If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, ARTNews may receive an affiliate commission.
A versatile medium for artists of all ages, modeling clay is easy to shape with your hands and does not need to be fired to create a permanent form. The clay softens up in response to body heat, and most types can be reworked endlessly as the medium won’t harden, even after months—and if it’s being finicky, just add some water. Modeling clay is perfect for artists who desire the integrity of clay but do not have easy access to a kiln, but it’s also an ideal sculpting medium for children, animators, and sculptors making silicone molds. Browse our selection of the best modeling clays to find the one that suits you best.
Van Aken Plastalina Modeling Clay
This line from Van Aken is an excellent all-purpose clay that is not too soft and not too firm. The oil-based clay comes in a range of 24 bright colors, including magenta, ivory, and pastels, giving you a large palette to work with. And if you want even more hues, you can mix colors to create your own! Easy to smooth out and easy to mix, with each piece displaying consistent color throughout, the clay holds carved details well and is suitable for a wide variety of projects. It’s available in one-pound or 4.5-pound blocks.
WE ALSO LIKE
DAS Air-Hardening Modeling Clay
If a highly durable clay is what you seek, we’re fans of DAS’ pro-grade product, which comes in neutral colors: white, terra-cotta, and stone. This clay takes some time to get used to, as it requires a bit more force to knead than others on our list, but you can add some water to ease the process. Unlike other clays on our list, it also hardens in about 24 hours and is not reworkable. The results can be varnished and painted, and the clay is very strong so you won’t have to worry about breakage or crumbling as you carve into it.
ANOTHER GOOD OPTION
Van Aken Claytoon Modeling Clay
This modeling clay is also by Van Aken and is a touch softer than the brand’s Plastalina clay. It’s designed specifically for Claymation, so expect a highly moldable substance that maintains its structure and details over long periods of time. Like the Plastalina line, Claytoon comes in more than two dozen colors; you can also buy it in curated palettes, like cool tones, earth tones, neutrals, and primaries. It’s sold in smaller amounts, in four-ounce blocks, but the price is comparable to Plastalina.
Sargent Art Plastilina
Sargent’s plastilina modeling clay, the least expensive modeling clay on our list, is a smart pick for classrooms, workshops, and group activities. That’s partially because you can get it in economical five-pound blocks, so you can load up without breaking the bank! Additionally, the clay is highly pliable and easy for young ones to work with for freehand modeling. It is available in just six colors, from terra-cotta to green, but we find that the colors don’t stain hands as much as Van Aken’s products. It’s also formulated with petroleum, which helps to prevent cracking even if worked and reworked over multiple sessions.
TOP OF THE LINE
Chavant Roma Plastilina Modeling Clay
Considered by many artists as the gold standard of modeling clays, Roma Plastilina showcases an incredible flexibility that you have to feel yourself to truly understand. The best choice for professional artists who need to make detailed models or large sculptures, it smooths and blends out with little effort yet remains incredibly tough. Note that this wax- and oil-based clay is formulated with sulfur, which augments its smoothness, but means that it might not be compatible with certain mold-making compounds, so test before use. This clay is available in white or gray green and in three hardness levels: soft, medium, and firm—the last being the best for intricate detail.