06 April 2021
SCULPTING AND MODELLING
AIR DRY CLAY
Answers to 10 common air dry clay questions
Are you thinking about using air dry clay for your next creative project? Whether you’re planning a décor piece, sculpture or a fun art activity with the kids, this versatile medium is a popular choice. To get you started and help you out along the way, we’ve answered some of the common air dry questions that we’ve received over the years.
1. How do you use air dry clay?
Air dry clay is one of the easiest sculptural mediums to work with. All you need to do is knead it to make it smooth and soft, build your project and let it dry for around 24 hours. This type of clay doesn’t need to be baked in an oven or kiln because it will dry to earthenware hardness in the air.
2. Can air dry clay go outside?
Yes! Air dry clay can be put in the garden, but you’ll need to seal your sculpture to stop it from being damaged by water and the elements. To make air dry clay waterproof, follow the steps below:
1. Use a paint brush to cover the entire sculpture with acrylic gloss medium or a mix of PVA glue and water 2. Let this dry, and then give your work a coat of grey acrylic paint (we recommend using acrylic paints because they help seal air drying clay to protect it from moisture). Since grey is a neutral tone it will help make your colours more vibrant. 3. After the grey coat has dried, give it two coats of the final colours.
3. Can you reuse air dry clay?
If you have some leftover clay that dries out, you can reuse it by sealing it in a zip lock bag with water. If you can break it into smaller pieces, that’s even better. Seal up your bag and leave it for two days. Once this time has passed, you should be able to knead your clay until it becomes smooth again.
4. Is it food-safe?
While air dry clay is non-toxic, it’s not suitable for use with food or drinks because it gets damaged by water which means it can’t be washed.
5. How long does air dry clay take to dry?
Depending on the thickness of your project, air dry clay will dry to earthenware hardness in around 24 hours. If you want to work on your piece in multiple sessions, wrap it in a damp tea towel and then cover it with cling wrap to make it air tight. This should keep it workable for around 4 days.
6. How do you stop it from cracking?
Cracks often appear in air dry clay because it shrinks as it dries. The more you can slow down the drying process, the less likely it is that your sculpture will crack. To stop air dry clay from drying too quickly, you can try storing it in a cool and humid place with good ventilation. We’d also suggest keeping an eye on your sculpture and filling in any cracks that appear with a wet mix of clay.
7. How do you fix cracks in air dry clay?
If some cracks have appeared in your work, don’t panic. This is normal and happens with all air dry clay because, as we mentioned in the previous point, it shrinks as it dries. You can fix this by using the following steps:
1. Let the clay dry out completely 2. Once dry, create a wet mix of clay (use the same clay you’re working with) and fill the cracks 3. After you’ve filled all of the cracks, let the clay dry again
8. Can air dry clay be used with candles?
The heat from candles can cause air dry clay to become brittle, so we’d recommend playing it safe by using a battery operated tea light for any projects that require a candle. You can even find fake candles that have a flickering setting to make them look more realistic. If you want to see it in action, check out our air dry clay lantern video tutorial.
9. Which paints are best to use?
Since you don’t need to bake air dry clay, you can use regular acrylic paints or oil paints to decorate your sculptures. Whether you’re using acrylic or oil paints, we’d suggest sealing it first using the steps and materials in point two. If you're looking for a project to get started, try our dog sculpture.
10. Can you bake air dry clay?
No – baking air dry clay in the oven or kiln can cause your sculpture to melt or burn. Plus, if you heat your sculpture up it will dry faster which can cause more cracks to form. Once your sculpture is complete, simply leave it out to dry and it’ll be all set in around 24 hours.