Air-dry clay behaves almost exactly like other pottery clay and is worked very similarly. This makes it ideal for experienced artisans to perfect their skills and novices to gain experience without the expense of firing works in a kiln. Add in the fact that most are non-toxic and safe for kids to play with, and it is easy to see why air-dry clay has grown in popularity.
One of the most commonly asked questions we hear is whether or not air-dry clay can be baked. If you are wondering, keep reading. In this article, we answer this question, explain how you can use an oven to safely speed the drying of air-dry, and answer a few more pertinent questions.
Can You Bake Air-Dry Clay?
You can and can’t bake air-dry clay in an oven. If by bake you mean cure it at high heat as you would resin clay, then no, you can’t. If you mean, can it be warmed in an oven to speed up the drying process, then yes, it can. It can also depend on the type of air-dry clay you are talking about.
Epoxy clays can release toxic vapors when heated. While most people don’t think of these clays when discussing air-dry clay, they do fall in that category, so they need to be mentioned.
Regular and paper air-dry clay can be warmed to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 Celsius) to make them dry faster. However, any hotter than this and you risk them catching on fire. Air-dry clays can be very flammable. This is especially true of paper clays.
How to Bake Air-Dry Clay
Using an oven to dry your air-dry clay projects is a straightforward process that requires no special tools or skills. Here is a simple seven-part process that should lead you to success.
1. Gather the Needed Supplies
As stated, you will need nothing to bake the clay that you probably don’t already have in your home.
You will need:
- An oven (obviously)
- A baking sheet
- Parchment or baker’s paper
- A Spatula
2. Prepare Your Pan
Cut a piece of baker’s paper large enough to fit your pan. You should not make it large enough that it could flutter and contact the sides of your artwork. It should be large enough to prevent your project from contacting the pan itself. Find a happy balance.
3. Transfer Your Artwork
Move your project from whatever working surface that you have been using and place it on top of the paper covering your baking sheet. Depending on how moist you work your clay and how long it has been setting, you may want to let your piece firm up before transferring it.
If you are baking several air-dry projects, be sure to space them so air can circulate evenly around them.
4. Place Work in Oven
Next, place your project(s) in the oven. Opinions vary, but we have gotten the best results by placing our artwork on the top rack as far from the heat source as possible. This helps promote even heating and drying.
5. Turn on Your Oven
Now, start heating your oven. Be sure that it is set on bake, not broil, and the thermostat is no higher than 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 Celsius). Again, we can not overstress the importance of not exceeding these temperature settings. Doing so can result in personal injury, damage to your home, and the loss of your work.
Some craftsmen prefer to preheat their ovens before placing artwork in them. Our personal experience has been this results in more warping and cracks. You should try both methods to determine which works best for your particular oven and style of crafts.
6. Monitor the Drying Process
Keep a close eye on your work, as drying times can vary greatly depending on oven designs and the thickness of your work. As a general rule, once your oven has reached its set temperature, it should only take about fifteen minutes for your piece to harden.
7. Cool Your Artwork
When your work is sufficiently dry, turn off the oven and let it set closed for at least 30 minutes. This slow cooling process will help prevent thermal shock to your project that can lead to cracking. After 30 minutes, remove your piece(s) from the oven and allow them to finish cooling.
Are air-dry clays flammable?
Yes, many air-dry clays are flammable. That is why they should never be heated past 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 Celsius). Exceeding these temperatures can result in the spontaneous combustion of your work.
Does baking air-dry clay make it stronger?
Some crafters feel that oven drying removes more moister from the clay, making it harder. Others believe that this makes it more fragile. Based on personal experience, we can’t support either side of the argument. Choosing the right clay for your project and conditioning it properly is more important to determining the strength of your work than the drying methods.
Can I paint air-dry clay before it dries?
Painting your air-dry clay projects before they are dry is not the best idea. Depending on the paint used, it can retard the drying process preventing your artwork from drying properly. It can also lead to uneven drying, which will cause cracks and warping.
Can you glaze air-dry clay?
No, air-dry clay can not be glazed. Glazing requires temperatures far beyond what air-dry can withstand. It can be sealed, though, with polyurethane and painted with many different types of paint.
What do you seal air-dry clay with?
There are many ways to seal air-dry clay, including coating it with common white glue. The best method to seal it is with one or more coats of polyurethane varnish or an acrylic sealer. Both can be had in gloss, semi-gloss, and matt finishes and provide a non-porous coating.
Can you microwave air-dry clay?
No, you cannot microwave air-dry clay. Airdry clay placed in a microwave will heat very quickly. This can result in the piece catching fire or in the case of wet clay, could cause moister trapped within the clay to expand violently. This can cause a blowout that will Destroy your work and possibly your microwave.