Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Working with air dry clay – make it most enjoyable possible.

Ok this is not quite a tutorial as here will not be photos (sorry for that, but they are just taking to much time).
How ever I would like to share some tips on working with air dry clays.

1. Armature – this is where you start the doll, and I know you are anxious to start sculpting, how ever you must take your time to make a proper armature. Before even starting you must plan:

a) Will you sculpt the whole complete doll or will you make her partially sculpted with soft body?

b) If you are going to make her partially sculpted – which parts you will sculpt (head with neck and shoulders or just head; arms till elbows or just palms and etc.)

After you have imagined how your doll will will be made, it is time to make an armature. The parts of armature which are going to be covered with clay must be strong and not flexible. It is essential for avoiding possibility of cracks while the air dry clay is getting dry.

2. When armature is ready I usually paint it with PVA glue to make the clay stick better to it.

3. Sanding is something most of us really hate – your nose, eyes and whole room get full of dust, and it seems there will never be end for it, as the surfaces still has hundreds of small scratches which you want to disappear.

There is a way to avoid the biggest part of it. All you need is some water, a tiny brush and a peace of natural fabrics (old piece of bed sheet suits perfectly). Now you make the fabric wet and stroke gently over the surface. The hard to reach parts – like eyes, nose ears and etc can be stroked with a wet painting brush. NOTE this method is best for the chalky clays, it can be used for paper clays too, but the humidity must be very moderate.

After your master piece is dry, you may still need a bit of sanding, but it will be much less than before.

4. Use primer* – it will make the surface harder, less water absorbing and the paint will stick better. I usually use 1 layer of primer, and then I sand the doll with finest sanding sponge, and use the 2nd layer of primer. I let it get dry for a couple of hours and just after that I start painting. Thanks to this, the surface is not absorbing paint to much, and it helps to avoid deep brushstrokes.

*when I say primer, I mean a simple primer used for walls before painting them. You can find it in building supply stores, just ask for the one which is absorbed deeply and doesn’t make film on the surface.

5. Do not throw air dry clay to the bin. You can collect all small peaces of dry clay and the powder which you’ve got while sanding and etc. Just put everything to the bowl, add a bit of water and leave it for the night – you will be able to use it again. If the mass is to liquid – let it dry for a couple of days.

6. The liquefied air dry clay is very useful for correcting small scratches, and for making tiny *fingers.

*make a hand armature, cover it with PVA glue, let it get dry, paint it with liquefied clay for several layers until you will get the thickness you want. You can use hair dryer to make them dry faster.

Good luck with your creative work!


  1. Thanks for the great tips. I didn't know that you could recycle the clay, wet it and use again!

  2. Wonderful tips! I didn't know about the pva glue...I will try this:)

  3. thanks Dorote.... lots of great tips here....

  4. Oh wow, thank you for the tip about the tiny fingers! I will have to try that.

  5. Thanks for the tips! Very much needed :)

  6. What type of air dry clay would you recommend?

  7. Thank you for this highly instructional tutorial.