Air Dry Clay 101
In continuing of my thanks to all the followers of 3SK, I decided to now dedicate a post to Air Dry Clay. Lots of cosplayers and cosplay enthusiasts are eager to get more creativity flowing and I’m always very very supportive of that! So last post I decided to share where you can get started to purchase polymer clay, but polymer has characteristics that don’t make it friendly for first-timers who only need to get one prop done or such and don’t want to take it as a hobby. Polymer Clay is priced at more or less PHP100 per color, and while that’s not really expensive, there’s still the problem of needing an oven (which most households in the Philippines don’t have, unless you bake regularly, and even then I doubt you want to be baking clay in the same oven where you bake muffins).
That’s where Air Dry Clay comes in and is extremely useful! It’s moldable, and air-dries–no need to bake it, and you can buy them at your nearest National Book Store, or even make some at home! I’d like to introduce everyone to this medium. In this post I want to touch up on the general properties of Air Dry Clay, what I recommend it for, pros and cons, and brands easily available in the market and the respective properties of those brands.
General Properties of Air Dry Clay (ADC)
1. You only need one color.
As opposed to Polymer Clay where you need to buy a myriad of colors to get started, you only ever need one color of Air Dry Clay–that’s White. You can mix colors like oil paints or acrylic paints, even chalk pastels and watercolors, into Air Dry Clay as you mold it. (This is a no-no with polymer. You cannot mix paint into polymer clay and then bake it, especially acrylics. You can paint Polymer Clay after it’s baked, though, but if you want even colors it’s more advisable to buy another block of color.)
However if you buy only white as your primary color, all the colors you mix into it will turn into a pastel shade. To remedy this, mix in some black.
2. It resists extreme handmade detailing.
If you need scratchy wooden surfaces done, or crumbs for the feet of that macaron textured in, chances are ADC will resist that. As ADC dries, it’s shape changes–it either shrinks or expands, so it loses details you may have put in. It can and will hold details like simple lines and such, but will eventually get rid of the more hardcore ones.
3. …However, it will hold all details from molds accurately.
Most ADC is perfect for molds. If you stick ADC in a silicone mold, it’ll hold the detail accurately. You can pull out the clay immediately from the mold in some cases (paper clay) or you may have to leave it in the mold to dry there.
4. Patience is a virtue, because…
ADC doesn’t dry in hours. It doesn’t even dry overnight. You have to give it at least three days if you want it to be properly dry. This isn’t for the impatient and for rush items when you need the prop for a convention tomorrow!
In most cases, ADC will give the semblance of being dry after one day, which is very true for small pieces. But we have to make sure it’s thoroughly dry even on the inside so ADC clay artists like to give it three days to set. I do, too. This isn’t a medium that accommodates rush MTOs, that’s for sure.
5. Being dry isn’t the end. You still need…
A sealant/sealer. I prefer Matte varnishes, but a lot of ADC artists use gloss as well. Some clay brands like Padico have their own sealants that work best with their clays. A sealant is essential, because most ADCs will turn to mush and will be soft when they come into contact with moisture. You don’t want to be wearing your handmade necklace and then notice it’s rubbing away into your sweaty skin in the middle of a crowded con!
When to use ADC and What I Think it’s Perfect for:
1. Sweets Deco/ Decoden
In Japan, they actually have more ADC in production rather than Polymer. They have gorgeous brands (that I am dying to try) and there are a lot of ADC Artists popular in the Sweets Deco field. ADC can make items such as candies, macarons, ice creams, bows, and other essentials in Sweets Deco. These items only need to hold minor details, not hardcore ones, and most of them you can make with a mold, so in this field ADC is definitely useful. Especially when you pair it with Air-Dry whipped cream! (Yes such a thing exists and it’s wonderful! …And deadly expensive.)
2. Flowers / Mori Accessories
I have an entire book of floral clay pieces made using Grace clay (A Japan Brand air-dry resin clay), and know a lot of ADC clay artists like one of my inspirations, pufftique, who use ADC (cold porcelain clay, to be specific) to make beautiful flowers. ADC is softer than polymer, so you can roll and make it into thinner pieces, perfect for realistic flower petals.
3. Bigger cosplay props that have to be lightweight
Unicorn horns. Ram ears. Deer Antlers. These don’t require a lot of detailing (if you want to make basic, not hardcore-detailed versions of course) and require bigger amounts of clay. If you made it using polymer, it’d cost you an arm, and even if you did successfully make it, it’d be heavy. Most ADC is lightweight compare to PC, so you could consider it for that instead.
4. Filler for Prop Making
Since ADC is cheaper, I decided to fill the insides of my Kid necklace with paper clay, and then cover it with polymer clay instead. Paper clay is one of the ACDs that is safe to bake (it won’t shrink or melt, and instead will expand), so I picked that, and covered it with PC. The result is that I don’t have to buy a lot of PC (which is expensive) and that the necklace is more lightweight compared to if I made it all with PC.
Common ADC Clay Brands and where to buy them
1. Sakura Lightweight Paper Clay
Very lightweight, dries to a paper-felt like finish, doesn’t stick to surfaces, takes molds very well. 100grams of Sakura Paper Clay is P130++, which you can buy at National Bookstore. Reportedly some branches are phasing this out, so if you see any at your nearest NBS it may do you well to grab some. Also one of the few clays that can be baked and not have any adverse effects, except for it expanding. You can pop it in the oven for a few minutes to dry it out if you don’t want to wait overnight, but if you bake it too long the surface could crack.
You can view my more detailed review of it here in this post. Click me!
2. Art Attack Magic Clay
You can easily get this clay in any National Bookstore now and I highly recommend it. The clay can stretch out really thin and dries to a porcelain matte finish. The white ones are running out of stock! Everytime I go to the nearest NBS they always no longer have the white one. The small packs are P35 while the big packs are P65. You can view my more detailed review of this here~ Click click ^^
3. Deovir in-house Air Dry Clay
I haven’t really tried this, but I hear of this from others and see it on the deovir online shop. It costs P40-ish for 1kg (which is a lot) although I haven’t gotten any reviews of it yet. It seems to be more mud-like in color unlike other air-dry clays. You can buy it in any Deovir branch nationwide.
4. Cold Porcelain Clay (DIY project)
Lisa / Pufftique made this video that showcases Cold Porcelain clay’s properties very well, I have no more to add! I just made my first batch of Cold Porcelain the other day, and I must say I like it. I have to work more with it to be able to practice with it, but it’s going along well so far. If you want to know how to make cold porcelain, check out Pufftique’s tutorial on how to make it by clicking here!
5. Decollage Air Dry Whipped Cream
Decollage! *drools* Decollage is known for it’s air dry whipped creams, which can be the creamy matte type (pictured above) or the Silicone type, which comes in lovely looking tubes. They’re very pricey though! The Creamy variant is P650, while the Silicone variant costs P900. Now you don’t have to wonder why decoden is pricey. Each of these tubes can only cover one-and-a-half of an iPhone.
6. Japanese Branded Clays (Hearty, Grace, Cosmos, etc.)
Unfortunately no one carries Japanese brand clays locally yet (except for Padico Decollage) but you can order from Singapore at Sophie and Toffee.
Hope this post helps~!
Aki / kageshoujo