Different Types of Clay Used in Art

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Choose the right kind of clay for your art project. Benefits and disadvantages of various kinds of clay explained.

When we speak about clay in the art world we are generally referring to a whole range of malleable product that we use to create three dimensional projects. Each product has its own unique properties and they are each used in different applications.

Water Based Clay

Water based clay is a natural product dug from the ground and mixed with water. Common water based clay comes in a variety of colors and consistency. You may find that sculpture supply houses have their own unique mixture with a range of additives. You will likely find a favorite if you order samples or small quantities from different shops. Common colors are red gray brown and less often cream. You will also find that some clay is more gritty than others. 

Benefits of water based clay are that it is a product that can easily be manipulated. It is soft and pliable if kept moist and this can be a real benefit for working quickly when doing quick figurative work. Water based clay is what ceramicists use when making pottery and sculptors use it for terra cotta work. It must be fired for a finished product.

The disadvantages to using water based clay, is that it dries out quickly so if you are working on a project over many days you will have to keep it moist. To overcome this problem mist your work gently with a spray bottle and cover it with plastic wrap or a plastic bag. The opposite problem occurs when the clay is too wet and you may have sagging and shifting in your work from day to day. Working intricate details into water based project can be challenging. Allowing the clay to dry a bit before working details is recommended.


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