How to Color Stamped Images on Air Dry Clay

Paint on Clay
Getty Images: Brian Steele

Air dry clay is a versatile product. It is similar to work with as ceramic clay, however unlike traditional clays it does not require firing in a kiln in order to harden it. Air dry clay, as the name suggests, drys to a very hard and robust state by air drying alone. Air dry clay can be used to make a variety of objects both decorative and practical (such as these air dry clay napkin rings and coasters).

Designs can be impressed on the surface of air dry clay using rubber stamps and this is a great way to achieve a textured look.

If you want to take this one step further you can add color to your stamped image as we have done in the image above. Here, we have highlighted the stamped flower and flower pot with paint and we also painted the outside of the stamped image. This contrasts to make the flower really stand out from the page. This could be enhanced further by using a contrasting color ink to highlight the stamped image.

How to Paint on Air Dry Clay

To add color to your stamped image it is best to use a thick paint such as acrylic paint. This is because the surface of the air dry clay is porous and ink from marker pens can be absorbed into the surface of the clay leaving just a light suggestion of color. This can be fine if you are looking for subtle results, but if you want to add bold colors to your finished design then paint is the way to go.

If you want to use marker pens you might want to try sealing the surface first, perhaps with a clear acrylic varnish or white acrylic paint. This will provide a waterproof surface which will stop the ink from the marker pens sinking into the air dry clay.

Tips for Coloring Air Dry Clay

Here are some tips for coloring the surface of an image stamped into air dry clay:

  • Let the clay dry completely before adding color. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for more information about the drying time of the clay brand you are using.
  • Try sealing the surface of the clay before adding color. This will stop the color from being absorbed into the clay. A plain white acrylic paint will work well, however if you want to preserve the terracotta color of your clay then try using a clear varnish.
  • Add several thin layers of paint rather than one thick layer, this will stop the paint from flaking off.
  • Use a very thin paint brush to paint onto the surface of the clay.
  • Seal the finished piece with varnish to protect it from knocks. If you use a gloss or satin varnish with will add a gloss to your finished piece.

Have fun with air dry clay, rubber stamps and your favorite coloring methods, it is a great way to produce some attractive effects.