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Best Clays for Sculpting 2021 – Reviews

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Best Clay for Sculpting

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clay As an artist, you do realize soon enough that the material used in carrying out your project is as important even if not more important than other factors that affect sculpting. In sculpting the major material of use that also determines the outcome is the clay, the clay serves as the solid material in which all other materials are added.

Either as a newbie or professional at sculpting, you need to find the clay that works best for you. This simple, but yet challenging exercise often include trying out a lot of clay materials before arriving at the best one. This approach might compromise the standard of production. We recognize the need for an artist to get the right clay for sculpting and that is why we have put together an entire list of some of the best clay for sculpting.

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Best Clays for Sculpting in October, 2021

 ClayColor 
1 Craftsmart
Editor's Choice
Gray, Terracotta, White Check Price
2Remarkable UGray, Terracotta, White Check Price
3Rocky Mountain White Check Price
4Aurora PotteryGray Check Price
5CrayolaWhite Check Price

1. Craftsmart Natural Air-Dry Clay – Multipurpose modeling clay

This natural air-dry clay is a recommended option available to craftsmen, the multipurpose clay fits a wide range of activities that might be needed by people working with clay. Craftsmart clay gives a good medium and soft texture to craft out different eloquent designs.

Constant freshness

When sculpting, one problem that has been of major concern is the quality of the material and how to maintain it, this is a question that has been answered by the Craftsman natural clay. The clay produced by this brand is carefully left to be air-dried to ensure that the freshness of the clay stays intact during use for the best result. If the clay gets dry before the design is complete, you can add water to soften it till it is soft enough to be modified again. The process of treatment of the clay is to guarantee that the freshness of the product is always available, and during all of this event, there is no demand for a kiln.

All-purpose modeling clay

The Craftsmart clay can be used for a variety of things owing to its versatility, it can accommodate several designs or modifications before it finally gets dry. Some of the common usage presented by users includes using the clay for sculpting, hand modeling or just simply spinning it off on a pottery wheel. The clay gets air-dried and it is quite fragile when dry, it is always best to preserve the clay by sealing it off.

Safe for usage

Clay with a harmful feature that can harm the user and contribute to the pollution of the environment is not recommended. They contribute to the depletion of the ecosystem, this is not the same for the Craftsmart clay, the product is free from a toxin or other harm-causing compound.

The safety level of the clay makes it a choice one for different users including professionals, homeowners, learners etc. everyone can easily create fantastic pieces from the clay.

Pros
  • Versatile use among different levels of users.
  • It contains only a safe compound and it is free from toxins.
Cons
  • There might be a slight odor at the beginning.

2. Terra-Cotta Air-Dry Clay – Simple, easy and fun to use

The red slab of Terra Cotta is a real feel of the original and natural Terra Cotta clay, the clay is an air-dry clay that is crafted to be used for different sculpting techniques and work. It comes in a 10-pound slab that can be used for a current project and have enough leftovers for the next project.

Needs no baking

The clay is air-drying, saving you the need of finding or making use of alternatives to get the finished product dried. As you set to work, designing and molding the clay it gets dry through simple air drying. When you are using the Terra Cotta clay you do not have to worry about how to get the oven or kiln started to dry your finished design. The product does not require baking in an oven to get it completed as against some other types of clay.

To get the best in terms of air drying, set it in a place that has air blowing on all sides and also somewhere safe till it finally gets dry and set. The Terra Cotta does not need the application of a heating process to speed up the process, exposing its heat treatment can lead to its damage.

Works with multiple techniques

There is hardly any technique of sculpting that cannot be carried out on the Terra Cotta clay, it accommodates a wide range of techniques to bring out the eventual final product. The clay can be used for pinching, sculpting, coiling, hand-building and also pottery wheel work.

No matter the technique used on the clay, it is still available for some extra effects and features. Once the piece is completely dry, it can be made more fun by adding colors to it. Several mediums can be used in introducing color to the reddish clay, you can play around with pigments, stains and paints to create a fantastic and smooth piece. Remember to seal your project after it is fully dry to keep out moisture and make it more durable.

Easy to use

The entire process of sculpting from the Terra Cotta clay is very simplified not regarding the level of professionalism you are currently on, even as an amateur you will find the use of the Terra Cotta clay easy and convenient to use. You can use your hands in carrying out the sculpting and also consider if there is a need for water to help soften the clay while still using it to be able to soften the clay and add different parts.

Pros
  • It saves time for designing by removing the need to bake or use a kiln.
  • Colors can be added to the final design to give effect to it.
Cons
  • There are reports of cracking after drying.

3. Pottery Clay – Beginner’s clay

This pottery clay made by Rocky Mountain is moist and de-aired. This clay is just ideal for that young learner, if you are a newbie when it comes to sculpting and the use of clays, you can go for this clay to avoid complexities that come with other types of clay.

Convenience of usage

Having too many complexities and not-so-easy to use clay can get users losing interest in sculpting rather quickly and easily. For beginners especially, there is a need to start with a very easy-to-use type of clay. The clay comes in small quantity weighing as low as 5 pounds and it is made up of moist de-aired pottery clay.

Potter wheel and sculpting

As a beginner or DIY forming new objects from clay, this pottery clay is a great opportunity to learn and throw in a lot of design and technique with it. It can be used for hand-building, sculpting and also suitable enough to throw into the pottery wheel for some even better design.

The clay can be used as a learning tool for those interested in the use of clay for sculpting. It can be taught in schools; the product as well as safe for use and free from toxins.

Pros
  • The price is relatively cheap and affordable.
  • It can easily serve as a learning tool.
Cons
  • The clay is only 5 pounds and does not last enough for huge molding.
  • It has limited functions and capabilities.

4. Aurora Pottery Premium Air-Dry Sculpting Clay – Professional grade modeling clay

This is one of the professional-level clays out there that are important for great pieces of work. It is used by almost everyone on the professional cadre of sculpting, from sculpture studios to art therapists and a variety of other users. the clay is water-based making it more convenient for use.

Advanced use

The Aurora pottery is a high-grade clay that can be used for professional tasks. It is used for molding and modeling for special effects. It comes in a bigger size that accommodates professional use, most professional sculpting requires a large amount of clay to complete the work, the Aurora pottery clay gives this kind of amount of clay. It comes in a weight size of 15 pounds. The use of this clay also extends to motion picture studios to create special effects.

In addition to all of the excellent features that this clay has, it is also durable. The durability of this clay endears it to more users who want to have along with lasting sculpture free from the fear of cracking or breaking down after drying.

Reusable

The Aurora pottery clay also comes with the important feature and characteristics of being reusable. Projects that are done and do not come out well do not have to sit on your desk or get thrown away, it can easily be reused. The pottery clay gets dissolved in water for about 6-8 hours and it gets ready to be reused again.

This process is effective, although it might require an extra effort of you working the clay against a hard surface to get all the lumps in it out till it is smooth once again. Once you get it dissolved and remove the lumps, it can be completely remolded and sculptured to give your matching design.

Fast drying time

Most sculpting done with clay require the use of heating devices like a kiln or oven to get it to harden after designing. The process of getting a kiln extends the design time of the project, also it might rather be expensive for a lot of artists.

The Aurora clay takes away the need to go expensive in a bid to get a kiln to dry off the project. The clay can air-dry to complete hardness and not only that, but it also has a faster drying time compared to other types of air-dried clays. A sculpture made with Aurora clay can be left overnight to achieve complete dryness.

Pros
  • It can be reused by dissolving in water.
  • The clay is used in professional studios for special effects.
Cons
  • Although it offers a fast-drying time, it is slower when compared with using a kiln.

5. Crayola Air Dry Clay – Innovative clay use

This can be regarded as one of the biggest when it comes to clay available for sculpture, it comes in a whopping 25 pounds weight. It can be used for a wide variety of sculpting and design and easily reusable.

Creative concepts

No matter what type of artist you are or what your specialty is, Crayola clay makes a great recommendation for you. From a landscape artist to a visual effect artist, Crayola is top-notch in delivering professional service to you. You can get all of your creative imagination out with the use of this easily modifiable clay. Apart from the conventional use of sculpting, molding and modeling, it can also be used to create 3D effects, especially for kids’ use.

Easy application

The natural white Crayola clay dries to complete solid with air drying. It can be used by almost everyone, the clay can be spun around by just the working of your hands alone, you do not have to be an expert before making use of the clay.

After air-drying, the finished product comes out smooth and fine and it is less sticky when compared with other forms of clays.

Pros
  • It comes along with many creative uses including 3D concepts.
  • Crayola clay is 25 pounds enough to be used for a lot of projects.
  • It is smooth, fine, and less sticky.
Cons
  • It has a less fast drying time when compared.

Buyer’s Guide

Clays play a significant role when it comes to the creation of art and works of art. They can always be molded to create different shapes and objects.

What are clays for sculpting?

Natural clay is a form of soil that has special features that make it stand out among other forms of soils. The important feature that makes it distinguished is in the ability to hold water to a certain level and be moulded into the desired shape, size or object. The clay is used by a lot of people from potters to artists.

Over time, there have been many other variations of the natural clay to include synthetic ones that are manmade. The creation of manmade clays allows for the customization and easy availability of clays for molding. This form of clay gives rise to a whole of variety when it comes to clay. It also allows new features to be added to the objects made from clay.

When clays are sculpted it brings to life the artist’s imagination, and it is a beautiful means of visual representation. One hindrance to the creation of the right sculpture is having the wrong clay. An artist or sculptor must have the right clay to carry out the art of sculpting.

What are the different types of sculpting clay?

Although in today’s market different types of clay can be purchased and used for sculpting. However, the general idea of clay types can be categorized under two main categories. We have natural clay and synthetic clay.

Natural clay

Natural clays, as the name implies occurs in its free natural state, it does not have the involvement of non-natural processes. This type of clays is also referred to as air-dry clays, what air dry clay means is the ability for a lump of clay to dry out completely with natural air. This is one of the abilities of the natural clay and it is also profitable to artists who do not own a kiln or an oven to complete the drying of sculptures.

Natural clay is also used to describe water-based clay products. The clays are also easily reusable, if a sculpture does not turn out well as expected by the artist, you do not have to waste the clay rather the clay can be reused to carve out another sculpture. Natural clay is also easy to use, it includes the popular form of clay-like stoneware, earthenware and terracotta.

A slight disadvantage of the natural clay is that you need to keep it watered and moist throughout the entire period of sculpturing, if the clay is not kept moist it will dry naturally and shrink.

Synthetic clay

Synthetic clay is referring to all oil-based products with all the subcategories under them, some of the fastest examples include epoxy, polymer clay and plasticine type clay. The synthetic clays are manmade as they do not occur naturally. They are formed by mixing waxes, oils and clay minerals in the right proportion.

The synthetic clay does not dry naturally in the open air, this somehow serves as an advantage for it as you leave your sculpture half-done on the workbench and get back to it subsequently without fear of it drying out or shrinking. Another addition to synthetic clay is that since it is man-made, it already comes in various colours and does not need colouring.

A disadvantage of synthetic clay is that it requires a medium for it to dry out completely since it does not get dried naturally like natural clay. The kiln or oven is required to dry out these sculptures, but in most cases, the kiln might be dangerous to use if you are not an expert as it can easily burn in the kiln. It is recommended to use the oven in drying out sculptures made from synthetic clay.

Forms of synthetic clay

Asides from the polymer clay, there are other forms of synthetic clay that can be used for sculpting as well.

Dough clay

The dough clay is one of the easiest forms of clay and it is often referred to as the play clay. It is commonly used by children for fun and for sculpting random things. The common dough clay can be created at home by simply mixing different ingredients that make up the dough clay.

The clay cannot last for a long time after molding, it cannot be used for durable objects like statutes etc. if it is intended to be stored for a long time, it needs to be baked.

Ceramic clay

The ceramic clay is formed by the addition of new components to a base clay, the point of the additional component is to make it harden when heated. This type of clay is not suitable to be used by beginners. It is used by professionals for creating sculptures and other pieces of decorative items.

Paper clay

Paper clay is a mix of clay, cellulose and paper fibers. The constituents can be mixed in varying compositions to achieve different results and different type of clays. The sculpture made from paper clay is light in weight and is suitable for use in the environment.

When should you use air-dry clay?

The natural or air-dry clay is very easy to use since it does not require any expensive or technical method of drying. It gets dried by natural air and allows for the continuous adjustment of the sculpture, there is more freedom from working with the airdry clay.

For beginners, the air dry clay is one of the best places to start your sculpting journey, you can learn easily and make a lot of sculptures without having to invest in buying an expensive fire kiln or oven. Your sculpture can get dried in about 48 hours, which is a relatively fast and cost-effective timing.

If you are going to be use armatures (wire gauge or Styrofoam) to add to the support and prevent the sculpture from cracking, then the air dry clay is what you should for. Using armatures in the oven leads to the risk of having it melted in the oven, only air drying clay gives you the option of using the armatures.

What else can be used to dry clays

Asides from the use of air-dry clay which is a convenient method of drying, the other alternative is to make use of artificial means of drying. For synthetic clays, the options available is the use of a fire kiln or the oven. Both methods have their benefits and when they are suitable to be used.

Natural or artificial drying

The air-dry clays are good for learning the basics of sculpting as they are less expensive. Sculptures made from air-dry clays can also have the addition of media pieces during every stage of production unlike the oven or kiln-dry clays. The whole clay can also be remolded to adjust the shape by simply mixing with some water. The disadvantage of air-dry clay is that is fragile and it is not completely durable.

Kiln-fired clays have desirable durability for any product that is passed through the kiln fire. The durability is the reason why sculpts to be used for food or beverages are asked to pass through the kiln fire.

The products of the oven-dried clay are hard after they are completed, as they are solid. However, products made from oven-dried clays are not recommended for use with foods or beverages.

What makes a good sculpting clay?

There are several factors or reasons why a clay product might be considered a good option.

Ease of usage

This is arguably one of the most important factors to consider when going for a clay type. There are different types of clay available for use and except you are a professional or expert with specified reasons to go for a complex type of clay, the easy-to-use type of clay is recommended for your usage.

The easy-to-use type of clay products can be easily bent or molded to a different shape. The style of sculpting you use will determine which of the clay products you will go for, the project at hand is also a determinant of which clay to use.

Drying time

Generally, the intended project or task determines what type of clay you will go for. In the case of small-scale projects like making ornaments or trying to teach other people about sculpting then you should go for a clay product that dries up quickly.

If you need a longer time at working on a sculpture, then you might want to consider the long drying time option, the project can be left on the workbench and continued afterwards without any fear of having parts or all of the sculpture getting hard or unfit for continuation.

Colour

Colour adds to the beauty of a sculpture, and the color is determined from the clay that was used in molding or sculpting. For instance, the air dry clays exist in white color which gives a beautiful product when it is completed. The paints can be reworked with other colors by adding color dyes to give a more detailed product.

Strength

The strength of a clay product is accounted for by how much it holds up when put to test or after it might have been sculpted. The strength is seen and noticed only after the product is dried, if a heavy clay body is seen to crack after reading it is as a result of low strength.

The air-drying option is one of the best ways to complete pottery, although air-dry clay is easily susceptible to be heavy and fragile exhibiting signs of little strength.

Stickiness

One of the properties of clay is its ability to stick and hold moisture to form different shapes. An artist or sculptor needs to make an important choice when it comes to deciding which clay to go for in terms of its sticky property. In the event whereby there is going to be a big project that requires sticking many clay parts together, it is best to go for clays that do not air dry and one that easily sticks together.

Can I wrap the water-based clay?

The property of the water-based clay is to be remodified with the addition of water. This attribute can also serve as a hindrance to the clay in terms of storage as well. The clay can get damaged when exposed to water. One of the ways to solve this problem is to keep the water-based clay in an airtight bag or container to extend the lifespan of the clay.

At what consistency level is a clay perfect for sculpting

The hallmark of artistry is absolute control over the tools or materials of sculpting. Clay requires the mix with water to be able to fold into different shapes, and they have different requirements when it comes to water. Some of the clay products also require that water is added all through the process to keep the clay pliable and able to be transformed into a desirable shape and size.

Some specific products require different watery consistency for the finished product. For instance, the clay needed for sculpting an earthen pot demands much watery consistency to have it molded to the perfect shape.

Can color dyes be added to clays while sculpting?

Colour is one of the factors to consider when making the selection of which clay product to go for. Clays come in varieties of color, especially the synthetic clay products, the natural clay often come in limited color option and depends on the addition of color.

Clays are made up of soluble components which allows them to absorb color dyes easily. You do not have to stick to the single color your clay product comes in, you can transform the clay with bright, attractive colors to give your products more visual appeal. The addition of color to clay products gives room for adding more clear details to the finished product.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my air-dry clay keep cracking?

As you’re air drying clay, it may crack as it dries; sometimes even if you don’t touch a crack can form. This happens especially at the start of drying and as the clay reaches equilibrium with its environment for different temperatures and humidity levels.

There are several things that affect how the clay will behave during drying: (1) its composition, (2) moisture content and how much it is gelled and shrunk when first put in an oven, (3) shrinkage rate, and (4) ambient conditions. The key is to understand how your clay behaves from these four factors so that you can avoid cracking when air-drying your projects or parts!

Can polymer clay harden without baking?

Short answer- Yes, polymer clay can harden without baking. Long answer- it depends…

For instance, if you are talking about drying the clay by using a fan or air dryer, then yes your sculpts can get hard with help of an airflow source such as a fan. Chemical drying is another way in which nonstick polymer clay sculptures become too firm to bend and squish anymore. For those who have used polymer clay might be familiar with this kind of chemical drying method.

Although, polymer clay must be baked no matter what method you want to use. The major difference between baking and chemical drying is that while baking a piece of clay during heating, the entire plastic will get transformed into a single solid mass which tends to have more strength too. Whereas, when it comes to chemical drying the outer external factors like air flow can make the structure drier and firmer but there are some parts deep inside which might not have been covered with enough airflow.

So basically in order for your sculpts to be completely hard as stone, there needs to be a thorough drying process + heat treatment (baking) such that every part of your sculpts gets pulled closer together resulting in a tough surface.

What is the difference between ceramics and clay?

Ceramics refers to ceramic objects and artworks created using clay. Clay is the material that ceramics are made with, which has been historically manufactured from a silicate (silicon/oxygen) based substance that was sourced locally or imported by trade. Ceramic artists experiment with composition and technique to create innovative forms of expression. In this way, ceramic artists can be distinguished from potters whose function relies on making vessels for storage or decorative purposes.

What is the difference between resin clay and polymer clay?

They are both similar in that they dry hard but can be softened again when using an oven or microwave. Both types of clay can be easily painted and modeled then hardened with heat. Resin clay is made from man-made materials while polymer clay is made from minerals such as apatite, feldspar, mica and a few other things. While the resin is more expensive than polymer it does not contain the toxins found in the polymer so this makes it easier to work with for some people. It also dries much harder than most polymer clays (up to 3 times harder), although it’s known that using a thick layer of paint on top will cause cracking because it produces too much moisture in the air trapped between layers.

Can you use pottery clay for sculpting?

Absolutely. Pottery clay is great for sculpting and 3D modeling, especially if you are a beginner. Although it’s recommended that you make sure to pick up some quality tools as well because regular modeling or sculpting plasters can be quite hard on your hands and fingers.

Some people prefer to use air-drying clays while others swear by the water ones (and there are other types too).

Conclusion

The tool of an artist forms an essential piece of the design eventually produced. Having the right tool as an artist brings about a better quality of projects. Clays used for sculpting are different from one another depending on the need of the artist and the project to be completed.

Check here to see our list of what we consider as the best clays for your sculpting. We are sure one of it will match your need.

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