Friday, November 19, 2010

Meet a New Clay: Cloud Clay

Cloud Clay snowmen, approx. 3" tall

I recently tried another new air-drying clay called "Cloud Clay".    When I first started working with it I ran into a number of problems but after a week or two of practice, I grew to like the clay.  The snowmen shown above were created after stumbling through a few hit & miss projects!

Cloud Clay is soft and easy to form.  I like it because it is easy on my hands (I have Arthritis) and I also like the vibrant colors. Cloud Clay is marketed to children but all ages should enjoy.  Adults who like crafting cute chracters or who have problems with their hands (like me) will like it's soft texture.  It is available in 4 oz packs in a smiliar price range as Model Magic and Makin's Clay.  (Large classroom packs are also available.)

Amaco introduced Cloud Clay in 2009.
This is manufacturer's description:

NEW! Super light modeling clay for ages 3+, available in 10 colors** in 4 oz packages.    Cloud Clay™ is as light as air … AP certified non-toxic and safe to use! This soft, puffy, and pliable modeling material is fun to squeeze, shape or mold. Cloud Clay has more ‘stretch’ than other brands, so fibers won’t break when pulled apart. Projects are more durable, even for the smallest of details.

This clay sticks to itself and not to hands. Colors blend well and mix with acrylics. Shrinks very little, so it can be used over an armature including balloons. This colorful clay dries overnight and decorates easily. Reusable when stored and sealed properly.


Crafters and kids can rubber stamp or press Cloud Clay™ into molds, model super heroes and fantasy creatures. Shape the sun, moon, and stars. The sky is the limit for creativity with Cloud Clay™.


Bear made with Cloud Clay (approx. 2.5 inches tall, seated)

My experience....
Cloud Clay is a soft, puffy, lightweight clay similar to Model Magic and a few other brands of very soft air-dry clays.   It's pretty stretchy too.   We pulled a piece to see how far it would stretch before breaking and it stretched the width of the table.  This stretchiness can be annoying when trying to pull a small piece of clay from the package because it doesn't break off easily.   I found it worked better to use scissors to cut off  the amount I needed, which is not really a problem.

Cloud Clay dries fairly quickly and pieces can be handled (gently) without any damage within a very short period of time (varies, depending on shape & thickness).    It appears to be completely cured after drying overnight, but it remains a little soft (seems to get harder with more time).   Once dry, it is lightweight and has a matte, velvety finish which I really like.

Wrinkling occurs in 'skin' if figure gets bent or squished when partially cured.
I have mixed feelings about this clay...it's not my favorite but it's a great clay for the kids and projects calling for soft clays.    I made my "test" bear (see tutorial here) using this Cloud Clay and I think he came out pretty darn cute.  I enjoyed working with the clay and it gave me no problems at all except for the wrinkling you can see in the close-up photo above.   This occurred because the body of the bear was beginning to cure (skin formed) when I attached the head.   The small amount of pressure needed to push head onto toothpick (used to reinforce) caused the body to compress and the wrinkling and cracking appeared. I tried smoothing it out with a damp finger but was only partially successful.   The solution?   Work faster!!   ;-)  (LOL...joking here!   One solution would be to let head and body dry completely before attaching head.)

Here's some of the pros and cons I observed.

On the good side.....

  • Reasonably priced and readily available.   Great for children and those who find the stiffer clays too hard to work with.   **Cloud Clay is available in the 3 primary and 3 secondary colors plus white & terra cotta.   No black.   
  • As I said previously, I like the vibrant colors.   The red is a true red.   When placed next to each other, the Model Magic red looked pinker than the Cloud Clay red.  Green and other colors are pleasing and there's a nice shade of brown that's good for making animals and such.
  • It was easy to mix and create new colors.   It only took a little kneading to blend colors.  I mixed a satisfactory flesh tone quite easily and also mixed the purple used for the violets shown below.
  • Hands stay clean, clay is dry to the touch and doesn't stick to hands, work table, or tools and there's minimal color transfer.  Except if you wet it!   If you try smoothing surface by adding a little water (as is often done with air-dry clays), the color will transfer to your hands and the clay becomes very sticky.    This, however, could be used to advantage.
  • My 6 year old grandson enjoyed working with Cloud Clay a lot. He didn't have any problems rolling this clay into balls and making simple shapes.   Other clays I've used with him weren't as easy for his little hands to manipulate.
  • I love the texture when handling it and also the finish texture when dry, which is soft and velvety-looking.   It's lightweight and thin pieces are a little flexible.
  • Even though it sticks to itself quite well, it doesn't stick to scissors and is easy to cut. 
  • Goes through pasta machine without sticking.   I didn't try making it really, really thin (because I thought it'd start stretching) but I did roll it thin enough to make the miniature violets shown below.   No problems at all working the clay this small.
  •  I used a small petal cutter for the purple petals and it worked just fine.  Didn't stick, even without using powders as a release.   I also tried clay in a push mold and it released easily.  
  • Clay doesn't shrink much at all.   I wasn't able to measure any noticeable difference in height of the snowmen or bear after they had dried.
  • Additional color can be added to a project with markers and paint.
Miniature violets (less than 1 inch high)


The not-so good......

  • Sticks to packaging.
  • Packaging is not resealable or reusable.   Properly sealed storage is important.   Just putting it in a baggie would probably not be enough to keep for any length of time.   I had best luck wrapping it in aluminum foil first and then putting it in a zip lock bag.
  • Sticks to itself, which is good, but if you accidentally bump a fresh clay next to what you're working on...it'll stick right away!   Attempts to re-position will leave residue behind.
  • The stickiness makes cutting with a knife and some tools difficult ..too gooey...it just stretches....but scissors work fine, no problem at all. 
  • It doesn't stay pliable very long.   Once exposed to air, the outside layer starts to dry very quickly.  Doing things like trying to re-shape a form into a ball must be done before that outside layer dries or it will crack and wrinkle (see bear close-up above).   This "skinning", however, is helpful and allows damage-free handling of your project as you work.
  • It won't keep it's shape if there's any weight pressing down on it.   Example, legs will collapse under the weight of a body.   Either use a toothpick or some other armature to reinforce the legs (or other parts) or create figure in separate pieces and glue together after dried.
  • Like all the soft clays, cracks and wrinkles are difficult to smooth out and seams don't blend easily after the first few minutes of working with it.
  • Kneading 2 colors together is easy, but it has to be done quite quickly.  Too much kneading or exposure to air and clay will start to become noticable dry.
  • Too bad there's no black.   Mixing a black was difficult, all I could get was dark brown.  Paint (or another brand of clay) would have to be used for anything black.
  • After 24 hours the figure will be dried firm, but still a little soft.   Fingernails can easily indent.
  • I tried using a push mold with the clay.   It didn't stick to mold at all but it didn't hold fine detail well.  The clay has a tendency to "puff up" as it relaxes and distinct lines just disappear into rounded profiles.

Harry's Dinos...one of the first projects with Cloud Clay
It took a couple weeks of practice before I felt comfortable with this clay.  Partly because I wasn't used to working with such a soft clay.   The first few figures were a disaster and I won't even show them to you! *G* Grandson and I made some of the characters from the Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs series and the results were just OK ...IMHO.   But I kept practicing and I got better and clay got better (in my eyes!).

Conclusion:   Cloud Clay is a nice budget-priced clay suitable for cute, simple figures and artists of all ages.   Kids will especially love it.
For further information on Cloud Clay visit www.AMACO.com .

18 comments:

  1. I love Harry's Dinos and I to have used this clay and love the suede like velvety texture once dried. I found a ball I made bounded and still does to this day.

    Thanks for taking the time to do this review, it is very informative and greatly detailed as it shows you have gone through great lengths to test this product to the fullest!

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  2. Thanks Cre8, I forgot to mention the bouncy quality of the clay! In case anybody is wondering, the claws on the red dino are rice! *G*

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  3. Thanks for the great review. It will really help me know how to handle the clay and share that with students. I was wondering if you had compared Cloud Clay to Model Magic.

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  4. BTW, the SAX catalog now shows Cloud Clay in purple and black too.

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  5. I used Cloud Clay recently to make something I've never attempted before--"medieval" type body armour and a helmet, for a handmade doll.

    Cloud Clay works well for this kind of project. It is flexible, not brittle, when dry; can be stretched to a thinnish layer and wrapped around other things; can be molded over things without sticking to them (I molded the breastplate, backplate and helmet directly over the doll, who was fully clothed at the time, to ensure a good fit, and nothing stuck!); and appears to take paint well. (The armour was startlingly realistic-looking with nothing more than a layer of metallic craft paint applied. My fingerprints and uneven edges made it look like battered, well-used metal.) I also glued straps to the armour so it could be fastened onto the doll, and the glue seems to have stuck well enough (though I gave the doll away before the glue was completely dry, so will probably never fully know how successful this was.) I don't know how to post pictures here, or even whether it is permitted, so you can see pictures at my blog: http://bbnoisywoods.blogspot.com/

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  6. Thanks so much! Cloud Clay is definitely a viable choice for this kind of project.

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  7. Hi that was very helpfull I am just getting this in the store where I work so thanks love your models especially the dinosaurs
    Janet

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  8. Hi there, what kind of clay would you reccomend to make a large model car? Thanks

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    1. No not lifesize, approx 10" x 5" x 5"

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  9. No not life size, approx 10" x 5" x 5". Also i dont have a kiln so air drying or oven baking would be great thankyou

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    1. Any polymer clay would probably work but this blog is about air-dry clay and the brands I'd recommend for your model are Creative Paperclay or LaDoll. (read about them on our ADC Brands page) The reason I recommend them is that both types of clay can be sanded (once cured) to a very smooth hard finish (appropriate for a car). Less expensive clays might not sand as smooth. With either one you should use an armature for center of your model made from carved Styrofoam or paper mache. When air dry clay is modeled too thick it will not dry evenly and may crack. Building your form with a foam center avoids this. (Do NOT use foam with oven-bake clay.)
      Another clay that may work well for a large model is WED (Walter E. Disney) clay, a water based clay originally developed for use in sculpting Disney’s models.

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    2. Thats so helpful thanks very much!! :) appreciate you taking the time to reply :)

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  10. How does Cloud Clay compare to the Crayola brand of air dry clay?

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    1. Depends on whether you're talking about the Crayola ADC that comes in a tub or Crayola Model Magic. There's a lot of difference between Cloud Clay and Crayola ADC but I'll assume you're referring to Model Magic, which is very similar to Cloud Clay. Cloud Clay is a little softer and stretchier*. It is also a bit stickier. My impression was that Cloud Clay started to dry faster than Model Magic. Those differences can be good or not so good depending on your own preferences. I like working with Model Magic but also love the soft, velvety finish that Cloud Clay has when dry. *Note that Model Magic FUSION is stretchier and stickier than regular Model Magic.

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    2. Depends on whether you're talking about the Crayola ADC that comes in a tub or Crayola Model Magic. There's a lot of difference between Cloud Clay and Crayola ADC but I'll assume you're referring to Model Magic, which is very similar to Cloud Clay. Cloud Clay is a little softer and stretchier*. It is also a bit stickier. My impression was that Cloud Clay started to dry faster than Model Magic. Those differences can be good or not so good depending on your own preferences. I like working with Model Magic but also love the soft, velvety finish that Cloud Clay has when dry. *Note that Model Magic FUSION is stretchier and stickier than regular Model Magic.

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  11. The two seem virtually identical to me. The colours may vary slightly between the brands.

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Thank you very much for taking the time to comment! ;-)
Sorry I had to re-instate the 'word verification'...I'm getting far too much spam in the comment box.

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