There are some superb clays available to buy, but did you know it’s not that hard to make your own?
Sure, the stuff you make at home can never compete with the best brands who’ve been perfecting the art for years, but store-bought clay can add up quickly, especially if you complete lots of clay projects at home with your kids.
Homemade clay is an inexpensive alternative you can use for budget-friendly crafts, and if you’re making some for your kids you can even get them involved in the making too. A win-win!
As you’re about to find out, there is not just one type of clay you can make, there are several. But fear not. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to make homemade clay and show you the different methods.
Equipment You’ll Need
Other than the ingredients we list out below, you’ll need:
- a non-stick pot
- a wooden spoon
- a medium-large size bowl for mixing
- a damp cloth, lid or plate
Homemade Clay Recipes
Salt Dough Clay
Let’s start with the easiest one, a salt dough clay recipe, which required no cooking. It’s super safe for crafts with young children as well. Because the clay is made using flour, it’s edible. The final product is similar to homemade playdough. As long as you don’t have a gluten issue, you could even taste your art. It may not taste so great though.
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup to 1 1/2 cup of salt
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup of water
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, and slowly add water like you’re making a pancake mix. If it’s too watery, add more flour, if it’s too thick, keep adding water.
Keep kneading the flour, throwing it from one hand to another like you’re working at your local pizza shop, and you’re good to go. Once you’re happy with your creation, throw it in the oven for an hour or so (depending on the size). If what you’ve made is nothing to write home about, just kneed it back into a ball and put it in an airtight Tupperware container to keep it fresh (just make sure you roll the dough in flour before you put it in, to make sure it doesn’t stick to the container when you want to pull it out again)
Baking Soda Clay (Air Dry)
Baking soda clay is great – it dries naturally (though can be speeded up as we see below), non-elastic when wet, still relatively soft when dry ad easy to reshape, sand, and add etchings. It takes paint well too.
- 2 cups of baking soda
- 1 cup of cornflour (cornstarch)
- 1.5 cups of cold water
If you don’t want to turn on the oven, either because you’re using this project for children, don’t have an oven available, or are completing this project during the summer, use the air-dry method.
Air hardening modeling clay, as the name suggests, dries all by itself.
Using baking soda and cornflour (aka cornstarch) makes a superb play clay that is simple enough to color with food coloring liquids you’ll find in your kitchen cupboard. Or you can leave it white and paint it once it’s hardened.
Add the baking soda and cornflour first to a saucepan, and add the water slowly as you stir (on a medium heat) constantly stirring until smooth making sure any lumps are broken down. When it looks like something approaching mashed potatoes, it’s done. Let it cool and you’re ready to roll.
Empty it onto a plate and cover with damp kitchen towel. Once it’s cooled down, dust the surface with cornflour and knead it until it’s pliable.
It will take up to 2 days to dry, depending on the size and thickness of the item (the thinner, the faster it will be). It will take a few hours to dry, and you should turn it every 12 hours to make sure it dries evenly.
To speed up the drying out process, you can always pop it in the over at a reduced hear (~150 degrees Fahrenheit) with the door cracked slightly open.
This recipe above makes about 2 pounds – if that’s too much, just halve it.
Homemade Polymer Clay (aka Cold Porcelain)
Oil-based polymer clay is another popular clay for sculpting. We’re calling it Polymer clay, however, it’s not quite the same as leading brands like Sculpey which have a PVC polymer base (polyvinyl chloride). This recipe, on the other hand, uses a PVA base (polyvinyl acetate) but it’s still a polymer as it plasticizes during the curing process and has many of the characteristics such as elasticity, pliability, and durability.
Making it at home is pretty straightforward if you have the ingredients in. The glue gives it a bit of elasticity to work with which is nice, and it dries super hard in the oven. It takes paint well as it’s pretty non-porous, and it lasts much longer than baking soda clay or salt dough clay.
- 3/4 cup white PVA glue / Elmer’s school glue
- 1 cup of cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons of baby oil or mineral oil
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- Add the cornstarch with the glue in a non-stick pan.
- Then add baby/mineral oil and lemon juice
- Cook over a low heat for around until you have something resembling mashed potatoes
- Remove from heat and knead until smooth
- Store in a sealed bag, ideally in the fridge
- When you’re happy with your creation, harden it in the oven at about 150°F, periodically turning over the item, especially for flat shapes that have a tendency to curl around the edges).
Note: as it contains glue it is NOT to edible like many of the other clays on this list (so perhaps not a great option if you’re working with young children).
It also shouldn’t be used for storing food. Even though it plasticizes during the curing process, it won’t stand up to moisture.
- 2 cups of plain flour
- 1 cup of salt
- 1 cup of cold water
- 1 tablespoon of oil (vegetable oil)
This one is simple enough and requires no cooking. Just drop it all into a plastic bag, seal it up, and then knead it all inside the bag. The kids can even join in.
For a slightly better mix, add cooking oil and cream of tartar (which helps with elasticity) and warm it up in a saucepan. Here are the measurements:
Ingredients (cooked play dough):
- 2 cups of plain flour
- 1 cup of salt
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 2 cups of water
Tips for Making Homemade Clay
While this step is optional, you can alter the color of the dough next. If you want different colored dough, try using food coloring or tempera paint. Keep in mind that food coloring can stain your hands for a short time, so you may want to wear protective gloves.
If you want the dough to all to be the same color, then just add it to the water before you mix the ingredients. However, you might like to make small batches of different colors to make things a bit more interesting.
In this case, separate the clay into smaller portions and place them in smaller bowls, depending on how many colors you want to use. Add a couple of drops of food coloring to each bowl, mixing each portion well with a spoon.
Another option is to decorate the clay projects after the baking process using acrylic paint. However, food coloring is a cheaper and less toxic material. You can also give the clay a golden appearance without using food coloring or paint. Just brush the pottery with an egg yolk prior to baking the object.
Once your clay is made, it’s time to start creating the shapes you want. Use your imagination or follow some of our favorite clay project ideas. You can also get hold of a clay extruder to help you make really cool little shapes. You may also want to use cookie cutters to help form precise shapes.
Make sure not to create objects that are too thick or they may crack when you try to bake it in the next step.
If you’ve made an air dry clay, then this won’t apply to you (all you must do is allow the clay to sit out for between 48 and 72 hours. Place it in a safe, undisturbed area while the dough dries).
If, however, you’ve created a clay that can go in the oven, simply turn the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and place your work of art inside the oven on a baking pan for around an hour. The amount of time may vary based on the thickness of your creation. The goal is to bake the clay enough to allow it to harden, without burning the material or causing it to crack.
Homemade clay won’t last forever, but to prolong its life (and stop mold appearing) make sure you keep it in an airtight container in a dark, cool place.
With only a few common household materials, you can easily make an inexpensive clay at home. You can then use the dough for various pottery craft projects that both kids and adults adore. There are so many different projects you could tackle! What will you make next? Share your favorite clay pottery DIY projects in the comments.