Thursday, June 23, 2011

Types of Modeling Clays Explained

Figures made with air-dry clay (paperclay) by Tine Kamerbeek 
There are a few different types of clays popular with today's hobbyist that don't require a kiln or any special equipment.  The 3 basic types are oil-based, wax-based and water-based.*   We can also categorize them as heat-cured, self-hardening, air-dry or non-hardening.
*Note: There are also ceramic and stone-based clays, but these usually require a kiln to be cured and aren't included in our discussion.

The most popular heat-cured clays are the polymer clays.   Polymer clays are oil-based and must be heated to cure, however, a home oven can be used and a kiln is not required.   Polymer clays are available in many brands and many colors.  Most are very stiff when first removed from package and must be kneaded before using.   Polymer clay will be plastic like, waterproof and very durable if cured properly. 

Wallace and Gromit
are made of plasticine
on metal armatures
Wax-based clays are the plasticine clays. This type of clay stays flexible and never hardens. If heated, it will melt.   Plasticine is what's generally referred to as "modeling clay". It's also known as "Plastilena", which is a brand name.   Plasticine is often used to create clay animations because the flexible clay allows the figure to be re-positioned over and over. Air-dry and polymer clays are sometimes used for non-moving body parts.

The air-dry clays are mostly water based formulas, both commercial brands and homemade clays (cold porcelain and papier mache).  Because the water content evaporates as it cures, projects created with air-dry clay will shrink a certain amount.  There are hundreds of brands all with different characteristics and the shrinkage rate varies.   The finer quality brands of air-dry-clay harden to a matte, smooth, durable finish but must be top-coated and sealed because air-dry clay is not waterproof (with a couple of exceptions).

The New Clay News is all about this last type of clay.   If it's no-bake, air-dry or self-hardening...we'll talk about it and search out artists and tutorials!   Many new brands and new formulas of air-dry clays have recently become available and this "new clay" is increasing in popularity every day.  There are also a few new polymer-based air-dry clays sometimes referred to as "resin clay".   Two-part epoxy clays are included because they are also self-hardening.



So, you can see there is a lot to learn about air-dry clays.  If you are used to working with polymer clay and want to try air-dry clay, it will take some practice and some experimenting before you find the one that's just right for you.  Air-dry clays are not all the same and which brand would work best for you depends a lot on what you want to make with it.   The best way to learn is to join our Air-Dry-Clay Yahoo Group, where we have many generous members willing to share their expertise and experience.

The clay artisans in the Air-Dry-Clay Yahoo Group use and discuss all the commercial brands of no-bake, air-dry, self-hardening clays plus homemade clay recipes such as cold porcelain and papier mache. This includes brands such as Creative Paperclay**, Delight, Makin's Clay, LaDoll, Hearty Clay, Deco ClayCraft, DAS Pronto, Apoxie Sculpt, Lyra, Artista, Angel, Aves, FormoFit, Darwi, Flumo, Lumina, Celluclay, Sculptamold, Cold Porcelain, Crayola Model Magic, Crayola Air Dry Clay, Sculpt It, Paverpol and many more brands.

20 comments:

  1. I have been using a clay known as Das for years. I don't see it listed in the air drying clays. Is that because there are others of a better quality. I sculpt clay on to gourds would some one have a suggestion that would be better?

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  2. Which clay is "better" is everyone's own personal preference and depends a lot on how clay will be used. Das Pronto is listed in above article. I'm not certain if this is different than the Das you've been using. It's not one of my favorite brands and I haven't used it in many years. I find it too heavy for my use. "Creative Paperclay" is a brand that is very popular with those sculpting with gourds.

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  3. I'm trying to come up with a way for kids in my 4th grade class to make waterproof figures for snowglobes. What kind of clay is easy to use and waterproof?

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    Replies
    1. I'm sorry it took me so long to reply to your question...somehow it got overlooked. The answer is simple, the only way to ensure a clay is completely waterproof is to use a kiln-fired clay. If a clay is non-toxic & child-friendly it's probably not water-resistant. A topcoat to seal the clay helps protect figures from water but I don't think this would be suitable for your snow globe project.

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  4. I believe you have to put glaze on your final clay project to make it waterproof.

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    Replies
    1. You're correct. Most all air-dry and self-hardening clays need to be sealed with a clear finish to protect from moisture and dirt. Some self-hardening epoxy clays may not need this topcoat but nearly all others do. However, this does not make them waterPROOF, just water resistant.

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  5. Found some beautiful things on Etsy made with "velvet clay." He says it's a light and slightly flexible clay that doesn't need baking. I can't find it online. Any idea what this might be?

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    1. Hearty Clay and a few other ADC brands will dry with a velvet finish, so that's a possibility. However, in searching for "velvet clay" I saw "velvet clay" also referred to as "velvet plastic" and, in turn, saw that "velvet plastic" referred to "A-Clay". A-Clay is a European/Russian brand of air-dry clay primarily marketed to children. http://www.orange-elephant.nl/wat-is-a-clay.html but some artists are creating detailed figures with it...see http://orange-elephant.com/creative_stories/3

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    2. Thanks! I'll check into the Hearty Clay. I've seen it locally. Appreciate it!

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  6. In regard velvet clay, I found: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/185053476/red-velvet-clay-amos-i-clay-50-gramm-air?ref=listing-shop-header-0, found it on ebay and amazon as well.

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  7. Another interesting clay http://www.paperclay.com/

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    Replies
    1. paperclay not so interesting as I just discovered the green feathers were made with fabric.

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  8. Is there a type of clay that dries flexible and can be sewn through. I am making a Deadpool costume and would love to be able to mold the 3 dimensional details with clay and then sew them onto the fabric.

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    Replies
    1. I don't know about using clay but crafting foam may be easier and more flexible.

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    2. I don't know about using clay but crafting foam may be easier and more flexible.

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    3. Try claytastic. It's air drying, and feels like foam. You can sew it onto your costume, but I'd suggest sealing it with something just in case you get wet

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  9. hi bought clay from joanns to do some sculptures that i was planning on gluing to some wood however the clay breaks
    very frustrating can you recommend a clay i'd for it to air dry thank you

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  10. Really i like the way of your blog post content, its good information for us so please sharing this interesting and useful information. Always keep sharing. Thank You.

    Flexible Hose Pipes Manufacturers in Faridabad

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  11. Does anyone know what sculpting material Ellen Jewett uses to make her fantastic animal sculptures? Thanks!!

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    Replies
    1. While she doesn't say specifically - scroll to the bottom of this page to see her answer - http://www.ellenjewettsculpture.com/contact/
      Best bet is a combination of epoxy resin and polymer clay.

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