People have been creating clay objects from the beginning of their time on earth, and artists continue to do so today. Air-dry clays were developed for artists who desire the integrity of clay but do not have easy access to a kiln. Most air-dry clays are mineral based and have properties comparable to those of traditional clays. They harden within a few days and do not need to be fired to create a permanent form. Air-dry clay vessels and sculptures are more fragile than traditional kiln-fired ceramics, but they can be sealed and strengthened with shellac and paint. Browse our selection of the best air-dry clays to find the one that suits you best.
1. DAS Air-Hardening Modeling Clay
DAS air-hardening modeling clay is a versatile, fibrous, paper-based product. At first it is not too malleable, but with a little water and manipulation, the clay becomes more pliable. Because of the fibers in the clay, forms created with it are sturdy and less likely than other products to break once dry. There is also minimal shrinking, which means fewer cracks. Fine details can be a challenge to achieve when the clay is wet; better to use an X-Acto knife, carving tools, or sandpaper to add precise features once the clay has dried. Paint and varnish are recommended to seal and strengthen your creations.
2. Jovi Air-Dry Modeling Clay
Everything you want in a fast-drying clay is found in Jovi’s product: it’s soft, smooth, and easy to knead and shape. Jovi premium clays are formulated to be safe and nontoxic, and they’re free of gluten and other main allergens. The clay dries within 24 hours; wet clay may be added on after the main form dries. If cracks appear, a little water and extra wet clay may be applied to the cracks to smooth them out. Dry forms may be painted or sealed.
3. Crayola Air-Dry Clay
For pristine white air-dry clay that is easy to use, reach for Crayola. This hefty, 25-pound carton of clay is ideal for educators: most clay projects require about half a pound of material, so there’s enough here for 50 kids. Soft and malleable, the clay is easy to pinch, coil, flatten, and form into sculptures. The all-natural clay is safe for artists of all ages and dries within 24 hours to a hard, white surface perfect for painting or coloring with markers. Embellishments such as glitter and gems can be added with glue. Note: because this clay shrinks when it dries, it works best for smaller projects; larger, thicker forms may develop cracks.
4. AMACO STONEX Clay
Amaco’s Stonex air-dry clay comes premoistened and ready to use. It’s soft and pliable, is easy to pinch and model, and responds well to water during scoring or as it begins to dry. Modeled forms dry within a couple of days, hardening to a natural white that can be painted or colored with markers. Like Crayola’s product, this clay shrinks as it dries, so cracks may form in denser sculptures.
5. Craftsmart Air-Dry Clay
Craftsmart’s natural air-dry clay works like a dream for hand-building, sculpting, or throwing on a potter’s wheel. It comes ready to mold; use water to soften it or to add forms via scoring. Craftsmart’s clay dries slowly to avoid cracking. It dries to a rich gray, but you can paint and shellac your works to finish and strengthen them. The clay is 100 percent natural, nontoxic, and made in the United States.