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DIY: Air-Dry Clay

woman working with clay

Air-dry clay (also called cold porcelain clay) should be part of every crafter’s toolkit. Not only is it a great material for making complex shapes and structures, but it’s a super fast and easy way to mold a shape, or to smooth a rough surface. It can be glued, painted, sanded, or stamped, and will keep in the fridge forever. And you can make it yourself with some inexpensive pantry staples.

Uses for Air-Dry Clay

I used air dry clay in the making of this little lantern out of an old bottle. The dome on top is hollow clay, molded from the shape of a vitamin bottle. The bead on top is also clay, molded over an existing wooden bead that was too small for the proportion I wanted. They are stuck together with glue, and I added long thin strands of clay at the seams to create a tiered look, and to hold the seams more securely. 

I am interested in using clay for projects like these:

The cookie cutter + stamp thing is interesting, but I haven’t done it yet.

This is also a great project that shows how versatile the material is:

How to Make Air Dry Clay

I followed this recipe:

Kneading it is really important, but it is pretty sticky at that stage. I have seen some crafters use corn starch to keep it workable at that stage, and also seen crafters use vegetable oil. In this recipe, she uses cold cream.
I used corn starch on the surface (dusting it a bit like flour when baking), and oil on my hands to keep it from sticking. I thought that using oil would help keep the clay from drying out too much if I incorporated a lot of corn starch.

I keep this clay in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge, and it has lasted for months. It needs to be worked a bit and warmed in the hands before use.

How to Use Air Dry Clay

Here’s what you can expect when using DIY air dry clay:

  • Drying time: This clay takes a long time to dry. It is still a bit flexible after 24 hours, and needs about 48 hours to dry completely. 
  • Shrinkage: It shrinks about 15-20% as it dries. When I have rolled it onto a surface and cut shapes out of it, it has tended to stick a bit on the bottom, and not release nicely as it dries/shrinks, leaving the underside puckered and rough. If I were to do that again in the future, I would try parchment paper beneath it to help it release more cleanly. 
  • Colors: You can mix this clay with acrylic paint to impart color. It takes color really well, although mixing it in with my hands is a bit messy. I have also seen crafters mix this clay with food coloring to use as a DIY play-dough for kids. 
  • After drying: After drying, this clay can be painted or sanded. It takes glue really well, and sticks nicely to other materials. It’s an excellent choice for decoupage. 

Air dry clay is cheap, versatile, easy to work with, and lasts in the fridge forever. It’s a great material to have on hand for making tricky shapes or creating smooth surfaces, or simply to make fast and easy clay projects.

Photo by Cassidy Phillips on Unsplash

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