Choosing the best clay for sculpting depends on many factors. Every artist has a favorite style, and some artists might enjoy kits with bright colors while others would like a simple clay that is ready for them to mold by hand.
There are many different types of clay on the market, with a wide range of uses. Some sculptors turn their creations into fun, Claymation figures. Others make dishes or practical items. There are clays for making jewelry, outdoor tiles, and so much more. Whether the clay is for a beginner or a more experienced artist also influences the best type of clay for them to use.
When you finish with the sculpting, do you want it to be done, or are you going to add paint and glaze? How do you want it to dry, if you want it to dry at all? With those questions in mind, take a look at our pick of the top 9 clays for any kind of artist.
Best Clay for Sculpting
Modeling Clay - Sculpting and Molding Premium Air Dry Clay
- Water based art clay is smooth, soft, slow drying
This premium Air Dry Clay is a white craft clay that can be painted for a customized look. This no-bake clay lets you make fun crafts without the need for a kiln or oven.
When the model or pottery is created, this clay can also be kiln cured and glazed. Excess clay should be stored in an air-tight container and be kept away from open flame.
This pro-grade clay is very pliable modeling clay used for sculpture and professional molding for special effects. This clay is effective for casting masks with wax or clay sculpting tools.
You can use traditional techniques such as coil, slab, pinch, score and weld, and this type of clay can also be thrown on a wheel. When the clay is still moist, you can add stones or beads by simply pressing them into the moist clay.
This clay is not formulated to be fired, it is water-based clay that is smooth and soft and dries slowly. Another plus is that it is safe for children to play with.
- Good plasticity
- Oil-free, mineral-based
- Not reusable, will not fire the same as a for-firing clay would
This type of Air Dry Clay is great for sculptors who want to customize their clay creations.
AMACO Darice STONEX Clay 5 LB AIR Dry White
$17.29 in stock
- This self-hardening white clay is prepared in moist form and ready to use
- Water can be used when clay begins to harden while working
- When pieces are dry clay can be decorated with Rub n Buff, school paints, temperas, acrylics or liquid crayons
- Made in USA
Amaco self-hardening clay is in a moist state and ready to use. Water can be added while working this clay to slow it drying out.
When pieces are dry, this clay can be finished with Rub n Buff, school paints, liquid crayons, tempera or acrylic paint. This clay is made in the USA and can be used to make pottery, figurines, and models.
This type of clay hardens to a soft white color and can be sculpted further with clay sculpting tools. It is sandable and drillable and can be carved before being painted.
This clay can be used without the need for a kiln to fire it but requires up to 48 hours in an environment with humidity below 70% for it to fully dry. A moist sponge can be dabbed on it while it is being worked to make sure it remains pliable and smooth to the touch.
This clay can be varnished when it is dry and has a natural mineral formulation. It leaves no greasy residue, and dries white.
This clay can be used with molds, engraved and used for pottery. AMACO Darice STONEX Clay is extremely pliable and easy to smooth, making it ideal for kids and adults alike.
- Ready to use
- Self Hardening
- Good plasticity
- Must be kept damp
- Not reusable
This clay is a versatile clay that hardens without heat, which is good for children or amateurs as well as more experienced sculptors.
Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay
- Easy Cleanup - This modeling dough will not crumble or stain and can be easily cleaned up with soap and water. Shape and mold this high-density clay into any design your mind can envision! It holds any crevice, notch, knot, or shape you mold into it! Fills silicon molds easily!
- Simple to Use – These pack of modeling dough is conveniently packaged for easy use and kids will be able to easily play and experiment. Ideal for modeling, sculpting, prototypes, claymation, and more!
- Easy to Keep Fresh – Simply leave them in the individual wrapping or put in a resealable bag will ensure the dough stays fresh, void of air to harden it.
- Safe & Non-Toxic: AP Certified, Non-toxicity and safe for children. Our modeling dough does contain wheat/gluten but is free from most common allergens: Latex, dairy, casein, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy.
- Multipurpose: Ideal for modeling, sculpting, prototypes, claymation and more. Use the wide array of our colors for mixing and blending!
The Sargent Art plastalina is like Roma plastalina. It is a premium grade, smooth, oil-based modeling clay that never hardens or changes with air exposure.
It is sulfur-free and all-natural with a neutral, non-offensive odor. This particular clay cannot be fired and will remain the consistency of when it was first worked.
It is manufactured by first being heated and then cooled and extruded into its shape. Some types of plastalina clay have a good color range, and all are good for claymation as they can be reshaped as many times as desired.
Available in 5 lb, 10 lb, and 50 lb tubs it is a mineral-based, non-hardening clay. Non-toxic and suitable for all ages, this clay accepts pigmentation, but should not be painted. There is a chart available for matching colors precisely.
This clay can be modeled with the hands or with fine tools to very great detail. The consistency of this plastalina improves with age. Colors can be mixed with ivory or white to achieve tints, black to achieve shades, and with each other to create hues.
- Will not harden
- Good plasticity
- Good mechanical strength
- Can’t be fired, oil-based
- Not for durable models
Sargent Art plastalina is a good choice for artists who want to try oil-based clays
Sago Brothers Modeling Clay
$14.99 in stock
- DEVELOPS CREATIVITY - Sago Brothers air dry clay kids gifts can help kids enhance their logical thinking ability, confidence and sensory development. Keeping kids obsessing with modeling clay and staying away from electronics. 24 colors of clay is a good choice for kids toys, christmas gifts for kids, arts and crafts for kids.
- 72 PAGES TUTORIAL IDEA BOOK - Simple and easy steps for kids. Including over 50 kinds of common shapes, foods, and animals that benefit for color recognition, mixing and matching, as well as learning how to paint. Tutorials allow kids to start from imitation, until they can create their own work independently. Popular air dry clay as gifts for girls, crafts for girls, boys toys.
- NO-MESSES and SUPER SOFT - Soft and pliable material helps kids to create wonderful works easily. Doesn't leave a mess and easy to clean when kids playing them is a great favor for parents. Package includes - 24 colors of air dry clay, 24 x extra sealed bags for storage, 3 x clay tools, 1 x 72 pages tutorial book, 1 x giftable package! (Not include any small parts lead to choking hazards)
- NON TOXIC & 100% SAFE - Product conforms to the ASTM D-4236 requirement. Have passed ASTM F963-17, CPSIA & EN71 certification. Wheat, tree nut or peanut-free. Kid-friendly and parent approved air dry clay for kids! Kids gifts ideas as toys for boys, toys for girls.
- THE GREATEST GIFT - Sago Brothers air dry clay is perfect for Christmas and birthday gifts. Make it your go-to present, kids will be thrilled and won't be able to put it down! Most favorite molding magic clay for kids, gifts for boys, craft kits for girls, girls toys.
Sago Brothers Modeling Clay is a soft and pliable clay and can be worked with the hands or with implements. This clay is perfect for letting the kids make decorations for Christmas.
It is soft to the touch, non-sticky and does not leave any residue and it air dries completely in 24 hours. Included is a project booklet, tools to help with decorating, and sealed bags to keep unused clay fresh and moldable.
Sago Brothers clay is good for making planters, slabs, coils and other forms of pottery and it can be used for classroom modeling. The formula used to make this clay is non-stick and not greasy.
Another great feature is that this clay can be tinted with acrylic paint. Pieces will be durable and will not flake, but are not waterproof.
This clay can be painted with opaque tempera. It has excellent plasticity and is pliable by hand. If you wish to preserve your piece after you are done creating it, you can seal it after it is fully air-dried.
This product requires 24 hours to dry to the touch, and 72 hours to cure. Applying an acrylic varnish after the work is finished will increase its durability. This clay has a smooth consistency and is easy to work with.
- Not waterproof
- Not as durable as traditional self-drying or kiln-dried clay
- Mainly for kids
The Sago Brothers box of clay is a rainbow-colored infinite possibilities machine!
Arteza Polymer Clay Starter Kit
- Vibrant Polymer Baking Clay - Enjoy 42 vibrant clay bars that retain their vibrancy after baking. Mix, match, and blend colors to create unique swirls and shades.
- Easy Oven-Bake Sculpting Clay - This soft and pliable clay is easy to mold or sculpt and won’t stain your hands. It bakes solid in your home oven in minutes.
- Designed and Created by Artists: Here at Arteza, we are passionate about creating products that inspire. For us, art is an expression of the human experience. That’s why we work to make our art supplies accessible to all people.
- We Care About Our Customers: We want to ensure you have a great experience with our products because we truly care about our customers. Our team strives to create products we’re proud of. If you have any issues with our products, please reach out and we’ll make it right.
- Craft Supplies for Arts and Crafts Lovers: Arteza was built to support artists everywhere by providing top-of-the-line craft tools. Find tons of art products to help you explore the world of DIY crafts.
The Arteza polymer clay starter kit contains 42 colors of oven-bake clay, as well as sculpting tools, baking clay blocks, and 30 jewelry accessories.
This clay is bakable, non-toxic and adheres to ASTM regulations, it is soft, easily shaped modeling clay that leaves no residue.
You can create miniatures, sculptures, earrings, necklace ornaments, figurines and more. All parts of the kit come in a convenient, stackable storage box and there is also a full money-back guarantee if the customer is at all unsatisfied.
For easy transport, the art kit has a handle on it. This is a good tool for teachers or artists on the go. It also makes clean up and storage easier.
- Many color choices
- Kit for jewelry
- Not mineral based
- Not very heavy
The Arteza polymer clay starter kit is great for the artist who loves jewelry.
Van Aken International
- Renowned for its smooth consistency and brilliant colors. This clay has been featured in many award winning claymation productions. Preferred by sculptors, model makers, animators, and artists' of all ages.
- Remains pliable, never hardens. If the Kid's forget to put their clay away, No need to worry. With this awesome clay you will never have to buy more due to it being left out for a night, a week, or even MONTHS.
- Fun for the whole family, when it comes to art it has no age limits. Everyone, young and old, can enjoy the therapeutic activity of creating. The only limit is your imagination.
- Certified by ACMI (Art and Creative Materials Institute) Safe, Non-Toxic, and Gluten-Free. Contains NO dangerous chemicals that can be harmful to children or pets.
Van Aken is a non-hardening, smooth clay is ideal for freehand modeling, claymation and realistic sculpting. It can be reworked after each character is created.
There are four colors and they are each separate packages. Choose from neutral tones like brown, white, black and cream. Red and yellow hues like orange or a set of shades of blue like green, light blue, dark blue, and purple. In all, there are three packs of 12 colors for versatility and depth.
This type of modeling clay is not good for ceramics, as it was not designed to be fired. This clay is ideal for use by younger children while under supervision. It is lithographed with full instructions, and these award-winning claytoons are fun for the whole family.
All colors are cellophane wrapped for freshness and arrive just as moist as when they are extruded at the factory. Make moldable characters, practice your sculpting skills, and express your artistic side with these clays.
- Doesn’t harden
- Won’t go bad
- Not good for fired clay projects
- Not oil-free
Van Aken clay is ideal for sculptors who need versatility and flexibility with their clay projects.
Sculpey III Oven Bake Clay
$26.99 in stock
- Stays soft until baked – Does not air dry. Remains soft and flexible until it is baked in your home oven - No kiln needed. Store extra clay to use later.
- In the classroom –offers an inexpensive way to let children explore their creativity.
- Easy to work with - Use your hands or try a variety of clay tools to create your finished pieces.
- Ideal DIY gift for everyone from kids to artists! - Includes 30 vibrant 1 oz. bars of clay: Black, Emerald, Violet, Yellow, Teal Pearl, Leaf Green, Red Hot Red, Just Orange, Ballerina, Lt. Blue Pearl, Translucent, Sweet Potato, Blue, Deep Red Pearl, Pearl, Spring Lilac, Suede Brown, Granny Smith, Gold, Lemonade, Navy Pearl, Hot Pink, Chocolate, Beige, Turquoise, Leaf Green, Sky Blue, Silver, Red, White
- Made in the USA - Non-Toxic Polymer Clay for Kids & Adults - This polymer clay is safe enough for artists of all ages since it conforms to ASTM D-4236 and EN 71 AP safety standards to be non-toxic.
Sculpey clay might be the best clay for sculpting for artists who love bringing bright vibrant colors into their work. Budding sculptors, as well as pros, will appreciate the varied selection of vivid hues. The Sculpey III Oven Bake Clay Sampler is ideal for making jewelry, home décor, gifts, vases and so much more.
Once the clay is shaped and baked, you can finish it with paint, glaze, texture or even carve or drill it for awesome etching effects. Once it is dry, the clay has a matte effect that is brilliant on its own or shines under glaze.
Sculpey clay is soft and pliable like ceramic clay, yet does not dry out when it is exposed to air. It’s a box of 2.2 pounds and it is made in the USA and is appropriate for kids ages 8 and up.
The clay is unscented and can be blended to create custom colors. The colors are black, emerald green, violet, yellow and more.
- More than 30 colors to choose from
- Soft and pliable
- Small amount of clay for the price
Sculpey clay is a great gift set for artists of all ages. It bakes quickly so projects can be completed in an afternoon, which is ideal for an art class.
ACTIVA Blackjack Low Fire Clay
$45.79 in stock
- ACTIVA Blackjack Clay is a special blend of several natural clays resulting a silky smooth consistency specially formulated for optimum workability
- Ideal for craft projects, wheel throwing, sculpture and modeling, the perfect consistency for a wide range of clay projects
- Excellent for all skill levels from beginner to professional, this competition quality clay will bring consistently superior results
- Blackjack clay can be fired at a low temperature in a kiln from -06 to 04
- Dries white and can be glazed
This low fire clay is a special blend of several naturally occurring clays which has a uniquely smooth consistency and is easy to work with.
This clay is ideal for wheel-throwing, craft projects, sculpture, modeling and it’s good for all skill levels, beginner and professional alike and yields superior results. It can be fired at a low temperature from Cone 06 to 04.
It can also be glazed after being fired. The body of this clay is mainly comprised of talc, and it has high plasticity. Blackjacks clay is never heated, and plasticity is optimized by vigorous mixing.
Additionally, all contaminants are removed. The clay bodies are made by wet-blunging a slurry of clay and then removing the excess water to create a clay body with good plasticity that is a pleasure to work with. Available for purchase in 25 lb bags, it’s great for serious artists.
- Good for wheel-throwing
- Can be fired
- Superior pottery clay,
- Not oil-based, mineral-based clay
- Not reusable,
- Not good for Claymation
Activa Blackjack clay is a natural clay that is made to be heated, so it is a type of clay that many artists will enjoy using.
Soft & Light Clay Starter Kit
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|Item Dimensions||Weight: 150|
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|Product Group||Art and Craft Supply|
|Product Type Name||ART_AND_CRAFT_SUPPLY|
|Title||Soft & Light Clay Starter Kit 8 colors White/Black/Pink/Red/Blue/Green/Brown/Yellow & Dual Sided 11 Clay Carving Sculpting Tools Set|
The Daiso starter kit will delight and inspire any sculptor. There are 11 bright colors and many tools to help artists cut, etch, sculpt and add all of the fine details that will make their pieces stand out.
The clay is pliable and soft, which is good for sculptors of all ages. It air dries in a few days. Clay can be rolled to be made thinner and cut with scissors for clean, precise lines and bold shapes.
If the clay dries out, you can make it soft again by kneading it with a wet hand. Sculptors of all skill levels will love the versatility and variety of this clay. Colors include blue, white, green, and pink. In total, the kit weighs 1.7 lbs.
- Many colors of clay to choose from
- Tool kit included
- Small amount of clay
The Daiso starter kit is the perfect starter set with inspiring colors for any artist.
Types of Sculpting Clay
While there are three main types of clay- earthenware, stoneware and kaolin there are actually many types of sculpting clay (1). The type of sculpting clay varies on the material that it’s made out of. One common type of clay is ceramic, of which there are about 5 different kinds. There are also wax-based clays that can be reused easily, as the wax prevents it from drying out.
Another popular type of clay is oil-based clays which will retain wetness and softness. A fourth type of clay is paper-based, with cellulose fiber in it. Water-based clay has excellent moldability and is a popular choice for many reasons, mostly because this type of clay can be non-toxic. Choosing the right clay is important, and it depends entirely on who is going to be using the clay and what it is used for.
The pliability of clay is basically how easy it is to be sketched and worked. For finer details, a very soft clay might be preferred. However, for sturdy dishware that will be reused or building materials, you might prefer a clay that is less pliable.
Slowness to Dry
Some clays, especially those for children, are made to dry quickly. This is great for afternoon art projects and for a quick turn around on the creation. Other clays dry slower and might be what artists who need to reuse the clay need to use to get the effects they desire.
Pottery clay has a different consistency than modeling clay. Some clay is from the earth and is made from natural materials, while others are synthetic and dyed bright colors. Three of the most common types of clays are kaolin, earthenware, and stoneware. People have been using clay since at least 1400 BC and many civilizations have beautiful, ancient pottery.
Ease of Use with Hands and Tools
This art is rewarding for artists of many kinds, and there is a lot that can be added to the creation to make it stand out.
A good clay that is easy to use is an excellent material for any serious sculptor. Sculpting tools come in many models, shapes, varieties, and sizes so that special effects and designs can be expertly crafted. Clay models will use supports to help the artist look at it while it’s being formed and to present it in the best way. Wire cutters are hand tools that can make cutting the exact size and amount of clay easier.
Our list of the best clay for sculpting is sure to inspire your next sculpting project. These quality sets are hand-picked to support any artist to make amazing creations. There are simple sets with large amounts of clay that are perfect for an art teacher, art student or serious artist. There are also gift sets with bright colors that are sure to wow any creative person.
Clay making is one of the oldest forms of art. Everyone can have fun using clay to express themselves and create beautiful and useful works of art. Whether you’re new to sculpting or a pro, this list has something that every sculptor will love to add to their collection. We included sets that are great for kids, with bright colors, non-toxic ingredients, and reusable clays. There are also heavy-duty clays that are made for the oven. Depending on your resources, you can find the right sculpting clay for you or the artist in your life.
For more arts & craft supplies Ram Research have reviewed the following:
- Phyllis McKee. 2017. Clay and Pottery
Best Clay for Sculpting
When choosing the best clay for sculpting it can depend on a multitude of things. Be sure to read through these detailed reviews before making your purchase.
- Van Aken International
- Modeling Clay - Sculpting and Molding Premium Air Dry Clay
- AMACO Darice STONEX Clay 5 LB AIR Dry White
- Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay
- Sago Brothers Modeling Clay
- Arteza Polymer Clay Starter Kit
- ACTIVA Blackjack Low Fire Clay
- Sculpey III Oven Bake Clay
- Soft & Light Clay Starter Kit