Best Clay For Sculpting

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Stress can get on top of us all, especially if you work in a high-pressure job. However, too much stress can lead to many serious physical and mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure to name a few.

If you’re struggling with stress after a long day at work and need a way to relax, sculpting with clay can be a therapeutic way to relieve the pressure of everyday life. Not only is sculpting with clay an excellent hobby, but it can be a great way to entertain children, too! 

Best Clay For Sculpting

Whether you want a quiet moment to yourself or need a fun activity for the whole family, why not try using clay for sculpting?

Keep reading to find out the best clay for sculpting.

OUR TOP PICK

Original Sculpey White, Non Toxic, Polymer clay, Oven Bake Clay, 1.75 pounds great for modeling, sculpting, holiday, DIY and school projects. Great for all skill levels.

The Polyform Sculpey Original Polymer Clay is soft and pliable and won't dry out when exposed to air, so you have plenty of time to get the perfect shape!

Perfect for everything from molded items to free-form jewelry pieces, figurines, ornaments, and scrapbooking embellishments.

Original Sculpey is soft and pliable, and it works and feels like ceramic clay but will not dry out when exposed to air.

Pros  

  • Great texture – This modeling clay works and feels like ceramic clay but will not dry out when exposed to air. 
  • Variety is great for kids – Get creative! This particular sculpting clay is available in a variety of colors to fulfill all of your sculpting needs. 
  • Years of experience -  Sculpey has been in the hands of kids, parents, and teachers for generations. The creative possibilities are endless!  

Cons 

  • One customer claimed that this product struggled to harden, even after baking.

EDITORS CHOICE

Monster Clay Premium Grade Modeling Clay (4.5lb)

The Monster Makers Monster Clay is a re-usable professional oil/wax-based sculpting medium featuring a super smooth, low tack, low melting temperature formulation.

This premium grade modeling clay is used by special effects units in movies for creating figures with a lot of detail.

This Monster Clay exhibits a unique elastic quality when warm, making it super easy to work with!

Pros 

  • Versatile - Monster clay melts easily to a pourable consistency and is great for making copies of life casts where changes are needed. 
  • Good value - Monster Clay has a lower density than average oil-based clay, which means that in every tub of Monster Clay you get roughly 25% more clay per pound without the added cost. 
  • Safe to use - Monster clay is non-toxic and sulfur-free, so you don’t have to worry about your family sculpting with it. 

Cons

  • One customer noted that this clay arrived dry and couldn’t be sculpted with.

BEST VALUE

ACTIVA Plus Natural Self-Hardening Clay White 2.2 pounds

The ACTIVA Plus Natural Self-Hardening Clay is a premium, self-hardening, air dry clay with exceptional plasticity.

This sculpting clay self-hardens and cures to superior strength and durability with minimal shrinkage; ¼ inch thick dries in 24 hours. 

This ACTIVA sculpting clay will not crumble when dry, can be carved, sanded and drilled when cured; can be kiln-dried if desired, accepts virtually any finish. 

Pros

  • Self-hardening- This air-dry sculpting clay is an ultra-fine, grained versatile clay that achieves excellent detail. 
  • 100% safe to use – This non-toxic sculpting clay meets or exceeds all US and European testing standards, so you can rest assured that it is safe for you and your family to use and have fun with. 
  • Versatile - This sophisticated modeling clay is great for crafts, art projects, classroom, and studio use. 

Cons 

  • A few customers claimed that this particular clay had a tendency to crack. 

RUNNER UP

AMACO Air Dry Clay, Gray, 10 lbs, Grey

The AMACO Air Dry Clay is all-purpose air-dry clay to use for sculpting, hand modeling, or throwing on a potter's wheel for excellent results every time!

This sculpting clay is non-toxic, so you can get the whole family involved knowing that it is safe to use.

This is a great clay for home use - especially if you love working in clay but don't want to fork out money on a kiln!

Pros

  • Pliable – Sculpt a variety of different shapes and models, the possibilities are truly endless with this sculpting clay. 
  • Easy to use – This sculpting clay is perfect for beginners and more experienced individuals alike! 
  • Versatile – This sculpting clay can be worked in many methods such as coiling, slab work, and sculpting, so your creativity has no limits! 

Cons

  • One customer claimed that they experienced issues with this particular sculpting clay shrinking over time.

RUNNER UP

Gray Air Dry Clay | Natural, Non-Toxic All-Purpose Compound | Self-Hardening, No Bake Gray Clay for Sculpting, Modeling and More | Made in The USA | 10lbs

The Remarkable U Gray Air Dry Clay hardens when exposed to the air for an easy finish.

This 100% natural clay is a great medium for artists of any ability level, from beginners to more experienced individuals!

You needn’t worry about booking kiln time or using the oven! Simply set your finished clay sculpture in a safe place and leave it until it completely self-hardens.

Pros

  • Multifunctional - This natural clay can be used for coiling, pinching, sculpting, modeling on armatures, hand building, and pottery wheel work for all of your creative projects! 
  • 100% natural – This clay is entirely non-toxic and safe to use! 
  • Easy to work - Use your hands - and water, if needed - to soften the clay and join different pieces. 

Cons

  • One customer noted that this clay didn’t dry as well as they had hoped as it had a tendency to crack. 

Best Clay For Sculpting Buying Guide

When it comes to buying claying for sculpting, there are a few factors to consider. However, it mainly comes back to the type of clay, the dry time, and the color. Most importantly though, you want to be creative and have fun with it!

Read the factors below before making your purchase.

Types of clay

An important factor that you’ll need to take into account when purchasing sculpting clay is the type of clay, as there is an array out there to choose from that are either natural clays or synthetic clays.

Clay is a natural-occurring material that you could technically take straight out of the ground. However, the types of clay that I go into more detail below will reveal more if you’re new to sculpting.

Water-based clay 

This type of clay is mixed with water. Water-based clay dries out fast as the water content evaporates. The fast-drying of water-based clay is one of the features that make it popular.

Water-based clay is suitable for small projects. Since it tends to dry out if kept for too long, it is best used for projects that use up the clay before it dries out.

Air-dry clay

Air-dry clay is usually water-based clay. As you can tell by the name, air-dry clay dries on its own and does not require to be kiln-fired, unlike traditional clays that need to be fired in a kiln at a high temperature, or like polymer clays that need to be heated in an oven to cure.

For this reason, air dry is incredibly convenient, as you just need patience!

Oil/Wax-Based Clay

Oil/wax-based sculpting clays are made of a combination of oils, waxes, and clay minerals. The biggest benefit of oil-based clay, as opposed to water-based clay, is that it doesn’t dry out even when placed uncovered in a dry room.

These types of clays are mostly used for making temporary sculptures (for practice or for fun) and for making molds, too. It is important to mention that this type of clay cannot be fired in a kiln, and will melt and could cause a potential fire hazard if you attempt to do so.

Since oil-based clay contains oil, then, its malleability as a material is affected by the temperature that it is applied to it as the viscosity of the oils subsequently varies with temperature. Below are some popular oil-based clays.

Plasticine

Plasticine is an oil-based modeling material and is great for kids. Its main ingredients include clay, oil, and a binder (typically clay flour). Plasticine remains workable and soft, unlike water-based clays and wax, and it does not dry or harden.

A great benefit of using plasticine is that it is available in a wide variety of colors which can be used as purchased or alternatively can be blended to form new colors. This is why plasticine is such a great option to entertain your little ones, the creative possibilities are endless!

Epoxy Clay

Epoxy clay arrives as two separate components: epoxy resin and epoxy curing agent, and begins hardening once these two components are mixed together.

Although epoxy clay does come in different colors, the array of colors is not nearly as wide as polymer clay, for instance. However, what sets epoxy clay apart from polymer clay is that it remains soft provided that the two components are not kneaded together.

Polymer clay

This type of sculpting clay is soft and pliable but only until it is heated. Polymer clay is incredibly versatile. Although if you heat polymer clay it hardens permanently, if it isn’t heated, then you never have to worry about polymer clay drying out!

However, there are a few caveats when it comes to using polymer clay. For instance, you should not attempt to burn polymer clay. This is because the fumes produced by the process of burning may cause difficulty in breathing and irritation in your airways.

Alongside this, you shouldn’t eat polymer clay. This is especially important to know if you have children, as polymer clay should only be given to children under adult supervision to make sure that they do not eat it or put it in their mouths.

It is also worth noting that the type of clay that you choose will also depend on the kind of projects you want to be sculpting. Whichever sculpting clay you decide on, make sure that you do your own research and that you’re happy before going ahead with it.

Drying time

Another factor that you will need to take into consideration when choosing a sculpting clay is the drying time, as this will contribute to how convenient the clay is.

This might not seem essential, but if you’re making a gift for someone or are working to a schedule then it is important to know how long the sculpting clay takes to dry.

This is also important as it will determine how long you need to wait before you can decorate your masterpiece, as adding paint could ruin it if it’s not dried properly!

Always make sure that you’re happy with the drying time before clicking ‘buy’.

Color range

Another factor that you’ll want to consider when purchasing clay for sculpting is the color range. It is worth noting that the type of clay that you are using will also determine the number of colors that it is available to buy in. Below are some popular choices that you might want to consider!

Plasticine is known for its large range of colors, which is what makes it such an ideal choice for children! Whether your kid prefers blue, yellow, pink, or all of the colors of the rainbow, there is sure to be a choice that they’ll love.

Alongside this, polymer clay also has a wide color range for you to choose from, so you can let your creative ideas flow and sculpt with a variety of different colors!

Alternatively, if you want to keep things simple, white clay is a great choice if you want the color you paint over it to be more vibrant. When it comes to the cleanup process, white clay is also more convenient than a darker color clay because it generally doesn’t stain your clothes or anything else for that matter. This way you can worry less, and really get creative without the dread of cleaning up hanging over your head!

Tools

Something to consider when you’re choosing your sculpting clay is tools. Although clay can be sculpted with just your hands, there are a variety of tools out there that you can practice with to nail your sculpting techniques. Using tools can help you create a variety of fun and different patterns.

For instance, you could try scraping the prongs of a fork across the clay or alternatively stamp holes throughout the clay to create a 3-pronged pattern.

Alternatively, you could press the bottom of a teaspoon onto the clay surface to create mini surface dents. If you want a quick method of sculpting, you could use the tip of a knife to carve out patterns, such as crosses or waves into the surface of the clay, depending on the look that you are going for.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of clay is used for sculpting?

You can use a variety of different types of clays for sculpting. Modeling clay comes in many forms, including polymer and self-hardening, which are often used for making fun projects like dishes, jewelry, and other crafts.

Polymer clay, for example, comes in a variety of colors and doesn’t require a kiln!

How do you sculpt clay for beginners?

There are a tonne of youtube video tutorials that include tips to help you if you’re just starting out on your sculpting journey. However, here are a few simple instructions that you might want to remember.

To start off, have an idea of the finished product in your head, as it will help you to visualize it in the creative process. This will also mean that you have a vague idea of what you want it to look like!

Once you’ve figured out the shape, experiment by making a variety of shapes that you can attach together with your tools. For instance, rough the edges of your individual coils, slabs, or pots, by making small cuts along the sides that you will be attaching to other pieces of clay.

Use different tools to create a variety of patterns on your creation. If you’re stuck for inspiration, you could simply use household items such as knives and forks to create the look you’re going for.

Once you’ve finished sculpting, be patient and let the clay fully dry! This is important. Finally, paint your sculpture after it has dried, and voila!

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t pick up sculpting right away. The most important thing to remember is to experiment and have fun with it! After all, practice makes perfect.

Does sculpting clay harden?

The answer to this question will depend on the type of clay that you choose. You can easily finish your modeling clay craft by hardening polymer clay in the oven, or by letting self-hardening clay air dry.

However, oil-based clays, such as modeling clay, cannot be hardened in the oven as they will simply melt.

To be safe, always make sure that you read the instructions of your specific type of clay carefully before attempting to harden it in the kiln or oven.