Best modeling clay

Arts & Crafts

Many artists use tools when sculpting with modeling clay to create more delicate details and a realistic appearance.

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Which modeling clay is best? 

Working with clay can be a relaxing experience and provide a beneficial creative outlet for both children and adults. Whether you want to sculpt bowls and vases or mold intricate figures, modeling clay is available for every type of artistic endeavor and preference. 

Before choosing the best clay for your modeling project, you may want to consider a few critical aspects. First off, you’ll want to decide which type of clay you prefer, how you intend to use it as well as its color and consistency. For high-quality clay that both kids and adults can use, the Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay is a top choice. 

What to know before you buy modeling clay 

Intended usage 

Will the modeling clay be used primarily by younger children, teenagers or adults? Depending on who will use it and how they will use it, you can begin to narrow down your options. Younger kids will likely enjoy brightly colored clays that are easy to mold, similar to Play-Doh. More advanced artists may enjoy more professional sculpting clays that allow for finer detail. 

Types of modeling clay 

There are a variety of modeling clays available, from water-based to oil-based to ceramic clays. Water-based clays are often natural clays that require water to keep them properly moist during the modeling process. 

Oil-based and polymer clays don’t require the use of any external liquid to increase their pliability. These synthetic clays last for extended periods without drying out, making them easy to reuse and re-sculpt when desired. 

Ceramic clays tend to be earthen clays, primarily used when constructing dishware or decorative pottery. 

Air-dry vs. baked clay 

Next, you’ll want to determine whether or not you want your clay creations to air-dry and harden without the use of heat or whether you prefer to bake them either in the oven or in a kiln. Clays that air-dry will need to be molded and sculpted relatively quickly, compared to baking clay which holds its consistency for longer periods. Air-drying clay can be a good option for younger kids as they won’t need to use the oven. 

Other modeling clay options that never fully harden can be reworked and reused indefinitely. 

What to look for in quality modeling clay 


Basic modeling clay will usually be white, brown or beige. However, you can usually add paint or glaze to your clay after it has been heated or hardened on its own. 

Other modeling clay may come in a colorful variety pack, which is great for kids and those who want to make vibrant and unique creations without using any additional paint. 


Water-based clays may take some getting used to to create the perfect consistency. Although with any type of clay, the longer you continue to knead it, the softer it will become. When choosing a clay for children, look for one that is known to be relatively soft and easy to maneuver without too much pressure or kneading. 


Whether simply for fun or a specific project, you should consider the total amount of modeling clay needed. Some modeling clay will come in blocks of different weights and sizes, while variety packs will usually include smaller blocks of varying tones and colors. 


When letting young children use modeling clay, be sure to check that it is nontoxic in case of accidental ingestion. Also, when using baking clay, you should always assist children to ensure proper oven safety. 

How much you can expect to spend on modeling clay

You can find small basic bricks of modeling clay for under $5, although larger options or variety packs can cost up to $50. Expect to spend between $10-$30 for quality clay. 

Modeling clay  FAQ

How long does it take modeling clay to air-dry? 

A. When using a modeling clay designed to air-dry, expect the process to take anywhere from 24 hours to several days, depending on the size of the model and the specific clay used. Some clays will take slightly longer, while others can even begin to harden in a matter of hours. 

How should you store modeling clay? 

A. Air-dry clay stores best in a container with an airtight seal to prevent premature hardening. Polymer clays will not dry out when exposed to air but can still be kept in a sealed container to maximize pliability. 

What’s the best modeling clay to buy?

Top modeling clay 

Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay

Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay

What you need to know: This 5-pound block of non-hardening modeling clay is perfect for both children and adults. 

What you’ll love: Being easy to mold and shape makes this mineral-based clay great for youngsters and even those looking to make professional models and prototypes. The nontoxic formula is safe for all ages and the light coloring makes it easy to blend with additional clays. 

What you should consider: This clay is not designed to be baked in the oven. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Top modeling clay for the money

Sculpey III Polymer Oven-Bake Clay

Sculpey III Polymer Oven-Bake Clay

What you need to know: This generous variety pack gives you all of the standard colors for sculpting and molding creative designs. 

What you’ll love: With 10 colors included, you can mix and match to create the perfect tone for your project. Ideal for children and experienced artists, this clay won’t dry out until baked in a home oven. This Sculpey Clay is also highly malleable and features a nontoxic formula.

What you should consider: For a few users, this clay was still too soft after baking. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Crayola Modeling Clay

Crayola Modeling Clay

What you need to know: Designed specifically for children, this colorful clay from a trusted brand is easy to use and won’t dry out. 

What you’ll love: This modeling clay set comes with a total of 2 pounds of clay in a variety of bright colors. Kids will never have to worry about this clay drying out, and the reusable bucket makes it easy to store and transport the clay when not in use. 

What you should consider: The clay can occasionally leave temporary stains on hands and skin. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Matthew Young writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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