Regardless of whether you have found a passion for sculpting or are looking to start a career in pottery or figurine-making, you have to know what makes the best clay for sculpting.
Ideal modeling material for the beginner, as well as the seasoned sculptor, depends on the project. The choice of clay is a very personal one. It is based upon the feel, texture, and hardness or softness of the clay, as well as the possible remodeling of the finished piece.
Read on to discover the best ones in the market if you are wondering what kind of clay to start with. With nothing more than a block of clay or a kit, you can begin your sculpting journey.
Editor’s Recommendation: Top 5 Clay for Sculpting
What Makes a Good Clay for Sculpting?
It must not only have the quality of malleability as well as abilities to be kneaded and molded easily. Here we’ve gathered the major factors that you must consider when looking for clay.
Before you look at other features, make sure the clay is slow to dry. It is important in sculpting that the clay material remains easy to work around with. Especially if you wish to work on it longer.
Stay away from less professional-grade clay materials if you are working on a sculpture that should take you days to finish.
Apart from slow drying, look for clay that is highly pliable. The pliability of clay entails how easily the material can be sketched. A pliable clay is to sculpt without having to forcefully fight the material.
In addition to that, you will be able to make more intricate details with it. For instance, you can make thin veins located in a human anatomy sculpture.
Ease of Use
Find clay that is ideal for hands and tools. Regardless of whether you love to sculpt with your hands or tools alone, it is better if there is flexibility in the methods to be used. Make sure the consistency of clay allows for both types, and it will not fall apart when either is used.
Even the best clay sculpting tools will not be able to do the job it is supposed to do if you use it on non-pliable clay.
Choose an amount that will be enough to work on a project in the meantime. It is best to store what you only need so that it will not dry up or harden in your storage. While there are mediums to soft clay, it is still advisable to have them sealed until you need them.
The clay you obtain must allow you to do a variety of sculptures, from making small figures, pots, bowls, and other figurines. Aside from that, it would be better if the clay can be molded to make props. At the end of the day, you will want a material that can be molded into anything you want it to.
5 Best Clay for Sculpting
For beginners and families, as well as professional special effects sculptors; carefully examine each to identify which one best suits your interests and preferences.
1. Aurora Premium Air Dry Clay
- Extremely pliable sculpting clay used for...
- Water based art clay is smooth, soft, slow...
- Multipurpose crafting clay has modeling...
- Clay blocks come 5 lb, 10 lb, 25 lb and 50 lb...
- Color is Gray
First on the list is a premium air-dry clay. If you do not own a kiln or oven for baking clay, this air-dry clay should enable you to mold plenty of creations without the need for cooking. What’s more? Its air-dry consistency does not restrict you from curing and glazing it.
It is known to have modeling compounds similar to the clay being used for Walter E Disney prosthetics. With this, the Aurora air dry clay is a pliable modeling clay used for most professional special effects or FX sets. It is also commonly used in the motion pictures industry.
The clay allows for modifications and customizations. Since it is a white craft clay, you can point on them using a specialized brush when its fully dry or airbrush tool when it is still moist. Apart from that, you can also press down objects and materials such as beads and even leaves to imprint shapes or lines.
In addition to that, the clay can be used for traditional techniques in sculpting. Included are coiling, slabbing, pinching, scoring, and welding. It is effective for casting masks as well as with sculpting tools.
- Suitable for air drying and cooking
- Professional use and also designed for beginners and children
- Oil-free, mineral-based consistency
- Enhanced plasticity for customized clay creations
- It is not advisable to reuse
- Cannot be subjected to fire unlike the clay that is meant for firing
2. Amaco Stonex Air Dry Clay
If you are looking for clay that air dries and at the same time can be cooked, the Amaco Stonex should be worthy of your investment. Look no further as this clay already allows for carving after being sculpted and dried. With that being said, you can sand and drill afterward using the right sculpting tools.
The clay can either be used with or without the kiln. Meaning you do not have to cook it with fire in order to sculpt a creation as it does not break easily. If you wish to sculpt dishware or anything that you will use to put edible objects like food in it, make sure to fire it.
By subjecting the sculpture in an environment with a humidity level of below 70% for 48 hours, it should dry it fully. Otherwise, you can use wet tissue or sponge on the surface or area that you wish to be pliable and smoother to sculpt.
Finally, the clay can be varnished, leaves no residue, and dries white. Finish with paint such as school and acrylic once they are fully dry. Create figurines, models, and pots with intricate details and engrave inscriptions with versatile Stonex air dry clay.
- Air-dry clay means it self-hardens over time
- Excellent material for clay plasticity
- Allows for acrylic paint finish
- Sandable, drillable, and carvable
- Dries faster than most clay in the market
- Water needs to be added to make it more workable
3. Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay
- Mineral based non-hardening clay
- Use for flower arrangements, science projects...
- Never hardens or dries out
- Non-Toxic; Conforms to ASTM D 4236
- Suitable for all ages
Most clay in the market hardens and changes consistency due to prolonged air exposure. Even before you have the opportunity to make the final touches, the material has already hardened.
Although those kinds of clay allow for reshaping, the Sargent Plastilina clay is made to be more pliable. With this, it is the best clay for sculpting figures. Especially for those who leave their projects and come back to it at a later time.
The clay is made of non-toxic, sulfur-free, and all-natural earth materials. With this, it has a neutral and almost odorless scent meant for those who are sensitive to smell. Given the materials used to create the clay, it cannot be fired. Thus, it maintains the consistency of its original mold.
A few downsides to the clay is that it does not allow paint finishes. Despite that, colors can be mixed with clay to achieve tints since it dries in the color of ivory white.
To create the best sculptures, choose to obtain the different colors of the clay. A chart is created by the manufacturer so that you will see suitable color matching.
- Ease of use for both hands and suitable clay sculpting tools
- Made of sulfur-free, non-toxic, all-natural and odorless materials
- Oil-based model clay that retains its consistency
- Widely used for claymation
- Easy to reshape
- Cannot be subjected to fire
- It does not accept paint finishes despite its ability to accept pigmentation
4. Sago Brothers Air Dry Clay
- DEVELOPS CREATIVITY - Sago Brothers modeling...
- 72 PAGES TUTORIAL BOOK - Many tutorials for...
- THE GREATEST GIFT - Sago Brothers air dry...
- NON TOXIC - 100% safe. ASTM F963-17, CPSIA &...
- WHAT YOU GET - 24 colors of air dry clay, 24...
For the kids? Definitely. How about for adults? Highly suitable! The Sago Brothers clay is designed for the kids and the kids at heart. It includes a 72-page tutorial book that is meant to inspire and develop the creativity of children to enhance their logical thinking.
Aside from that, crafting clay allows them to develop their appreciation for sculpting.
The box also includes 24 colors of air-dry clay and 3 sculpting tools that are safe for children’s use. It is made of non-toxic, as well as wheat, nuts, and peanut-free materials. Indeed, this box of clay is kid-friendly and definitely, parent-approved!
It naturally air dries and is easy to remodel and shape for another project. There is no need to fire the clay creation in the oven or kiln as it naturally dries within 5 to 24 hours.
If you are worried about the mess your children might make, then worry no more! By simply using the clay itself, you can remove residue that got stuck on hardwood or any surface. For glass tables, you can use soap and scrub.
With the clay’s consistency and the tools included, it is the best clay for sculpting at home with your children. Display your child’s creation in their room and your living area to instill creativity in your home with this bundle of joy!
- Dries within 5 hours and fully hardens within 24 hours
- No odor
- Prevents cracking and color fading
- Does not lose shape after fully drying
- Might leave clay residue on wood if left uncleaned after a long time
5. Arteza Oven Bake Polymer Clay Kit
- Complete Set of Polymer Clay Supplies - Each...
- Vibrant Polymer Clay Colors - Enjoy 42...
- Easy Oven-Bake Sculpting Clay - This soft and...
- Non-Toxic Polymer Clay Kit for Kids & Adults...
- 100% Guaranteed: We're sure you'll love your...
Last but definitely not least is the clay kit. We have included only the best clay kit in the market for beginners who wish to practice their first oven-baked sculpture. The kit is made for both adults and children. It is made of non-toxic materials and tools that are safe for starter use.
It consists of 42 colors in bold, pastel shades that stay bright even after being subjected to fire or after baking. When mixed together, the shades combine and hold up well.
Of course, the kit is not complete without the right tools! Apart from clay, the kit also contains versatile sculpting tools and accessories, including assorted plastic pieces of jewelry.
Yes, that is right. The kit is not only for modeling sculptures, but you also get to make custom jewelry. Indeed, it is designed and created for the whole family.
The best thing about the clay is that it remains easy to roll and mold until you finally bake it. By simply baking it for 15 minutes at a temperature of at least 260 degrees Fahrenheit, you can create a sturdy and durable piece of art. Get this kit for you and your family for an amazing time spent together.
- Includes plenty of color options
- It is safe for children’s use
- Non-toxic material
- Allows for jewelry creation, sculptures, and figurine
- Requires a quick bake in the oven to finalize the project
- Not meant for creating projects that come in contact with food
Frequently Asked Questions
- What type of clay is used for sculpting?
The most common types of clay used for sculpting are Plastilina, self-hardening clay, and wax or polymer-based materials. Plastilina is an oil-based clay, also known as Plasteline, Plasticium and Plasticine.
On the other hand, the self-hardening clay or pottery clay is used to create ceramic. It uses air drying and non-firing methods.
- Can you use pottery clay for sculpting?
Yes, you may use pottery clay for sculpting. In fact, water-based or potter’s clay is the most basic clay type. It can be used for making ceramic objects being used by many professional sculptors.
- What is the best clay for beginners?
For beginners who work slow, it is best to work with clay that does not harden immediately. Both polymer-based and air dry clay have properties that enable you to work on your project for a long duration.
The polymer or PVC hardens when it is baked in the oven, whereas air dry clay would harden when left untouched.
- How do you start clay sculpting?
Aside from having the right set of tools and the best clay for sculpting, you must have a dedicated workspace. Put all your sculpting needs together, so you do not have to rummage through your stuff looking for a single tool.
In addition to that, make sure to practice sketching your desired project to know the anatomy of it for precision and accuracy of results.
- How long does the air dry clay take to set?
The thicker the clay, the longer it takes to fully dry. Usually, it takes about 24 hours for the clay to dry to the touch. Otherwise, a larger project should take at least 72 hours.
Knead, mold, and sculpt your first creation or your tenth dishware with only the best clay for sculpting to achieve excellent results. Pour your ideas and unleash your creativity by creating something new out of clay. Take note of the factors to consider when buying to avoid frustration and failure.
At the end of the day, the price won’t matter if you see your sculpture creation displayed at your home or being used by a friend.