How to keep air dry clay from cracking

During our formative years, most of us have at least one experience with a lump of soft, moldable clay. We prick its oozing, slimy insides to see what’s inside. We unroll it, flatten it, and then re-roll it into smaller pieces. We mould it into strange forms, then marvel when it hardens in the kiln.

Clay sculpting has a unique aspect that might inspire some people to pursue it as a creative passion for the rest of their lives. Here we’ll discuss some of the benefits of working with clay, mainly air dry clay, which has a distinct purpose to ceramic clays often used to create pottery.

So, what can be done to stop air-dry clay from breaking? Put another way, work the clay for at least three minutes before utilizing it. Drying clay has to be approximately a quarter of an inch thick. Clay of this thickness may dry without cracking.

A little bit of water added to the mould might help avoid fractures in the final result. Don’t forget to let the clay dry thoroughly when you’ve finished shaping it and try to make it into one continuous piece. Therefore, while your sculpture is drying, you should turn it often.

We’ll go through what makes air-dry clay unique, how artists use it, and how to shape it correctly so it doesn’t break.

Air Dry Clay: A Brief Overview

The main distinction between ceramic and air-dry clay is that the latter doesn’t need heating. A kiln is a kind of furnace explicitly used for firing ceramics. These ovens are not only exceedingly costly, but they may also be challenging to install, even in a workshop and are rarely fit for conventional kitchens.

This means they aren’t great for the occasional clay sculptor who dabbles in the hobby for fun or to relieve stress. However, results from using air-dry clay are consistent with what would be predicted. It starts to dry with air exposure but dries slowly enough to be moulded before it hardens.

Without the need for a kiln, anybody with a passion for clay may begin making objects.

how to bake air dry clay discussed here

How can I prevent cracks while sculpting with air-dry clay?

Using clay that has been allowed to air-dry naturally has several advantages, but it also has a few drawbacks. Even if it dries slowly enough to support mould growth, it will still begin to react to air as soon as it is exposed to it. This would indicate that the drying and hardening process starts in earnest after the clay is removed from its packaging after it has been stored. It is impossible to shape it without causing it to dry out and become more brittle.

You are in a position to act, which is quite encouraging. Here are some helpful hints for working with air-dry clay so that your sculptures don’t crumble to pieces while you’re still putting them together.

It is only possible to break dry clay if it is handled roughly.

keep air dry clay from cracking

Reasons why Air-Dry Clay Crack

Air Dry Clay, as you probably know, if you use it often, dries and hardens when exposed to air. As the clay dries, tiny cracks may occasionally be seen developing in it.

Initial panic that your idea is about to become a total failure may make you want to cry tears of laughter. But have no fear; there are several easy solutions you may use to get things back on track and complete the task. To avoid having your air-dried clay fracture, read on for some tips we have compiled.

Air-dry clay refers to clay extracted from the ground and allowed to dry in the air. Air dry clay often shrinks very little and does not need baking to cure. After a session of working with air-dry clay, the cleanup process is straightforward.

Is it true that Air-Dry Clay Cracks Easily?

  • The most important thing you can do to stop the cracks in the clay from spreading is to look for them as soon as possible and patch them when you find them. It is essential to make any necessary repairs as soon as little cracks form in the clay; this should be done rather than waiting until the clay is dried. Following these instructions will allow you to swiftly take up where you left off working with the clay.

Reasons Why Your Air Dry Clay Cracks

  • Because Air Dry Clay is composed mainly of water, it will lose more moisture the longer it is left open to the air. Clay often develops microscopic fractures due to the loss of moisture over time. If cracks develop over time due to the presence of air, using clay that has been allowed to air-dry might be troublesome. When keeping clay that has been air-dried, it is essential that the container it is kept in be airtight.
  • When dealing with air-dry clay, it is feasible to roll out or produce anything that is excessively thin. This is due to the clay’s low moisture content. As the clay pieces begin to dry out in the open air, the lighter clay pieces may start to shatter softly. If feasible, you should make every part of your work thicker than a quarter of an inch. It is possible to prevent cracking by ensuring that the clay object is consistent with the same thickness throughout.

How to Prevent Air-Dry Clay from Cracking?

  • Your homemade air-dry clay can crack if you add too much water. As you work, do your best to keep the clay moist but not excessively wet. We advise drying your clay out for an hour or two if you have too much water before moving on.
  • The region where two clay pieces are joined has a significant chance of subsequent cracking. Ensure that each component is joined by having them both be equally dry. For improved adherence, you may also score the pieces (create a crosshatch pattern with a toothpick or a sharp clay tool) on the surfaces that link the pieces.


Air Dry Clay when Cracked

  • When combining two clay pieces, use a “slip” mixture as clay glue. The term “slip” refers to a clay paste diluted with water.
  • After completing the creation of your clay sculpture, observe it closely while it dries. If you put it in a cabinet and turn it over every few hours, it will dry more evenly.
  • And if you’re wondering how to re-soften hard clay, the process is straightforward.

If you are using air-dry clay and it starts to harden before you are ready for it to dry, you may add a little amount of water to a ziplock bag and place the clay inside. It may get too damp, but you may “dry it off” with a paper towel or leave it in the open to dry again.

What Types of Air Dry Clay Are Available?

Crayola Model Magic, Pearl Paperclay, Creative Paperclay, Activa Plus Air Dry Clay, and Creative Paperclay are some kid-friendly clay products that may be used for sculpting projects. Cold porcelain, a simple handmade “clay,” may also be manufactured from corn starch and white glue. Even though it’s not technically clay, it may be moulded into desired forms before hardening, much like clay.

Which is stronger? Air Dry Clay or Ceramic Clay?

Ceramic clays will always be more potent when finished than air-dry clays as they don’t receive heat treatment. Because they are impervious to water and air, treated ceramics have an extraordinarily long lifespan.

If you are curious about how long air-dry clay will last, you may want to read my article. However, with enough time and the right conditions, air-dry clays may be just as sturdy and long-lasting.

Clay works preserved by air drying should be kept in a dry, dust-free environment away from water sources. While this clay is more likely to chip and break than others, applying sealers and paints may extend their lifespan and make up for their lack of tolerance for fine details.

Clay that has been left to air dry naturally is not waterproof, but it may be made more water-resistant by adding additives after it has hardened. Though we haven’t put it to the test, some painters use a combination of fifty per cent PVA glue and fifty per cent water to seal their finished pieces. After it dries, they paint over it with a coat of grey acrylic.

Once this is dry, they will add two coats of the final colour. Waterproof sculptures made using this method reportedly operate well in outdoor settings. The first step is to get some experience with a little project.

Reasons to Use Air-Dry Clay

Although air-dry clay has several advantages, it’s essential to consider whether or not any other materials might work better for your intended use.

Indefinite work in progress

Working with air-dry clay could be tricky at first because you’re sculpting the material as it dries, but it’s also incredibly fulfilling. The lack of heat treatment means it may be dried without a kiln and never has to be “finished.”

Even after a project has wholly dried, additional components might be added. If a crack occurs after the clay has dried and solidified, a filler or concealing piece may be attached to hide it.

When you aren’t using your air-dry clay, you should keep it properly to avoid drying. I have written a separate lesson on air-dry clay storage, which you may access if interested.

Possibilities in Multimedia

Unlike fired clay, unfired clay allows for incorporating creative materials. No other materials, such as metal, wood, or plastic, may be added to ceramic clay, or the kiln will melt them.

For air-dry clay, this is not a concern. Numerous materials may be draped, moulded, affixed, or put on top.

Many artists, for instance, construct armatures to support their sculptures. The artist typically uses a thin wire framework to shape the clay from the inside out.

When the armature is employed, a wider variety of effects may be generated with clay. For example, a wireframe may lift a clay structure off the ground and give it the illusion of movement if constructed in advance.

Wire armatures provide substance to sculptures, which is worth noting. Consider modelling a clay horse sculpture in the air to dry. The bulk of the clay would need to evenly rest on top of four fragile legs to make a standing horse.

These legs, as well as any other sensitive locations, are given extra hardness by shaping the clay over a robust wire frame.

paint-air-dry-clay for sealing


Air-dry clay is an excellent option for skilled artisans since almost anybody in almost any environment can utilize it. Unlike traditional ceramic clay, which requires a wide array of specialist equipment, this kind may be shaped just with your hands.

It comes in many different formats, including kid-friendly clay. It is not as robust as ceramic clay because of its somewhat softer, more “polystyrene-like” feel after drying, although it is more susceptible to dents than chips and smashes. Since it’s one of our favorite materials, we hope you like working with it as much as we do.



  • Why is my air-dry clay splitting as it dries?

Cracking is a regular occurrence in air-dried clays; it is caused by water loss inside the clay body, which causes shrinkage. Common reasons for air-dry clay cracking include sculpting over an armature or adding a lot of water to either mix the clay or help it adhere to a previous layer.

  • How can you keep air-dried clay safe?

Fortunately, sealing air-dried clay is straightforward. Acrylic spray sealer, acrylic paint with an incorporated sealer, decoupage, or resin may all be used.

  • Does baking air-dried clay make it stronger?

Some artists advise baking clay sculptures. They feel it encourages even drying of the art. While traditional drying methods leave some moisture in the clay and cause it to become brittle, baking it in an oven evaporates all the water and hardens the clay.

  • Why is my clay still cracking?

Clay fractures are caused chiefly by uneven drying. It is often assumed that ceramic clay must dry slowly to avoid shattering. The most significant factor, however, is how evenly the clay dries, not how rapidly it dries. It is recommended to allow the clay to dry slowly for pottery to dry evenly.

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