The Ultimate Guide to Modeling Clay: What You Need to Know

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Modeling clay is a soft, malleable material used by artists to create three-dimensional objects. It’s non-drying and oil-based, allowing it to be re-worked and re-shaped until it dries. Modeling clay is used by animators to create three-dimensional objects for stop-motion animation, and by sculptors to create three-dimensional artwork.

What is modeling clay

Oil-Based Clays

What Are Oil-Based Clays?

Oil-based clays are a mix of oils, waxes, and clay minerals. Unlike water, the oils don’t evaporate, so these clays stay malleable even when left in dry environments for a while. They can’t be fired, so they’re not ceramics. Temperature affects the malleability of oil-based clay, so you can heat it up or cool it down to get the consistency you want. It’s also not water-soluble, which is great news for stop motion animators who need to bend and move their models. Plus, it comes in lots of colors and it’s non-toxic.

What Can You Do With Oil-Based Clays?

  • Create detailed sculptures
  • Make molds of your sculptures
  • Cast reproductions from more durable materials
  • Design cars and airplanes with industrial design-grade modelling clay

What Are Some Popular Oil-Based Clays?

  • Plastilin (or Plasteline): patented in Germany by Franz Kolb in 1880, developed by Claude Chavant in 1892, and trademarked in 1927
  • Plasticine: invented in 1897 by William Harbutt of Bathampton, England
  • Plastilina: trademarked as Roma Plastilina by Sculpture House, Inc. Their formula is 100 years old and contains sulfur, so it’s not great for making molds

Modeling with Polymer Clay

What is Polymer Clay?

Polymer clay is a modelling material that’s been around for ages and is loved by artists, hobbyists, and kids alike. It’s a great way to get creative and have fun with your art projects. It’s easy to use and can be heated to cure it, so it won’t shrink or change shape. Plus, it doesn’t contain any clay minerals, so it’s totally safe to use!

Where to Get It

You can find polymer clay in craft, hobby, and art stores. Leading brands include Fimo, Kato Polyclay, Sculpey, Modello, and Crafty Argentina.


Polymer clay is great for:

  • Animation – it’s perfect for manipulating static forms frame after frame
  • Art projects – it’s a great way to get creative and have fun with your art
  • Kids – it’s easy to use and totally safe
  • Hobbyists – it’s a great way to express yourself and make something unique

Paper Clay: A Fun Way to Make Art

What is Paper Clay?

Paper clay is a type of clay that’s been jazzed up with some processed cellulose fiber. This fiber helps give the clay strength, so it can be used to make sculptures, dolls, and other art pieces. It’s available in craft stores and ceramic art studios, and it’s a great way to make art without needing to fire it.

What Can You Do With Paper Clay?

Paper clay can be used to make all sorts of fun things:

  • Sculptures
  • Dolls
  • Functional studio pottery
  • Crafts

What Makes Paper Clay Special?

The best part about paper clay is that it doesn’t shrink much when it dries, so your art pieces will look just as good as when you made them. Plus, it’s lightweight, so it’s easy to work with and transport. So go ahead and get creative with paper clay!

Comparing Modeling Clay and Polymer Clay

Drying Characteristics

  • Sculpey Non-Dry™ clay is the bee’s knees ’cause it’s reusable – you can use it over and over without it drying out.
  • Polymer clay, on the other hand, hardens when it’s baked in an oven – so don’t forget to set a timer!

Color and Material

  • Modeling clay varieties like Sculpey Non-Dry™ are oil-based, while polymer clay uses polyvinyl chloride, which is plastic-based.
  • Both types of clay come in a ton of colors – modeling clay has distinct hues, while polymer clay has glitter, metallics, translucents and even granite.
  • Sculpey Non-Dry™ clay isn’t as durable as polymer clay ’cause it’s designed for non-drying applications.
  • Polymer clay is waterproof, so it’s great for jewelry, buttons or home decor accents.


  • Modeling clay is great for sculptors and animators ’cause they can easily rearrange and move characters without worrying about breaking ’em.
  • Artists use modeling clay to visualize their ideas or as a sketching aid.
  • Clayers use polymer clay for finished projects like doll figurines and jewelry.
  • Non-drying clay is perfect for kids – it’s soft, reusable, and responds well to small hands, so it’s a great way to keep ’em busy.

Exploring Non-Dry Modeling Clay Projects

Making Molds

Non-drying clay is a great way to make molds for jewelry, decorations and more! You can:

  • Build mold walls and boxes
  • Seal edges using the clay as caulk
  • Add small impressions to align two-part mold pieces

Once you’re done, you can reuse the clay for a new mold or creation.

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If you’re into clay and film, claymation is the perfect project! Non-drying modeling clay is the best way to make claymation successful because you can make your figurines moveable. Claymation is a unique film technique involving stop-motion animation and tangible props, and the clay props are often easier to use than digital mediums.

Special Effects

An oil-based, non-drying clay can help you craft interesting prosthetics with costumes or other projects. With this clay, the special effects you can create are endless!

Realistic Sculpting

Non-drying clay is great for realistic sculpting. You can work the clay into fine details to give your sculptures a natural look. Plus, the clay never dries out, so you can work on your sculpture whenever you have time.

Freehand Sculpting

If you’re more into abstract art, non-drying clay is also great for freehand sculpting. You can add fine details to make your art stand out and continue to make adjustments or add new features whenever you feel like it. Plus, the reusability of non-drying clay makes it perfect for practicing all of your clay projects or different techniques.

What Can You Do with Polymer Clay?


  • Get creative and make your own unique jewelry pieces! You can shape, color, and glaze your clay to make earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and more.
  • Get creative with color combinations and designs. You can mix and match colors, add glitter, and even use powdered makeup to create your own custom pieces.

Home Decoration

  • Give your home a unique touch with polymer clay decorations. You can cover frames, mirrors, and other objects with clay to give them a new look.
  • Get creative with shapes and colors. You can make your own clay sculptures, ornaments, and more.


  • Get your hands dirty and make your own pottery pieces. You can shape, glaze, and fire your clay to make beautiful vases, bowls, and other pieces.
  • Get creative with colors and designs. You can mix and match colors, add glitter, and even use powdered makeup to create your own custom pieces.


  • Get creative and make your own unique scrapbooking pieces! You can shape, color, and glaze your clay to make cards, bookmarks, and more.
  • Get creative with color combinations and designs. You can mix and match colors, add glitter, and even use powdered makeup to create your own custom pieces.


  • Get creative and make your own unique sculptures! You can shape, color, and glaze your clay to make figurines, statues, and more.
  • Get creative with color combinations and designs. You can mix and match colors, add glitter, and even use powdered makeup to create your own custom pieces.

Safety Precautions for Working with Clay

Baking Clay

  • If you’re a casual clay hobbyist, you can safely bake your clay in your home oven – just make sure you ventilate properly!
  • If you’re baking frequently, you might want to use a toaster oven instead.
  • Line your cookie sheets with foil or cardstock/index cards when baking.
  • If you’re using kitchen items or toys as clay tools, make sure they don’t come into contact with food.

General Precautions

  • Wash your hands before and after handling the clay.
  • Keep an eye on small children – while the clay is certified as nontoxic, it shouldn’t be ingested.
  • If you’re worried about fumes during baking, bake the clay in a sealed bag, like a Reynolds baking bag.
  • Always supervise children when baking.


Modeling Clay Vs Air Dry Clay

Polymer clay is the way to go if you want to make something that won’t dry out and crumble away. It’s a plastisol, which means it’s made from PVC resin and a liquid plasticizer, and it’s got a gel-like consistency that stays put even when you heat it up. Plus, it comes in all sorts of colors and you can mix ’em together to make your own custom shades. On the other hand, air dry clay is great if you’re looking for a quick and easy project. It’s usually made from clay minerals and a liquid, and it dries out in the air. You don’t need to bake it, so it’s perfect for kids who want to make something without the fuss. Plus, it’s usually cheaper than polymer clay. So, if you’re looking for a fun project that won’t break the bank, air dry clay is the way to go.


Does modeling clay ever Harden?

No, it doesn’t harden – it’s clay, silly!

Can you paint Modelling clay before it dries?

No, you can’t paint modelling clay before it dries – it’s gotta be totally dry first. Otherwise, you’ll just end up with a big ol’ mess!

Does modeling clay break easily?

No, modeling clay doesn’t break easily. It’s tough stuff!

Do you have to bake modeling clay for it to dry?

No, you don’t have to bake clay for it to dry – it’ll dry on its own!

Is Modelling clay waterproof when dry?

No, modelling clay is not waterproof when dry. So if you want to protect your masterpiece, you’ll need to seal it with a varnish or sealant. Don’t worry though, it’s easy to do and you don’t need any special tools or equipment. Just grab your glue and paintbrush and you’re good to go!

Important Relations


Kawaii is a culture of cuteness that originated in Japan and has since spread around the world. It’s all about expressing yourself through adorable characters and trinkets. And what better way to do that than with polymer clay? It’s inexpensive, easy to find, and perfect for creating all kinds of kawaii creations. Plus, it’s so much fun to work with!

So if you’re looking for a fun and creative way to express your kawaii side, polymer clay is the way to go! With its easy-to-follow instructions and step-by-step photos, you’ll be able to make all kinds of cute creations in no time. So grab some clay and get ready to join the cuteness revolution!


In conclusion, modeling clay is a great material to use for art projects, animation, and more. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, it’s important to know the difference between water-based, oil-based, and polymer clay. With the right clay, you can create amazing sculptures, molds, and more. Just remember: when it comes to clay, you don’t want to get fired up – you want to get fired!

Hi, I'm Kim, a mom and a stop-motion enthusiast with a background in media creation and web development. I've got a huge passion for drawing and animation, and now I'm diving headfirst into the stop-motion world. With my blog, I'm sharing my learnings with you guys.