying, etc.
We are going to give you some very useful tips for working with it and save you from making some very common mistakes, especially if you are just starting out.
We analyze the best-selling brands, with the opinion of expert artists in the use of modeling pastes.
And don’t miss the end because, depending on the votes received, we will update a ranking with the best ones.
WHAT IS AIR DRYING CLAY?
Under this name are included a lot of preparations of various composition, however, the main basis in them is natural clays. They can also incorporate synthetic materials. Some incorporate cellulose fibers to prevent cracks and fissures during drying.
Its main and most attractive characteristic is that it does not require a kiln, it dries at room temperature, which is why, in a certain sense, it is not included in what are strictly speaking ceramic materials, since it is not fired.
This type of clay or modeling paste is industrially manufactured and must be purchased, unlike the so-called “cold porcelain”, which can be made with homemade materials.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS MODELING CLAY
Most are odorless and non-staining.
There is quite a difference between brands and types, not all are equally modelable, some are more difficult to handle and knead than others and differ in the amount of moisture they contain and in their composition, this will be reflected in the final finish in terms of hardness, shock resistance, texture and porosity of the piece.
Some modeling pastes can be more difficult to handle and knead than the traditional clays used in ceramics. Even with some varieties, before starting to work with this flexible dough, it helps to knead it firmly beforehand to start “taming” it.
On the bright side, if you master one modeling clay, you will be much more comfortable using the other types of traditional clays.
This paste does not require special tools or anything like that, any utensil you have at home, in addition to your own hands will do. Of course, we will have to use a flat and clean surface to work on. A rolling pin, a knife, and other objects that you may have in the kitchen will be useful, of course, separating the food use from the one to work with the modeling paste.
Over time you may need other items, such as specific molds or rubber stamps for stamping, but in principle it is not necessary to buy anything to model this material.
Is the air dry clay suitable for food use?
Due to its composition and porosity this material is not suitable for food use.
One option is to use specific varnishes for this type of pastes which, obviously, in addition to not including lead or cadmium in their composition, state in the product specifications that they are suitable for this use.
There doesn’t seem to be too much supply of these types of materials, there are a couple of them that may be worthwhile:
- The Rayher brand has one that you can find on Amazon, (but it doesn’t seem to withstand high ambient temperatures).
- The other is from the Decopatch brand.
Honestly, we regret that we cannot give you specific advice on them, as we have not tested them directly.
Can this modeling clay be soaked?
No, this paste will not be useful to make any object that is in contact with water. It is not a good idea to use it if its location is in a place with high humidity, that is, we would not use it as a soap dish or to decorate a bathroom. If the piece comes in direct contact with water, it will be damaged.
If it is in an enclosure with too much humidity what will happen is that it will absorb it and although in the first days we do not notice any problem, with time it will swell inside and deform.
We may think that we could give it a coat of paint or some transparent material as a seal against water, but a seal that completely isolates the paste from water will be quite difficult to achieve, due to the porosity of this moldable clay, it will probably be more practical to choose a material suitable for water or humidity from the beginning.
OOAK doll by Dina from That Creative Feeling
HOW TO DRY YOUR MODELING CLAY
As the name suggests, this dough is air-dried at room temperature. You won’t need a kiln or anything else.
Drying time can vary between 1 and 4 days, some people place it near a radiator (even use a dryer!) to have it ready as soon as possible, but if you are not in a hurry there is no need to rush things.
The piece is left to dry uncovered and it would be a good idea for it to be on a surface that absorbs humidity (for example, on newspaper; if you have a structure in the house, such as a floorboard, plaster).
Something that is key to the drying process is the humidity of the environment, obviously it is not the same in an inland city, than if we are at the beach or other places with high humidity. As a tip, it is always better to wait more than necessary before starting to use the piece and avoid an “accident”.
An example of the beautiful things that can be made with air dry clay in this lovely fairy house painted in acrylics.
Made by Dilyana Tokusheva.
How to use air dry modeling clay:
If we are going to work with large pieces it is a good idea to let it dry a little before and then mix it together to create a homogeneous dough. Although this makes it a little difficult to knead the dough, it helps the piece to contract with the loss of humidity and prevents cracks from appearing.
The differences in composition, humidity, characteristics, etc. make some pastes more prone to cracking than others, with time we will find the one that best suits our work and also, why not say it, with the one that has the best quality and price.
It is good to have your hands constantly moistened while kneading, as well as the surface on which we lean, but not too much to avoid sticking.
Also, while we are working with this material, remember that it is like a plasticine that dries out, so it is a good idea to have some kind of wet material at hand such as a sponge or a cloth to avoid small cracks in the surface if it dries out too much on the outside.
This problem with drying means that, unlike other traditional clays, we cannot recycle leftovers in the same way. With air-drying clay, if we have leftovers, for example, when using a casting technique, it will be difficult to reuse the extracted material.
A trick to be able to reuse these pieces is to leave them submerged in water and then use them to glue some cracks that we have left as they will be very useful and will adhere well. This has to be done while we are on time because if the piece dries too much it will not work.
If we use a technique that requires the use of irons must be very careful not to dry too much, if we use the technique of churros once we have made them must be covered with plastic wrap until we return to manipulate the less time spent in the air the better.
If we are not going to use all the material contained in a package do not forget to close it and store it well, in its container or wrapped with plastic, airtight, even if we can put a cloth with a little moisture better.
Beware of the cold, if we are going to store the clay in the garage of our house in the mountains, and temperatures drop below zero, most manufacturers advise to prevent the air dry clay from freezing as it will lose its characteristics. So always at home, unless we live in an igloo.
As for what tools to use with the modeling clay, we can use any tool that we would use with a traditional clay. Of course, it is advisable to have a cutting tool or thread to separate the blocks we are going to work with if we have bought a large size.
Once the pieces are dry, they can be carved, polished, incised, drilled, etc.
Most of the techniques used in ceramics can be used on it Almost any technique is valid for this modeling clay.
Some types can be worked on a potter’s wheel, but not all.
It is a type of moldable clay:
Another option we have is to use molds with it.
There are countless ideas to create pieces by themselves or by joining several results we have made with our clay, as a “construction”.
You can start from scratch by creating your own molds or use the infinite designs that are already commercialized. It is preferable to use a plaster one. But if you don’t have one, you can use plastic or other material without any problem.
Although it is also very suitable as a molding clay, depending on the brand, it can give a better or worse finish on the edges, we have seen that, for example, the Jovi requires going over them perhaps a little more, although it is a brand that provides good definition.
WORKING WITH THE PIECES ONCE THEY ARE DRY
Once properly dried, the pieces will be hard enough to use the same techniques that we would use in traditional ceramics: carving, drilling, making incisions, etc.
The most frequent treatment that we will have to use will be polishing, especially in the case that what we have done is to use molds, once out of them we will probably have to polish or file the edges, for example in the case of figurines.
PAINTING THE AIR DRY CLAY
Tip: make sure it is absolutely dry beforehand, if we are not in a hurry, we can leave it longer than recommended by the manufacturer.
Even if the piece has been in the air for several days, it may happen that our work is dry and hard on the outside but still contains moisture on the inside, so do not trust it.
The problem of painting before it has dried completely is that it will not transpire the same way and the water that is left inside will not evaporate due to the layer of paint that we have put, what will happen is that our work will have a sticky consistency for a long time apart from the fact that it can spoil the paint job done.
You can use many, many types of paint. Be aware that if you are going to use acrylics, with most brands you may have to give more than one coat, because if we only give one, the finish will not be uniform and will not cover well.
We can also use spray, an airbrush, felt-tip pens, etc.
If you are looking for a specific result that depends on the color of the clay, and you are interested in one for its final result when painting, it may be more difficult to find it in large sizes. If you are going to work with some continuity with this material and you want it to be cheaper, you have to go to large sizes, such as 10 kg, which are cheaper, but the range of colors is more limited.
These beautiful OOAK dolls are made with painted air-drying paste and a combination of other materials.
Artwork of YanaNBoutique
AIR DRY CLAY TYPES
The reality is that under this label we can see on the Internet an infinity of different materials. Here we have referred mainly to those that do not require a kiln for drying and the main part of their composition is clay. Also remember that they should not be confused with other types of compounds, such as polymer clay, whose main difference, among others, with the air dry clay, is that the first one has to be fired in a kiln.
Now, so that you know everything you can find on the market and that can lead to confusion, we are going to mention, among the types described below, some different options in terms of their composition, but that you can see them on the Internet with the same name of clay or air dry modeling clay.
- Those made exclusively of natural clay, fine-grained and natural, containing various minerals and organic material. They are stickier than the others, more similar to the traditional clay used in ceramics and fired at low temperature, but not as resistant. They are a very good option to make sculptures that are going to be well protected from impacts.
- Mixtures that have a clay body such as terracotta but then have processed paper or other cellulose fibers added.
- Directly paper-based pastes, some similar to what would be paper mache, without any clay, such as Paperclay’s Creative.
So that you know in advance the difference in terms of working with the latter two, any clay that includes paper in its composition is lighter and also favors the union of separate pieces, even when one is dry or depending on the brand, even both. What happens is that the paper fibers intertwine with each other favoring these unions, these fibers also help the piece to shrink less during drying.
- On the other hand, there are brands of flexible materials of epoxi type which are composed of two parts that come separately, one is the epoxy resin and the other a hardener that must be mixed, the combination of the two takes about two hours to dry, once dry there is no turning back, you can not modify the work. Thus everything takes 24 hours to completely eliminate all the humidity and to be with its maximum hardness. The advantage of this epoxy clay is that it is very resistant so it is used by craftsmen for figurines ornaments even jewelry that will be touched a lot.
TIPS FOR CHOOSING
Now let’s see what’s on the market. We give our opinion, we have asked for theirs from artists who know this material well, and we have also collected those of fans according to their experience.
At the end you will have a “verdict” :
The best air dry modeling clay.
MAIN BRANDS: DIFFERENCES
© Photo: Stamperia
Stamperia Extra light soft clay
It is of a whiter color than most. It is very easy to work with and very easy to model, it does not make your hands dirty, very good clay, the disadvantage is that it is a little more expensive than the rest. It will depend on the thickness of the piece, but more or less dry in 24 hours.
© Photo: Sio-2
Sio 2 PLUS
Natural air-hardening clay
It is available in various sizes. From 500 grs. to 10 kgs. Several colors. The thing is that in the big sizes there is not so much variety of color: white (grayish) and terracotta.
At first it may be a little more difficult to knead with this clay.
© Photo: Jovi
JOVI Air Dry Modeling Clay
A white air-hardening modeling clay that offers good definition.
The white color is not so intense, you have to knead it more than Stampería. As we mentioned before, if you are going to use it as a molding clay, the edges do not have such a clean finish.
Drying time is similar to the rest, although while working, surfaces and small pieces may dry faster.
© Foto: Fila
DAS modeling clay
It is available in white and terracotta. Compared to the rest, it may require more kneading.
It comes with higher humidity than most. It is not necessary to moisten it as often while working.
Considering its quality and the price at which it is usually found, it may be the best option.
We have invited experienced artists who have been kind enough to collaborate by sharing their experience with this type of material.
They confess us which are their 3 favorite clays.
“Hi, I’m Lara, from ‘Artesanía Lara’, a small project that arises 4 years ago as a hobby due to my passion for the world of crafts and everything handmade. I started creating my Youtube channel in order to share my ideas and knowledge with all those who feel identified with the DIY philosophy and in January 2020 I decided to take the step and create my brand in a professional way.
Currently I combine the sale of my own articles with the publication of free tutorials on Youtube. My work is mainly divided into two sections: on the one hand the creation of items for celebrations (piñatas, fofuchas, fake cakes, etc) and, on the other hand, decorative items of all kinds. It is in the latter where air dry modeling clay plays an important role. For me it is an essential material that gives us a lot of play when creating, since we can make from figures for the nativity scene to mosaics, one of my favorite techniques.
A continuación, paso a detallar de manera breve mi opinión sobre los distintos tipos de pasta de secado al aire que he usado y cuál ha sido mi experiencia con cada una de ellas.
DAS MODELING CLAY
It is the one I use in most of my projects because I get very good finishes and it has a good quality-price ratio. Although at first it may seem difficult to mold, the key is in the previous kneading. It is a clay that comes with a lot of moisture, so this step is very important to homogenize it and work comfortably and that no cracks appear after drying.
It is available in white and terracotta. My favorite is undoubtedly white, as it stains less and also, if we want to paint it once dry, this clear base allows us to keep the colors unchanged.
SIO-2 PLUS CLAY
I haven’t had the chance to use it too much because I don’t get it so easily in my area, but I also like its texture to work with. As always, it is very important the previous kneading that makes the clay slightly softer and more moldable. This one in particular is available in a wider range of colors and, although the dark colors stain quite a bit, they are easily cleaned.
JOVI MODELING CLAY
It does not come as wet as for example the DAS and the surface dries before, so we need to be wetting it with a damp cloth or a spray of water if we want to avoid the appearance of cracks. I personally find it more complicated to work with it because it requires more speed and, in addition, once the package is opened, it must be protected very well so that the excess does not dry out. The traditional one is the white clay, although it is not as intense as the others.
This, of course, is a totally personal opinion. Ideally, we look for our ideal clay based on the way we work.”
EL TALLER DE IRE
“My name is Irene, and I’ve been creating DIY content for more than 8 years, making tutorials on crafts, handicrafts, decoration, DIY or creative recycling under my brand El Taller de Ire and for other well-known brands in this sector. I already have more than 250,000 subscribers on YouTube, 50,000 on Facebook, 20,000 on TikTok or 15,000 followers on Instagram who are eager to make thousands of objects themselves, and to whom I try to inspire and spread creativity with all my projects.
Mis 3 pastas de secado al aire favoritas son muy distintas entre sí y cada una es genial para proyectos diferentes, por eso me resultaría muy difícil ordenarlas por preferencias, todas tienen algo que las hace especiales.
AIR DRY CLAY I-CLAY BY LA CASA DE LA ARCILLA
It is also known as flexible dough. It is a very easy to work with clay, that’s why I consider it the best for children, but at the same time for adults it has thousands of possibilities, because by mixing its colors you can get all the tones you can imagine and applying different varnishes and textures you can get many finishes. It has a very soft texture, that when it dries reminds you of rubber. It does not weigh anything, and that is a great advantage, especially when making large works.
AIR DRY NATURAL CLAY SIO-2 PLUS
This clay is the perfect substitute for decorative ceramic objects. Its appearance is like clay, but with the advantage that we do not need a kiln to harden it. Although it cannot be used to create tableware, we can model any decorative object with that handmade finish that ceramic has.
As a third option I have chosen a completely homemade modeling clay, since we can all create it at home and also reuse any type of paper. It is very economical and easy to make. I have several tutorials about it, but the most complete is the one in which I experiment with many different papers and we see the differences between them (see video). It will help us to create objects from scratch, such as bowls, vases, figures…. Also to decorate with reliefs any surfaces, or even to reinforce many of our works.”
WHICH IS THE BEST AIR DRY CLAY?
All have pros and cons, depending on their intended use.
Ok, but if we want to know which one to choose without getting into a lot of analysis. Here’s the answer.
We are collecting votes in the online survey, in this publication and on social networks.
The percentage of votes out of the total obtained is shown under each mark. Although there are more brands with votes, we only show the first four.
DAS Modeling Clay
- PERCENTAGE OF VOTES 41% 41%
Sio 2 PLUS
- PERCENTAGE OF VOTES 23% 23%
JOVI Air Dry
- PERCENTAGE OF VOTES 20% 20%
Stamperia Soft Clay
- PERCENTAGE OF VOTES 9% 9%
HAVE YOU ALREADY TRIED THIS AIR DRY FLEXIBLE CLAY? RECOMMEND YOUR FAVORITE!
Review of common questions:
How long does it take for the clay to dry?
It takes one to four days to dry and lasts completely. It depends on the size of the piece, the temperature and the ambient humidity.
The Jovi, Das and Sio-2 Plus brands, for example, more or less coincide in that time.
What is the best modeling clay?
You can see in our article the result of the readers’ vote! Check their opinion and also the opinion of professional artists who have written about their experience.
What clay is used to make figures?
If you have never modeled, plasticine is very convenient, but the figure will not resist as if it were made of air dry modeling clay. Polymer clay also gives very resistant results, but it must be baked in the kiln.
What do you do with modeling clay?
Infinity of things: All kinds of figures, earrings, pendants, etc. Earlier we explained that the pieces will have their limitations, for example, they will not be suitable for food use and cannot be wet, unless they are coated for these uses.
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