How to Dry Air Dry Clay Without Cracking

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The most frustrating part of working with air dry clay is drying it without it cracking in the process. There are a lot of things to keep in mind when working with air dry clay that will keep it from cracking during the drying process. So how do you dry air dry clay?

To dry air dry clay it is best to place the clay on a grill to ensure that every side has some airflow and then cover thinner parts with a damp piece of cloth. Cover the entire sculpture with a thin sheet of plastic and let it dry for at least 72 hours.

To dry air dry clay properly follow these steps:

  1. Get a grilling tray or another type of mesh
  2. Place some parchment paper on the mesh
  3. Place the air dry clay sculpture on the mesh
  4. Cover thin parts of the sculpture with a damp towel
  5. Cover the entire sculpture with a plastic sheet
  6. Let the clay dry for 72 hours
  7. Remove the sheet and test if the clay is dry

There are quite a few nuances that will ensure that your air dry clay dries evenly and without cracking which I will explain in the following.

I also have a complete guide on how to work with air dry clay that explains how to use air dry clay from start to finish with many useful resources.

Materials for Drying Air Dry Clay

You will need a couple of materials to properly dry your air dry clay. Don´t worry it isn´t much and you will probably have most of it at home already anyway.

You will need:

  • A grilling tray or other type of mesh
  • A thin plastic sheet (a trash bag for example)
  • Parchment paper
  • A small towel or a piece of cloth

And that is all you need to dry air dry clay properly.

How to Dry Air Dry Clay

This is a guide on how to dry air dry clay properly. It focuses on drying the clay slower and as safe as possible to avoid cracking.

I have another guide on how to dry air dry clay faster that you can read right here if you need your clay to be ready by tomorrow.

1. Get a Grilling Tray or Another Type of Mesh

First, you will need a grilling tray or some other sort of mesh that will be used to ensure that the clay has some air flow all around it including the bottom side.

Any type of mesh will do as long as it can hold the clay and allows air to reach the bottom part of the sculpture.

2. Place Some Parchment Paper on the Mesh

Cut some parchment paper to size so that it fits on the mesh.

The parchment paper will ensure that you can easily remove the dried sculpture from the mesh later on.

This step is especially important for heavier sculptures.

3. Place the Air Dry Clay Sculpture on the Mesh

Place the sculpture on the mesh on top of the parchment paper.

Make sure that you place the sculpture in a location where no cold or hot air is circulating. Also, keep the sculpture away from any heat source or the sun as this may cause cracking during the drying process.

4. Cover Thin Parts of the Sculpture With a Damp Towel

If your sculpture has parts on it that are significantly thinner than other parts of the sculpture then it is best to cover these parts with a damp towel or a damp piece of cloth.

This will make it so that the thinner parts dry slower than normal which will help the whole sculpture to dry as evenly as possible.

If you don´t do this then thinner parts of the sculpture will dry faster resulting in internal tensions that might cause cracking.

5. Cover the Entire Sculpture With a Plastic Sheet

The final step before leaving the sculpture to dry is covering it in a thin plastic sheet.

The plastic sheet will protect the clay from hot or warm air and it will ensure that the clay dries very slowly.

The slower and the more evenly the clay dries the better.

6. Let the Clay Dry for 72 Hours

Now, let the clay dry for as long as it needs.

Most types of air dry clay will be dry within 72 hours but depending on the type of clay and the size and thickness of the sculpture it can also take 4 to 6 days until the clay is fully dry.

You can often tell if a air dry clay sculpture is completely dry by looking at it and touching it.

If the clay has turned a lighter color then chances are it has dried. When there are no dark spots visible on the surface then it might be completely dry.

You can also carefully touch the clay and see if the clay is significantly colder than its surroundings. Clay cools down as the water inside it evaporates. If the clay is very cold then the process might still be ongoing and you should leave it for another 5 hours.

If the clay has room temperature then chances are the drying process is done.

Finally, you can also press your fingernail into the surface of the clay. If the nail pushes in easily then the clay is not yet dry enough.

7. Remove the Sheet and Test if the Clay is Dry

Once the clay is completely dry all you have to do is remove the plastic sheet and dispose of the parchment paper.

You can seal your clay if you want to or fix any cracks if you can find some.

I have a guide on how to seal air dry clay right here and a separate guide on how to fix cracks in air dry clay that you can read right here.

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