The term ‘modeling clay’ covers a whole group of various malleable products which are used for building and sculpting by children, hobbyists, art students and professionals including animators and potters. All the types of this material are extremely flexible. Such clay is usually shaped with the help of special modeling tools for sculpting, texturing, blending, thinning, scraping, cutting and poking. These malleable products can also be rolled in pasta makers or by rolling pins, molded and worked with potato mashers, garlic presses or extruders to create various interesting effects. You can either build up modeling clay on its own or build it onto a special pre-formed armature. The latter will make it much easier to give shape to this soft, supple material. Speaking of the basic types of modeling clay, there are four of them.
Oil-based Modeling Clay. It is sometimes called plasticine because of a famous genericized trademark which started to produce this material in Bathampton in 1900. Oil-based modeling clay is very useful thanks to several distinct properties. First of all, unlike wax and pottery clay it stays soft and workable for a long time as it neither dries nor hardens. Secondly, oil-based modeling clay is produced in many different colors and separate pieces can be blended in order to create a new tint. Thirdly, unlike pottery clay, this material does not stick to your hands. And finally, it cannot be burnt.
Polymer Modeling Clay. This material has several types which are commercially produced by several brands such as Sculpey®, Premo® and Fimo®. All of the listed products have certain degrees of softness which differ from one kind of polymer modeling clay to another. They are available in a wide range of colors as well as plasticine and they too can be mixed. On top of that, there are some extra tints which have been created especially for polymer modeling clay, including fluorescent, translucent and metallic. Several products have other interesting features like a stone texture or glowing in the dark.
Dough Modeling Clay. It may be either edible (for example, like cookie dough) or inedible and you can easily make such material at home in both uncooked and cooked versions. Dough modeling clay is less expensive than the other types listed in this article. It is made of such cheap ingredients as flour, cornstarch, oil and water. You can color your dough modeling clay while cooking or add some tints when it is ready.
One of the most useful features of this material is that it is reusable. However, it is worth noticing that flour-based products often have a tendency to crush as they dry.
Firing Clay or Pottery Clay. This type is mostly used for stoneware and pottery. Usually it is worked by hand or on a potter’s wheel and then, after the shaping is done, the material is air-dried and fired in a kiln.
Pottery clay can be rust-colored and it is also available in terra cotta or white (which may appear gray when the product is moist). Although, some trademarks do produce this material in different tints. Pottery clays are described by their firing and raw colors, texture and the thickness(es) and size(s) for which they work best.