How to Use Modeling Clay to Create Anything You Can Imagine

how to use modeling clay

It seems that the world has recently come into an insurmountable need for modeling clay. While it's an amazing and fun creative tool, if you don't know how to use modeling clay, you'll be left in the dust.

creating pottery with a modeling clay

Image Remi Abel from Flickr

Modeling clay is one of those nostalgic things everybody strongly felt the need to play with during their art class. It was squishy, smelled cool, and made you feel like a real artist, even if you were in second grade.

I do not condone eating modeling clay. It's not good for you and it doesn't taste good. I'm not saying I ate it, but it may or may not have been eaten by me.

What Is Modeling Clay?

Modeling clay is for people that don't want to commit to using real clay, which can be impossible if you don't have a kiln. Polymer clay is like sitting at the big table on Thanksgiving. Modeling clay is like sitting at the little table next to it.

Most of the time, if kids are doing a clay craft, you're going to want to give them modeling clay.

modeling clay

Image from Pixabay

Modeling clay has the consistency of Play-Doh. That is why a lot of children enjoy playing with it. It's squishy and you can mold it into a snake. Those are the two criteria children have for deciding whether or not something is fun.

Where it comes from

Clay was used for thousands of years in people's homes and decor. Before there were modern inventions like the shingle or lightbulbs, mud and clay were what you'd use to build huts.

These huts stood strong against harsh weather and solidified further in the heat, turning to a hard outer layer that was harder to permeate.


Image from Pixabay

As societies began to expand, people started to see that you could actually heat a certain type of clay to a temperature that would turn it hard. Thus, the brick was born, and no amount of huffing and puffing could blow houses down any longer.

Of course, clay and mud are used for huts in underdeveloped countries to date, and there is a brick house on every corner.

Modeling clay itself is a fairly new development. A popular brand of modeling clay that was one of the first to come out was just developed in the 1900s. The type of clay they developed was meant for air-drying and came in a variety of colors, making it ideal for children.

Polymer Clay vs. Modeling Clay

Is there a difference between polymer clay and the best modeling clay? Is figuring out how to use modeling clay going to be totally different from how to use polymer clay?

Kind of.

Polymer clay is used in more commercial crafts, like bead-making or traditional pottery. Modeling clay is oil-based, which makes it easier for children to mold and play with. For polymer clay, you're more likely to need to an actual kiln or some basic pottery skills, while modeling clay is more laid back.

Polymer clay is something people think is less appealing in terms of color selection, but that's actually not true. Polymer clay is available in a variety of colors. It actually comes in more earthy tones, like browns and grays, than modeling clay does.

How to Use Modeling Clay

If you don't know exactly how to use modeling clay, it isn't the end of the world. There are endless tutorials and very few limitations, so you can play around and experiment without too much pressure.

That's why it's perfect for children, who are going to do what they want regardless of whether or not you pressure them.


pottery technique

Image from Pixabay

When you're trying to learn how to use modeling clay, you should probably know a couple of different techniques. You're going run into a few different starter options. These include pinch pots, which everybody made in middle school art class, snakes, or tiny sculptures of puppies.

The beginnings of trying to learn how to use modeling clay start with either rolling it into a ball or rolling it out into a little pancake that you can fold and cut into the shapes that you need it to be. Some people wet it before they use it, others just go right in.

Common uses

Everybody and their cousin have heard of slime. Aside from the typical “let's make pretty sculptures and call it a day” method, something a lot of people use modeling clay for is slime. If you ask anyone over the age of 13 how to use modeling clay, they'll most likely tell you to look up recipes for “butter slime.”

common products

Image from Pixabay

Butter slime is different than regular slime in that it's a little bit smoother. The modeling clay you add to it gives it a little bit of a buttery texture. That is why the slime community has named it so eloquently.

Since most modeling clay is air drying, you can use it to make easy Christmas ornaments or Halloween decorations. You don't need to bake it, glaze it, or do anything other than molding it into what you need it to be.

Do You Need a Kiln?

Most modeling clay is air drying, though you can bake it if you want it to dry faster. There are instructions on the package. That means it won't be too much of a hassle to figure it out if you know how to use modeling clay.

If you are using polymer clay or clay that is not for children, you will need a kiln. However, sticking to the wild theme of childhood, modeling clay does not require any kind of special tool other than your hands. Maybe a carving tool, if you want to get fancy.

Keeping It Clean

Even if you know how to use modeling clay, it'll still get messy, especially if you have children using it. Since a lot of modeling clay comes in different colors, you'll need to be aware that it could stain light surfaces. If you're using it in slime, you then have the added stress of food dye to worry about, so be careful.

Always have cleaner handy, and if you're going to be playing with modeling clay or slime on a counter or table, it's best to have a tarp or tablecloth covering it. It'll save you stress and your kid the stress of you being mad that there's a big blue spot on your table and a big empty hole in your heart.

Make It and Try Not to Break It

Figuring out how to use modeling clay will open all kinds of doors for creativity whether it’s sculpting, squishing, or making those awful snakes. When you’re letting your kids’ imaginations run wild, remind them to be gentle with their creations.

How to use modeling clay isn’t a straightforward answer; it’s important to remember that you can use any kind of artistic medium any way you want. If you want to mix it in with slime, go for it. If you’d prefer to make itsy bitsy panda statues, well then, you do you.

Just don’t eat it. Please, it’s not good for you and, coming from someone who has eaten it, it doesn’t even taste good. There’s really no point.

Do you have a different opinion on how to use modeling clay? Let us know!

Featured Image from Pixabay


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