Air-dry clay is a great creative material for young and elderly, as novice and experienced artist. Products are widely available and reasonably priced. Air-dry clay is extremely simple because it does not require a kiln to harden, allowing clay projects to be completed at home. Painting clay after it has solidified is another phase in the process that may be as enjoyable as modeling the clay. This is your step-by-step tutorial for painting air dry clay. More information regarding air dry clay can be found here, as well as instructions on which colors to use and how to apply them correctly.

What Exactly Is Air-Dry Clay?

Air-dry clay, not to be confused with polymer clay, is a natural clay that comes in a variety of forms ranging from earthy to paper-based and epoxy-based. The clay does not require the use of a costly kiln, and it dries spontaneously in the air, as the name indicates. This sort of clay is popular since it requires no special equipment and is non-toxic. Children may even use it. Polymer clay must be oven-baked and available in a range of colors. On the other hand, air-dry clay has a restricted color palette that includes grey, terracotta, and white.

Air-dry clay hardens and dries after resting at room temperature for around 24 hours. Air-dry clay, which is made from various mixes of clay, glue, natural materials, and polymers, may be used in a broad range of arts and crafts projects. Air-dry clay is not only readily accessible and affordable, but it can also be wonderfully simple to work with for toddlers and beginners while also appealing to arts and crafts veterans.

What Paints Should I Use On Air Dry Clay?

Painting air dry clay is best done using water-based paints or colors. Acrylic paint, tempera paint, and guache work well for covering crafts, but watercolors, ink, markers, and pens can also be used to give patterns to clay things. Keep in mind that water-based paint must be sealed after drying.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paint is ideal for clay since it is more durable has more colors, and is less expensive than other alternatives. Acrylic paints are thicker and, if necessary, may be diluted with water. Acrylic paints are also incredibly helpful and may be used on a wide range of surfaces, including glass, wood, plastic, and many others. When acrylic paint dries, it becomes slightly water-resistant but is not waterproof.

It would be best if you still sealed your clay object for extra protection.

More artist-grade or professional acrylic paints are recommended for the best effects. These feature a higher pigment content and produce a bright, non-fading color. However, if you’re having fun, any acrylic paint would suffice. You may also experiment with other effects, such as glow-in-the-dark acrylic paint, shimmer, and metallic acrylic paint. You may also sketch on your clay item with acryl markers. You may also use acrylic spray paint on bigger, three-dimensional objects.

Tempera Colors

This paint has a creamy and water-based consistency, making it safe and non-toxic. Dry tempera pigments and paint powder are also available. This might be the greatest clay paint for youngsters to use while painting with clay. Because it is water-soluble, the paint may be readily cleaned off surfaces and hands. This sort of paint comes in a variety of colors, so you can be creative with your designs.

Oil Paints

Oil paints are far more expensive than your other alternatives and must be applied with greater caution. Some of the paints may be poisonous, and cleaning up requires solvents, which makes working with clay difficult. If you want to color or “dye” your clay with oil paints, you must wear gloves since you do not want the paint to go on your hands.

It is also feasible to paint clay using oil paints, as long as the clay is totally dried.

Another downside of oil paints is that they take an incredibly long time to dry to the touch and may never entirely dry. It will take many days for the paint to dry to the touch. If you do decide to use oil paints, you should probably prepare the clay surface first because oil paints might damage the clay surface. Overall, there are better and less expensive solutions for clay painting.

Watercolor Paints

Watercolors are beautiful, but consider liquid watercolors for bright hues. When the varnish is placed over the paint, the color might alter.

Food Coloring

Most of us have food coloring on hand, so why not experiment with it on clay? The color should be good, but try making it opaque with white food coloring.

Powdered Pigments, Mica Powder, and Chalk Pastels

Some people choose to tint clay with powder colors. Because there is no extra moisture, this might aid if you want to bake the clay. The granules also give the clay a shimmering appearance.

Fabric Paint

This is also a nice option that should produce decent color. The paint is also readily available and reasonably priced.

Alcohol Ink

You may experiment with a variety of colors, both as a “dye” to integrate into the clay and for painting dried clay. It can have a transparent or colored appearance.

Nail polish

There are many various hues available, and they can work as both a color and a sealant in one, or you may use transparent nail polish over paint.

Painting Air dry clay

You may color your air-dry clay in two ways. You may either paint straight on the clay or color it before it dries.

Each way is pretty straightforward, and you can accomplish both of them using inexpensive and readily available crafting supplies and paints.

I propose Tempera Paint or Acrylic Paint for painting air dry-clay. Both of these paints are excellent for different reasons, although acrylic paints are more commonly available.

Make Certain The Air-dry Clay Is Finished Drying

Wait until the air-dry clay is totally dry before beginning to paint the sculpture.

When the air-dry clay is evenly colored and has no darker patches, it is totally dried.

If you’re not sure, let the clay sit for at least 72 hours before painting it.

Apply The Acrylic Paint On The Air-dry Clay Directly

I would recommend leaving the paints alone and not mixing them with water unless absolutely essential. You may, however, mix them to produce other hues.

This is because if you expose dried clay to too much water, it may soften somewhat and crack when it dries again. So be cautious, or your project will be ruined.

You should also use nice brushes that leave no hair behind and evenly apply color.

You may test your brush by gently pulling on the hair; if the hair readily comes out, don’t use this brush! A good quality brush does not have to be costly; if properly cared for, it will last a long time.

Brush on the brush in thin, uniform layers. If the initial layer of paint does not cover, simply let it dry before applying another coat.

If Required, Apply Another Layer Of Paint.

It is fairly uncommon for some or all of your acrylic paint to not cover correctly on the first try.

This is especially true for really bright hues like bright yellow or brilliant green.

Don’t be concerned; simply add another layer of paint when the first has dried. You may apply as many coatings as necessary.

Seal The Entire Sculpture With Acrylic Sealer.

After the paint has dry, it must be sealed.

If you don’t seal it correctly, the paint may peel off, and water may harm the paint. So properly sealing it is critical.

For sealing my pieces, I generally use varnish or acrylic spray sealer.

Varnish is fantastic since it is inexpensive and simple to apply with a brush. Varnish will also protect your colors from water and sunlight.

Varnish is available at any hardware shop. Normally, the varnish is used to coat wood, but it may also be used to treat a variety of other materials.

If you have varnish matt, try to apply just one layer of it; some varieties of varnish matt might dry foggy if additional applications are applied. Use only one layer of matt varnish to achieve the finest effects for your projects.

You may also obtain gloss varnish, which dries clear and allows you to simply apply many layers. I’ve never had any problems with glossy varnish, and I’ve never heard of anyone having problems with numerous applications of gloss varnish.

Apply The Varnish Only After The Paint Has Completely Dried.

When the paint is dry, add the varnish and let it dry. It may take up to a day to completely dry, but once dry, and your creation will be sealed and waterproof.

Another option for sealing your air-dry clay after painting it is to use acrylic sealant. It is more difficult to get, but once obtained, it is quite simple to utilize.

Simply spray a thin coat of acrylic sealer over the whole surface of the clay sculpture and allow it to dry.

Then, on top of the initial coating, spray another coat of sealer to ensure that you have covered every inch of the surface. Then let it dry to seal the color!

Is It Possible To Paint Air-dry Clay Before It Dries?

Air-dry clay takes 24 to 72 hours to cure properly, and you should not paint with it until it is entirely dry. If you paint too soon, the clay may become misshaped, which can lead to cracks. This is due to the fact that most pigments are water-based and may be absorbed by the clay. You may, however, paint the clay before it dries.

When painting and coloring clay, white air-dry clay is a wonderful choice.

You should knead the clay to warm it up before adding your colorant, which might be powdered colors, acrylic paints, or alcohol inks. Then, add small quantities of pigment at a time, kneading it into the clay to get an equal hue. Once you’re pleased, sculpt and dry your item as usual. Because of the increased moisture, the drying time may be slightly longer.

Is It Necessary To Seal Air-dry Clay Before Painting?

It is not essential to seal air-dry clay before painting. It will actually make painting the claymore difficult after it has been sealed. To preserve the colors from water, sun, or scratches, paint the clay with water-based paint first, then cover it with acrylic sealer or varnish.

Sealing Painted Air Dry Clay

There are several methods for sealing air-dry clay, and depending on the project or color you used below, some may be better than others. But most of the time, I’d just go with the simplest approach to seal air-dry clay.

What is the best way to seal painted air-dry clay? There are various methods for sealing air-dry clay. The simplest method is to use varnish or acrylic sealer. You may also use liquid epoxy to create a more durable seal. All of these sealers will waterproof the clay and protect the color below if it is painted.

Does The Clay Need To Be Primed?

If you are sculpting or want a more durable clay object, you should prime it. You may just use gesso for this procedure, which is available in white, black, and transparent. For sculptures with more edges, you may also use spray gesso. Here are several advantages of using gesso.

  • Gesso is inexpensive, and the product generally lasts a long period.
  • Because most air-dry and other clays are porous, paint can seep into the surface. Applying gesso can help to ensure that the paint is evenly distributed.
  • The gesso acts as a barrier between the clay and the paint, somewhat sealing it from moisture. This is especially useful if you’re using watercolors or oil paints, which might react with the clay. For oil paints, three gesso layers are recommended.


We discovered that acrylic or tempera paints are ideal for painting on air-dry clay. The paints are inexpensive and simple, and the tempera paints are great for children. 

Air-dry clay is simple to mold into various forms, and you can bring your clay sculptures to life by using air-dry clay paint.


You must let your clay object dry once you have molded it. Because it is an air-drying clay, you must let it for 24 to 72 hours to completely dry. You may also bake it to speed up drying, but air drying is the best option.

No, you must wait for the clay to dry completely before beginning to paint. You risk changing the clay object and producing fractures if you paint it while it is still wet. However, before the clay hardens, you may color or dye it with paint by kneading it in.

Yes, you should seal the clay after painting it. This makes the object waterproof and increases its durability, and protects it from scratches and sunlight. You do not need to seal the clay before painting since doing so will make it impossible to paint on.

You must ensure that the surface of the clay is not too smooth. A rougher surface allows the paint to rest more easily, resulting in greater adherence.

A spray-on acrylic sealer can be used to protect your painted air-dry clay. Resin is another alternative, although acrylic paints with sealing characteristics are also available.

After the item has cured, you may paint directly onto it. I recommend sanding and dusting the surface before adding paint to remove minor bumps or other blemishes. When you apply your paintings and sketches on a flat surface, they will look nicer.

Paint should not be applied to wet air-drying clay. Because the clay shrinks as it dries, the color may chip and break as the piece contracts. Furthermore, acrylic paint may function as a sealer, trapping moisture in the clay and causing mold, fractures, or breaking in the long term. The only method I advocate for wet coloring clay is with gentle pastels.

Acrylic paint may peel off your air dry clay crafts for a variety of reasons, including the clay is not thoroughly dry, there is dust left over from sanding, the paint hasn’t dried (it takes a little longer, but it dries to touch after a couple of minutes but it didn’t adhere well), you applied a second or multiple layers too soon, or you used poor quality paint or clay.


To avoid acrylic paint from flaking off the clay, make sure everything is completely dry and the clay is clean and dust-free before applying any color. Even though I don’t believe a primer is necessary when painting clay, you might attempt a tiny layer, let it set, and then add the acrylic paint (some crafters report that this helped).

Stamps are a simple method to add attractive impressions to air-drying clay. To add colorful patterns, use them dry with a stamp pad or paint/ink. They are ideal for personalizing bowls, trays, plates, keychains, and other fun crafts by adding lettering and quotations.

After drying, acrylic paint is known to be water-repellent. Acrylic paint will not render your clay sculptures watertight. Applying a sealer or epoxy glue after the color has dried will assist in extending the lifetime of your product but will not make it water-resistant. Air-dried clay crafts should not be used to hold or immerse in water. They are exclusively used for decoration and not for food or beverages.

Food coloring, acrylic paint, tempera paint, and other pigments can be used to tint air-drying paint. You may combine them with wet clay to get beautiful hues. Please keep in mind that they will dry a lighter color than they were while wet. In this post, I experimented with and reported my experience with producing colored clay.





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