How To Color Air Dry Clay (4 Different Ways)

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How To Color Air Dry ClayAir-dry clay is a perfect step into the pottery medium for so many reasons. It’s easy to come across, affordable, simple to use, and it doesn’t require additional materials to harden it.

If you want to add some colour to it and make your clay journey more exciting, then read on.

4 Tips Before You Get Started

1. Use Varnish

The methods mentioned below won’t make your clay creation as vibrant as it would do if you painted it, but varnishing it afterwards will make the paint last longer as well as make the colours more striking.

2. Use White Clay

child painting a clay piece

The colours are more likely to stick and stand out on white clay. If you only have terracotta though, mixing colours into this clay might create something new and interesting. If you’re feeling bold, give it a go.

3. Make Sure You Have a Clean Work Surface

Colouring clay can be a messy process, especially if you’re using paint or food colouring. It’s advised that you lay down a plastic sheet over your work area so that your clay won’t get stuck to the surface, and you can easily wipe it down afterwards.

4. Prep Your Clay

Your clay should also be soft, too. Make sure that you knead it slightly before getting started, and ensure there’s a pot of water to dip your hands into in case the clay starts to dry out.

For the best results, only work with a small handful at a time.

How to Color Air-Dry Clay

polymer clay colors

Polymer clay, made of plastic, is known to come in a collection of bright colors. Air-dry clay though only comes in a rusty red terracotta, white and varying hues of grey. If you can’t be bothered with the painting process, then colouring it yourself is a great way to skip this step!

1. Use Acrylic Paint

Using paint is the most effective way to alter the colour of your clay. You could use any type of paint you want, but the most effective kind is glossy or matte acrylic paint.

  1. Grab your desired colour and apply it to the clay. It’s important you don’t work with large amounts, especially if you want the colour to be completely even.
  2. Gently knead the colour in, applying more when you see fit until it’s a perfect consistency. Once your clay is dry, the colour may fade slightly, but a touch of varnish should help.

This video below will show you how to do it if you’re confused.

2. Use Food Coloring

Food colouring works wonderfully with clay because it’s water-based. Ensure that your clay isn’t too wet before applying the food colouring to it, otherwise, you might make the mistake of drowning your clay.

  1. Roll your clay into a ball in the palm of your hand, then, with your thumb, create a little well in the middle. Add several drops of your food colouring to this well and massage the colour in.

food coloring in tubes

If you really want the colour to pop after it dries then you should add a little more food colouring than you think might be necessary. The colour will fade more so than paint once it dries, so it’s best to be liberal when applying it.

3. Use Chalk

Using chalk is a great option if you want your creations to have a pastel look. Sometimes, painting your clay after it’s fully dried might not always give you the desired effect.

Pastels are popular at the moment, and a faded, dreamy look can be the perfect effect someone might be seeking.

  1. Grab your chalk and a knife or rolling pin.
  2. You can either scrape the chalk away, or you can put it into a ziplock bag and crush it up into a fine powder with a rolling pin.
  3. Once you’ve done this, apply it to the small amount of clay and thoroughly massage it in.
  4. Feel free to add more as you go along.

4. Use Glitter

colorful glitters in small jars

Glitter is almost impossible to add to clay after you’ve let it dry unless you add it to your varnish or your paint, which can be messy.

The easiest, and most effective, method, would be to apply it to your clay before you begin moulding it.

  1. Roll your clay into a ball in the palm of your hand and use your thumb to create a well.
  2. Sprinkle the glitter into the well and massage it in.
  3. Add as much or as little as you like!

Have Fun With It

There are a million and one ways you can use these methods to create wonderful pieces of art. Have a look below at some of the things you can do to spruce up your projects.

1. Try Out a Marble Effect

  1. Roll your clay out into a flat circle and apply a line of paint directly down the centre. It doesn’t have to be paint, it can be chalk powder, food coloring or glitter. It can even be tumeric or coffee grounds if you’re feeling adventurous!
  2. Next, twist the circle into a spiral sausage and attach the two ends to create a doughnut.
  3. Grab your rolling pin and roll the doughnut flat, once you’re done, you should have a flat circle with a beautiful marble effect.

2. Try Out an Ombre Effect

You can do this either with two different colours of clay e.g. Terracotta and grey clay, or, you can create two different coloured pieces of clay with the methods mentioned above.

  1. grab your two different colours. Ombre works best if the colours aren’t too startlingly different from one another e.g. red and green. Use colours like purple and blue, or orange and yellow for the best effect.
  2. Cut your two pieces into half circles and attach them together to create a full circle.
  3. Grab a rolling pin, or something like it, and roll it out.
  4. Keep rolling until you achieve that perfect ombre effect.


What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Air Dry Clay

Acrylic paint has the best effect on air dry clay. Watercolours will still work, of course, but acrylic will be the most vibrant.

Can You Add Food Colouring To Air Dry Clay?

Definitely! But you don’t want to overdo it, seeing as too many drops can drown your clay. Only add a few drops to a small amount of clay at a time.

Can You Colour White Air Dry Clay?

White air-dry clay actually responds the best to colour. If you’re thinking about colouring your clay, it’s best to do it with white clay than any other.