Tips for Crafting with Sculpey Air-Dry™ Clay – Sculpey®

Sculpey Blog

Linda Hollander
Linda Hollander June 6, 2022

Guest Blogger Linda Hollander

Sculpey Air-Dry™ is a versatile and very forgiving product with which to make a myriad of projects. Air Dry Clay an excellent clay for earthy, organic projects as well as for more primitive or rustic creations. From simple ornaments, buttons, and jewelry to more complicated projects such as figurines, fairy houses, and containers the things you can create with air dry clay are endless! The clay is non-toxic and cleans up easily with water.

Making shapes is easy using Silicone and rubber molds. Clay can also be impressed with texture sheets and rubber stamps as well as common items such as doilies, burlap, feathers, seashells, flowers, and leaves, etc.

A light dusting of corn starch can be used to prevent your molds from sticking to the clay.

For interesting effects, additives can be used over clay sheets. Simply sprinkle glitter, coarse sand, coarse ground black pepper, or coffee grounds over your clay sheet and gently roll over to imbed the material. 

To color raw clay, place the clay and water-based paints, dyes, food coloring, or chalk shavings in a zip lock bag. Knead the bag until the color is evenly distributed throughout the clay. You will want to wear a pair of latex gloves to remove the colored clay and to model it.

Air Dry Clay can be applied over recycled glass, plastic, and metal containers.

final photo of moon phase planter

Styrofoam shapes and wine corks make lightweight surfaces to cover and allow one to use toothpicks or wire to connect parts such as a chimney to a roof or limbs on to body.

Aluminum foil can be crumpled into unlimited shapes to use as armature for clay creations. 

Bunny photo credit: Tiffany Ann Sweeny

To get started, wash your hands and make sure your work area is clean and dust free. A flat, non-porous surface to work on is key. A self-healing craft mat is ideal for cutting clay and clean up. Teflon craft sheets work well as do smooth ceramic or glass tiles. A clay roller or rolling pin can be used to roll smooth sheets of clay. Clay blades and craft knives and are great tools for cutting clay sheets. Raggedy edges of cut clay can be smoothed with a wet finger or soft paint brush.

Additional wet clay can be applied over dried clay by using water and/or a dab of white glue. Keep raw clay in plastic to prevent premature drying. Use water to moisten clay as needed while you are working with it. Fingerprints can be smoothed out using water while creating or by lightly sanding after the piece has completely dried.  

You can even transfer images onto raw clay! Simply print an image of choice on regular copy paper and place face down on moistened clay. Gently rub with light finger pressure then carefully remove the paper. Printed tissue paper can be applied to raw clay as well with the same technique!

Drying time will depend on how thick your clay creation is as well as temperature and humidity in your work environment. For durability try to use rolled clay at least 1/4” thick. Its best to allow clay to dry overnight or for a day or two. Elevating your creation or flipping it over during the drying process will help the bottom of the project dry quicker. You can speed up the drying process by placing the clay creation in a warm oven at  180 °F and checking every 20 minutes.  Speeding up drying time can cause the clay to crack. To repair cracked clay, wet the affected area with water and push a small amount of softened clay over the cracks. Let dry then sand as needed.  Foam backed sanding sponges are great for sanding flat and curved dried clay. It is advisable to sand in a well-ventilated area and/or use a dust mask. Remove sanding dust with a soft paint brush. 

In addition to being extremely durable, dried clay can be sanded, carved, drilled, stained, painted, and even decorated with permanent markers. Alcohol inks, stains, and watercolor paint can be applied directly over the porous dried clay for light or transparent effects. Dried clay can also be painted with acrylic paints for more opaque coverage.

Once dry, apply acrylic craft paint with art brushes. For best results, first seal your project with a water-based craft sealer. You can also use the sealer to protect painted areas as you work.  Mistakes can be lifted easily with a damp paintbrush. Once you have finished decorating your clay creation brush on a coat or two of a water-based craft varnish such as DecoArt’s DuraClear Varnish to protect your masterpiece!