When you are creating home decorations, air dry clay is the best option. Simply because it is very versatile, and you can use it to make just about anything. Air dry clay is great because it will dry on its own without the need for extreme heat. But you should seal your finished sculpture to protect it. But how to seal air-dry clay?
To seal air dry clay you can use white crafts glue, like Mod Podge but then your clay will not be water-resistant and Mod Podge will yellow eventually if it is exposed to the sun regularly. Use varnish, acrylic sealer, or liquid epoxy resin to seal your clay if you want it to be water-resistant.
Just because you sealed your air-dry clay does not mean that it can withstand long direct contact with water. It only means that it will resist a few drops of water.
So a sealed mug made out of air-dry clay can´t be used to hold liquids!
How to Properly Seal Air-Dry Clay
Sealing air-dry clay is relatively simple.
When your Sculpture has dried completely and after you have painted it (if you wanted to paint it), then your sculpture is ready to be sealed.
1. Sealing Clay With White Crafts Glue (Mod Podge)
There are many ways to seal your Air-Dry clay, the most popular one is properly sealing it with Mod Podge or another white crafts glue.
You can get Mod Podge at any Major Craft store but if you want to support me, then you can use this affiliate link to buy high-quality Mod Podge.
White craft glues are great for sealing clay, because they are nontoxic and easy to use, and you can get them very easily in any crafts store. So they are the cheapest and easiest way to seal your clay.
Simply apply a thin layer with a brush to your sculpture and let the glue dry for 5 to 6 hours. Then apply a second thin layer and let it dry again. Keep repeating these steps until you have around 3 to 4 layers on your piece.
And you have successfully sealed your Air-Dry clay.
However, if you seal your clay with white glue then it will not be waterproof. It will keep small amounts of water from damaging your sculpture but it will not make it waterproof.
White Craft glue will also become yellow over time when it is exposed to the sun. So after about a year, the glue will be slightly more yellow and not as transparent as in the beginning anymore.
If you want to waterproof your clay, then I would suggest using either liquid epoxy resin or varnish to seal your clay project.
2. Sealing Clay With Varnish or Acrylic Sealer
The second way to seal your Air-Dry clay is with varnish or an Acrylic Sealer.
My favorite Varnish is Liquitex Acrylic Polymer Varnish, it is easy to use and affordable. If you use the link, that I provided then I will get a small commission and you can support my site that way (don’t worry, it doesn´t cost you anything extra)
Varnish is a transparent Sealer, that is usually used for sealing wood but it can be used to seal a lot of other materials as well.
Varnish will dry clear but depending on the kind of varnish, that you use, it can also dry very glossy or matt. It is usually written on the can how it drys, matt or glossy.
Varnish is easy to apply as well. Simply open the can and brush on the varnish on your clay. Make sure, that you don´t forget any part of the sculpture because depending on your varnish you can only apply one layer.
Some varnishes can only be applied in one layer because when you apply a second layer some varnishes lose their transparency. You can test this by simply sealing a scrap piece with the varnish and then check if it drys transparent or not after the second layer.
Once the varnish is dry your clay sculpture is properly sealed and water-resistant!
3. Sealing Clay With Liquid Epoxy Resin
This is properly the hardest method of sealing your Air-Dry clay.
Epoxy Resin is actually slightly toxic while it is not hardened yet, so be very careful, when using epoxy and use gloves and a mask.
Epoxy has two parts to it. The epoxy and the hardener. Once you mix the two parts the epoxy is ready to be used.
Usually, you have to mix the epoxy and the hardener in a 1-to-2 ratio but be sure to read the instructions before your mix the epoxy parts.
Now apply the epoxy to your sculpture and make sure, that you cover every inch of your sculpture with it.
Leave it to dry and then you will have a transparent hardened shell surrounding your sculpture, that will keep almost everything from it.
Epoxy will make your clay water-resistant and epoxy will not turn yellow when it is exposed to the sun.
If you are just starting out though, then I would not recommend using liquid epoxy, as it is kind of difficult to use correctly.
How Long Does It Take For Air-Dry Clay To Dry?
As soon as the clay is exposed to air, it will begin to dry.
This doesn’t mean that you need to rush through your sculpture because it will start to dry out immediately.
It takes about 24 hours to 72 hours for the clay to dry, and it will depend on the thickness of the clay.
If you are finished with your sculpture, you shouldn’t try to heat the clay to make it dry faster. Trying to heat the clay will cause cracks on the surface, and you won’t have the smooth appearance that you are striving for.
The safest way to dry out the clay is to let it dry naturally at room temperature.
You should store air-dry clay properly if you don´t use it at the moment because it will dry as long as it is out in the open. You can read my guide on storing air-dry clay if you want to know more.
Can Air-Dry Clay Get Wet?
Air dry clay should not get wet as it absorbs moisture and will become soft again when it comes into contact with too much water. That is why air dry clay should be sealed once the sculpture is done and air-dry clay should be stored in airtight containers when it is not used.
Can Air-Dry Clay Be Waterproofed?
As a whole, air-dry clay can be waterproofed but it is very hard to do. A thin layer of liquid epoxy resin has to be used to coat the whole air-dry clay sculpture. The epoxy resin is transparent and will make the air-dry clay waterproof. But I generally don´t recommend doing this.
When the air-dry clay is still in the container, you can keep the moisture out by storing it in an air-tight plastic container. You can also add a plastic layer over the clay, which will give you the same results.
If you don’t cover the excess clay, it will dry out to the point where you won’t be able to use it again.
You can read more about waterproofing air-dry clay in another article of mine if you want to know more.
Do I Have To Complete My Piece In One Day?
You don´t have to complete a piece in one day. While it is true, that finishing a piece in one sitting is best you can still store the unfinished piece and continue working on it later. To store Air-Dry Clay simply wrap the unfinished piece tightly in saran or plastic wrap and put it in an airtight container.
Because air-dry clay starts to dry when it is exposed to the air, many people think that they need to finish their piece in one sitting. This isn’t true.
While it is best to try to complete your piece in one session, don’t feel rushed. If you can’t finish your piece in one sitting, you should wrap it up in plastic wrap.
This will keep the clay moist, and it will still be soft and ready to sculpt when you return to the project. Just be sure to get the air out of the plastic wrap first, and cover the entire piece.
You can read my detailed guide on properly storing air-dry clay if you want to know how to store air-dry clay in more detail.
What Happens If Air-Dry Clay Cracks?
If you find that your air-dry clay does crack once you have finished your piece, don’t panic because it can be fixed.
All you will need is a layer of slip. This can be created by mixing a small amount of clay and water. You should add enough water to the clay so that it resembles the consistency of heavy cream. Use the slip to fill in any cracks, and allow it to dry completely.
This will fill in any cracks, making your piece look flawless.
You can read more about the process of fixing cracks in air-dry clay in another guide that I have written where I go into more detail.
Can Air-Dry Clay Be Painted Before It Dries
It is not a good idea to paint your piece until the clay has dried. You should wait for at least 24 hours for the clay to dry before painting.
It is best to wait until the clay has dried completely before painting. Waiting until the clay is 100 percent dry will not only make the piece easier to paint, but it will also make your piece more durable. When the clay is dry, and you are ready to paint, it is best to use paint that will protect your piece from any moisture in the air.
This will ensure that your piece will have a long life, and it won’t crack.
Can You Use Mod Podge On Air-Dry Clay?
The short answer is yes. You can seal your Air-Dry Clay with Mod Podge. But Mod Podge will not make the clay waterproof and Mod Podge will eventually yellow when it is exposed to the sun for longer periods (1 Year or more)
Before adding the Mod Podge, you will need to paint your piece first. When choosing the best paint for your piece, you want to avoid using watercolors.
Watercolors will bring the clay back to its wet state, and it can make painting difficult. If you are re-moistening the clay, it will get very sticky.
If you are planning to paint intricate details on your piece, the stickiness will make this impossible. After you finish painting your piece, you can add a coat of Mod Podge.
It will make your piece a bit stronger, and it will also add a nice sheen to the piece.
Choosing the Best Air-Dry Clay
You can walk into any craft store, and you will find about 20 different types of air-dry clay on the shelf. This can be very overwhelming. Rather than choosing the cheapest air-dry clay, you should look at the brand. There are three brands that stand out above the rest.
Crayola Air-Dry Clay is less sticky and smoother than traditional clay.
If you are planning to use stamps, beads, or embed objects, this is an excellent clay because you can use conventional clay techniques with this clay.
When decorating the clay, you can use acrylic paint, tempera, and markers. This is the best option for kids because it comes in small pieces, which makes it easy for small hands to mold.
Also, the clay comes in a variety of different colors so it doesn’t need to be painted. If the child wants to paint their piece, they have that option as well.
You can buy Crayola Air-Dry Clay at your local crafts store or right here on Amazon.
Activa Air-Dry Clay
This clay is great because when it dries, it is very lightweight.
It is very soft and can be easily carved, which makes it great for creating small things like small sculptures and creating jewelry.
You can buy Activia Air-Dry Clay right here on Amazon.
Amaco is a very popular brand of clay, and they have plenty of types of clay, including air-dry clay.
Like other types of clay, Amaco can be painted, and it is very soft and easy to mold.
Amaco Air-Dry Clay can be bought here on Amazon or at your local crafts store.
Tips and Tricks For Working With Air Dry Clay
If you are new to air-dry clay, there are a few tips and tricks that you should know so that you can create the best piece possible.
Be sure to keep the clay under three-quarters of an inch in most places.
If it is too thick in certain areas, it will take a long time to dry, and it will be a while before you can start painting. The best way to make sure that your clay is even in all areas, you should roll it out with a rolling pin before you start sculpting.
Not only will this make the drying process faster, but rolling it out will also make the clay easier to work with. Typical clay tools can be used with air-dry clay; however, it is best to use a craft knife.
This will ensure that you have clean edges when you cut. If you notice any imperfections in the clay while you are working, you can wet your finger and use the water to smooth out these areas.
You can add texture to your piece by using various objects such as rubber stamps, leaves, raised fabric, and any other household objects with distinct shapes and patterns. To help your piece dry a bit faster, flip it over halfway through the drying time.
This will give the bottom of the piece the air that it needs to help speed up the drying process. Before painting your piece, make sure that it is completely dry.
You may want to start painting quickly, but if you don’t wait for the piece to dry, there is a chance that it will peel or crack. If you are going to place your piece in high moisture areas such as outdoors or in the bathroom, be sure to use a waterproof sealer.
This will keep it from cracking over time.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a professional kiln to create incredible sculptures and pieces.
You can get the same results using air-dry clay, as long as you use the right paints and sealants.
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 interactive props and puzzles for Escape Games and marketing agencies. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.