It’s a known fact that for centuries people have been using clay to create decorative and essential items for their well-being. Artists and crafting enthusiasts have continued to do so, always looking for the top clay options to improve their work.
Paper and air-dry clays are excellent materials and means to work with; however, they are different and come with particular features.
Those working with clay have their favorite ones already, but what should you choose if you are new in this domain? Achieving the best results requires using the top materials and paying attention to the differences between paper and air-dry clay. So allow me to present the similarities as well as the differences between the two.
Paper Clay And Air Dry Clay Definitions
Before moving on to the most comprehensive information, let’s understand, in short words, the main characteristics of each type of these clays.
So, paper clay is a material obtained from mixing shredded paper and other fibers for creating a long-lasting and versatile clay. Paper clay is also lightweight and ideal for building ceramics of any size. It is perfectly suited for tiny decorative objects as well as large pieces that otherwise would have been very heavy to maneuver.
On the other hand, air-dry clay has increased its popularity, and it is pretty similar to the normal one. The main advantage is that it does not need to be fired in a professional kiln to set. Moreover, you may decorate and paint it once it has dried.
Get to know all the particularities between paper clay and air-dry clay, so you know what to decide when purchasing the arts and crafts means.
Paper Clay Features
Paper clay results from a mixture of shredded paper and other fibers. These fibers add more strength and versatility to the clay and keep it medium-lightweight, even for large projects.
Paper clay is adaptable and can be an excellent material for multiple projects. You can choose to purchase a ready-to-use paper clay that is already mixed, or you can make your blend. What’s for sure is that paper clay is ideal for hand-building. Moreover, you can adjust the strength by adding scraps of leftover clay.
These are the main features of paper clay:
The strength of paper clay comes from the paper fibers added to the regular clay. Paper fibers create a strong structure while transferring moisture quickly and uniformly throughout the clay.
Paper clay is a fantastic material to use if you work on large structures or fine, delicate, and very detailed projects. The extra fibers add internal strength to the core of the clay, meaning the arts and crafts will resist better in time. Furthermore, the paper clay projects will be easy and safe to be transported.
Paper clays are brilliant for repairing possible joins or cracks that might have appeared during your work. Even professional potters use paper clay to fix work flaws. This is also a method used in projects that have their body structure made of regular clay. If you deal with any breaks in bisque-fired paper clay, you can repair them with wet paper clay.
Quicker Drying Time
Paper clay will dry much faster than any other regular clay due to its moisture content that will evaporate quickly. Potters use the practice of “force dry” when working with paper clay, as drying the craft reduces the chances of possible cracking.
Regular Firing And Glazing
When working with paper clay, you don’t have to use particular firing and glazing techniques, so do not give up the firing routine. However, some potters would recommend firing paper clay at slightly higher temperatures.
Understand that all those extra fibers that make the paper clay so resistant will also make the fired surface a lot more porous. Consequently, the paper fibers will burn away during the firing process, making the clay work a bit more fragile.
How To Make Your Own Paper Mache
There is no rocket science behind making paper clay at home. Consider porcelain, terracotta, stoneware, even earthware when making your paper clay.
Although the paper pulp is the regular and most effortless fiber to work with, you can mix clay with any other type of cellulose to obtain the same effect. The best advantage of making your paper clay is that you have complete control over the number of fibers and the material’s future strength. This easy-to-control strength lets you make slabs that are easy to bend and fold without too many tears of effort.
You will end up creating spectacular shapes through hand molding, which is a dream for any clay crafts enthusiast.
So, when home-making the paper-clay, there is one general rule: use less paper when making lighter pieces of work. On the other hand, if you want to achieve heavier elements, add a higher amount of fibers.
- Remember that you will need clay slip and paper pulp for this project. Generally speaking, two gallons of recycled clay will be enough for making around 15 pounds of clay.
- If you are using paper fibers from printer paper or newspapers, make sure you prevent them from sticking to the mold when expanding. To achieve this, you should mix in one tablespoon of bleach, then re-mix them before putting them into the clay slip.
- Add three handfuls of paper fiber into the clay slip at one time. Mix all the “ingredients” well for about 20 minutes, and ensure the consistency is smooth.
This video is beneficial if you have never made paper clay before.
Common Practises For Paper Clays Usage
As a general practice, people usually use paper clay for hand shaping and building. Of course, you can toss paper clay. Yet, don’t expect it to be as stretchy as the regular one.
Tip: If you usually work with traditional clay, you can use the leftovers and any clay scraps to make paper mold.
Best Before Date
Paper clay is best to use within two weeks of making it. Once it overcomes this period, the fibers will disintegrate, and the clay will lose most of its characteristics. As long as the features completely change, you cannot expect to obtain the same integrity from the ceramic pieces.
Paper Clay Sculptures
One of the best ways to use paper clay is when doing sculptures. This material is much more forgiving in many ways: you don’t have to focus so much on keeping the thickness perfectly consistent, as this clay won’t crack so fast.
The pieces are strong enough to sufficiently support themselves without collapsing. Flat parts, for instance, warp less. Do not hesitate to experiment and take the clay to limits far beyond what you thought possible so far.
The Air-Dry Clay Characteristics
Air-dry clays address those artists looking for the integrity of clay but do not have a kiln at their fingertips. Most air-dry clay types have a mineral base and feature similar to the traditional clays.
They cure evenly within a few days and do not need to be fired to resist in time and keep their initial shape. However, artists should be aware of the main downside of air-dry clay vessels and sculptures, which is fragileness.
In other words, air-dry clay objects are weaker than traditional kiln-fired ceramics. Luckily, these air-dry ceramics can be sealed and hardened using paint and shellac.
So, you know for sure that you don’t need a kiln to perfect your work or spend a lot of time firing the ceramic projects. Therefore, air-dry clay is ideal for those who do not work in a professional environment or do not possess the necessary tools. This material is also excellent for ceramic enthusiasts who want to try something new.
You can easily find air-dry clay in most art and crafts stores, whether these are physical or online shops. This being said, let’s understand better the benefits of air-dry clay in more comprehensive information:
Air-Dry Allows Handbuilding
Air-dry clays work amazingly well when it comes to hand-building techniques. This material is ideal for slab construction, sculpting, or coiling. Artists can use different kinds of armature while working with air-dry clay, as this medium won’t be set down in a kiln. Consequently, these armatures won’t have the chance to melt or burn at high temperatures.
However, let’s not forget about the fragileness of this material, so be careful when working with small additions like fingers or legs. These extra details can break in seconds. To combat this, use wires or piper cleaners and add them to the clay.
Decorations With Air-Dry Clay
Air-dry clay works wonders in making decorative pieces of ceramics. Yet, this material is not food-safe. On the other hand, common clay with the proper glaze cover is perfect for basic plates and bowls, which is not valid for air-dry clay.
So, make sure you use air-dry clay to make only decorative items. This material is splendid in pushing the creativity to come by unique pieces that aren’t meant to use for eating.
No risk of breaking
Considering you won’t use a kiln, air-dry clay has no risk of breaking or exploding at high temperatures. Moreover, you do not have to risk your time crumbling down in the kiln, as air-dry clay will cure independently. Hence, you can save time completing the ceramic projects. Still, ensure the clay has completely dried, so there is no risk of cracking.
Add color without glazing.
Another advantage of using air-dry clay is adding color in the same way you would do with regular clay, without using glaze. The only downside here is that while you won’t be using glazing, you won’t be able to do those effects you would typically do with this additional layer. So keep in mind this aspect.
Tip: Use your creativity and experiment with different air-dry clay mediums. Play with acrylic, markers, tempera paints, colored pencils, or watercolor ink.
Paper Clay and Air-Dry Clay. The Main Contrasts
Now that we have outlined the main characteristics of each type of clay, it is safe to say that they are pretty different. Both are considered to be clay, but they have particular uses and qualities. Therefore, take them into consideration, and determine what is right for you.
But let’s recap a little. This way, you can really make a decision based on facts.
So, if you are looking for a more robust core in time, suited to larger structures, and still not too heavy, paper clay is the right choice for you. Also, you can make your paper clay and save a lot of money.
However, don’t forget that you will need to fire the paper clay in a kiln, so your projects’ success depends on high temperatures.
On the opposite, air-dry clay does not need to be fixed in a professional kiln. According to the name, this type of clay dries by itself when contacting the air. This particularity helps you a lot in terms of saving time and effort in creating ceramic decors. Moreover, you won’t have to glaze the work either.
Of course, this type of clay comes with its downsides too. Thinner pieces made of air-dry clay can be easily breakable, but as you don’t need to place them in a kiln, you may use pipe cleaners and wires to add more strength to their core.
Before wrapping up, let me answer the most common questions people usually have on the matter.
Q: Can you re-add water to old paper clay?
A: Yes, re-wetting the paper clay mixture is a quick trick. You can also speed up the drying process of this type of clay and expect better results and minor cracking compared to regular clay.
Q: Is air-dry easily breakable?
A: One of the main downsides of air-dry clay is its fragileness. The main reason why this clay will crack is by adding too much water into its composition. Ensure you don’t add too much water when working with air-dry clay.
Q: What is the best clay option for beginners?
A: The air-dry clay might be easier to use, considering you don’t need to fire it at high temperatures. However, this material is not food-safe, so consider using it only for decorative objects.
Last but not least
Understanding the main differences between paper and air-dry clay is essential for determining their primary purposes. Now that you know their features and downsides, it is easier to decide what is best for your project and what tools you will need.