All you need to know about Air Dry Clay!
Air dry clay is a popular modelling substance used by jewellers and deco artists as it is much easier to dry than polymer clay, does not shrink much and can be coloured whilst wet, painted and varnished when dry, worked on top of and is soft and manageable. Air dry clay is perhaps the second most popular clay used by deco artists; the first being polymer clay.
Air dry clay is bought in large blocks, similar to paper clay, and is therefore considered more cost effective than polymer clay. You can usually buy 500g or 1kg blocks and the prices range from £3 - £5 (3 - 6 €) Air dry clay uses inexpensive components such as earthen clay materials that are in large supply, so is a popular choice for artists, jewellers and deco artists.
Air dry clay is usually only available in the colours white, terracotta or natural (unbleached). Air dry clay is surprisingly hard to find in the UK; the only brands available are DAS and even this clay is considered to be “paper clay” rather than earthen based. Air dry clay is more widely available in the US and Asian countries, popular brands including Model Magic, Crayola, Staedtler, Fimo, Delight and Hearty. Air dry clay can be found in most craft, hobby and art stores including Michael’s and Joanne’s as well as online.
Air dry clay is used by jewellers, artists, sculptors and for other art-based hobbies. It is also perhaps the second most popular type of clay to use among deco artists – polymer clay being the first. It is soft and elastic, therefore being very pleasurable and workable. It can be used to make jewellery, beads, cabochons, cameos, moulds (with some form of release agent being needed), be used in moulds, sculpting and all the other uses most clay can be used for.
Texture & Workability
The texture of air dry clay is soft, slightly sticky and flexible. If pulled, it will stretch before snapping, similar to chewing gum. Because of this, air dry clay is very workable and popular among crafters and deco artists to make charms, jewellery and cabochons. It does not need very much conditioning, only a few minutes or so. You can colour air dry clay using most mediums to colour other clays – chalk, oil, acrylic or watercolour paints, coloured pencil, etc. It is not advisable to mix air dry clay and polymer clay together.
Curing & Aftercare
Air dry clay, as the name suggests, does not require baking or firing to dry. It normally takes about 24-48 hours for pieces to dry thoroughly and dries from the outside in – because of this, it is advised to wait a little longer for it to dry; just because it is totally dry on the outside doesn’t mean it will be the same on the inside. The texture of cured air dry clay is totally smooth and there is some shrinkage – up to 20%-30% in some cases, such as cold porcelain. Semi artificial clays may have components added to them to prevent shrinkage, however. There is little to no cracking if conditioned and left to dry correctly. You can paint, buff, file, sand, varnish and gloss air dry clay once it is dry, the same as other clays. You can also rubber stamp or use marker pens on this clay whilst dry, but make sure to seal your work afterwards. You can also rework and mould air dry clay by adding more water to it before varnishing, allowing it to return to a soft, wet state again. This is a quality that gives it advantage over polymer clay.