Air Dry Clay (ADC) is a type of self-hardening clay that dries up over time. If you’re wondering if you can fire air dry clay, then the quick answer is no! All it needs is constant exposure to air in a dry environment with low humidity. You don’t need to fire it up in a kiln to cure like ceramic clay. In fact, you shouldn’t fire air dry clay in a kiln!
This is because ADC is made up of additives such as cornstarch or paper pulp. These ingredients naturally dry up quickly and harden within days.
In comparison, ceramic clay is made with real clay that is found in nature. It has more water molecules and requires high temperature baking in a kiln to dry up effectively.
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Things You Can Do With Air Dry Clay
ADC is generally considered the beginner crafters’ clay. It is very soft, pliable and easy to mold in any shape that you want. It doesn’t stick to your hands and is easier to clean up than other types of crafting clay.
As we noted above, it dries without the need for an oven. This is why it is often given to kids and new crafters who want to learn how to make statues and figurines.
Once your project is complete, put the clay on a shelf and leave it to dry for a couple of days.
Building Crafts with Your Hand
For some great ideas of projects you can create with ADC, read our article here.
Most commercial-grade ADC that we find in the market is non-toxic. No harsh chemicals are used in its production. The clay is produced from natural earthen clay, paper cellulose, or starch that is found in plants.
You can easily carry out coiling, slab construction, and sculpting work with this ADC without worrying about skin problems. Just make sure to wash your hands thoroughly once you are done.
Using Armature for Your Crafts
One major advantage of ADC is the variety of armatures that students can use to build new projects. Since you are not going to put the completed piece into the kiln for baking, you don’t have to worry about the metallic armature burning or melting during production.
ADC allows you to use armature for delicate details like fingers, limbs, ears and other pieces on your sculptures. To keep small parts from breaking off, many students create mixed media pieces in their work. They use pieces like wires, pins, paper cleaners and dowel rods for fingers, long skinny legs, or eyelashes to prevent these pieces from breaking off easily.
Using Quick Drying Methods
The regular ceramic clay is baked in the oven which reduces its drying time. Once you have finished the craft it takes about a couple of hours to bake it. You can then leave it to dry for 6 – 8 hours and it is ready for handling.
ADC clay takes longer to dry in comparison. Based on the temperature, humidity level and size of your sculpture, ADC can take at least 2 to 4 days to dry up thoroughly before you can paint it.
The good news is that you can use several tips to dry it out faster, such as blowing a hairdryer on your project or putting it into direct sunlight. These methods allow you to reduce the drying time to about half of what it usually takes to cure.
Some experienced crafters also use the oven to dry out ADC projects when they are working on big sculptures. But this requires expert-level calculations and trial and error before you figure out the ideal temperature and baking times. It is not recommended for beginners.
For in-depth information on speeding up ADC, please read our article here.
Using Color for Painting
Once your crafts are thoroughly dried, you can paint them in any way that you want. It is quite similar to painting regular ceramic clay with the only exception that you cannot use glaze.
You can experiment in different ways to add color to your projects, from acrylic paints to oil-based paints. A fun way to learn painting is to create flat tiles in different shapes to color them. You can also make round balls with dimples similar to a golf ball and paint them for practice.
You can also experiment with markers, acrylic and tempera paint, watercolor, ink, and colored pencils to get a feel of how these colors work with ADC.
Things You Cannot Do With ADC
Air Dry Clay has shortcomings that make it less than perfect for different projects.
You Cannot Glaze Air Dry Clay
Since ADC crafts are not suitable for firing in a kiln, you will not be able to use glaze for coating.
Most kinds of glaze are made from silica and require a heating temperature of up to 2,200 or 2,300 degrees to melt in a kiln. There are some commercially sold glazes that melt at 350 degrees and you may be able to use them to glaze ceramic pottery at home.
However, ADC cannot stand temperatures as high as that. It is more likely to crack and spit if you cook it in your oven like ceramic clay at a high temperature.
Some crafters have come up with a few workarounds for this. They use crafting glue to deposit multiple layers over their project or use varnish to create a waterproof layer. Professionals use epoxy sealants and claim that it creates as good of a waterproof layer as you can get.
ADC Is Not Food Safe
When you are working with regular clay, you can create things like functional mugs, bowls, and plates. As long as you glaze them with food-safe glazing, they are safe to use for eating and drinking.
Since you cannot use food-safe glazing with ADC, you can only create projects for decorative purposes. You can apply waterproof coating to make them a bit more useful, but most ADC crafts are only good for design and artwork.
You Cannot Make Long Lasting Utility Crafts with ADC
ADC crafts are not recommended to be fired up in a kiln. That is why clay molecules in ADC do not create a bond as strong as ceramic clay. This makes them more brittle than regular clay items.
While ADC sculptures can last a very long time on the shelf, utilitarian items like keychains and jewelry items made from ADC break apart within a few weeks at most.
That being said, there are a few things you may be able to do to increase the durability or hardness of your ADC. For details, please read our article on that here.
Air Dry Clay is ideal as a starter clay for crafters to learn the basics of sculpting. It is made from natural plant starch and earthen clay that is not toxic. The clay is soft and easy to shape and dries without the need for firing.
While you can bake ADC to dry up faster, it isn’t recommended. When you do bake it in a home oven to dry up faster, make sure to follow the instructions properly to prevent it from burning or cracking up.