Crafters often ask if you can bake air dry clay in order to speed up the process. That may not be such a great idea. It is not advised to bake air dry clay in an oven because heating it up at a high temperature for extended periods can cause the clay to crack and warp, ruining your crafts.
Air Dry Clay (ADC) is designed to dry out and fully harden once it is exposed to air. It takes about 1 to 2 days to get dry.
However, some experienced professionals do use the oven to dry out their air dry clay projects when they are in a hurry. In this article, we consider several tips for drying ADC crafts using several methods.
Air Dry Clay Shrinkage
Air-Dry Clay is made by mixing a paper or earthen-based material with water to create soft, pliable clay. It is then packaged in airtight containers or packets to keep the moisture in the clay. However, when exposed to air, the water molecules escape and therefore the clay shrinks as it dries and hardens.
The level of shrinkage depends on the amount of water you mixed into the clay when it was produced. Since the water evaporates at normal room temperature, you don’t need to heat it.
Cracking is very common with this type of clay. The cracks appear due to loss of water from the clay as it dries.
But there is no need to worry. The cracks can be fixed after the clay has dried up completely. Just fill the cracks with more clay and it will bond with the piece.
How Long Does It Take To Dry ADC Crafts?
If you leave your ADC project to dry out on its own, without speeding up the drying process, it will take anywhere between 24 hours to 72 hours to dry. The time it takes to dry depends on the size and shape of the object you are making.
Bigger or thicker crafts take longer to dry as the water takes some time to escape. As a result, thin, elongated projects dry much faster because there is more surface area for the water molecules to evaporate.
Room temperature also affects how quickly your ADC projects dry up. If kept in a warm room, ADC dries faster compared to a cool room.
Using a Hairdryer to Dry ADC Crafts
Ok, so this isn’t a hair dryer. But this photo is too perfect!
You can use a hairdryer to dry your models quicker. However, this is only recommended for experienced users who know what they are doing. Using a hairdryer will greatly speed up the outer edges of your sculpture while the interior will dry slowly. That is the main cause of cracking and shrinkage with air dry clay: too much, too fast.
If you want to try it, use the hairdryer from a distance and keep it at a normal temperature. Make sure to blow air on the project evenly from different angles. You will need to flip the model as you blow air on it.
If you only blow air on one side and do it for too long, it creates uneven distribution of moisture inside the clay. As a result, there are stresses within the clay and that creates a lot of cracks on the surface and inside the clay structure.
Drying clay with a dryer can also cause joints to sever and break. You can remedy that by using a wire armature to build your sculpt on. If you are building a model that is thick, consider using a solid core such as foil paper or stone pieces. This will reduce the volume of shrinkage and make it safer to use a hairdryer.
Some crafters prefer to use an oven instead of a hairdryer for their craft because ovens offer a more uniform temperature and airflow.
Using an Oven to dry ADC Crafts
You can use an oven to dry your ADC projects but make sure that you are careful about the temperature and baking time. Place an insulating sheet on a baking tray and then put your pieces on the sheet. This will protect the clay from warping when the tray gets too hot.
Place the tray inside the oven before you turn it on. Some guides suggest that you should preheat the oven before you place the tray inside. This is not correct. The temperature of your ADC models needs to rise slowly. This happens when you place it in a cold oven and then let the model get hot slowly. If you put it in a pre-heated oven, there will be a sudden shift in temperature for the craft and it will crack from the inside.
Turn the oven up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and no more. Leave the sculpture in the Oven for about 20 minutes. Turn the oven off after 20 minutes and leave the crafts in the oven until everything is cooled down.
If you take the clay out while it is still hot, the sudden cool air from outside the oven can damage the sculpture because the sudden difference in temperature may result in cracks.
Do not use the oven for more than 20 minutes. Remember, you are not using the oven to bake your clay project but using it to speed dry your crafts.
How to Fix Cracks in ADC Projects
Cracking is quite common for ADC crafts. Whether you dry them in an oven or leave them for a couple of days to dry, you will see cracks appear in the clay as it shrinks.
You can use clay slip to fix cracks in your Air-dry clay projects. Slip can be made easily with clay and water. The slip must be thick enough and have the consistency of pudding. That makes it easier to stick it into the crack and fill it completely.
It is important to remember that you cannot store slip because it dries up. You can only store pure clay that has not been mixed with water yet.
If you do try to reuse mixed slip stored from earlier, you will notice it doesn’t work and will only cause a huge mess on your crafts.
Here is how you can fix cracks on your clay sculptures with the help of slip.
- Make sure that the sculpture has dried completely. Working on a sculpture that isn’t fully dry can mess it up.
- You will need to prepare the part of your sculpture where you are going to use the slip. Use some sanding paper to make the area a little rougher so that the slip can adhere to the surface.
- Prepare the slip with clay and water at the right consistency.
- Sprinkle some water on the crack and make it wet before adding the slip.
- Now add the slip to the crack that you want to fix.
You can use slip to glue two pieces together. If you are looking to fix a very big crack then slip alone will not work.
In that case, you should make a small, hardened paper clay widget to fit inside the crack. Add a layer of slip to the area and on the widget. Fit it inside the craft and hold it firmly. Once it is in place, leave it to set.
Painting Air Dry Clay
Air drying clay does not react with water in the same way as kiln firing clay. Once it has hardened completely it cannot be returned to a workable state. That is why ADC must be dried completely before painting.
Artists and crafters on a tight schedule use the oven to dry their project so that they can start painting it as soon as they can. Make sure to leave your sculptures to dry for 30 minutes after they have cooled to harden.
You can use a variety of acrylic paints to color them later.
My Favorite Brands
Please read my article on the best air dry brands here, where I go in-depth on why my top recommendation clays are the best and what they are best suited for!.
LinksTo Our Other Articles
Things To Make With Air Dry Clay – lots of great ideas and projects!
ADC is designed for kids, hobbyists, and professionals to make all kinds of projects. It is generally the first clay you will get your hands on to practice and learn sculpting.
Unlike regular or polymer clay, ADC can dry on its own when exposed to air within a couple of days. That is why you will not need to bake it in the oven after crafting your desired sculpture.
However, more experienced professionals that regularly produce sculptures daily have experimented and found that it can be baked to dry up much quicker. In this article I shared how you can do it safely with minimum chances of cracking.
If you have more questions or want to add something let us know!