Air-dry clay is a wonderful way for beginners to gain experience with different sculpting techniques. At the same time, experienced artists can perfect their skills without the expense of firing their works.
In this article, we will explore the factors that affect how long air-dry clay takes to harden, and answer a few of people’s most commonly asked questions.
How Long Does Air Dry Clay Take to Dry?
Short answer: Depending on the type of air-dry clay used, the size of the artwork, and climate conditions 24 to 72 hours is the normal drying time for most projects created with air dry clay.
Now we will dive a little deeper into the subject.
Types of Air-Dry Clay
The first factor we will look at is the different types of air-dry clays that are available for you to try. You have three basic choices all with their own peculiar characteristics.
Earthen clay is the most commonly found form of air-dry clay. It is water-based, works much like regular ceramic clays, and is non-toxic. Earthen clays are suitable for all ages and skill levels but tend to be a little stickier than other types of air-dry.
One of the best things about earthen clay is that being water-based you can more easily control its firmness and nature. You can work it on a wheel, carve it, hand-sculpt free form and the techniques used directly transfer to ceramic-type clays.
These clays are produced by a variety of companies and they come in many different grades. Considering their generally low cost, it is best to try a few different types to find what you are looking for.
Epoxy clay comes in two different parts. You measure the amount of each that you need and then work them together. Some negatives about epoxy clay are that it is very stiff, and can be difficult to work. Also, it cannot be softened. On the plus side, once epoxy clay hardens it is rock hard. This means it can be carved with a Dremel tool and is very durable.
Paper-based clays are earthen or terra-cotta clays that have had paper fibers blended into them. This brings several advantages including making the clay firmer and reducing warping in complex shapes. Many experienced artists prefer paper-based clay for larger works as it shrinks less than other clays, yet is much lighter.
Air-dry clays dry by the process of evaporation. Just like a moist cake, left in the open air, will dry out and harden. Humidity is the amount of moister already in the air expressed as a percentage of the water the air can hold. The higher the humidity the closer the air is to being saturated like a sponge.
Dry air, less humid, can more easily absorb moister faster. Humid conditions will extend your drying time while dry conditions will speed it up.
Common sense tells us that warmer conditions cause things to dry out faster than cool ones. That is how a clothes dryer works. It is no different when drying clay. The warmer the environment the faster your work will dry.
Airflow will also speed up the drying process of your artwork. Conversely, restricting airflow will slow the drying process. If you are wanting to slow the rate that your clay is drying you can cover it with a container of appropriate size. This is often done to help avoid the cracks that can develop when a complicated piece dries too fast.
To speed up the drying process you can place a fan near your work. If you use this method, be sure to turn your work occasionally so that it dries evenly.
If you are new to working with clay, also note, that the bottom of pieces will generally dry slower due to there being little or no airflow on the bottom of the work. This can be mitigated by moving pieces onto a baker’s cooling rack once they have firmed sufficiently.
Does air-dry clay break easily?
Generally speaking, air-dry clay is not as sturdy as baked or fired pieces. This isn’t to say that it isn’t strong. Air-dry clay is extremely durable. It just isn’t as strong as
How to dry clay at home?
Drying air-dry clay at home is as simple as leaving it in a warm room with plenty of airflow. To speed up the process, fans can be used, the piece can be placed in a warm oven (below 200degrees Fahrenheit), or set in the sun.
How do I know if my clay is ready to use?
The easiest way to determine if your air-dry clay project is ready to use is by touch. Leave your work to sit for 24 hours then inspect it. If it is dry to the touch then it is probably ready to be used. Be aware though that thicker pieces may still be moist inside. To be certain, let your artwork sit for a full 72 hours before moving it.