Air-dry clay is one of the earliest artisan supplies in human civilization. We have been using it for thousands of years for crafting various objects. Among all different types of clays, many artists still consider it a good option for modeling small objects. It is also deemed suitable for budding artists who have just started modeling and sculpting.
The best thing about air-dray clay is that you can use it without needing a host of tools and chemicals. You don’t need fire to cure the objects made of air-dry clay. Also, a knife and rolling pin are enough to give any shape to air-dry clay.
If you are in a hurry and don’t have the time to read the entire article, here’s our quick list of 11 of the best air-dry clays:
- Hearty Clay <<Best Overall Air Dry Clay
- Delight Clay
- DAS Air-Hardening Modeling Clay <<Best Earthen Air Dry Clay
- Creative Paperclay for Modeling Compound <<Best Paper Clay
- Jovi Air-Dry Modeling Clay
- ACTIVA Plus Natural Self-Hardening Clay
- AMACO Darice STONEX Clay
- Aurora Sculpting and Molding Premium Air Dry Clay
- Mont Marte White Air-Hardening Modeling Clay
- AMACO Air-Dry Modeling Clay
- Aves Apoxie Air Dry Clay for Professionals
Reviews of The Best Air Dry Modeling Clay
If you have just started sculpting and don’t know where to find reliable air-dry clay, we’ve got your back! We’ve researched, shortlisted, and reviewed nine of the best air-dry clays that are available in the market right now.
There are several categories of air dry clay:
- Paper based air dry clay
- Earthen clay air dry clay
- Polymer based air dry clay
- Epoxy two-part mixed base air dry clay
Air dry clay can come in blocks of varying sizes
When reviewing the best air dry clays, we are careful to include clays that can be used for detail work and include some that don’ t have any geologic earthen ‘clay’ as a component as well. We know that clay can be really drying on our skin, and some people have to limit their handling of earthen clay for that reason. Best of all, we only recommend air dry clays that are non-toxic for most users.
However, please be aware that Air Dry Clays are not kiln fired, they are not appropriate for use for serving food or drinking beverages.
1. Activa Hearty Clay <<Best Overall
Hearty Clay is a polymer clay that is soft, easily kneadable, mixes very well with acrylic paint to change colors and is capable of remarkable detail work. It is ideal for sculpting small items like charms, jewelry and figurines. Coming in at the top of our list, we love that it is non-toxic and ordorless. It is super smooth and non-gritty texture, which is quite the improvement over earthen clay products. It has paper components in it and gets softer as you knead it. Extra light weight that dries to a hard inflexible texture that will break if dropped, like porcelain. Great for jewelry.
- Air dries in 24 hours but if high humidity, may take longer
- Can be painted, stained or sealed
- ACMI Certified non-toxic
- Rolls uber thin without fraying or splitting
- Made in Japan
Very similar to Hearty Clay, this product is now made in Japan. (It was once made in USA).
We are starting our list with DAS’s air-dry clay because it is certainly one of the best on the block. It is one of those few air-dry clays that are equally suitable for classrooms and studios. The manufacturer has formulated this clay without using any harsh additives to keep it a child-safe art product.
We also like this air-dry clay because it strikes a perfect balance between pliability and durability. When you work with DAS Air-Hardening Clay, you get a lot of open time to complete projects, so much so that you can rectify mistakes and materialize any afterthought.
The objects made of DAS clay takes 24 hours to dry. But as soon as they dry, they transform into permanent work of art.
- Comes in terra cotta and white colors
- Great for budding artists— builds hand strength and finesses motor skills
- Accepts and enhances watercolor and tempera paints designs
Our rating: 99%
4. Creative Paperclay for Modeling Compound– Best for non-clay needs
If you are for looking for air-dry clay particularly for sculptures that should have no earth clay compounds, then consider buying this modeling compound by Creative Paperclay. The manufacturer has developed an air-hardening paper clay formula that gets into any shape in hard form without needing any firing and baking. It as some of the properties of modeling clay, but doesn’t have polymers or clay.
You can sculpt it, mold it, and shape it in every possible figure as long as it is moist. This Creative Paperclay features fine, odorless clay particles on which newbie artists can also try their hands. We also like this clay because it easily adheres to most surfaces, including canvas and wood structures without glue. This feature makes its use hassle-free while making a detailed professional art piece.
- Clean and free of odors
- Retains fine details once dried
- Adheres to wood and most surfaces easily
- Highly rated by users
- Can be finished and crafted with any kind of paint
Our rating: 98%
5. Jovi Air-Dry Modeling Clay– Best Non-Staining Clay
If you want to work on simple gray clay to make small sculptures and other art projects, you should consider investing in this Jovi Air-Dry Modeling Clay. The Spanish manufacturer has been selling clay and other creative products for more than seven decades and has mastered its manufacturing.
Jovi knows how to create air-dry clay that is easy to work on and can be used in various projects. Therefore, this clay product starts out soft, making it easy to knead and shape. Once it gets into the form you are shaping it, you can use paint and varnish on it. You can cut it in shapes as well.
Also, you can use the Jovi Air-Dry Modeling Clay to create standalone figures as well as with frames made of wood, wire, and cardboard.
- Doesn’t stick on hands
- Also available in white and terra cotta
- Doesn’t stain like traditional clays
- Equally safe for adults and kids— CPSIA-certified non-toxic
Our rating: 96%
6. ACTIVA Plus Natural Self-Hardening Clay– Versatile Air-Dry Clay
This air-dry clay by ACTIVA has all the features that you look for in any versatile clay option. This self-hardening clay features ultra-fine grains to make sure you can do neat art projects. This is the reason why it is equally suitable for both classroom and studio use.
The other great thing about this air-dry clay is its curing to superior strength and that too with minimal shrinkage. Models made of this clay dries in 24 hours without experiencing any crumbling. Once cured, you can use sand, carve, and drill the objects.
We also call this clay versatile because you can also cure it in a kiln. Moreover, you are not bound to particular paints and methods to finish the clay models. You can use any finishing chemical and procedure on art pieces made of ACTIVA Plus Self-Hardening Clay once they dry.
- 100% safe and non-toxic— meets ASTM D4236 standards
- Supreme plasticity allows the addition of fine detailing
- Available in white, black and terra cotta
Our rating: 95%
7. AMACO Darice STONEX Clay– Best for Lengthier Detailing Work
If you want to work with air-dry clay that doesn’t dry too fast, consider investing in AMACO Darcie STONEX Clay. While working on an art piece using this air-dry clay, you don’t have to stress over quickly adding design details. As long as you are adding water to it while working, it remains in the malleable sculpting form.
Once you are done with the design details, leave it to dry. After 24 hours, AMACO air-dry clay will take a durable hard form. Then, you can use various decorative things on it without a worry. From liquid crayons to rub n buff, dried hard-form AMACO clay can accept nearly all the paints and finishing items used on clay objects.
- Suitable option for longer design work
- Accepts all paints and finishing material
- A great bang for the buck
Our rating: 95%
8. Aurora Sculpting and Molding Premium Air Dry Clay– Best for Commercial Use
Whether you run a sculpture art shop or are a VFX artist, consider investing in this air-dry clay block offered by Aurora. It is an extremely pliable air-dry clay that can be used to model figurines as well as items for film and drama sets.
The water-based clay has a smooth texture, making it easier to work with. Moreover, the drying time is slow, so you have a lot of time on your hands to introduce designs and patterns.
- Comes in 5lb, 10lb, 25, and 50lb blocks
- Only available in gray color
- Contains similar compound as that a Walter E Disney Clay Mode
Our rating: 94%
9. Mont Marte White Air Hardening Modeling Clay– Best for Professional Use
If you are looking for air-dry clay for professional art and student projects, consider investing in Mont Marte Air-Hardening Clay. You can get this clay in 1.1lb and 1.5KG packs. These large packs will be enough for making big clay sculptures.
The impressive bit about this air-dry clay is that it is easy to smooth and knead. It remains flexible after kneading so you can easily mold it in different styles. The clay also has a fine and even texture that makes for a more finished end product.
The clay takes 24 hours to fully dry, giving you a lot of time to achieve the desired shape. Once dried, it acquires the hardness of earthenware without needing any fire treatment.
- Also available in terra cotta shade
- Can be drilled, varnished, painted, and sanded once dried
- Offer great value for the money
Our rating: 94%
10. AMACO Air Dry Modeling Clay– Best for Full-Body Sculptures
If you want air-dry clay for bigger projects like slab work and full-body sculptures, then this AMACO clay product is worth considering. It is a package of 10 pounds of air-dry clay that the manufacturer has introduced for large modeling projects.
The best about this AMACO clay is that the quantity does not affect its quality. It is non-toxic and easy to use as any other clay. Also, you have the option to order this large supply of clay in brown, white, and gray colors.
- Perfect for large clay models and objects
- A great bang for the buck
- Can also be fired and glazed
Our rating: 94%
Artists who love polymer clay because it can accommodate finer details but also want the rawness of air-dry clay, they should consider buying this Aves product. It is air-dry clay with the twist of Apoxie that allows you to make air-dry clay models with precision details. This is a two-part clay that requires you to mix two compounds together like epoxy glue.
This product has epoxy as it’s base, and therefore it is NOT for children. Be especially cautious if you have lung disorders or are concerned with inhaling mild epoxy-like fumes.
Professionals rave about this product and its cure strength. As an extra precaution, be sure to wear gloves during the two-part mixing phase.
It is important to mention here that unlike other polymer clays that crack and fade in the outdoors, Aves Apoxie Air-Dry Clay maintains its shape and form whether snow is falling or the sun is shining with all its might.
- No kiln or oven baking needed
- Working time 1-3 hours and total drying time 24 hours
- Wear gloves when using this clay
- 0 shrinkage
- Doesn’t crack once dried
Our rating: 92%
Things to Consider While Buying Air-Dry Clays
Take these factors into account while buying air-dry clay from any online or brick-and-mortar outlet.
Large supplies of air-dry clays usually come in white, gray, and terra cotta colors. If you are buying for your art studio, opt from those options. However, if you are buying it for kids or for your own leisure time activity, clays sets in multiple colors will be a better choice.
Some air dry clays are quite smelly, and not in a good way! We have limited our recommendations to those without a strong nasty odor.
A good air-dry clay takes almost 24 hours to fully dry and acquires its final hard form. They are better to use because you get a lot of time to work out your intended design and put right any mistakes. Ask the seller or read the label to find out the drying time of any clay pack.
Level of Hardness
Different clay products get to different levels of hardness. For instance, clay for kids remains soft even after drying up. In contrast, air-dry clay for professional work hardens to an extent where you can paint, varnish, sand, and drill it.
If you have noticed, our reviewed clay products prefer non-toxic. Make sure that the label of the clay categorically states that it is non-toxic, especially if it is manufactured in a country that doesn’t have regulations and standards of safety!
Benefits of Using Air-Dry Clay
- It lies at lower prices points in comparison to other clay types
- It is easy to work with
- You don’t need a kiln to cure it
- It exhibits better pliability than many other clays
We hope that the above reviews and discussion help you in picking the best air-dry clay for your particular use. There are so many inspirations and tutorials available on the internet! We hope you explore dozens of them and begin creating your own sculptures right away. The options are plentiful for safe, non-toxic crafting fun.
Can you fire-cure air-dry clay objects?
Yes, you can cure clay objects in a fire kiln if you want to increase their hardness. However, fire-curing will not be effective on super-soft clay variants.
Do colored clays leave stains?
No, if you buy a top-quality clay, its colors don’t leave stains on your hands and clothes.
Is air-dry clay suitable for making cookware?
No, the objects made of air-dry clay remain porous after drying up and not safe for food.
Tutorials and inspirations:
100 great ideas for fun sculptures book:
Inspirations and patterns:
How to soften air dry clay:
Air dry tips:
Easy clean craft mat:
Miniature cookie cutters