Air dry clay is an amazing crafts material. It is easy to use, easy to work with, and you don´t need a kiln to fire it instead it will simply dry and harden that way. But, even though it is not mandatory, you might still want to seal your air dry clay sculpture to protect it from damage and to make it more durable.
Sealing air dry clay, however, isn´t always easy and there are a lot of different ways that you can seal your air dry clay. But what if you don´t have the necessary materials on hand to properly seal your air dry clay or you don´t want to spend money on the necessary materials?
Well, then there are a few alternatives to commercial sealers. In this article, we will take a look at nail polish and I will answer the question if you can use it to seal your air dry clay sculpture.
As a whole, you can use nail polish to seal air dry clay and it doesn´t matter if the polish is water-based or not. Simply apply a thin layer of nail polish to your finished and fully dried air clay sculpture. You can add multiple thin layers if the first one wasn´t enough.
A few things to note when using nail polish to seal clay though.
Nail Polish Won´t Make Air Dry Clay Waterproof it Will Only Make It Water-Resistant
Meaning that when a few drops of water a sprinkled on it then instead of the clay absorbing the water it will simply be repelled by the varnish on top of it. So it will protect your sculpture from the water on a basic level.
But varnish will not make your air dry mug suddenly be able to hold water. Larger amounts of water will still eventually find their way to the underlying clay and soften it after a short while destroying your sculpture in the process.
So while nail polish will protect your air dry clay from water drops and spillings it will not repel larger amounts of water.
If you want to know how to properly seal air-dry clay then consider reading my guide on sealing air-dry clay properly.
Clear Nail Polish Will Start Becoming Foggy If You Apply Too Many Layers of it
Clear nail polish will start becoming foggy if you apply too many or too thick layers on top of your sculpture.
While 3 to 4 thin layers of clear nail polish will usually be no problem, and I personally would even recommend adding multiple thin layers to ensure optimal protection, adding too many layers will eventually make the clear nail polish look foggy.
If your nail polish layers are too thick then you will also run into problems further down the road because the nail polish can either not dry properly or the nail polish might dry unevenly.
So apply multiple thin layers of nail polish instead of one thick layer. And try to add at most 4 layers and no more.
Nail Polish May Start Yellowing If it is Exposed To The Sun For Too Long
This last one is pretty rare but I had it happen to me before.
If your sculpture is sealed with nail polish then I would try to keep it away from direct sunlight.
If the nail polish layers are exposed to direct sunlight for a longer duration of time then the nail polish could start to get discolored.
Usually, it will become yellowish after a while.
Note that this won´t happen to every kind of nail polish but especially cheaper nail polishes tend to discolor quite fast.
So I would simply recommend keeping your sculptures that have been sealed with nail polish away from direct sunlight.
Can You Color Air Dry Clay With Nail Polish?
Now that you know all of the ins and outs of sealing air dry clay with nail polish you might be wondering if it is possible to color and seal air dry clay in one go with colored nail polish.
You can color air-dry clay with nail polish. It is even possible to get really great effects by layering different colors over one another. The nail polish will seal your air-dry clay sculpture. This will protect your air dry clay from small amounts of water, scratches, and more.
There is actually a really interesting method of coloring where you use similar colors of nail polish and layer them over one another to create amazing effects.
You could, for example, layer yellow, red, and white over one another to create a flame-like color gradient.
There really are a lot of different amazing possibilities hidden here.
But remember, don´t make the different layers too thick, and don´t add more than 4 layers or your nail polish might end up becoming foggy. This isn´t as big of a problem with colored nail polish but you might still run into trouble here.
So it might be better to experiment on a scrap piece before coloring your actual sculpture!
Using nail polish is only one way to color air-dry clay. You could also paint it with acrylic paint or enamel paint if you want to which is, by the way, way easier and faster than using nail polish. You can read more about painting air-dry clay right here if you are interested.
Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create these interactive props. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.