Many art forms revolve around imagining a picture and bringing it to life through a particular talent, like sculpting.
Sculpting lets you implement your idea in a three-dimensional fashion, unlike painting, where you only get to see one dimension and imagine the rest. Not to mention, it’s one of the most therapeutic hobbies you can take up.
But like any other hobby, the key to perfecting sculpting is working with the right tools. Lucky for you, we’ll help you with that part by telling you our reviews of the best sculpting clays for beginners, along with a buying guide to help you reach a well-studied decision. So read on!
Sculpting Clay Comparison Table
|Monster Premium Grade Modeling Clay
|Aurora Premium Air Dry Sculpting Clay
|Amaco Air Dry Clay
|Crayola Air Dry Clay
|Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay
|Original Sculpey Polymer Clay
Now that we’ve given you a brief idea about the products, it’s time to jump into more details.
The Best Sculpting Clays for Beginners Reviewed
1. Monster Premium-Grade Modeling Clay
The Monster Premium-Grade Modeling Clay is mainly meant for sculpting action figures. It’s an oil-based clay that won’t dry out as water-based clays do, which means you can use it multiple times for various sculpting projects.
This modeling clay is ideal for beginners because it has a medium consistency. In other words, it isn’t too firm or too soft. So you can ace sculpting with it in no time.
The Monster clay comes in an oven-safe container that you can use to bake your clay sculpture after finishing it. It weighs about 4.5 pounds and is sulfur-free to guarantee safety.
In addition, the Monster clay has high plasticity, which means you’ll face no challenges molding it into different shapes. Finally, although the oil-based clay has an unattractive brown color, you can color it after finishing to decorate your piece.
What We Like About the Monster Premium-Grade Modeling Clay
Our favorite part about the Monster professional modeling clay is its ideal consistency for beginners. Professionals may know how to work with low and high thicknesses and breed beautiful results, but beginners need to practice on a medium-consistency clay before achieving this.
What We Don’t Like About the Monster Premium-Grade Modeling Clay
Our least favorite part about the Monster clay is its price tag; it’s definitely on the pricey side of the market, especially for beginners.
- Medium consistency
- Comes with an oven-safe container
- Ideal for sculpting action figures
- On the pricey side of the market
2. Aurora Premium Air-Dry Sculpting Clay
The Aurora Premium Air-Dry Sculpting Clay is a water-based clay that you can use to sculpt small figures and prototypes. During sculpting, you’ll need to use a water spray bottle to keep it from hardening.
Then, after you finish, you can leave your beautiful clay sculptures to dry. But beware that it only needs air to dry; you can’t put it in an oven like you would with oil-based clays.
The Aurora clay is highly versatile because of its high plasticity, so you can use it for many sculpting projects.
The Aurora air-dry clay weighs about 15 pounds, so you can use it in many sculpting projects. More so, it’s pretty easy to use since it has a soft texture and ideal consistency, making it a favorite for beginners.
Like most clays, the Aurora clay has a neutral gray color, but you can paint it after it dries using acrylic paint. It’s worth mentioning that it’s a slow-drying clay, which is good news for people who like to work at their own pace. However, it might take too long for people who want to finish their clay sculptures as soon as possible.
What We Like About the Aurora Premium Air-Dry Sculpting Clay
The part we love most about the Aurora clay is that it’s easy enough for both kids and adults to use. So you can use it for enjoyable family activities and projects that involve little hands.
What We Don’t Like About the Aurora Premium Air-Dry Sculpting Clay
The part where the Aurora clay pales against its competitors is durability. Once it dries, it becomes prone to cracking. However, this fact is true for almost all water-based clays, and you can reduce the risk by letting the clay dry in a place where all of its sides get air equally.
- Water-based clay
- Easy to use
- Highly versatile
- May crack after drying
3. Amaco Air-Dry Sculpting Clay
The Amaco Air-Dry Sculpting Clay is an all-purpose clay that you can use for sculpting, making pottery on a pottery wheel, slab work, etc. It comes ready to use out of the package, so you won’t need to heat it beforehand.
More so, it’s highly pliable, making it ideal for beginners who still have a hard time manipulating clay into various shapes. You may not even need to use any sculpting tools to shape it.
For better results, you should seal the Amaco pliable clay with shellac after finishing. This way, your clay art will be waterproof and more durable.
The Amaco sculpting clay takes a proud stance among competitors because of its versatility, ease of use, and paintability. After finishing your project, you can paint it using various colors to conceal its original gray color. Not to mention, the clay weighs about ten pounds, which is more than enough for practice.
The Amaco clay dries in the air, but you should ideally leave it where it gets air on all of its sides. This way, you reduce the risk of cracking and breaking. You should also handle it carefully to prevent any accidents.
What We Like About the Amaco Air-Dry Sculpting Clay
What we love most about the Amaco clay is that it’s pretty easy to use. You can use it right out of the box without any preparatory steps, making it ideal for beginners.
What We Don’t Like About the Amaco Air-Dry Sculpting Clay
Like most air-dry clays, the Amaco clay becomes more prone to cracking when it dries. As a result, you need to seal your final clay sculpture with a protective material after finishing.
- All-purpose clay
- Easy to use
- Ready to use out of the box
- Prone to cracking
4. Crayola Air-Dry Clay
The Crayola Air-Dry Clay is the best clay on our list for kids. If you want your little ones to practice sculpturing, you’ll be glad to know that it’s pliable, non-toxic, and easy to use. In addition, you can shape it using different sculpting techniques, and it’ll breed beautiful results no matter what you do.
This natural clay also guarantees minimal shrinkage, so your kids’ clay art won’t change sizes after drying.
The Crayola clay is exceptionally smooth and less sticky than other air-dry clays, so you won’t have to worry about the cleaning part after your kids finish their project.
The Crayola clay comes in a resealable bucket that you can use to store it after your kids play with it. This way, you’ll keep your place neat and clean after work.
If you decide to purchase this clay, you’ll find various weights ranging from 2.5 pounds to 25 pounds. So you can choose according to your sculpting needs.
The Crayola natural clay comes in a plain white color, but you can color it using acrylic, watercolors, or tempera paint after it dries.
What We Like About the Crayola Air-Dry Clay
The Crayola clay is the right clay for kids because it’s safe, non-sticky, and pliable. So you can share your clay sculpting hobby with the little ones and give them little pieces of the clay to shape.
What We Don’t Like About the Crayola Air-Dry Clay
Our least favorite part about the Crayola air-dry clay is that it contains a few colorants, which may stain your furniture if you leave it there. So it’ll be best to keep it in its box when not using it.
- Comes with a resealable box
- Safe and non-toxic
- Various weights available
- Contains colorants that may stain your furniture
5. Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay
The Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay is a favorite among beginners because it’s budget-friendly, non-hardening, and easy to use. In addition, the mineral-based clay doesn’t need baking after clay sculpting, unlike oil-based clays. It’s also suitable for all ages because it doesn’t contain toxins. Accordingly, you can give it to your kids.
The Sargent Art Plastilina clay is highly pliable, making it ideal for beginners. You can even use it without any sculpting tools. It weighs about five pounds, so it isn’t suitable for large clay sculpting ideas. However, it’s more than enough for practice.
Another good feature of the Sargent Art clay is that it never dries out, so you can shape it multiple times until you master the art of sculpting clay. Finally, this clay can blend well with colors, so you can make a colorful sculpture using it.
What We Like About the Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay
What we love most about the Sargent Art clay is that it’s suitable for all ages because it’s non-toxic and easy to use. So you and your kids can use it together in an enjoyable family activity.
What We Don’t Like About the Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay
Although some people love this feature about the Sargent Art clay, we don’t like that it never dries. It might not be the best clay for sculpting large shapes, but it’s ideal for creating molds.
- Highly pliable
- Suitable for all ages
- Never dries
6. Original Sculpey Polymer Clay
The Original Sculpey Polymer Clay is budget-friendly and suitable for various ages. It’s an oven-bake clay that remains flexible till you put it in the oven, and it’s ideal for practicing sculpting at home.
The polymer clay might feel like ceramic clay at first; however, ceramic clay dries naturally over time, while all polymer clays need baking.
The Original Sculpey clay is easy to use, and you can shape it with your hands without any tools. However, like most modeling clays, it contains colorants that might stain your household surfaces, so keep it somewhere safe.
Since this polymer clay is soft, you can use it to sculpt fine details without an issue. And after finishing, you can color it using water-based acrylic colors.
What We Like About the Original Sculpey Polymer Clay
Our favorite part about the Original Sculpey clay is that it only dries after putting it in the oven. Accordingly, you can take your time to sculpt and not feel rushed like when using air-dry clays. You also have a chance to correct any mistakes you make along the way.
What We Don’t Like About the Original Sculpey Polymer Clay
Our least favorite part about the Original Sculpey clay package is that it only weighs 1.75 pounds. So, if you plan on making a large sculpture, you’ll need to buy more than one.
- Never dries out without baking
- Suitable for all ages
- Weighs only 1.75 pounds
Finding the best clay for sculpting is a bit challenging if you’re a beginner, but we’re about to make it easier.
If you want an easy-to-use modeling clay that has a medium consistency and is ideal for sculpting action figures, you’ll do well with the Monster Premium-Grade Molding Clay.
But if you want a safe and budget-friendly clay that you and your kids can use to sculpt different shapes, you can settle for the Crayola Air-Dry Clay.
Finally, if you want a water-based clay that can dry on its own without using an oven, you can purchase the Aurora Premium Air-Dry Sculpting Clay.
After telling you all about the best clays for sculpturing on the market, it’s time to tell you the features you should consider before purchasing.
Clay comes in two main types, natural and synthetic. Natural clays are water-based, and they can dry naturally without baking. Accordingly, they’re an ideal choice if you don’t own a large oven where you can bake your sculptures.
They’re also reusable, but you need to keep the clay moist to use it. This type’s only downfall is that it shrinks after drying. Also, you’ll need to finish your project in one setting so that it doesn’t dry before you finish it. All in all, it’s an ideal choice for beginners.
Synthetic clays are oil-based, and they can’t dry naturally. Instead, you’ll need to use an oven or kiln to finish your masterpiece. Oil-based clays are often manufactured from clay flour, oil, and wax.
The best part about using synthetic clays is that you can spend more than one day working on your amazing sculptures. But, generally, these clays are better suited for professionals.
Other famous types of clay are ball clay, dough clay, and paper clay. However, it’s recommended that beginners stick to the traditional clay, which is water-based. You can get many enjoyable clay project ideas on craftwhack.com.
A clay’s flexibility differs from one type to another. Some are highly pliable, thus easy for beginners and kids to use. Meanwhile, some clays are firm and need modeling tools to shape.
Choosing between the two types depends on your personal preference. Some beginners prefer working with firm clay, while some experts like manipulating soft clay in their hands. So there isn’t a rule you should follow here.
Some air-dry clays come with fine particles, while some come smooth. This point depends on the brand you’re purchasing. Generally, coarse clay is ideal for beginners who want to use their hands for sculpting because it stays intact more than smooth clay. On the other hand, smooth clay is better for wheel sculpting because it doesn’t cause hand abrasion.
The strength of clay only shows after it dries. Some types tend to crack more than others after the drying process, while some can maintain their smooth shape without an issue. Overall, air-drying clays are less durable than polymer clays. However, they can stay intact if you handle them carefully.
It’s worth mentioning that if you want your air-dried sculpture to maintain its shape, you can apply a coat of shellac for extra strength.
Some clays have toxic formulas, and while they won’t cause any issues for healthy adults, we can’t say the same for kids and people with respiratory and skin problems. So, if you’re one of the latter, you should check that the clay you’re purchasing is non-toxic.
As you’ve seen in the above products, each product comes in a different quantity. So before purchasing, you should estimate the amount you’ll need for sculpting. If you’re a beginner and want to try your hands without committing to the practice, you’ll do well with five pounds or less.
But if you have a significant idea in your mind that you want to implement, you can look for ten pounds and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Use a Kiln to Dry Air-Drying Clay Quickly?
No, you can’t. If you expose air-drying clay to high temperatures, it’ll crack and eventually break. So for the best results, you should leave it to dry in the air for as long as possible.
How Long Do Air-Drying Clays Take to Dry?
Most air-drying clays dry in two to three days. However, the time may vary according to the size of your project. Some air-dry projects take a whole week to dry entirely.
What Is the Best Way to Paint Clay?
The best way to paint clay is to use white clay as a base. Then, after covering your project in white clay, you can start coloring it using acrylic or tempera paints. The white background will guarantee that each color shows beautifully, as opposed to the gray or brown backgrounds of most clay types.
How Can I Make My Air-Dried Clay Look Glossy?
You can make your air-dried clay look glossy by adding a layer of varnish using a paintbrush. The first layer should be pretty thin, and after six hours, you can add another layer. You can add as many layers as possible until you achieve the desired look. However, make sure each layer dries before you add another.