Air drying clay is a versatile type of non-toxic clay that hardens over time when exposed to air. Unlike other types of clay, it doesn’t require the use of a kiln or oven as part of its curing process. It can be used to make the same types of objects that traditional clays are used for, and the same techniques can be used in its formation.
I love air dry clay for its simplicity and ease-of-use, which make it a fantastic choice for kids or quick projects that don’t need a ton of effort to come out beautiful.
You can color the clay when it’s being worked, or you can wait for it to dry and apply color with markers, paints, and pencils. It takes a few days for air dry clay to fully harden, and it’s more fragile than other types of clay. This is due to its porosity, which is also what allows it to harden and dry without the need for heat.
What can you make with it?
Anything you can do with traditional clay, you can do with air dry clay. The only thing that limits the kinds of air dry clay crafts you make is your imagination. It’s suitable for pots, dishes, planters, vases, and more.
You can create custom home decor out of air dry clay for use throughout your entire home and have a matching theme if you like. Use it to make thoughtful gifts, a memento for a special occasion, or practical, everyday objects.
Unlimited inspiration for limited time
Here are a few air dry clay ideas you can take inspiration from to create your own air dry clay projects with your own personal style.
This list is by no means exhaustive — I didn’t even get into candle holders, clay planters, or the ol’ classic DIY incense holder — but this is a list of approachable, fun, air dry clay projects for anyone to have fun with and knock out at the coffee table in just a few minutes with limited craft supplies.
1. Clay Pots
Air dry clay is perfect for making pots that you can put anywhere and hang from a rope or macrame sling. This fun craft can be super simple — just roll out the clay and form it over an existing pot, roll it into coils that you layer, or roll a ball and make a pinch pot with your thumb and fingers.
This starter kit is wonderful for making small and medium sized pots, and is safe for use with any type of plant.
Always make sure to leave a hole or two in the bottom of the pot to let water drain out.
2. Clay Figures
If you’ve ever wanted to make your own version of a favorite character, or you want to try your hand at sculpting, air dry clay is the way to go. And this colorful kit is the perfect way to get started.
You can use an armature for the internal structure and inform yourself of where to go with the design, or sculpt the design out of a block or lump. It’s worth noting that the material is fragile, which means breakage of delicate design elements is likely. Avoid making details like hands and fingers from clay, and don’t add elements that protrude.
3. Clay Jewelry
Air dry clay is an excellent medium for making jewelry components. All that’s needed is a hole for stringing, putting a jump ring through, or a flat surface for gluing onto a backing. This how-to video can help you kick off your jewelry-making adventure.
You can make beads, pendants, rings, shapes, and more with the clay. Consider making a fun clay version of your favorite pet and turn them into a necklace charm or a pair of earrings. Looking for a bracelet that matches your favorite outfit? Roll some beads and paint the clay in matching colors, then string when they’re dry.
4. Clay Bowls
It’s worth noting that air dry clay is not safe for use with food as it’s porosity absorbs foodstuffs. It’s not washable either, which means air drying clay bowls are going to be for decorative purposes only.
But don’t let that stop you from having fun with making bowls! This clay jewelry dish kit is a terrific way to get started. Transferring prints to add texture is a lovely way to incorporate nature into your art or paint designs on their surfaces with a little acrylic paint for super easy kids crafts.
The final pieces make great home decor items that are as much a canvas for your imagination as decorative.
5. Clay Plaques
Do you have a favorite saying that you’d like to remind yourself of? Or do you want to put something on your desk that makes you smile?
An easy craft with air dry clay is the creation a plaque — such as with this easy-to-use plaque kit — of your own design which you can put anything you like on. Get out the paint once it’s dry and put your finishing touches onto your piece.
Worth noting: these make great gifts!
6. Clay Dishes
Coasters are an awesome canvas for any design and decorating technique you can think of. They’re also extremely easy to make.
Simply roll out a slab of clay a 1/4″ thick, trim to your desired shape, impress with stamps or create a texture for a design, and let air dry. Make sure to use a sealant to prevent water from soaking into the clay, and you’re good to go.
7. Clay Wind Chimes
You can take this fun idea — along with this comprehensive clay kit from GalleriGirlArtKits on Etsy — and make clay dishes for home decor, a ring dish, trinket dishes or any use you can think of.
Note: the same warning about clay bowls also goes for clay dishes, in that you can’t eat off them safely.
8. Clay Wind Chimes
Air dry clay works well for making chimes that make a pleasant sound when the wind moves them. And you can learn how to easily create them yourself with this awesome tutorial from Hunker.
You can choose to make stacked bells or use a bell-and-clapper design so the clappers strike the bells and make them chime. Keep in mind that air dry clay is more fragile than fired clay, and a strong wind can do a number on the pieces.
You might prefer to hang the chime in a protected area or inside where you can admire the quality of your work without the risk or worry of unfortunate mishaps or damage.
9. Clay Ornaments
Clay Christmas tree ornaments look great hanging from a tree, but they also make wonderful decorations for other holidays such as Easter or Halloween. This fun how-to video can help you achieve a new level in holiday decorating with air dry clay.
This is an area where air dry clay really shines in terms of the types of shapes you can make and the designs you can apply. Start by rolling out a slab, cutting out the desired outline, then decorate according to what’s in your head and the holiday.
10. Clay Wall Hangings
Creating unique, one-of-a-kind wall hangings is an excellent use for air dry clay. You can create a complex wall hanging large or small that’s lightweight and easily hung. And you can make it easier and fun by using a kit, such as this one from OktoClay on Etsy.
Use it to make a design that brings the room together, create an abstract image, or paint your favorite phrase against a backdrop of muted colors.
Resources and Materials
You don’t need a whole lot to get started making things from air dry clay, but you need to start somewhere. Here’s a look at what you’ll need to get started and some tutorials to spur your imagination.
List of supplies and materials needed for each project
Any air dry clay works for the projects listed above. The brand and type of clay you use comes down to a matter of preference. You may prefer to start out with a kid’s air dry clay to get involved in the craft, then move on to clays that are designed for sculpting and can hold more detail. Other supplies you’ll need include:
- Clay tools
- Paints (any type)
- Piping bag (for applying slip)
- Acrylic sealer (for a glazed finish)
- Bowl for water
Different types of clays used for craft projects
Air clay is available in different types of consistencies, qualities, and overall use. Beginners are best served by using a clay that’s aimed at kids as it’s the least-expensive way to get a feel for the material.
As you advance your skills or find different uses for the clay, you’ll want to move up to an air dry clay that mimics traditional sculpting clay. Here’s a look at some of the different types of clay you can use.
Crayola’s Air Dry Clay for Kids is an entry-level clay that’s great for everyone to use and get a feel for using clay without the mess of traditional clay.
DAS’s clay is geared more towards sculptors who are looking for a clay that holds up to an extensive modeling process and dries quickly.
ACTIVA’s air dry clay is a natural earth clay that features the plasticity and grain of traditional kiln-dried clay. It dries quickly, has minimal shrinkage when dried, and can be worked with tools and kiln-dried after its finished curing.
CALPALMY’s air dry clay is lightweight and lends itself well to making sculptures. It’s also intended for use on cosplay costumes as it’s lightweight and easily worked after it’s cured.
Tutorials and other resources
Any clay tutorial can be used for air dry clay as the techniques for working clay are the same for both types. Polymer clay tutorials won’t work due to the fact that polymer clay is an entirely different material. Make sure that the tutorial you’re looking at buying is for traditional or air dry clay in order to get the most out of the information.
Air Dry Clay Blogs
There are countless blogs on the internet that consist of artists sharing their personal insights and hacks to get the most out of air dry clay. They’ll show you how to push the limits of the material, best practices for its use, and how to get the results you’re looking for. The following blogs will help you get started on your journey:
And even more cool ideas to start your obsession
Cute Clay Cats Clay Modelling
Learn how to make cute clay cats with this Japanese e-book from NHK. Don’t be daunted by the language barrier as Japanese craft books are heavily illustrated, which means you don’t need to understand Japanese to understand the instructions.
Trinket Dish Tutorial
This tutorial shows you how to form a trinket dish, then paint a design onto the surface once it’s dry. Another potential use for the tutorial is as an incense burner with the addition of a cylinder of clay in the center.
Cosmea Flower Tutorial
The title for this tutorial states that it’s for air dry polymer clay, which doesn’t exist. However, it is designed for air dry clay, and the instructions walk you through how to make a pretty daisy-like flower. Bring the idea home by making a bouquet of flowers to put into a vase made from air dry clay.
How to work with air dry clay
Get a grasp of the basics of working with air dry clay with this tutorial from Dorote Zaukaite. Dorote shows you how to get started using the clay, and has further tutorials to help you advance in your understanding of how to manipulate the material and make more complex pieces.
Does air dry clay break easily?
Yes, air dry clay breaks easily, but so does kiln-dried clay. Both are inherently fragile materials even though they’re very sturdy. Air dry clay is porous, which reduces its structural strength, making it more fragile than kiln-dried clays.
How do you permanently harden air dry clay?
Technically, when the clay dries, it’s permanently hardened. However, some air dry clays can be further dried in a kiln to make them harden further. You can also use a sealer to give it a glossy finish and protect it.
Shaping it all up
Air dry clay delivers the enjoyment of working with clay without the need to use a kiln for finishing. It has the same properties as regular clay, responds the same way to clay tools, and holds color at the clay and decorative levels. Everyone from kids to adults can use the clay to express themselves in a 2-D or 3-D format. Beginners and advanced artists alike use air dry clay to make their sculptural creations.
About the only drawbacks to using air dry clay is the fact it’s more fragile than kiln dry clay, and isn’t suitable for use with food. Glazes like Modge Podge and resin can be used to seal the surface along with creating a glossy finish. Finished pieces are durable, making air dry clay suitable for a variety of uses.
Air dry clay is an excellent medium for testing out ideas, quickly making something for a gift, and learning how to manipulate clay for various purposes. It’s an inexpensive way to get into crafting with clay and doesn’t have the additional requirement of firing the final piece in a kiln for finishing. There’s almost no end to the kinds of things you can make with air dry clay.