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The Best Clay

Last updated on November 20, 2023

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Our Picks For The Top Clays

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Product Overview
Key Takeaway
 Top Pick

HIPPIE CRAFTER Assorted Colors Oven Bake Clay, 48-Piece

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Assorted Colors Oven Bake Clay, 48-Piece

Including 48 bold colors, this kit works great for everything from models to jewelry. It's ideal for adults since you have to put the clay in the oven for it to harden. You also get some handy tools for working with the clay.

Overall Take

Ideal for AdultsThis set best suits adults who don't mind needing to bake the clay.

 Runner Up

Crayola Resealable Bucket Air Dry Clay


Resealable Bucket Air Dry Clay

Suitable for all ages, this basic clay comes in a natural tone that you can color to fit your needs. It doesn't require baking and dries fully within three days. You get 5 pounds of it in a container that you can reseal.

Overall Take

Basic Yet VersatileThe natural color makes this clay useful and customizable for all kinds of creations.

 We Also Like

CiaraQ Soft Non-Sticky Air Dry Clay, 50-Piece


Soft Non-Sticky Air Dry Clay, 50-Piece

This set includes a large selection with 50 shades. The modeling clay is very soft and easy to work with. You also get extras such as zippered bags, a short guide and some plastic tools.

Overall Take

Very Large SelectionConsider this set if you'd like child-friendly clay that's easy to mold and comes in many colors.

 Strong Contender

Sago Brothers Sculpting Tools & Assorted Colors Clay Set

Sago Brothers

Sculpting Tools & Assorted Colors Clay Set

Available with either 24 or 36 colors, this set is designed for children who want to start learning to use clay. It includes an extensive instructional guide, basic tools and zippered bags to keep unused clay in.

Overall Take

Includes Handy GuideYoung crafters will find the included guide helpful for learning how to make fun clay models.

Buying Guide

Suitable for both kids and adults, clay is a simple, yet versatile material that you can mold into anything you can imagine. Not only can you use clay to make sculptures, jewelry and dishes — but it also comes in handy for creating flowers, magnets, holiday decorations and even bookmarks. You’ll just want to make sure you buy the right type for the specific project and the age of the crafter.

A popular and convenient option is an air-dry clay that is kid-friendly since there’s no oven required. This clay tends to come in many colorful shades alongside a traditional earthy color, so it’s a great choice for fun sculptures. Plus, it is available in a soft form that is easy to shape with your hands and small tools. This clay can be quite sticky, but you can find options with a special texture that’s less messy.

Especially popular for jewelry, pottery and figurines, polymer clay also comes in many colors but doesn’t dry out. Instead, it is workable until you bake the finished project in an oven. This type of clay is made from plastic, resulting in a firmer form than air-dry clay and is resistant to water. It can be less convenient if you’re buying it for a child, however, since they’ll need an adult to safely complete the curing process.

If you’re wanting to create mugs, bowls, plates, pots and other dishes, pottery clay is ideal for the job. It’s available in different forms such as ceramic, porcelain and earthenware with different durabilities, textures and shades. Pottery clays made for dishes that you’ll actually use will require baking your projects in a kiln, but you can also find non-firing clay for decorative-only dishes. This type of clay comes in natural colors such as white or tan.

Another option is an oil-based clay, which never dries out and is reusable. It is popular for creating molds, sculptures and artwork, and it suits projects that require a lot of detail. You can often make sculptures without needing tools, and you can use oil to further soften the clay as needed.

What to Look For

  • Unless you’re using a clay that won’t dry out, make sure you use some kind of airtight bag or container to store your unused clay. Some manufacturers include some small zippered bags for this purpose, but you can also use your own or get a clay storage case that helps you both protect and organize your clay. It’s also a good idea to keep polymer and oil-based clay stored safely since it could get dirty.
  • Air-dry clay usually takes at least 24 hours to feel mostly hard and another 48 hours to dry fully. While waiting can be inconvenient, resist the temptation to put this clay in the oven or use a heat gun since this can destroy your project. 
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how long to bake any clay. The baking time varies based on the temperature, thickness of your project and even the specific product you buy from a particular brand. 
  • If you notice that your oven-bake or air-dry clay creation has cracks in it, it could come down to the thickness of the clay throughout. You should make sure that you don’t have areas in your project that are thicker or thinner than others. If it’s oven-bake clay, make sure you use the right temperature, and if you use air-dry clay, avoid adding too much water.
  • If you’re purchasing clay for a child, consider looking for activity sets that include a book with clear tutorials on how to make simple models like animals. This will serve as an inspiration and also teach basic modeling skills. These kits often include plastic tools that come in handy for cutting and shaping clay as well.
  • If you get white or natural-toned clay, you can easily add some stain to get whichever color you’d like. You can either use a dry powder or liquid pigment. You can also use items like paint or markers to add color to your creation after you’ve finished it.
  • You should protect both your clothing and work area when working with clay. It can especially be hard to remove from your carpet and require multiple cleaning steps.

More to Explore

  • People have used clay since prehistoric times. Clay figurines of a woman and animals date back to around 30,000 years ago in the Czech Republic, while people in China made pottery as far back as 20,000 years ago.
  • Chemical weathering is responsible for the formation of natural clay from animals, minerals and plants. You could actually find your own clay material in nature if you look around bodies of water, but you’d need to do some work before it’s ready to work with.
  • Sculpting with clay is such a popular activity that there’s a Guinness World Record where over 3,300 people made clay sculptures in the same venue together. This happened in August 2022 in India.

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