Air-dry clay is a unique medium used for crafting purposes. The best thing about this clay is the fact that it doesn’t need to be fired at all. The only thing you have to do is keep it in an airy space and allow it to dry up naturally. Once it dries up, the clay hardens up and becomes fairly durable.
However, not everyone can afford to purchase air-dry clay. This is especially true if they are in the learning process. When you are in the process of mastering the art, you will end up wasting a lot of clay, and you surely wouldn’t want your hard-earned money to go to waste.
This is why we have tested out various homemade air-dry clay recipes that you can try without having to waste your money. Getting addicted to clay crafting is an eventual process, but its start shouldn’t involve costly or branded clay products.
Why should you use homemade air-dry clay?
Although it might seem like a lot of work, homemade air-dry clay is fairly easy to make. It will take you only a couple of minutes to create, and you can ensure that there isn’t any toxic element present in the ingredients used by you.
With the brands available in the market for air-dry clay, you can never be sure of the ingredients used and whether they are toxic in nature. While most brands do list out the ingredients used in their air-dry clay, some are notorious for hiding the ingredients that might be unsafe only to enhance sales.
So, creating air-dry clay at home is the safest option. This is especially when you plan on using the clay with your children while you spend some time together. Plus, the ingredients used in homemade air-dry clay make it just as dry as the branded variants available in the market post drying for more than 48 hours.
This guide will explain two popular air-dry clay variants that you can make at your home while saving a lot on the side.
Recipe Number 1:
In our first homemade air-dry clay recipe, we will be using a mixture of cornstarch and baking soda to craft the best clay for beginners.
- 2 cups of baking soda
- 1 cup of cornstarch
- 5 cups of water
- Food coloring (optional)
Stir the baking soda, cornstarch, and water together to ensure there is no lump in the pot you are using to mix them all. Ensure that you cook the mixture in low to medium heat. Cooking it on high heat can lead to faster drying of the mixture, and it might burn or stick to the sides of the pan. At low heat, you must cook the mixture for a couple of minutes. Doing this changes the mixture from a soft consistency similar to that of a paste to a consistency that is similar to mashed potatoes.
Tip: Remember, if you tend to under-cook your clay with baking soda or maybe use a lot of water, the air-dry clay dough will become rather sticky & prone to evident cracking post drying. Keep cooking the mixture properly till it starts leaving the sides of the pan. Once this is seen, you must turn off the gas stove and allow the mixture to cool down properly for a couple of minutes.
Now, transfer this dough to another container or a flat surface and start kneading it to ensure it becomes soft and malleable to help you craft with ease. Next, take out the required amount of clay you need for your project from the dough and keep the rest inside an air-tight container or zip-lock bag to ensure that it doesn’t dry out.
The 2nd recipe in this guide is cornstarch and glue, which helps create air-dry clay of the porcelain type.
- 1 cup of cornstarch
- 1 table of lemon juice or white vinegar (preservative)
- 1 cup of Elmer’s glue/white crafting glue
- 1 tablespoon of mineral oil ( a good substitute can be the vegetable oil) (gives it a silky-smooth texture)
First, mix all the ingredients in your non-stick pan & cook it in a way similar to the one described in the previous recipe. However, the first and only difference between this mixture and the earlier one is the fact that it would look visibly similar to cottage cheese packed with small lumps. This happens when you remove it after cooking. Although this recipe is a fail-proof concoction, overcooking the same can turn your air-dry clay leathery and hard. For the glue part, you can use Elmer’s Liquid Glue that features a no-run formula.
You can also find instructions over the internet for the mixture to be cooked in your microwave. However, it is easier to get the right texture when it is cooked on the stove. This helps you cook it rather evenly & you can easily test out whether the clay mix is ready to be removed from the heat just yet.
Remember, this dough can be a bit stickier when compared to the dough prepared from the mixture of baking soda and cornstarch. To ensure that it doesn’t stick to your hand when molding or crafting with this clay, you can use a good amount of corn starch to roll and dust the workspace.
Similar to the baking soda & corn starch recipe, this clay must also be kept inside an air-tight container or a secure zip-lock bag.
How do you use homemade clay?
With your homemade air-dry clay, you can create everything from vases to plates and ornaments to décor items. So, how exactly can you use the homemade air-dry clay?
You can use cookie cutters such as the mini cutters available at your home kitchen to add amazing details to the crafting items or even make mini stars. You can use the round cutters to make Christmas tree hangings or deck them over the fairy lights on your decoration.
Keep in mind that these two recipes make air-dry clay, but the texture and characteristics of the two are very different. However, both of them can be used in the form of play dough if your child wishes to learn something new in the world of art and craft. This clay can be stored in the refrigerator for one or two weeks maximum. Beyond that period, the clay would start hardening.
Unlike the commercially available air-dry clay, the homemade clay comes with a shorter shelf life and must be used as soon as possible to avoid it from going bad. Let us take a look at the differences between the two types of homemade air-dry clay.
Baking-Soda Air-Dry Clay
Glue + Cornstarch Air-Dry Clay
|Drying Time||2 Days||4-7 Days|
|Texture||Cookie-Like Hard||Very Hard & Durable|
|Oven Baking||Required||Not Required|
|Color||Opaque White||Ivory Transparent White|
|Prone to Cracking||Yes||No|
Baking Soda Air-Dry Clay
On the positive end, baking soda air-dry clay is a simple, 3-ingredient based clay that dries up to show a beautiful white texture. It looks especially gorgeous when painted with acrylic or watercolor.
However, as compared to the glue-based air-dry clay, this one is rather fragile in nature & isn’t suited for the detailed design that makes your craft rather unique. Plus, this particular air-dry clay variant is prone to cracking in case the drying up happens too fast. The best way to obtain optimum results with air-dry clay is to keep it away from the sun in an airy room to let it dry slowly and naturally. This is especially true for the drying process that happens in the initial 24 hours.
Apart from this, you also need to understand the fact that air-dry clay isn’t as durable when compared to clay made of glue. However, there is a quick solution to this problem. It can become strong and durable in case you bake the clay for 30 minutes at a temperature ranging between 170oF and 200oF. This should only be done after the clay has dried up at room temperature for at least 2 days in order to prevent cracking.
Cornstarch and Glue Air-Dry Clay
If you are looking for a fail-proof air-dry clay homemade recipe, the cornstarch + glue variant is a fail-proof mixture. The dough feels like you are using play dough with a silky porcelain feel. Given that it is stretchy and pliable, it can be rolled out to a thinner layer & helps you create rather intricate details such as a mini house with some small windows, plants, and doors.
The best thing about air-dry clay made out of glue and cornstarch is the fact that it is quite durable and strong. It might take a bit longer to dry up, but when it does dry after 4-5 days, the strength and durability are unmatched.
The only problem with this clay variant is the fact that it takes up the use of more ingredients as compared to the baking soda mixture. Moreover, it might shrink down a bit during the drying process, especially by the edges. The color becomes more of translucent ivory as compared to the pure white color seen with the earlier recipe.
Baking soda clay artwork is opaque and dries up pure white. It shows up the color in a rather vibrant manner as compared to the glue-variant. If you wish to add the same opaque white color to the glue variant, you can mix a good amount of white craft paint or acrylic while you cook the clay. If you do this, make sure you knead the dough properly after it cools down.
How can you prevent the baking soda air-dry clay from cracking?
In order to prevent the baking soda air-dry clay from cracking, you need to make sure the clay has been cooked thoroughly. Apart from this, you need to ensure that it dries out slowly and not fast. Avoid direct exposure to the sun during the drying process. This will help eliminate the cracks from forming.
Apart from this, you also need to measure out all your ingredients carefully and accurately. First, cook it well & roll the clay to the thickness that is 1/4th or 1/8th of an inch. Next, craft your piece, and when drying, make sure you flip the piece to ensure that it has dried out evenly.
If your dough feels very sticky, you might have undercooked the same or added a lot of water. This could be a potential cause for cracking. The baking soda air-dry clay can actually be a bit finicky. However, the latter is best and doesn’t crack easily. You also don’t have to bake it in order for it to become durable and strong.
Is the homemade clay durable and strong?
The cornstarch and glue turn out to become pretty hard & durable after it has been dried for a minimum of 5 to 7 days. On the other hand, baking soda air-dry clay tends to dry out to the hardness of a cookie or cracker. Further, baking it at a 200oF temperature for 30 minutes would make it highly durable.
Can you bake the homemade air-dry clay within your oven?
You need not and must not bake your homemade air-dry clay made or cornstarch and glue in the oven. This could lead to issues such as puffing up or even bubbling the clay.
Can I use any substitute for cornstarch?
While some folks show allergic symptoms to the use of cornstarch, the best substitute for it is rice flour or tapioca starch.
So, have fun crafting your very first air-dry clay project with these homemade clay variants. You will surely save up a lot of money and learn while you craft. When starting out, it is better to create your own clay, and once you get hold of the tricks of the craft, you can start crafting with the branded air-dry clay products.