The Best Air Dry Clay for Crafts

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Find out which air dry clay is best for crafts and get tips and tricks for working with air dry clay for your crafting projects!

Learn which air dry clay is the best to use for craft projects and get tips and tricks for working with air dry clay!

If you’ve ever taken a ceramics class, then you’re familiar with natural clay that needs to be fired in a very hot kiln to be fully cured and durable. But since kilns are big and expensive (and honestly, kind of scary), air dry clay is a much better choice for most home crafters. 

What is air dry clay?

So, what is air dry clay? It’s any clay that dries, hardens and becomes durable just by sitting out. It can be made from natural materials, polymers or a combination of materials like paper fibers and glue. The main advantage of air dry clay over other types of clay and modeling materials is, of course, that it can air dry and you don’t need any special equipment to finish it. This makes it a great choice for crafters and kids!

What is the difference between air dry clay and regular clay?

After firing, regular clay is waterproof, while air dry clay remains porous and is not waterproof. 

In addition, regular clay is finished with glaze which also needs to be fired in a hot kiln, whereas air dry clay can be finished and colored with other easy-to-use craft supplies including paints and inks. 

What is the difference between air dry clay and polymer clay?

Like regular earthen clay, polymer clay, which is made of PVC, also needs to be heated in an oven to cure and harden. While you can do this in a home oven because it doesn’t require the high intense heat of a kiln, it will not cure or harden in the air on its own. 

Polymer clay IS waterproof after baking. Polymer clay comes pre-colored and is used to make small craft projects because it works great for intricate details.

Air dry clay, on the other hand, doesn’t always handle details quite as well as polymer clay (although some brands are close), and as mentioned before, it needs to be finished with paint or ink or sealer, but on the plus side, the cost is usually lower.

What kinds of craft projects can you use air dry clay for?

I love to use air dry clay for small decorative crafts, especially home decor objects. It works great for things like trinket or ring dishes, I’ve also used it to make ornaments,  coasters, candle holders, an adorable cactus ring holder and even a pair of earrings

Here are 20 more great ideas!

What is the best air dry clay for crafts?

I have tried lots of clays and to be honest, some were not so great. They can be crumbly or not have a great texture (I’m looking at you salt dough). Some of them shrink and crack when they dry, they can break easily. But, after lots of trials and testing, I have 2 favorites. 

My favorite air dry clay for regular craft projects is Activa Plus Air Dry Clay. (This is not sponsored, promise, I just really like it!) This clay is great for a number of reasons.

  • First, the texture and workability feels JUST like regular clay. You can even throw it on a potter’s wheel if you want.
  • Second, it’s really easy to work with and you can easily cut, stamp and shape it with no crumbling or loss of detail (for example, it takes rubber stamps well).
  • I also love that you can smooth it by dipping your clay tools or fingertips in water, just like regular clay. 
  • And finally, it’s strong, it doesn’t shrink or warp when drying and it takes paint really well. 

I usually finish my air dry clay projects with regular acrylic craft paint and with this air dry clay it has a beautiful smooth finish. You can also use ink, paint pens, even glitter glue.

What is the best air dry clay for kids?

My second favorite air dry clay is for kids (although adults can certainly use it too!) While the Activa air dry clay has a density and texture that’s a lot like regular clay, kids’ clays are often lightweight and kind of spongy feeling. 

My favorite air dry clay for kids is Crayola Model Magic. It’s not the cheapest, but it comes in lots of colors (but can still be painted after drying) and it dries to a very durable, smooth but almost slightly flexible texture that’s probably not going to instantly shatter into a million pieces if you drop it. 

And of course, that right there is the number one reason it’s great for kids. My kids would be so upset if they made something and then it was too fragile and broke right away. 

This clay does not take details as well as some other air dry clays but again, it’s non-toxic and easy for kids to use. 

Tips and Tricks for using air dry clay for crafts

  • Make sure that your clay isn’t too thick or it will take forever to dry. I try to keep it under 3/4 of an inch in most places.
  • Roll out air dry clay with a regular rolling pin to get an even thickness.
  • You can use regular clay tools with air dry clay, but I like to cut my rolled out clay with a craft knife for a super clean edge.
  • As you work with this clay, smooth any little imperfections and edges with a finger dipped in water.
  • Add texture to your projects with rubber stamps, or other objects pressed into the clay surface. You can even use things like leaves, fabric or household objects to add texture. 
  • If you’re able to, flip your project over halfway through drying so that it dries evenly.
  • Make sure your project is completely and totally dry before painting so the paint won’t peel or crack. This may take a couple of days depending on the thickness of the clay and the humidity where you live.
  • Do not use your clay projects as food surfaces. 
  • If you will be using your clay craft somewhere where there might be moisture (as a coaster for example) coat it with a waterproof sealer.

 
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