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African Animals Pattern Set.
Save $10 when you buy this three-pattern set. Use the patterns to create memorable gifts, or to bring a little bit of Africa to your own home
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.
I’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.
This is a reader-supported site. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for your support! :) African Animals Pattern Set.
Save $10 when you buy this three-pattern set. Use the patterns to create memorable gifts, or to bring a little bit of Africa to your own home
This is a reader-supported site. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for your support! :)
African Animals Pattern Set.
307 thoughts on “New Smoother Air-Dry Clay Recipe”
Hello! I had just a personal question and wanted some opinions on a project. Concerning paper mache clay, it’s not necessary to always fire the project after making it, right? I want to use rice flour instead of regular flour and I was wondering if you had any experience with rice flour. Would it be alright to just use rice instead of the regular all purpose flour? Also do you think that first layering a project with typical paper mache technique (glue and paper strips) first and then adding a clay top coating is alright or would it affect the quality? Would it be better to just use clay completely? In terms of time to dry, I’ve heard lots of opinions. However, does the clay dry faster than using traditional paper mache techniques?
Thank you! Your blog is really helpful! Please reply soon if possible. I’m kinda tight on time.
I found the answer to my last question- paper mache clay is faster? Well, I also had another question. Do you recommend taking regular used computer paper and boiling it in water in place of the Toliet paper? It doesn’t really make a different how or what you use for the paper part, right?
I was wondering about not using Dap drywall joint compound? Seems all the stores near me only have Dap brands and I don’t want to waste money buying something that won’t work.
Thank you so much for sharing and love your amazing work!
Hi Lisa. My experience with the DAP brand has been uneven – it used to work just fine, then I bought a tub and it turned my pm clay into little rubber balls. I bought a tub recently for a remodeling job (it’s great for what it’s actually made for!) and I tried it with a new batch of pm clay. The clay did stiffen up much faster than usual, and wasn’t as much fun to work with, but the rubbery weirdness didn’t happen. So – I don’t recommend the brand for these recipes. I think they use boron to prevent mold, which is good when using it on a wall. But it reacts with something in the Elmer’s glue. Since it does sometimes work, though, you might be able to get a tiny container of the DAP joint compound and test it. A dab of joint compound that is mixed with a small amount of glue should become slightly more liquid, or softer. If it gets harder or even rubbery, it won’t work.
Our Walmart has joint compound in their paint department. It’s an off-brand, but it isn’t DAP, and it works just fine.
I have a couple of boxes of leftover plaster of Paris. Could one use that instead of flour in the mâché? I want to make platters worth the mix. Thank you. So enjoy your videos and art. Sherri
I don’t actually know that answer to your question, Sherri. It sounds like it might work, but I’ve never tried it. Your clay may harden sooner than you wanted it to – but maybe it won’t. Try a small test batch, to see what happens. And I’d really like to know what you learn, so keep us posted.
Love your site, and your youtube channel!
I to try the air dry clay with this current project I have, and I wanted to know if I should do a coat of the classic newspaper strip mache first. Or with the air dry clay stick directly to the masking tape with the glue “slip” mix?
I want the end result to be super smooth so I can do a shiny powder coat on them.
Thank you for all the inspiration!
Hi Derek. The air dry clay will probably stick to the masking tape – but for some reason I can’t remember ever trying it. Do a small test spot first, and see what happens. The air dry clay should keep OK in the refrigerator for several days while you experiment, if you keep it really well covered.
Hello, Do you have a PDF of the Recipe?
No, there’s no PDF.
Hello, Johnny! Long has it been since you never dropped. Your recipe is made, but with other components. Push 1/2 cup wet toilet paper 1/2 cup Elmer”s glue (or any white PVA glue) 1/2 glue Bustilat (thick like pudding), 1/2 Cup of potato starch, 1 Cup of chalk (calcium carbonate). This mass is very small shrinkage, is not deformed and does not grow mouldy. Smooth out the bumps may water. If that is not clear, I can make a video. Pictures of glue and mass here http://fotki.yandex.ru/users/mimi91/album/153226/
Intersting. I don’t know what Bustilat is – I’m not sure if we have that here. Are you using the mixture in molds?
No, I don’t use forms.
Thank you for this recipe!! It worked perfectly to make cat skulls for our zombie cat costumes! I used foam for the base and built up the clay from there. I even used it to make bone tails.
Whoa! What in inventive, and creepy, costume. You’re going to get some stares at the party.
Your models are amazing and i love your site.
I am from India and i consider myself lucky to have found your clay recipe online while doing my research on clay. Your air-dry clay recipe is an ultimate one. Easy to make, cheap and it hardens up rock solid. I loved the recipe so much that i started creating small models with them and am very soon going to sell them online. Thanks to you in a big way.
I made a few models( small jewelry, fridge magnets ,paper weights,etc.) using your recipe. But i am facing a slight problem. Some of the models crack while they dry and loose the smooth finished look. Can you please suggest how to prevent that from happening. Also i want to know how to avoid the clay from smelling ( if it is kept for more than 2 days).
I usually paint the dried project with acrylic colors. Is it fine if i apply varnish on these products to get a glossy look?
Please suggest as to how i can make my finished product look more smoother and shiny.
Hi Lidwin. There are several reasons for cracking with the new air-dry clay. This can happen if a new piece of clay is added to a piece without firmly mixing it with an adjoining piece. When the two pieces dry, they may pull away from each other, creating a crack. Using the glue and water mixture where they meet can help a lot. The other problem comes with the shrinking of the clay as it dries. If the clay is too thick, the outside dries while the inside is still wet, and this causes a crack in the surface. Both issues can be corrected after the first layer dries by brushing with glue and water, and then pressing a very thin layer of the air dry clay over it.
The mold issue is more difficult. Some people have very good luck with oil of clove. You can also soak the paper in water that contains a teaspoon of household bleach. The air-dry clay does go bad more quickly than the original paper mache clay recipe, probably because it contains more organic ingredients (flour and cornstarch) that mold likes to eat.
Yes, you can certainly apply a gloss varnish when your paint is dry. I recommend that a varnish always be used to protect the paint finish.
I want to make clay for a classroom of 26 students who range from 4th-9th grade. I want to teach them some simple sculpting. Possibly some small animal sculptures or maybe some small vessels (vases or bowls). I have some questions. First, how much clay per student would you suggest? I am trying to determine how many students could make something from one batch of your recipe. And also, could the quantity needed be kept for a few days? I realize it will take me a while to make this amount and I am wondering what my time investment for preparing the clay might be? Also, from what I have read on your site, I am thinking the silky smooth air dry clay would be good, but wondered if you had another suggestion for this application?
From other posts, it looks like you are really good at responding, so thanks in advance for the help!
Angie, I have always used this recipe, and the original paper mache clay recipe, as a thin layer over an armature. It sounds like you want to use the air-dry clay as a substitute for wet clay (pottery clay, modeling clay). I don’t know if it will work for that purpose. It may take a very long time to dry, and might crack. I would strongly recommend that you make up a small batch first and try it out at home to see if it will do what you want it to do.
I can’t make a recommendation about the quantity of clay required, since I don’t know exactly how you intend to use it. You should be able to make that determination when you make your practice piece.
The clay will last for a few days if it’s kept well covered. However, mold will eventually move in. I recommend using the bleach in the paper soaking water, or a few drops of oil of clove, to make it last longer.
If you’ll be making bowls by using plastic bowls as a form, you might actually get better results with traditional paper strips and paste. The clay will shrink a bit when it dries, since it contains water, and that could cause cracking if you put it over a solid form. Be sure and test it to make sure it will work for you. I’d hate to have you try this out the very first time in front of 26 kids!
Good luck with it!
Thank you, this is very helpful. I think I might try the old paper strips method over a bowl. I am thinking I need plastic wrap between the bowl and the paper mache in order to separate them. Maybe I will buy modeling clay for the animal shapes, do you have a recommendation of a brand to buy? I hear that some brands crack easily once dry.
try using foam insulation board, as thick as you can find, and using Elmer’s glue and tooth picks, to create animal bodies and legs. I have done this with kids many times. you can even use sticks forced into the foam for legs, and use plastic foam packing for bodies. this will serve as a strong and sturdy armature for paper mÃ¢chÃ©. I’ve found jonie’s blue shop paper towels with the plaster of Paris/ Elmer’s glue, makes a really great layer, which can be painted on. You don’t even need to make paper clay.
I substituted white firing clay, no grog, for the flour called for in the air dry clay. After working with it, and it worked fine, I can tell you that it makes a strong finished project. It does however take a lot of glue/water mixture to help it bond onto itself. Once dry it is very tough to sand . I have to enlist the help of my Dremel to help me polish and sand down. I want to try marble dust next. If I can figure a way to lower the MB resolution I will post my finished little feet. Thank you again.
Good to know, Chawol.Thanks.
this may be a silly question, but several years ago i made a paper mache “thing” and after it sat on my shelf for a while, it got infested with weevils! so, i’ve been hesitant to use flour in my “recipe.” have you ever experienced that and is there something i can put in the mix to keep the weevils away?
Hi Ann. That is a new one. I’ve heard of mold, and mice, but never weevils. Does anyone have any ideas for Ann? (Someone did mention that you could substitute talk for the flour, but I haven’t tried it yet.)
Hi Jonni – re: the issue with weevils. I would think the addition at the mixing stage of Clove Essential Oil (just a few drops) would stop weevil infestation down the line. Bay leaves are used to discourage weevils in flour etc. so even Bay Leaf oil would work too, though I personally prefer the aroma of Clove oil. The Clove oil also discourages mould growth and is anti-bacterial. In fact, most essential oils are anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial, so conceivably one could use Lavender essential oil, or Eucalyptus, during the mixing stages if Clove oil wasn’t easily available. A few drops of essential aromatherapy oil in the gesso mix would be useful as well, and ensure the finished article remains relatively mould and insect free and smells great as well. The brands differ around the world, but when I say “aromatherapy essential oil” I’m talking about essential oils which are 100% strength, not the diluted in vegetable oil massage mixes (you’d need to use double amounts to get the same effect of the undiluted oils, but I’m still talking only drops, maybe 8-10 drops of the massage type oils into the mix rather than 4-6 drops of the 100% strength essential oils). As far as the amount to use goes, I’d go by smell rather than counting drops per se; if you can smell the Clove oil while kneading the mix, that’s how much to use next time. If you can’t smell it (and your nose works normally!) then add a few drops more next time; if you can’t smell it, its possible the weevils won’t be deterred either. But as with anything, don’t go overboard. 🙂 From experience as an aromatherapist, I’d reckon 6 drops per batch would be sufficient.
Thanks for all your feed back and experience . Have you ever used this air
dry clay over porcelain ( fired ) heads . I’m also concerned with the danger
of mineral oils now…. How can the sell these products , especially baby oil ?
Could there be a correlation between this and autisms , or other cancers ?
It’s bad enough all our foods have added dangers …… help ! We need to start
giant small development gardens , three to four lots , that have never been used
for cotton , or other crops sprayed for years with poison , or next to herds of
animal waste ….scarry
Hello, Jonni. I have been follower of your videos on YouTube. My favorite was the cat paper mache you made. I plan to make a dragon paper mache. Thing is, our local hardware doesn’t sell joint compound. Would you suggest a replacement for that?
I don’t know of any product that would replace the joint compound in this recipe, although you might find a paper pulp recipe on Google that would work for you. What country do you live in? Drywall joint compound is called different things in different countries, so your hardware store might sell it, but under a different name.
I am from the Philippines. I read from one of your posts on the names of drywall joint compound and found out that in India, it was called wall putty. I saw one at Ace Hardware near my place and decided to purchase a small container. Will try to use it this weekend. Hopefully, it will work. 🙂
Hi Jonni, thanks so much for all that advice and help. I’m going to make a huge pumpkin (at least 24 inches wide) to make a Cinderella Coach for my dog to pull in parades.
Frustratingly, the video on mixing Air Dry Clay seems to have gone AWOL again. Is it on Youtube? If you would like I will send you a picture of Cinderella’s Coach when it’s finished. Photo of the current dog cart with my grand-daughter and oldest dog is attached.
I put a direct link to the video under the Paper Mache Recipes tab. With so many posts on this blog, it’s a bit difficult to figure out how to make it easy to find stuff. Here’s the link. And yes – of course I’d like to see the coach when it’s finished. Please post it so we can all see how it comes out.
That’s a big cart, for a big dog. Does he like pulling it?
She loves to pull it Jonni, every time we take it out to put in our car, her feet and eyes start dancing in anticipation. She will go all day for children, then come home and play with our puppy. A very fit but not very big girl (for a Rottweiler) at “only” 85 pounds.
You can find calcium carbonate at a ceramics supply store. A local one here carries 5 lb for $7.50.
I Planning to make a new sculpture with more details in it. So I want the clay not drying for maximum time while working and I want smooth finishing also. Which clay recipe is best for this .Pls. advise.
The original paper mache clay recipe stays soft and workable longer than the new air dry clay, although you can keep the sculpture covered to keep it fresh longer. If you want the maximum time, though, I’d stick with the original.
I wanted to ask you a simple question about Paper Mache. I’ve been trying my hand in pepakura modeling and was wondering if paper mache would be a good coating to make EVA foam hard or sturdy? What do you think? Thanks.
Thank you for the recipe. I was looking for a paper mache recipe to make gum drops for my granddaugher’s candyland party. This sounds like I can do so much more. I will post my pics when I complete them.
I mentioned a few weeks back that I would try your new air dry clay recipe with calcium carbonate in place of the flour. The batch was very successful, and using wet fingers did result in a little slip, rather than a little glue which is what the flour gives you. Both batches behaved fairly similar but the most important difference in my mind, however, is how well it keeps. The batch with the flour went moldy within 4 days, and it’s been around 3 weeks and the batch with calcium carbonate has no mold growth.
Excellent experiment, Morgan. Have you made anything with your new clay yet? And did you find a good source for the calcium carbonate?
I am making a snowman with the adjusted recipe, I will post pics of it when it is finished. For all intents and purposes it behaves almost identically to your recipe, except if you wet it a little rather than becoming gummy because of the flour, it has a little more slip to it. Here, in Australia, calcium carbonate (sold as “whiting”) is often used for marking the white lines on sports fields so it’s pretty inexpensive. A 25kg bag costs about $30 and is easily obtainable.
Now I have to go through my boxes and find my bag of powdered marble – I know I have some around here somewhere. And now that I’ve moved to a sports-oriented town, maybe I can get some whiting at the local sports shop. Thanks for doing these experiments – I look forward to seeing your snowman when it’s done.
Does this recipe when dry , shrink ?
Yes, it shrinks a little.
Here’s a photo of our project! Thanks again!
They came out great! What a fun project.