Air Dry Clay (ADC) lasts around 24 – 48 hours once it is exposed to air. It becomes hard and solidifies within that time, making it difficult to remold it into a different shape.
This is because the clay consists of water molecules that are fused with earthen clay in a chemical process. As long as it is kept sealed, the water molecules keep the clay soft and malleable. Once exposed to air, the molecules leave the clay and cause it to dry up.
What Is Air Dry Clay?
ADC is a type of processed clay that is made from natural clay found on earth. The clay is infused with water to make it easy to shape and then sold in air sealed packets.
When exposed to the open air, the clay begins to dry slowly and turns into a hard, solid object in the shape you want. The clay is quite versatile and used in a variety of crafting projects from kids’ play toys to decorative pieces and useful crafts.
Many professionals use it to make clay sculptures, decorative items, plaques, or miscellaneous home decor items.
Unlike normal clay, you do not need to bake or fire up ADC to solidify it. The drying time is also much shorter, 1 to 2 days. You can paint and decorate the clay after it has dried up.
It is also quite easy to clean up after working with ADC. It leaves only minimal residue as you shape it up.
Tips for Working with ADC
Add Water to Make the Clay Soft
For some varieties of ADC, you can add water to them to make them thinner. This makes it easier to mould the clay and also increases the stickiness. Greater stickiness allows you to shape more complex crafts.
Take caution however, putting too much water into the clay can make your finished crafts brittle.
Most types of Air Dry Clay in the market are free from toxic chemicals. That means you can shape the clay with your hands. However, the clay is very sticky so you may want to put some lotion on your hands while building crafts. The lotion makes the clay soft and easy to work with.
Use An Internal Support
If you are crafting something with multiple pieces joined together, it can be difficult to get the parts to stay together. To overcome this, try using toothpicks, bent wire or nails to create an internal skeleton that supports adjoining pieces. Sculptors call this an armature.
Add Decorations Before It Dries
ADC becomes hard and stiff after it dries up. If you are planning to add decorative beads, stones, hearts, and stars, etc, do it while the clay is still soft and moist.
The decorative pieces must be pressed firmly into the clay and buried halfway in to make them stick. Gently press the clay over the decorations as well. ADC tends to shrink as it dries. If your decorations are not fully immersed in the clay, they might fall out after the clay dries up.
Smooth Your Crafts with Water
Getting a smooth surface on your crafts sounds easier than it actually is. When you work with clay, your fingerprints will make imprints on your project. When you put pieces together, you are also likely to get small bumps and nudges on the surface where the pieces join.
While ADC cannot be turned back into moldable clay, you can remove or flatten parts before it has completely dried.
To smooth out imperfections or adjoining areas, dip your fingertips in water and gently rub and flatten the surface. Just be careful not to over-saturate your project with water because it will increase the drying time.
Flip Your Craft to Dry Quicker
ADC dries slowly and it can take 24-48 hours to solidify completely. However, all the parts need to be exposed to air to dry equally.
If a flat part of your project is resting against your work surface the entire time, moisture can get trapped under it. This will mean it will take longer to dry.
To prevent this from happening, make sure to flip your project over to ensure all parts get exposed to air and dry out thoroughly.
Use an Oven to Speed up Drying
If you don’t have a couple of days to wait for your craft to solidify, you can use a heating oven to dry out your project quicker.
Make sure to turn the oven on to heat at the lowest setting and then turn it off after half an hour. Let your craft dry in a warm environment. Keep checking it every hour to make sure it is drying out properly.
Some users claim that you can reduce the drying time from 48 hours to 8 – 12 hours with this method.
Store Unused ADC in an Air Tight Container
You don’t necessarily have to use all your Air Dry Clay in one go. If you only need half of the clay for your project, separate the other half and store it in an airtight container.
The container will keep the moisture in the clay and keep it from drying out. You can use the leftover clay later to craft something different.
Do Not Start Painting Until Dry
Many people wonder if they can start painting their projects before they are fully dry. The answer is, yes you can, but you should not. Most professional artists and crafters do not recommend painting the craft before it is fully dried out of moisture.
Some paints can create a waterproof layer over the finished product. This can trap small water molecules inside your craft and prevent them from drying completely. This makes it prone to breaking.
There are also paints that tend to get absorbed by the clay. This helps create a solid color layer over the crafted object. If your ADC craft has not dried out completely, the paint will not get absorbed and this creates a weak layer of color that will fade away quickly.
You Can Use Fans and Hair Dryers
You can place the object under a ceiling fan or use a hairdryer to blow air onto your finished project. This can certainly help it dry faster helps.
However, make sure not to blow too much air onto the project. Trying to dry the clay too quickly can lead to cracking and hairline fractures appearing on the surface. Give it some to create internal bonds if you want a strong finish.
ADC Objects Are Not Waterproof
Most objects crafted with air dry clay react to water. Painting them can make them slightly resistant but they will still wash away if you put them under running water.
In order to make them waterproof, you can coat them with glazes of grounded glass or waterproof paint and then heat them up again.
What Types of ADC Are There?
There are air dry clays that you can purchase online and in craft stores. Here are some of my favorites:
This stuff looks like fine porcelain when dry. It works well for jewelry making and things requiring tiny detail. Dries in 24 hours to a flexible but firm hardness.
Crayola is the most popular type of clay used in crafting. It is soft and reasonably sticky. It is non-toxic and does not stick to your hands making it popular among beginners and kids.
It generally comes in sealable plastic bags and airtight container tubs. If you store it correctly, you can use some of it and keep the rest for later use. This brand of air dry clay should be available at your local craft shop and retail store. You can also order it online for home delivery. It comes in all kinds of colors.
Drying times are 1 to 2 days.
Another popular brand is Sculpey. It feels warm and moist in your hands. This ADC is very soft and great for crafting small sculptures, decoration items, and toys.
The clay is preferred by professionals become it dries with a cleaner look with less shrinkage. Unlike Crayola, Sculpey clay dries with a light grayish/white color. If you are looking to craft serious, decorative pieces for your home, then give Scupley a try.
Finally, if you are looking to build practical items that will be handled a lot – like pen holders or bedside decorations – go for a sturdier ADC brand. The Activa La Doll Premier is an ADC that gives a much stronger finish than regular clay.
This clay can easily hold up items with intricate and ultra-fine detail. It is very pliable and easily worked for wonderful results. The clay is made from highly refined pumice, talc, and special binders for a hard, satin-smooth finish. If you create a professional-quality project with ADC, then this is the clay for you.
This clay takes significantly longer to dry, i.e. 3 to 4 days. You can also moisten it every day to reshape and perfect your design.
Please read my other articles about Air Dry Clay:
Going into more details with tips, tutorials and reviews of the best products, please click the links!
You can even create an air dry clay at home! Here’s a great tutorial if you want to delve into that mess! I’ve found it not worth the time and materials to make my own clay, but hey, you do YOU!
Air Dry Clay is safe and non-toxic clay. You can use it to create a variety of home decor, jewelry and craft projects. Kids can use it to play and let their imagination run wild.
The clay takes around 24 – 48 hours to dry but you can speed up the drying process in several ways. Also, make sure to keep it sealed tight when you are not using the clay to prevent it from going dry.
If you have more questions or want to add something let us know!