17 Different Types Of Sculpting Clay Update 12/2021

types of sculpting clay

Sculpting clay is an art material that can be used for many different types of creations. There are so many types and brands of sculpting clay, it can be difficult to know which one to use.

This article will give you a brief introduction to 17 popular types of sculpting clay and their most notable characteristics.

What is sculpting clay? Their characteristics?

Sculpting clay is a type of modeling material that can be used to create three-dimensional artwork. It can be soft and pliable or stiff. Sculptors use sculpting clay to form their artworks in the same way they would with wax, but it is more versatile and easier to work with.

Sculpting clay comes in a variety of colors and textures depending on the brand, including modeling clays, air drying clays, polymer clays and cold porcelain clays. Polymer clay may come in liquid or solid form which are then baked at different temperatures for varying lengths of time depending on thickness desired (usually from five minutes up to an hour). The baking process also helps seal the surface of the clay, though more sealers may be applied to the surface of polymer clays.

Cold porcelain is a type of sculpting clay that dries into hard fashion doll-like figures. Instructional videos are available online that explain how best to work with cold porcelain. Sculptors often use armatures made from wire (sometimes covered in clay) to help with structure and support when sculpting cold porcelain. Some hobbyists make armatures from plaster, newspapers or other materials.

17 types of sculpting clay

The 17 types of sculpting clay in this article are a list of the most popular types. It is not to say that there aren’t other types, but these 17 will be most commonly found at craft stores or online stores.  

1. Air-dry Clay

Air-dry Clay

Air-dry clay is a type of wet clay that is allowed to dry on its own without the help of heat. It air dries in a process called oxidization and takes days or weeks depending on thickness to completely dry. When it’s first mixed, air-dry clay has a very sticky texture, so artists should use cornstarch or talcum powder to prevent sticking before they begin sculpting.

Air-dry clay is soft and pliable for easy shaping, but does not hold its shape when baked, which means it has to be worked on as a flat surface with no depth. Artists can paint air-dry clays before baking and use carving tools after drying to create intricate designs.

Air-dry clay can be used to create sculptures that are then painted, or it can be baked directly for items like tiles and figurines. It is quite common for artists to paint a base coat on the baked sculpture with a strong sealer before applying acrylic paints.

2. Water-Dry Clay

Water-dry clay is another type of wet clay that has to dry on its own and is also not considered an air-dry clay. Water-dry clays dry within a few weeks and need to be kept in a well ventilated area or they may become moldy.

Water-dry clay comes in different textures including soft, medium and stiff. Artists use water-dry clays for sculpting figurines like animals or people. It is also used for creating jewelry and home accessories. 

3. Polymer Clay

Polymer clay examples

Polymer clays are sculpting clays that are mixed with water and then baked. The name is misleading because polymer clay refers to the process of baking instead of a particular type of clay. Polymer clays come in a variety of colors, but white, translucent, black and metallic tones are the ones most commonly used by sculptors.

Polymer clays can be used to create items ranging from jewelry such as pendants, earrings and rings to furniture. Sculptors can use polymer clays for miniatures or other small detail work. Baked objects are resilient to water and heat, but they will melt if placed in a fire or allowed to get too hot.

Polymer clay is generally not considered an air-dry clay because of the baking process. However, polymer clays can be left out in the open to dry without becoming hard or stiff; however, the drying process may take a few weeks.

4. Smooth-On Clay

Smooth-on clay is a type of polymer clay that comes in premeasured cups. It’s available in a wide range of colors, from solid to translucent and metallic tones. The texture of the smooth-on clay does not need to be mixed with water before it gets used and dries on its own.

Smooth-on clay is used to create miniatures and other small detailed work like jewelry making. It’s a popular choice for artists looking for an air-dry clay in different colors than white.

5. Super Sculpey

Super Sculpey

Super Sculpey is another type of polymer clay that comes in different colors. It has a smooth texture that does not need to be mixed with water before it gets used and dries on its own.

The name Super Sculpey comes from the popular polymer clay brand of sculpting clay called Sculpey. It can be used in place of other brands, but would require a different baking time.

Super Sculpey is a popular clay for artists who need items that will be used regularly by people without being easily damaged. It’s also used to create small figurines and miniatures in detail.

6. Cold Porcelain Clay 

Cold porcelain clay is a polymer clay that gets hard when it’s baked without the help of heat, making it an air-dry type of clay.

Cold porcelain clays are not as smooth or uniform looking as other types of polymer clays and may have small cracks on their surface.

Although cold porcelain clays are very easy to use, they should be refrigerated when not in use and special care should be taken when working with them because they can become brittle or break.

7. Paper Mache Clay

Paper Mache Clay

Paper mache clay is another type of air-dry clay that gets hard without the help of heat and is made from mixing paper pulp with water and flour.

It is commonly used to create masks, but can be used for other sculptures and distorting them into a desired shape before it dries completely.

Paper mache clay should not be stored in humid conditions or away from heat because it will become moldy and lose its structure. It should also never be pinched or pressed down while it is still wet.

8. Plastilina

Plastilina is a type of modeling clay that can be used for sculpting. It is made from mixing different types of waxes, oils and mineral pigments together.

The properties of the clay allow it to be rolled out into thin sheets or easily shaped into any desired form.  Plastilina was first developed in the 1880s as a more durable alternative to wax. 

Due to the use of wax in its manufacturing, plastilina melts if exposed to heat. The best surface for working with this clay is a lightly oiled table or piece of glass.

Plastilina clay is used by artisans all over the world and has been around since 1882. It’s considered an alternative to air-dry clay because of its properties and ability to get hard when baked.

9. Oobleck Clay

Oobleck Clay

Oobleck is the brand name for a type of air-dry clay that has a wet and sticky feel when exposed to water, but turns into an inelastic substance when it dries out.

The quirky properties of oobleck allow artists to sculpt with their hands instead of using instruments. It is also used for creating models of buildings, though it should not be used for very detailed work.

10. Mohair Clay

Mohair clay is a polymer clay that comes in several colors and textures both of which can be mixed and matched to create more varieties. It is a little softer than other types of polymer clays making it easier to work with for beginners.

The name mohair refers the fibers from goat hair that are mixed into the clay to give it a soft feel. This type of clay is usually used for creating sculptures from children’s figures to animals.

11. Crayola Model Magic

Crayola model magic is another type of air-dry clay that gets hard and can be molded into any shape after it’s been exposed to heat.   

It’s a popular type of clay that is used to create figures and models but can also be molded into three-dimensional pieces.

The original Crayola model magic was developed in the 1960s as an alternative for children who were unable to sculpt with regular clay because it’s scentless, soft and easy to work with.

The properties of the clay allow it to be painted or colored before baking. Crayola model magic comes in colors like white, light green and red. It’s a popular choice for using as sculpting clay because of its affordable price.

12. Green Modeling Clay

Green Modeling Clay

Green modeling clay is an air-dry type of polymer clay that comes in a wide range of colors from green to white and tan. It can be used to create miniatures, crafts and other small detailed sculptures.

It has a soft feel like mohair clay but is less expensive and easier to work with than other clays. Green modeling clay should not be stored in high temperature or humidity conditions because it will lose its structure.

The consistency of the texture allows it to be easily stretched, peeled or pinched into different forms. One advantage that this type of clay has over others is that it’s non-toxic so it can be used by children.

13. Soft Clays 

Soft clays are a type of modeling clay that comes in different colors and textures. These clays can be sculpted or molded into any desired shape and have a soft feel to them like green modeling clay.

The texture of these clays allows it to easily bend, twist or pinch the material while it’s still wet without tearing or cracking. Soft clays can be mixed into other types of clay and are also used by children to make things like small figurines or masks.

14. Cernit Polymer Clay 

Cernit polymer clay comes in different colors and a wide range of textures making it possible to mix and match them. It can be molded into any shape, but should not be exposed to high temperatures or chemicals because it will become brittle.

Cernit polymer clay can be used for craft projects, jewelry making or other miniature sculptures. It can also be used to make regular sized sculptures if the artist wants it to have a harder texture.

15. Elmer’s Sculpting Clay

Elmer’s sculpting clay is another type of polymer clay that comes in different colors and textures so artists can mix and match them together.

Artists should use this clay when they want to create a thicker sculpture that has a harder texture. The clay can be mixed into other types of air-dry clays, but should not be exposed to heat or chemicals because it will become brittle.

16. Autonomie Porcelain Clay 

Autonomie porcelain clay is a type of polymer clay that can be molded and shaped into any form.  It has to be baked in an oven or fired in a kiln before it’s considered to be finished. It should not be handled with bare hands because it is toxic.

The clay has a smooth texture that is hard, making it stronger than other types of polymer clay. It can be used for small detailed sculptures or craft projects because the artist will be able to sculpt each detail onto the material.

17. Plasticine Clay

Plasticine clay is probably the most popular type of polymer clay because it’s inexpensive and easy to find in any art supply store. It comes in a variety of colors so artists can mix them together to create different textures or colors.    This type of clay is soft but not as soft as mohair clay, which makes it easier to hold and sculpt.

Plasticine clay is easy to mold, but should not be exposed to high temperatures or chemicals because it will become brittle. The softness of the material makes it easier for children to handle than other types of polymer clay.

FAQs

– What is modeling clay?

Modeling clay is a plastic material that hardens when dried. It’s soft and easy to sculpt into any form, making it a popular item used by artists and children as well.

– What are the main types of modeling clay?

There are two main classifications for modeling clay; air-dry clays and those that have to be baked. Air-dry clays are easy to find and work with because they don’t require any baking to make them harden.

– What is air dry modeling clay?

Air dry modeling clay is a type of polymer material that can be used by children or artists alike for craft projects or miniature sculptures.  It usually comes in a variety of colors and textures so artists can mix them together.  

The clay is sold in most arts and crafts stores, but should not be exposed to high temperatures or chemicals because it will become brittle.

– What are the characteristics of air dry modeling clay?

Air dry modeling clay comes in a variety of textures like soft, firm or extra firm so artists can find one that’s easy to work with. It also comes in different colors and is sold by the pound.

Conclusion

The types of clay you choose to use is a personal choice. However, it’s important that the type of clay used for your project matches with the desired outcome and level of detail required in order to have success.

The 17 types of sculpting clay and their characteristics which I have listed above will be helpful for beginners to learn about them. Hopefully, you found the article useful.

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