Air-Dry clay can be difficult to work with if you’re not used to it.
One of the biggest issues that people face is that their air dry clay cracks on them.
If you’re interested in learning how to prevent your air dry clay from cracking then you’re in the right place.
Read on to find 10 tips to keep it fresh…
How To Keep Air Dry Clay From Cracking
1. Be Smart About Your Environment
Air-dry clay needs to be kept in a room temperature environment at all times. Not just when in storage, and not just when in use, always.
If it’s in a room that’s too cold, it will harden and dry up becoming almost completely unusable. If it’s in a room that’s too hot, it will melt and lose its structure completely.
2. Don’t Rush The Drying Process
You might be able to mold your clay quickly or even paint it in minutes, but you definitely can’t rush the drying process.
Some might think that air-dry clay works the same as ceramic and polymer clay, and might consider using heat to dry it quicker, but that won’t work at all. Adding heat to air-dry clay will result in a crumbly mess.
Even a little bit of experimental heat from a blow dryer can cause your clay to crack. If you want it to turn out perfectly, be patient.
Sit your clay on a metal rack and leave it in a dark, room temperature space. A metal rack will allow your clay to dry evenly and will prevent it from drying up too fast, which will lead to cracking.
3. Not Too Thin, Not Too Thick
Even if you aren’t using a skeletal structure within your clay sculpture, clay that is spread too thinly will often result in cracks. You don’t want to use too much, but you should also be wary of how delicate dry clay can often be when it is too thin.
As a rule, try to keep your clay 1/4 of an inch thick or more. Any less than that, and you have a cracking issue.
4. Use Clay Slip
Slip is the best thing for a clay creator. It’s very easy to make and it has about a hundred uses. All you need is some leftover clay and water. Mix one part clay with two parts water and you have a liquid clay glue.
It’s perfect for when you notice cracks on your project appear as it’s drying or for attaching other pieces of clay.
5. Store Your Clay Correctly
Storing your clay the right way will make using it so much easier. Not only should your clay be kept at the right temperature, but it should also be wrapped up properly. This goes for clay that you haven’t used as yet, and for a clay project that you aren’t finished with.
Wrap your clay up with cling film. You want it to stick to your clay to prevent air from getting in at all. Next, either put it in a ziplock bag or, if it’s for a large project, a plastic bag. If it’s for a project, take care to double bag it, you really don’t want any air getting in. If it’s for leftover clay, just put the ziplock bag in an airtight container.
6. Scoring Your Clay
Not only will learning how to effectively score your clay lead to your masterpieces having better structure, but it will also keep your clay from cracking.
If two pieces of clay aren’t joined together properly, then they could fall apart or cause cracking at the join. The best way to do this is with a toothpick and some slip.
Watch this video below to see how to do it:
7. Use a Clean Work Table
The best work table to use would be smooth, clean and not too cold. Working on a table that’s too cold, like metal, might disrupt the drying process and make your clay too hard to work with.
8. Be Gentle With Clay Skeletons
If you’re creating something that requires a skeletal structure made out of tin foil or wires, make sure that your clay isn’t too thin. Do your best to pad it onto the structure without making your project too bulky.
When your clay dries, it will shrink. Most of the time you never notice this shrinking, because it’s so minimal, but if you’ve wrapped a thin layer of clay around a wire structure, you’ll definitely notice. Often, the wire/tinfoil will protrude out of the shrunken clay, leaving cracks behind.
9. Water is Your Best Friend (And Enemy)
Clay is water-based, so in order to effectively use it and prevent cracking, you need to continually add water to it, but not too much! Too much water can lead to drowning your clay, which will result in a blob of mush with little to no structure.
In order to keep it hydrated, but not flooded, have a small bowl nearby filled with water. As you work, dip your hands into the bowl whenever you notice your clay drying out and continue moulding it. If you’re working on a particularly large project, keep an eye on parts of the clay that seem to be drying. If bits seem to be cracking as they dry, dip your fingers into the water and try to blend over the cracks.
Alternatively, you could also invest in a misting bottle. A small spray bottle that gently mists your project can work just as well.
10. Be Consistent
If you have a project that’s of varying weight, it can be dangerous. Not only will it look strange, but a slanted cut on your clay may cause cracking to occur. If your aim is for one side to be thick and one side to be thin, try to ensure that the change isn’t too drastic.
How Do You Fix Cracked Clay?
Creating a slip can help to smooth over cracks in dried clay.
How Do You Keep Clay Soft?
Keep your clay in a room that isn’t too hot or cold, in a dark space and make sure that it’s properly protected from air. Wrap it up in plastic wraps and store it in an airtight container.
Does Super Glue Work on Clay?
PVA glue normally works best on dried clay, but if you’re trying to reattach something then Gorilla Glue is your best bet.