New Smoother Air-Dry Clay Recipe

Get a fast start on your next paper mache project or hand-made gift with Jonni’s easy downloadable patterns for masks, animal sculptures and faux trophy mounts. The patterns help you create a beautiful work of art, even if you’ve never sculpted anything before.

Note: I recently uploaded a video showing a better way to measure your ingredients for the air-dry clay. You can see it here. And I recently published the book that I developed this recipe for – you can see it here.

Puppy doll head, in progressI’ve been working hard this week, developing methods for making the baby animal dolls that will appear in my next book. One thing I worked on was making a new recipe for the dolls that could be made smoother than the original paper mache clay. I tried a number of different versions, and all but one ended up in the trash. This one, though, really does what I wanted it to do.In fact, if you first smooth it with your finger and the glue mix, like I show in the video, let it dry, and then very lightly sand it with a very fine sandpaper, it really is as smooth as porcelain.

I dries really hard, though, like the original paper mache clay, so sanding does take some effort. If you look real closely at the photo of the puppy head I made for my doll book, you can see how smooth it is.  It works very much like air dry clay you can buy at the hobby store, (but lots cheaper, if you need more than one small batch). Let me know what you think.

Recipe for the new Air-Dry Clay:

1/2 cup wet toilet paper
1/2 cup Elmer’s glue (or any white PVA glue)
1/2 cup drywall joint compound (any brand except Dap)
1/2 cup corn starch
3 tablespoons mineral oil (baby oil)
1 cup all-purpose white flour, or as needed

Mixing instructions are in the video at the top of the page.

Get a fast start on your next paper mache project or hand-made gift with Jonni’s easy downloadable patterns for masks, animal sculptures and faux trophy mounts. The patterns help you create a beautiful work of art, even if you’ve never sculpted anything before.

297 thoughts on “New Smoother Air-Dry Clay Recipe”

  1. I admire your blog and of course your creativity and sharing the recipe for smoother Air-Dry Clay. I am almost done using your original recipe (I had used celluclay in the past, but it is now way too expensive) to make a marionette with movable mouth. The problem is the presence of bumps and little “pock marks” – sand papering does not work. So I am leaving them as is – to just show case that the creation is of course paper mache – and it is their trade mark. Sounds like an artistic freedom?

    If and when I get inspired to do another marionette, I will use your NEW recipe – I filed it already.

    Thanks again, and if I ever finish this marionette I am telling you about I might be bold enough to send a picture.

      • Jonni – I just watched the video. Love the pearl you shared – joint compound sanding with wet towel- a real gem! Thank you so very much again. When the marionettes are done, the pictures will come your way.

          • Once in a great while, I do dabble in making miniature sculptures with social significance/message, using Celluclay. 3 years ago, 75 years young then, still using Celluclay, on a whim I challenged myself with a daring first time serious project of making marionette lookalikes of myself and my husband. I did not think much of them until I showed it to friends and family.

            One of our grand nephew fell in love with them, and had been begging me to make one for him. He is adorable, well behaved, and shares his candies with us. So I relented, and to save $$ I surfed the internet and found Jonni Good’s (that is YOU) website. So far, I had already used 3 batches – I had just finished attaching the movable mouth. Next step is attaching the hair. Your recipe is fantastic – a real $$ saver !!!

    • Because it contains something that turns the mixture into little rubber balls as soon as the glue is added. I assume it’s boron, which would be added to prevent mold and as a fire retardant. It’s good joint compound for the walls, but it won’t work for this recipe.

  2. I made Cold Porcelain Clay using your recipe. Instead of using toilet paper, I used Celluclay instant paper mache. It turned out stiff and dry. I added a little more baby oil and kneaded it more but it is still a little hard to knead. Can you tell me if I can save it? It needs to be more malleable and not so dry . thank you, Theresa Lane

    • Hi Theresa. I don’t know what they include in the Celluclay instant paper mache, but I think it may have plaster in it. Or the powdered paper has soaked up too much of the moisture. I would use the Celluclay alone, or use the air dry clay alone. I encourage experimentation, but sometimes our experiments don’t work out.

      That said, one way to find out if it’s save-able is to add more drywall joint compound and glue, to add more moisture. If that doesn’t work, there’s an ingredient in the Celluclay that’s reacting to the other ingredients, and you’ll need to start over.

    • Hi Judith. I’m not quite sure what you mean. You can definitely put paper mache over a sculpture made with WED clay, and then remove the clay after the paper mache is dry. You’ll want to use a release to keep the paper mache from sticking to the clay.

      Did you mean to ask if you can mix WED clay into paper mache paste? If so, I can’t imagine how that would work. A very small amount mixed into the original paper mache clay recipe might make it smoother – I have mixed regular pottery clay into that recipe, but you need to keep the amount quite small or it will crack.

    • People have used the air dry clay in a lot of different ways. My favorite way is to use it as a final smooth layer over a firm surface, made either with a thin layer of the paper mache clay recipe or over plaster cloth. Many people prefer to use the air dry clay by itself. You might want to experiment to see what works best for you. (Do you sell pet portraits, by the way?)

  3. You give so much inspiration! And I have attempted a couple of things! I do have one question. I sculptured a face once with paper mâché clay and it was good! But, I would like to know if I can use wallpaper paste mixed in with it to prevent mould! Or, do I add bleach or salt? There seems to be so many variations that I only need one answer to prevent mould occurring, I would appreciate your advice. Thank you

    • Hi Jessie. The best way to prevent mold is to use thin layers, and let them dry quickly in front of a fan. Mold can’t grow without water. If you live in a humid area, that might not be enough – in that case, you can add a teaspoon of bleach to the water you use to soak your paper, or add a few drops of oil of clove when you mix the paper with the other ingredients.

      • Thank you jonni. If the weather here is a bit damp! (UK) and I can’t wait for the layer to dry can I put it in the oven?

        • Yes, but try to keep the temp under 200° F (93° C?). Burning glue doesn’t smell very good – but if you don’t try to hurry it too fast, an oven works. However, I find that putting it in front of a fan works almost as fast. Use whichever method works best for you.

  4. dear Madam, First of all I like to praise your work and your artistic views. About the clay making , can I use Arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch

  5. Ok, I threw out the first half batch I made because a small thin disk I made with it cracked while it was drying. I made a second half batch being careful with the ingredients amounts and it came out much better.
    I do have a question. The finished batch is very hard to knead but if I pull off a small amount to work with, it is very soft, not firm. Can you tell me which ingredient I can knead in to the finished batch to firm it up to make it easier to work with?

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