7 ways to keep air dry clay from cracking

INSIDE : Learn simple 7 tips to help your Air Dry Clay from cracking during your next craft project.  Also included is why your clay projects may be cracking and how to make clay soft again.

How to Keep Air Dry Clay from Cracking

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This post has been updated since it’s original August 2018 publish date.

Air dry clay is a popular crafting material because it is easy to use and affordable. However, it can be prone to cracking, especially if it is not dried properly.

Here are some tips to help you keep your air dry clay from cracking.

Why does Air Dry Clay crack?

If you have used Air Dry Clay, you know that time and air exposure assists in the clay beginning to dry out and harden, hence “air dry” clay.  

Sometimes as the clay dries, you will notice small cracks forming.  I have received many emails asking me,

Oh no!!  Why is my Air Dry Clay cracking??”

At first you might want to break out into a panicked mess, as you worry that your project is slowly turning into a disaster!  But rest assured there are a few easy tips to repair and restore your project.  

Keep reading below for tips to keep air dry clay from cracking.  You might also be interested in my post about Tips, techniques and tricks for using Air Dry Clay.

  • Air-dry clay is a natural clay that comes from the earth and hardens when it dries.  
  • Baking air dry clay is not required. Some people think you need to cure it in the oven, but it really doesn’t do anything to the clay and typically baking air dry clay in the oven only gives it minimal shrinkage.  
  • An added bonus is that clean up after crafting with air dry clay is fairly simple.  

Does Air Dry Clay crack very easily?

Yes, air dry clay can crack easily, but there are a few things you can do to prevent it.

Repair cracks quickly

The number one way to prevent and then fix your cracked clay is to quickly notice when the crack begins to appear and then start repairing them right away.  

If you start to notice a few small cracks, it is best to not wait until the clay has completely dried to fix them.  Be sure to follow the steps below to take quick action and get your project back on track!

Mint Green ruler and clay

Why clays cracks when it dries

Use the right amount of water

Air Dry Clay is primarily a water based product. The longer it is out of the packaging and in the open air, the more moisture will evaporate from it.  Most often times too much moisture evaporating from the clay is the reason for cracks.  

When you are working with air dry clay, it is important to use the right amount of water. Too much water can make the clay too soft and prone to cracking. Too little water can make the clay too hard and difficult to work with.

A good rule of thumb is to add water to the clay a little bit at a time until it is soft enough to work with but not sticky.

Air tight containers

Looking for the best way to store air dry clay? Be sure to store your air dry clay in an air tight container.  I use gallon sized zip lock bags to store all my clay and keep it staying as fresh as possible.

I have also seen people use plastic tupper-ware or other air tight type containers to store and hold their clay to help stop it from drying out too quickly.

Clay Materials
Colorful Clay Animal Head step by step photo

Avoid clay becoming too thin

When creating something out of air dry clay, sometimes you can roll out or make something that is too thin.  When the clay begins to dry, out in the open air, the thinner pieces of clay can slightly begin to crack.  

Do your very best to make every part of your work more than 1/4-inch thick. Keeping a consistent thickness throughout the piece helps to avoid clay cracks.

Thick pieces of air dry clay are more likely to crack than thinner pieces. However, if you are making a thick clay piece, try to hollow it out to reduce the amount of clay that needs to dry.

Handle clay with care

Handle the clay gently to avoid stressing or tearing it. Avoid dropping or bending the air dry clay too sharply, as this can also lead to cracks.

How to stop Air Dry Clay from cracking while you work

Equal moisture content

Preventing air dry clay from cracking while you work involves keeping its moisture content even and handling the clay with care.

Adding too much water to your DIY air dry clay can sometimes result in a crack.  Do your best to keep the clay moist as you work, but not overly saturated with water.  

If you have too much water, I recommend setting your clay out to dry for an hour or two before continuing on.

Score Clay

When you are joining two pieces of clay together, this can be a highly prone area to crack later on.

Make sure to connect each piece together by having both pieces be equally dry.  

Also you can “score” the pieces (score = make a crosshatch type pattern with a toothpick or a sharp clay tool) on the connecting surfaces for better adhesion.

Work in small batches

Instead of working with a large lump of clay, divide it into smaller portions. This way, you can focus on one section at a time, keeping the unused clay wrapped in plastic or stored in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out.

Use slip to make connections stronger

Use a “slip” type mixture to act like clay glue when bonding two pieces together.  (Slip = a watered-down clay paste that is a combination of clay and water that you mix together.)

Allow to dry evenly on all sides

Once you have created your clay piece, keep an eye on it while it dries. Putting it in a cabinet to dry and turning it every few hours to expose a different side, helps the piece dry more evenly.  

Air dry clay needs to dry slowly and evenly to prevent cracking. If you dry it too quickly, the outside of the clay will harden before the inside, which can cause cracks to form. To dry your clay slowly, place it in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. Avoid drying your clay in direct sunlight or in a drafty area.

7 Tips to keep air dry clay from cracking

  • Repair cracks quickly
  • Use the right amount of water
  • Don’t make your clay too thin
  • Score your “joints” when making connections
  • Be careful when handling your clay
  • Use slip when bonding two pieces together
  • Allow to dry evenly on all sides

How to make hard clay soft again it is so simple.

 If you are using air dry clay and it starts getting hard before you are ready for it to dry out, you can simply add a little bit of water into a ziplock bag and place your clay inside.  It may get too wet, but you can “dry it off” a bit with a paper towel or just allow it to sit out in the air again to dry a bit.

With a little care and attention, you can easily prevent your air dry clay from cracking.

How to Keep Air Dry Clay from Cracking


  1. Hi, I’m currently trying to make moulded furniture decorations. My pieces are curving as they dry and I’ll never be able to glue them securely to my furniture this way. Please help with recommendations on how to prevent this. -Thank you

    1. Interesting, curving as they dry… maybe they are drying too quickly then? Try spritzing them lightly with a water bottle and keep shaping them back to their intended form. Maybe a slower dry out will help. Good luck!

      1. Jennifer Detweiler says:

        I just made car diffusers and the same thing happened. They curled. Did you find a solution? I’m wondering if I rolled them too thin. They were less then 1/4”

        1. I would try spraying them with a water bottle to wet and then placing something very light on their edges to keep them from curling while they dry.

  2. linda prescott says:

    Has anyone experienced with Crayola brand tried to prevent cracks by slowing the drying process down, maybe loosely lay siran wrap over it or a large tupperware dome over a project?

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      That may work… it’s worth giving a try! I’ve just slowly filled the cracks with more wet clay.

    2. That’s what I’m doing currently. I molded clay over a Styrofoam head mask only..but leaving on head for prop. Crossing my fingers.

  3. Vanessa Banks says:

    Could you make a sculpture out of air dry clay? And I’m talking about a whole life sized sculpture would that be possible at all? Is not any suggestions out what would work out?

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      I suppose you could, however a few things to note. It would be extremely heavy, I’ve noticed my air dry clay dries heavy. And the thicker the pieces, the longer it takes to dry out and get hard.

  4. Would some cooking oil worked into the clay BEFORE creating your project help to stop the cracking????

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      Great idea, but for Air Dry Clay to dry and harden it has to release it’s moisture. Cooking oil would work, but I am worried that the clay would never dry out properly.

  5. It’s late and I’ve made an air dry clay wand (I’m a potterhead) BUT ITS NOW COVERED IN CRACKS!! It’s been drying for around 3 hours and I’m scared of what it will look like tomorrow, how can I fix it? Pls help

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      I would make a slurry mixture, so clay and water and fill in some of those cracks with a paintbrush or your finger.

      1. That’s a great idea. Everytime I use air dry clay it crack..I dont use water. Sometimes I moist my fingertips then dab on paper towel. (I still get cracks.) I’ve thicken the clay on my sculpture. (I still get cracks.)

  6. I used Craylo magic mold to use as a clay to use for my cats paw prints.. Woke up this morning it is all cracked and ruined.. He will not allow me to do it again… Can I add more mold to get rid of the cracks and use a aryclic sealer to hold it together. I am putting a question mark but it showing the let e in french

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      Lindsey: I’m so sorry to hear your project has cracks in it. Yes, I’ve taken air dry clay and added a little bit of water to it, to make a slurry mixture and then filled in cracks with that. The key to air dry clay is slow drying. So, sometimes I’ve even very lightly misted it a few times as it’s drying. Good luck!

    2. Grace Martinez says:

      Hi I’m trying to make a football sized lamp (for and Aladdin production) I’ve seen others use floral foam at the center and clay to surround and make their shape. I did so and left my clay overnight. The next more there were so many cracks! Please help. Is it perhaps I put to thin of a layer surrounding my form? What can I do to prevent the majority cracks so in the morning I could added more layers and fill the cracks before completely drying?

      1. delineateyourdwelling says:

        I think in larger sized air dry clay projects, getting cracks is pretty common. I talked about making a slurry in my post and I think that may be these best for you. Basically you take a small amount of air dry clay and add water to it. As cracks form, while it dries, you then “paint on” the slurry mixture to the cracked areas. And slowly it will dry and fill in those cracks. Give this a try! Thanks. 😉

  7. Can you recomend a way of creating a mold for a natural clay mask? Would silicone work?

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      Hm, that’s a great question. I’ve not made something using a mold, but it seems that silicone would be a good idea to try!

  8. I want to know how to keep my creation flat after drying

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      Ghina : Great question. What are you making? Is it curling up or something?

  9. Cameron Champ says:

    Hello, I’ve been wanting to make a mask of air-dry clay, about the size of a normal face. Any tips?

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      Will it be a mask you wear? Air Dry Clay dries fairly heavy, so I would recommend keeping it thick enough to not break, but thin enough to not be really heavy. Good luck!

    2. I made lippan art project with air dry clay and left it in open room to dry. Next day morning when woke up my clay shrunk. How do I prevent this and steps to prevent shrinking

      1. delineateyourdwelling says:

        Great question. I am thinking maybe your clay was too wet to start with? I think air dry clay often does a little bit of shrinking, but typically not too much – unless it’s super wet.

        1. Which clay do you recommend for lippan art so no shrinkage happens

  10. have you thought about molding aluminum foil in a cup shape that way it has plenty of air and would probably draw a lot better

  11. hello – how suitable is air dry clay for a drinks coaster? will it absorb water and crack?

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      Great question. I think you should probably use a polymer clay that can be baked for a drink coaster. With time, air dry clay will absorb the moisture and start to get soft again.

    2. You could try sealing it with epoxy resin. It will also give it a great gloss.

  12. Do you think it works to have an entire model of a fort made of all air-dry clay done in a few days? I need to do a school project.

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      As long as the clay isn’t built super thick… the thicker the walls of your fort, for example, the longer it will take to dry out and get hard.

  13. Debra Greene says:

    Does this happen to all flat ! I’m a first timer here and used crayola for the first time. I just made little balls for grapes. They came out fine ! I hope this clay will work as good.

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      Glad to hear your grapes turned out so well. I love air dry clay and think it’s a great product.

      1. Debra Greene says:

        Well thank you for your input. Well then I will stick to this clay and take it out tomorrow. Thanks again

  14. Christian Sampson says:

    I’m thinking of making a clay ornament for Christmas and I’m thinking of doing it like a figurine. Is air-drying clay good to use?

    Also, does air-drying clay do well if you use sculpting tools to make it? I know there are certain things that I have to do to make the figurine.

  15. I have a clay paw print that was made when my dog was put down. I noticed that it is starting to crack around the edges. How do I preserve this. I dont want to lose this paw print.

    1. Just an added note. It has been two years and is fully dried.

    2. delineateyourdwelling says:

      And the cracks just started after it being dry for a few years? Hm… I am not sure about this. I would think for the most part it shouldn’t do any more cracking. Do you handle it a lot? Are the cracks severe or just small around the edges? I wish I had a great answer for you. I would recommend taking a picture maybe because it’s so special you just want to make extra sure you always have something to remember of your sweet dog.

    3. Have you considered covering it in a resin? I don’t have experience with this, but I feel that may help preserve it. Or you could make a mold with the print you already have? I know this must be very precious to you.

      1. delineateyourdwelling says:

        Great suggestion, Kate! Thanks for the ideas.

  16. Does air dry clay need to be wedged?

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      No, it doesn’t. At least I never have with any of the air dry clay projects I’ve made. Great question!

  17. We had a class of high school aged students use air dry Crayola clay for an art project. They used a plastic cup and used coiling techniques to cover the outside of the cup. When I got home I placed the cups in my basement to dry. 2 days later I noticed that every cup had cracks and many of the pieces had fallen right off the cup. What should we have done differently ?? Sad to see this project fail.

    1. delineateyourdwelling says:

      Kerrie: Thanks so much for asking this question. I am wondering if part of the issue was that the clay couldn’t dry properly since it was up against a plastic cup? It’s normal to have a few cracks as it dries… I always keep my eye on it and patch with some fresh “wet” clay to help fill in those cracks. I am wondering if you would maybe remove the plastic cup a few hours after it starts to dry, if that might help get better air circulation? Just ideas.

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