7 ways to keep air dry clay from cracking

INSIDE : Learn 7 simple tips to help prevent your Air Dry Clay from cracking during your next craft project.  Also learn some of the reasons why your clay projects may be cracking.

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.

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 my air dry clay tips to keep 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 don’t do anything and typically has 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?

1. 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 clay action and get your project back on track!

Clay Supplies

Why clays cracks when it dries

2.  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.  

How to store air dry clay

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 many people using tupper-ware or other air tight type containers to store and hold their clay to help stop it from drying out too quickly.

Clay Supplies
Colorful Clay Animal Head step by step photo

3.  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 clay piece helps to prevent cracking.

How to stop Air Dry Clay from cracking while you work

4. 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.

5. 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.

Cracked Clay

6. 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.)

7. 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.  

And if you are looking for 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.

47 thoughts on “7 ways 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!

  2. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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. 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.)

  5. 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. 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. 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. 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. 😉

    1. 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!

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

    1. 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. 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. 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.

  7. 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. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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. 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.

    2. 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.

  11. 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. 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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