How to use clay that air dries

How to use clay that air dries
How to use clay that air dries

Clay that dries in the open is very popular and does not cost a lot of money. You can use it to do large or small works. This is a great way for an aspiring artist to practice and even more experienced artists often appreciate the simplicity of this material. You can make it into jewelry, decorations and many other items. The best part is that you don't need a ceramic kiln to make beautiful original works.


Part 1 of 3: Choosing and Buying Clay

Use Air Drying Clay Step 1

Step 1. Determine what you will use it for

There are different types of air drying clay suitable for different projects. You need to know what you're going to do with it to choose the type that's right for you. Consider the following questions.

  • What is the size of the item you want to make?
  • What should the weight of the finished item be?
  • How much can you pay for the clay?
  • Would you like the clay to feel solid and smooth to the touch (this is usually the case with jewelry, beads, small decorative items, etc.)?
Use Air Drying Clay Step 2

Step 2. Choose cellulose clay

In general, it is advisable to use clay containing paper (called "cellulosic") to make large objects. Since they require a lot of material, this will save you money. In addition, the finished object will be much lighter.

  • Cellulose clay is soft to the touch when you shape it, but becomes both hard and light when dry.
  • It has a cottony texture and you can peel off large pieces of it, much like cotton candy.
Use Air Drying Clay Step 3

Step 3. Use resin clay

It is recommended for small items such as jewelry. Sometimes also called "self-hardening polymer clay", it is very strong and much denser than paper-based one. When dry, it is very similar to polymer clay that is baked in the oven. It is much more expensive and heavy than the other types.

  • It has a very smooth texture ideal for small items like jewelry and pearls.
  • It is very dense and stretches like soft caramel.
Use Air Drying Clay Step 4

Step 4. Buy clay

Once you have determined which type you need, you need to buy it. Be sure to take enough for your artwork, but not too much either. Once opened, clay is difficult to store and can quickly become impossible to use. You can buy them at a hobby store or online.

  • If you are still not sure which type is right for you or if you want advice, many stores have staff who can advise you and some even offer workshops.
  • You will undoubtedly find more choices and lower prices on the Internet, but it may take several days to receive the clay.

Part 2 of 3: shaping the clay

Use Air Drying Clay Step 5

Step 1. Open the package

Work on a non-porous, smooth and clean surface. Unwrap the clay and take the amount you want to use. If you are making a very large sculpture that requires multiple packages, just open one for now.

You can use a wire to cut pieces of the block. This is a good way to measure the amount taken quite accurately

Use Air Drying Clay Step 6

Step 2. Knead the clay

Work it to loosen it up and make it easier to shape. It will be warmed by your hands and will become more malleable. It is essential to prepare it this way before using it. If you are using multiple packages, mix the contents of each one at a time.

  • If you are using several bags for a single object, heat and knead the contents of each separately then glue everything together and repeat the process with all the clay.
  • You can soften cellulose clay by adding a small amount of water.
  • Polymer clay can be softened (and colored) with acrylic paint.
Use Air Drying Clay Step 7

Step 3. Model the clay

You can make flat or raised objects easily with air-drying clay. Shape it into the desired shape with your hands and tools like knives, spoons, or even casters.

  • Modeling tools and other items like toothpicks can be very helpful in creating complex shapes because they allow you to be much more precise.
  • If you are making a large object that should stand upright, such as a vase, make it a large, flat bottom.
Use Air Drying Clay Step 8

Step 4. Add decorations

You can press beads, wool, or other pieces of clay into your artwork. Be careful, because you have to press hard enough to push these decorations in well without distorting the object you made.

Use Air Drying Clay Step 9

Step 5. Save the remaining clay

Since it dries out quickly when opened, it is best to use it all at once. If you have any left over, wrap it tightly in wax paper and then in a plastic bag. Be aware, however, that it will not be as malleable or easy to shape afterwards.

If you have leftover clay that has become quite hard, you can sometimes make it usable by reheating it (carefully!) In the microwave

Part 3 of 3: dry the clay

Use Air Drying Clay Step 10

Step 1. Let your artwork dry

Lay them on a clean, smooth, non-porous surface and allow them to cure for 24 hours. Do not touch the clay during this time. You have to be patient to avoid spoiling what you have achieved.

  • Try to find a clean, dry place (where the air is not very humid). Light air circulation is also helpful.
  • Thick items (more than 1 cm thick) may take even longer to dry. Leave them longer to be sure. Prevention is better than cure !
Use Air Drying Clay Step 11

Step 2. Make sure the clay is dry

After 24 hours it should be dry to the touch, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is dry inside. If the object you made is thick, it might be safe to let it harden longer. There are other ways to estimate whether clay is ready based on how it looks.

  • The resin-based one becomes darker and translucent.
  • The paper-based one remains completely opaque.
Use Air Drying Clay Step 12

Step 3. Take the dry object

Once your artwork has hardened, remove it from where you put it to dry and put it back on the counter. You could cover the area with an old sheet or newspaper. Be careful, because even though the clay is hard, it could be quite brittle and brittle. You don't want to drop your item and risk breaking it.

Use Air Drying Clay Step 13

Step 4. Decorate the clay

If you want, you can add other decorations. You could paint your dry works with gouaches, acrylic paints or water-based paints, or glue beads, rhinestones, fabric and other accessories.


  • The clay shrinks slightly over time. Take this into account when making clay molds.
  • Well-kneaded clay is soft and sticky. This is why you absolutely must work on a non-porous surface.
  • Mix different colored clays by kneading them together. It works well for light colors.
  • Lift the clay often to prevent it from sticking to the countertop.


  • Despite its hardness, dry clay is brittle and can crack easily.
  • Clay is sticky and can adhere to furniture, clothing, carpets, and other porous surfaces.

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