If you are looking for a fun hobby to fill up your spare time, we would highly recommend clay sculpting. It allows you to bring out your inner creativity and it is a great way of keeping your kids entertained.
You may be someone that already has a love and passion for sculpting and is looking for the best type of professional clay to choose from. There are many different types of clay available and a lot of brands to choose from.
In this article, we have included a range of the best five sculpting clays. There are some cheaper and more expensive options to suit every budget. We have included clays that are great for children and some that are brilliant for those taking sculpting more seriously.
We have included useful buyers guide at the end of the article to talk you through everything you need to know before buying your clay. We have also answered some of your frequently asked questions about clay and sculpting.
If you are in a hurry, check out our top pick below. We hope you find this article useful!
Our top clay choice for sculpting is Sculpey Super Sculpturing Compound.
We have chosen this clay because it is great quality and perfect if you are looking to take sculpting more seriously. It is suitable for adults and children aged 8+.
It is reasonably priced and comes in a 1 pound block. It is shatter and crack resistant and is baked in an oven to set. Once set it can be decorated and painted with ease.The brand is well known, popular, and trusted. Sculpey clay is great for precision and sculpting in particular. It is pliable and easy to work with which is essential for sculpting. Overall we would highly recommend this clay. If you would like to purchase this product, you can do so via Amazon US here.
OUR TOP PICK
This is a great option if you are looking to take sculpting more seriously. You can create fine details with this clay and it is great for all kinds of sculptures.
It comes in a beige color, instead of white. This is more of a natural clay color and can be painted over easily when dry. It also has a semi-translucent finish.
The packaging contains 1 pound of clay which is a good amount to get you started. In terms of the price, it is fairly middle ground. Considering it is of great quality, the price is reasonable.
The compound of this clay is more ceramic-like and once it has set it is shatter and chip resistant. This is great if you are a beginner and are still getting used to painting your finished sculptures.
It is an oven-baked clay and will need to be heated to be set, but it is of professional quality. This clay is more suited to teenagers and adults rather than children.It is particularly pliable to work with and will not dry out which is great for larger sculptures.
- Reasonably priced
- Great for detailed sculptures
- Crack and shatter-resistant
- Not really recommended for children
This clay is a popular choice to purchase for children. Crayola Air Dry is easy to mold and is natural clay.
It will dry naturally, so you do not need to worry about putting your sculpture in the oven once finished, though it will take longer to dry.
It is easy to clean up and is a lot smoother in its texture compared to other types of clay. It is also less sticky, which is a great addition.
This clay is great for beginners as you can mold and sculpt it with ease. You can use techniques such as scoring, welding, pinching, and coiling. It is a durable clay that should not fall apart when being used.
It is non-toxic and safe for children and adults to use. It can also be remolded and reused. If the clay is hard it can be softened with water if needed.
If stored correctly in its container this clay is fine to use for up to 12 months.
- Nontoxic and safe for children to use
- Smooth and less sticky
- Can be molded and sculpted easily
- Air Dry Clay does take longer to dry out
This is another clay made by the brand Sculpey. It is an oven-baked clay that comes in two colors, white and terra cotta. It comes in a 1.75-pound package.
As this is a polymer clay it will not dry out when exposed to the air and it is particularly pliable. This is great because it will stay soft and moldable until you are ready to set it.
This clay is great for several different projects, such as making jewelry, bowls, and various other art projects. It is more expensive compared to other brands, but you are paying for good quality clay that is of a professional standard.
As this clay can form small parts, it is not recommended for children under three to use. It would be more suited to older children from aged 8 upwards, and adults. It is easy to paint and decorate once set.
- Particularly pliable
- Great for various sculpting projects
- Good quality professional standard clay
- Not suitable for younger children, only use with children aged 8 upwards
If you want to take sculpting seriously, Monster Clay is the best option for you. It is a premium grade modeling clay and is particularly great for sculpting faces and detailed pieces.
Although this is one of the more expensive brands of clay, it is high quality and comes in a 5-pound tub.
When you consider how much clay you receive for the price, it is reasonable. The clay comes in one color, brown, and is easy to paint on once set.
It has a medium consistency and is an oil and wax-based clay. It will not dry out when being used. As it has high plasticity, it is durable and pliable. The container that you receive this clay in is oven safe.
This clay is recommended and popularly used by professional designers. It has a low melting temperature and it is not sticky. It is low density and is great to use in molds.
- Recommended and used by professional sculptors
- Comes in an oven-safe container
- Great for use in molds
- More suited to a professional sculptor rather than for beginners and everyday use
This is a non-hardening, mineral earth-based clay. It is great to use for many crafts including sculpting and flower arranging.
It can be blended with other types of clay to achieve different colors and it is sulfur and gluten-free. It is a long-lasting clay so you do not have to worry about it drying out.
Out of all the different types of clay we have included, this is the best value for the money. It comes in either a 2 pound or two 1 pound packet. You get a lot for the lower price you pay.
As this is a non-toxic clay it is suitable for children. It comes in a variety of colors, such as terracotta, green, brown, cream, gray, and white.
Although it is suitable for children, it can be used to create things such as props and for animation too.
The clay is a bit hard to work with at first but becomes pliable when it is worked. It is worth noting that this clay does not dry out and you cannot set it with heat.
- Great value for money
- Suitable for children
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Non-drying clay only, cannot be set
Best Clay for Sculpting Buying Guide
Here are some things you should consider before you purchase clay for sculpting.
Cost and Size
The cost of clay can vary significantly depending on what you are planning to use the clay for. If you are looking for more professional sculpting clay, this will be significantly more expensive when compared to clay that is more suited to children.
We would always recommend looking into the type of clay you want before purchasing as you may end up with the wrong type.
If you are looking for a clay that is great for children, a natural or polymer clay would be your best option. They are both fairly inexpensive and polymer clay is always readily available to purchase.
It may not be of the same quality compared to the more expensive clays, but if you are looking to do a fun DIY sculpting project with your children, these are great options.
In contrast to this, if you are looking for a more professional clay, it does come with a more expensive price tag. This is because it is of higher quality and it is meant to be used by those who are taking sculpting seriously.
Clays that are wax and oil-based tend to be more expensive. Epoxy clay is another expensive option that typically only comes in small packages.
The size of the clay you purchase is important. If it is just for a small project, a standard pot would suffice. However, if you have a large project you may need to purchase a good few pounds. Always check the size and weight of the clay before you purchase it.
Types of Clay
If you are not familiar with clay, you may not realize that there are different types.
While all clay is essentially the same, different components can be added to clay to make its consistency slightly different.
We have listed the different types of clay below.
This is the type of clay you may be the most familiar with. This clay is more natural and does not have anything added to it. Natural clay is great for beginners, especially because it can be remolded and shaped with ease.
This clay is water-based and it dries naturally. If you are not using an oven, this is the best type of clay to use as it does not need heat to firm it.
Given its quick-drying nature, this clay needs to remain wet while you are using it. If it does not have enough water it will dry out quickly at room temperature. To dry out completely this can take up to a week to occur.
Natural clay is a good option for children. In comparison to other types of clay, natural clay does have a tendency to shrink slightly when it dries out, which is worth keeping in mind.
There are a few different types of synthetic clay that all have different properties. All synthetic clays are oil-based. This is the main difference compared to natural clays.
What is great about synthetic clay is that it will not dry out when being used. If you are going to be spending a significant amount of time sculpting and do not want to worry about keeping the clay moist, it is a useful option.
This clay works best when it is slightly warm as it becomes softer and more pliable. Unlike natural clay, it does need to be warm to be sculpted.
For those that want to take sculpting more seriously, this type of clay would be a great option for you. There are a few different types of synthetic clay you can purchase:
- Polymer clay - This type of clay is plastic-based. It is a good option for children and is easy to use. It is safe and can be set in the kitchen oven.
- Wax and oil-based clay - This clay is great to practice with. It is more expensive than some other types of clay and is better for small projects. It can be put in the microwave to warm it and it can be frozen to harden it if needed.
- Epoxy clay - This type of clay is more difficult to use. It comes in two parts that need to be mixed for the clay to harden. It tends to be used by professionals and is quite expensive.
What You Can Use With the Clay
You should always double-check how you can use the clay.
Ideally, you will want to be able to use your hands and clay tools to sculpt the clay. With all good quality clay, you should be able to do this.
If the clay is particularly low quality and cheaply made, you may find that the clay will begin to separate when you are working it, especially if you are using tools.
The pliability of clay is essential when it comes to sculpting. If you have a particularly hard clay it will be significantly more difficult to sculpt. You will not get the sculpture you were envisioning as hard clay is not very pliable.
Good quality clays will all be pliable. While some are naturally softer, the harder clays can usually be warmed in the microwave. When these clays are warm they become easier to work with.
Always remember to keep natural clay wet as it becomes significantly less pliable the more it dries out.
Slow Hardening and Drying
As mentioned above, the slower you clay hardens, the better, especially for longer projects. Always ensure you are keeping natural clay moist and that you are correctly storing your clay when it is not in use. This will help to prolong the hardening and drying process.
Natural clays will dry in the air, whereas synthetic clays need to be heated for them to set. This is worth taking into consideration. While natural clay takes longer to dry you do not need an oven. If you want your clay to dry on the same day that you sculpt it, synthetic clay is the better choice for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
We have answered some frequently asked questions that you may have about sculpting clay.
Is Clay Sculpting Hard?
There is not one single definitive answer to this question as it can vary from person to person. However, once you get to grips with clay sculpting, it is as easy or as difficult as you make it.
If you are not artistic, you may find clay sculpting more difficult, to begin with, but the more you practice the easier it becomes. We would recommend sculpting something simple like a pot or a bowl, to begin with, and then build up your confidence from there.
Can You Use Pottery Clay for Sculpting?
In pottery, natural water-based clay tends to be used. You can use this kind of clay for sculpting. However, it is worth keeping in mind that if your project will stretch over a few days, pottery clay does dry out quicker than other types of clay and needs to remain moist.
While you can use it, for larger projects, it may be more awkward. It will also take longer to dry. While it is possible to use, there may be slightly easier options for you instead.