Air dry clay is a type of versatile sculpting clay that is used to craft various art projects. Unlike regular clay, air dry clay does not need to be heated to mold. The clay is soft, sticky, and easy to reshape at normal room temperature. While it feels completely different from the traditional clay that needs firing, it is nevertheless a fantastic new invention!
There are many ways to add surface decorations to air dry clay while molding it. One of the best ways to add texture and design to the clay is to use rubber or plastic stamps. You can also add beads, stars, strings, and a large variety of decorative materials to the project.
Once exposed to air, the clay becomes hard in a day at normal room temperature. Some air dry clays dry to a sponge-like texture. Once it gets dry and or hard, you can paint and decorate it to add the final touch.
Many crafters and artists sell their finished works on such sites as Ebay and Etsy and at craft fairs.
Types of Air Dry Clay
Air Dry Clay (ADC) is generally made from natural or recycled materials. Based on the material used for production, this clay can be divided into three types; paper-based, earthen, or epoxy-based clay.
Working with Air Dry Clay is a lot less messy than working with traditional clay because you don’t need a pottery wheel or a big pot of water. Take a look at this crafter’s tabletop…she even has a mug of coffee handy!
Earthen made ADC is the most common type of clay sold in the market. It is made from natural ground soil that contains traces of iron and other minerals that are commonly found in plant and animal life.
The earthen ADC is finely grained and processed to add a controlled percentage of water that makes it pliable and easy to mold. The clay is completely nontoxic and can be shaped by hands.
While packed, the clay retains the water which keeps it soft and sticky. Once it is exposed to air, the water molecules begin to dissipate, which makes it hard and dry.
Generally, earthen ADC is stickier than other varieties. This makes it easier to combine and work with using your hands or sculpting tools. In terms of composition, the earthen clay is most similar to low-temperature kiln-fired earthen clay.
However, the finished products don’t have the same level of durability as fire-baked clay crafts. You can make beautiful art objects but they should be kept out of reach because they are more prone to breaking than baked clay.
This is a very popular brand of earthen Air Dry Clay:
And here’s the clay the artist is using in the photo at the top of this article:
Paper-based ADC is made with a base clay body, such as earthenware or terra cotta. The processed paper polyp is then added to the mix to create the clay.
The paper component helps reduce the project’s weight once it has been set and dried. Paper also has a tighter joining capability because paper fibers can interweave to create a more solid bond. The end result is a tighter, stronger craft that weighs less than simple earthen mold.
This type of clay decreases warping for all finished crafts and for a host of other projects. That means your crafts are closer to the original mold, unlike earthen ADC that shrinks significantly. Another benefit is that you can make dry to dry and wet to dry joints on finished objects to improve them later.
The paper fibers help increase the firmness of the sculpture while minimizing shrinkage during the drying process.
Here’s a reliable, quality brand:
Epoxy Two-Part Mixed-Base
The Epoxy-based ADC comes with two ingredients. The first component is a dry, powder-like resin and the second is a hardener that must be mixed thoroughly to create the molding clay.
Once mixed together, epoxy-based ADC sets up pretty quickly. Where earthen clay takes a day to get hard, epoxy clay can form strong bonds in a matter of a couple of hours. However, it is ideal to let it settle for a day to get a strong finish.
It is FOR SURE not for children though! Anything with epoxy has fumes and is not good for your skin. I always use disposable gloves when working with epoxy clay. It is however, an amazing clay! I’ve repaired cherished Christmas ornaments that were made of resin/plastic. You can sand the dried sculpture and paint or varnish it when it’s done.
If you are using it in plumbing, make sure to avoid running water on the clay for a couple of days. Once it has hardened, epoxy clay becomes water-resistant. Based on the brand, epoxy ADC may be completely waterproof, but it is best to err on the side of caution and put plastic liners alongside your work to act as a barrier to withering and dissipating.
Just make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after completing the craft.
Once the two-part epoxy compound dries, you cannot make alterations to the structure of the project. It makes a very bond when it is fully dry. Epoxy ADC is a good choice for creating ornaments, and other decorative objects that will be handled without fear of breaking them.
Here’s the brand I use:
Which Type of Air Dry Clay Should Be Used?
Choosing the right type of ADC depends on what projects you are working on and material preference. If you want to build sturdy objects that can be used regularly, then epoxy clay is the best. If you want to make decorative artifacts that will stay on the shelf, earthen clay will be just within your budget. If you want to build complex and delicate objects you will find paper-based clay to be the most effective.
Each variety of Air Dry clay has different ingredients, dry-time, bond strength, and texture.
How to Work With Air Dry Clay?
Working with ADC is quite easy. You don’t need a lot of skill to get started. Practice and experimentation will help you get better and craft more complex and beautiful projects with time.
Prepare Your Work Surface
Air Dry clay is very sticky so make sure you dedicate a separate work area for your projects. It can attract dog and cat hair, lint, and other dust particles that make your crafts less than ideal, so keep your pets away from the area.
We suggest getting a silicone craft mat as the base for your crafts. You can also use wax paper. This will also make it easier to transfer your project after it has dried and keeps it from sticking to the desk.
Handling the Clay
ADC can be very sticky. It can stick to your hands, the work surface, and your crafting tools. You can use gloves or hand lotion to make it less sticky and protect your hands at the same time.
Some varieties of clay are not that sticky but if you want to make delicate objects with precise edges, incisions, and connections, you will need the sticky kind of clay that allows you to mold objects as you please.
Once you get experience in handling clay, you will find it easier to work the stickiness to your benefit.
Imprinting or embossing, as it is known in the paper crafting world is taking an object and pressing it into the surface of smooth and flattened clay to leave an indented replica of what you are using to impress with. It’s an easy and fast way to create some great textures without sculpting
Here’s a tutorial video on imprinting:
Make Sure to Cover Your Projects after Finishing
Never leave your completed or half-finished project to dry overnight without a cover. If you are making objects professionally, you may want to get a glass or plastic cover to protect them from drying up so that you can resume the work later.
You can also place a damp paper towel or clinging plastic wrap around the work area and then cover it at the top.
If a project is taking longer than you’d like or something comes up in the middle of work, you can cover it up and come back to the work when you’re ready.
Finishing Your Projects
When you start creating serious, professional-grade sculptures and crafts with ADC, you will need to give them a smooth finish for the best look. You may notice a variety of bumps and pores on the surface of crafts as they dry up.
You smoothen out these slight imperfections with a little water. Use a soft, absorbent sponge and a little water with your fingers to remold that into how you want the sculpture to look.
Be careful not to use too much water on your project, because that will increase your drying time.
Coloring and Touch-Ups
You can use a variety of tempera and acrylic paints on your air dry clay projects. Objects created with ADC can also be colored with marker pens and inks. Make sure your project has been thoroughly dried before you start applying colors. Use a delicate brush and firm strokes to make the color stick.
Other embellishments you can add to finished projects include glitter glue. Just remember that air dry clay is porous and you will need to seal the craft with a varnish.
Tutorials and Inspiration
Check out the links to my other great articles on clay here:
Here’s a general tips and information video:
Jewelry Tutorial with Air Dry Clay:
Air Dry clay is very easy to use and relatively cheap for crafting unique, beautiful objects. It can be used for a variety of projects and is very common for young beginners’ crafting projects.
The best thing about ADC is that you don’t need an oven to harden the object as it is self-drying clay. Depending on the size of the project, air dry clay can fully harden in one or two days.
Whether you are looking to craft customized objects and miniatures for your own use or want to sell them commercially, ADC can give you the perfect solution for your needs. If you have more questions or want to add something let us know!