Can You Sand Air Dry Clay? (Using Sandpaper)

In present times, air-dried clay is very popular. It is a relatively simple and low-cost medium to use. The possibilities for innovation were indeed limitless.

Whether you are just starting out with air-dry clay or have been sculpting for decades, you have probably encountered a few stumbling blocks.

Individuals routinely attempt out creative mind-turning initiatives or approaches with air-dry clay, and even though things do not really go as intended, Instead, they have a sticky, breaking, collapsing disaster on their hands! Not only that effort and cash gets wasted unnecessarily.

Although they appear to be simple, an absence of sufficient information causes everything to go incorrectly. So let’s discuss all the common asked questions on air-dry clay. 

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So, can you sand air dry clay? (with sandpaper)

To soften the layer of your piece of art or sculpture, you can certainly sand air dry clay. It is extremely crucial to use fine-grit sandpaper while sanding air dry clay. Clay is easily sanded, and a coarser grit may remove more substance or material than you prefer. Once sanding air dry clay, wet sanding is just not strongly advised.

Don’t be shocked and surprised if you notice crack propagation in your air-dry clay as air-dried clay could indeed crack. You could perhaps smooth out the surface with sandpaper before filling in the holes with a primer. 

So, once it had already dried, you could indeed easily repair crack propagation in air-dry clay. 

After you have stuffed in the gaping holes, go beyond the model again with sandpaper, followed by water and soft brushing.

Sanding the air-dried clay with the help of a fine-grit sanding paper can result in an absolutely flawless exterior. However, this must be done only until the clay is appropriately blended, pressed down, and there are no empty spaces or holes called “air pockets” within the clay. 

Sanding could also very well expose any sort of air pockets, which would lead to an increase in unsightly indentations and gaps.

Don’t be too concerned if this occurs to you. You can easily wet the area in which the hole is with a small amount of water. 

Afterward, apply a small amount of clean, air-dried clay and stuff it into the small opening.

It is only after that that you can sand around and over it after it has dried. It’s really very easy.

While sanding your artwork, be careful not to overdo everything. 

Begin with the finest grit sandpaper you can find and gradually work your way up.

If the sandpaper grit was too fine, try a rough surface grit.

However, if you begin with coarse-grit sandpaper, you will most likely prevent quite so much substance in one go. So just be cautious.

You should also avoid wet sanding your air-dried clay. Since wet sanding can be very much beneficial for a variety of other materials, air-dried clay will absorb moisture, and sandpaper over wet clay will only soften the outer layer.

You can use some jewelry files if you want to make extremely in-depth artworks or sculptures. These are all very pleasant as well as tiny, allowing you to easily achieve and smooth difficult zones.

How do you get a smooth finish with air-dried clay?

Below are listed the steps to a smooth finish with air-dried clay 


Since not all air-dry clays are created equal, selecting a high-quality clay will boost your odds of accomplishing a seamless, smooth finish. Here’s an article about my favorite clay. Stone clays, such as “La Doll” or “Premier,” have fewer noticeable fibers than “Paperclay.” Also since “La Doll” clay contains powdered pumice rock among its ingredients, it is reasonably strong once dried and ideal for sculpting.

You can certainly receive successful outcomes with the help of “Paperclay” as well. However, if you are just starting out, stone clay is a wiser choice.


Sanding is an unavoidable step, no matter how tough it is to smooth out all the clay while it’s wet. You’ll need to have a variety of sanding papers, ranging from coarse to really smooth, for this. When buying sandpaper, you’ll come across terms like 60-grit, 120-grit, and 200-grit.

Grit digits could differ in different nations, so give importance not just to the digits but also to the sandpaper itself.

The finer the sandpaper, the larger the number. You can begin by polishing rough surface areas and removing bigger cracks in the clay with medium sandpaper of 60-120 grit. After that, move further to fine sandpaper (160-240 grit) and super fine (400-800 grit) sanding papers to smooth the clay. The sanding procedure is extremely tiring, but it is essential to achieve a smooth surface. Sanding one sculpture takes a few hours, so plan accordingly.

While sanding, you will very well notice that no matter how often you sand or how fine the sandpaper, fluff remains on the layer of the clay. Due to the obvious mixture of clay, the relatively small fibers cannot be sanded down fast except if you polish for hours with highly fine sandpaper. 


Once your sculpture has been thoroughly sanded with fine sandpaper and all imperfections have been eliminated, coat the entire layer with clean water and a soft watercolor brush. It is absolutely essential that the brush be flat and exceptionally smooth. This procedure plays a vital role by reattaching all of the fibers to the exterior and can be repeated several times. Sit tight for the clay to fully dry before slowly sanding it with super-fine sandpaper and coating it with water again. Do it once and mostly in the regions where there seems to be noticeable fluff.


This stage is optional, but sometimes it can start filling in small crevices a little and the exterior a little more. The main problem with many of these primers is that they are gray, making it difficult to color your sculpture afterward.


The final stage in accomplishing that super-soft finish is painting. It is advised to use white acrylic or spray paint. With acrylic paint, you need a very smooth watercolor brush to prevent brush traces, which will spoil your smooth surface texture once more. If the paint is too heavy or thick, water it down. It is preferable to build up the color in thin lines rather than in a single thick one.

Use white spray paint if you are experiencing problems with acrylic paint and brush streaks. To prevent paint-drenched traces, cover the exterior in thin layers. Allow every surface to dry before spray painting from a distance. Lastly, do not forget to read the packaging label for clear and specific instructions. 

How to start working with air dry clay? 

We have compiled a list of 10 tips for working with air-dried clay that will be able to save you time and money.

  1. Prepare your work area.

Don’t be shocked if anything really gets stuck to your clay when you’re still carrying out a task. Clay attracts dog hair, lint, and dust bunnies! Begin with a clean, smooth surface to assist yourself.

You’re also advised to use a silicone craft mat, wax paper, or maybe even a kitchen or tea towel as a surface. This allows you to transfer your tasks effectively and even without sticking to your surface. 

  1. Deal with the stickiness.

Air dried clay is extremely sticky. It will adhere to your hands, work surface, and tools. Not all air dried clay is the same. Crayola Air Dry Clay is indeed convenient to deal with. Other than that, there is the Model Air Dry Clay that is a bit on the pricier side.

In addition, it is also observed that even a slight hand lotion can improve the problem. A slight lotion on your hands when you begin helps reduce the stickiness. 

  1. Safeguard your work.

Apply a damp paper towel to your task, followed by a layer of cling wrap. This prevents your clay from dehydrating out or even allows you to start immediately once you are able.

If your task is taking more time than you ever wanted and anything emerges in the middle of it, you could still put it on hold and return to it when you are fully prepared.

  1. Ensure your project isn’t too thin.

If your air-dried clay is much too thin, it will break quite easily. Taking this into account, make absolutely sure your project gets off to a decent start. To guarantee a more even thickness, enlist the help of a 1/4′′ on an adjustable stainless steel rolling pin.

  1. Providing Your Project with an Expert Finish

It’s normal to have errors or inadequacies when sculpting with air-dried clay. With some water, you can easily soften some of these flaws. Smooth out all these spaces with a tiny sponge and maybe a little water on your fingers. If you use too much water on your project, it will take longer to dry and resolve. 

Don’t be concerned or anxious if you observe certain bad rough spots or patches once your project has solidified or dried. A fine-grit sandpaper could then be used for such marks. 

  1. Adding and joining clay.

You must always sculpt by adding and subtracting clay. Keep in mind to “score” as well as “slip” while adding.

Using a toothpick or a clay sculpting tool, scrape off these two very different layers of the clay. This provides a surface for the fresh lump of clay to cling to. Coat both scored surfaces with just a little “slip”, i.e., wash clay in a paste uniformity. Then, utilizing your finger or perhaps another modeling tool, link them together. This establishes a strong bond that is less prone to cracking or breaking.

  1. Sculpture of a Small Item

While sculpting tinier, extra-comprehensive objects, a rinsing of a ratio of 1:1 PVC adhesive as well as water or liquid could also be used to solidify them. A simple Elmer’s Glue and a water wash will minimize the chances of cracking or breaking.

  1. You’re drying clay.

If applicable, allow for air exposure on all layers of your project. In case you are using a mold, leave your clay to dry thoroughly before removing it from the mold. It will also aid in the drying process.

It is recommended that you toss your projects, if at all feasible. It will enable us to accelerate the process. Often, these projects are dry in 24 hours and yet are wholly treated in 72 hours.

  1. Coloring Air Dry Clay Before:

It’s very simple to make your own colored air dry clay. You could indeed make your own colored clay by using food coloring, high-quality acrylic paint, or watercolor. Simply add a few drops and knead in until the color is uniform all over.

Afterwards, if you really want to paint your item once it has dried, you could do so. You could indeed paint a dry project as preferred with top-notch acrylic paint. Remember to leave enough time between both coats of paint to dry.

  1. Finishing Your Project

There is some disagreement here. After further studies, it appears that the air-dried clay cannot be genuinely “waterproofed.” You could, indeed, consider making it completely waterproof. An acrylic coat or an air-dry coating can be used to cover air-dried clay. 

Frankly speaking, the DecoArt Triple Thick Glaze is extremely preferable in such cases as it has a lovely shiny appearance. ModPodge Acrylic Sealer is used on objects that essentially ought to be guarded against vanishing, cracking, or peeling. Also test the Air Dry Clay Watercolor Palette to see how you can easily expose it to both water and color.

How much time does it take for air-dried clay to dry?

Generally speaking, most air dried clay projects dry in 24 hours but are completely healed in 72 hours.

Could you shorten the drying time of air-dried clay?

The ideal approach to improving the drying of just about any air-dry clay is to dry it in a non-cold, non-humid, and well-ventilated environment. Placing air-dried clay inside an oven at a low temperature to speed up drying will also work. However, this is far more likely to cause crack propagation and is therefore not recommended.

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