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What is the difference between light air dry clay and oven-bake polymer clay?

May 17, 2022 5 min read 0 Comments

What is the difference between light air dry clay and oven-bake polymer clay?

With school holidays right around the corner, it is time for parents to think of some activities for their little ones to keep them busy. Don’t worry, we are here to help you out.

One of the foremost holiday activities that you can do with your child is to introduce them to clay. Did you know that clay invigorates curiosity and helps build problem-solving in children?

There are various types of clays to start with, but for starters, here are the two basic types which kids love to play with: light air dry clay and oven-bake polymer baking clay.

To understand their properties, here are some of the main differences between the two types so that your kids can learn to make masterpieces in no time!

Light air dry clay
Let’s start with light air dry clay. As the name suggests, this clay does not need to be fired in a kiln to create a form as it dries out with air. Air dry clay was introduced for those who did not have access to a kiln. It is also a great alternative for those who think baking polymer clay in the oven is a hassle and unsafe for younger children.

Light air dry clay is spongy and light which makes it a very flexible medium to play with. It is arguably the most common type of clay when it comes to teaching beginners and children.

Many air dry clays are mineral based and are therefore similar to traditional, natural clay types. Since it doesn’t require baking, light air dry clay will air dry and harden itself when exposed to air.

You can take only the required amount of clay and keep the unused clay in a sealed airtight bag or container to avoid it from drying up.

Light air dry clay sculptures are very fun to paint with acrylics! Furthermore, they can be glazed which can make them slightly more water resistant.

For air dry clay, it takes up to two to three days to get completely dry. Once it is dried and hardened, a little contact with water can soften it up, but light air dry clay will not be reusable and will retain its shape. If it comes in contact with water, it can ruin the clay work. This clay starts to dry up as soon as it is taken out of the packet.

A huge advantage of working with light air dry clay is the fact that it is quite easy to paint. You are free to paint it with water-based paint as well as oil-based and doesn’t require baking.

Our light air dry clay comes in variety of colors, and they can be mixed to achieve the desired tone just like water color.

One of the biggest advantages of working with light air dry clay is the fact that it’s cheap and therefore affordable by many people. It’s cheap, non-toxic (safe for children) and requires no baking.

Oven-bake polymer clay

Oven-bake polymer clay is one of the most versatile mediums to play with. As the name suggests itself, polymer clay requires to be baked in the oven in order to harden.

Interestingly, oven-bake polymer clay was first developed during World War II by a German doll maker, Fifi Rehbinder who couldn’t find supplies due to the war. She used that clay to make doll heads. 

The best part is it can be baked in a normal kitchen oven and a kiln is not required. It is soft and ductile to work with which makes polymer clay an easy, flexible medium.

Polymer clay is a type of thermoplastic. It is made with polymer polyvinyl chloride which hardens once baked unlike light air dry clay which needs air to dry.

Oven-bake polymer clay is far more durable than air dry clay. Once baked, it becomes quite hard and cannot be broken easily.

Oven-bake polymer clay is only hardened in the oven. You can leave it on the table and it would still be workable unlike light air dry clay which starts to get dry as soon as it gets exposed to air.

You cannot work or make polymer clay soft again once it’s baked. No amount of water can make it soft as it is water-resistant.

We have variety of colors which can eliminate the need to paint, however you can still paint it with acrylics.

Oven-bake polymer clay does not really shrink. There is hardly a visible difference of shrinking in size. On the other hand, light air dry clay shrinks once the water content in it starts to evaporate.

Polymer clay does not easily crack after it is conditioned and baked properly. Therefore it is considered by many as an easier medium as one can take as much time to get familiar with its nature.

One of the biggest advantages of working with Malaysia Clay Art oven-bake polymer clay is that it comes in various colors and textures with endless crafting possibilities.

It is widely used to make almost anything such as charms, jewelry, keychains and sculptures.


Which is better?

If you are planning to make a sculpture, it is important to understand which type of clay will suit best, and in order to decide the medium, knowledge about the properties of various clays is imperative.

When it comes to artists, they work with both, air dry and baking clay. It is mostly about personal preference and needs.

When it comes to sculpting, polymer clay is usually preferred as it is much malleable and does not dry out right away which allows one to take as much time with it as they like.   

Light air dry clay has a spongy feel and can be softened with water which makes it easier to mold and manipulate with hand.

Both types of clay are suitable for beginners to experts. The difference is mainly technique, texture, look, and feel, and a different outcome.

Once the polymer clay is conditioned then the process is pretty easy. You can use various tools and stencils to make and carve out the desired shapes.

Light air dry clay is more popular with younger children because they are non-toxic and requires no baking.

No matter whichever clay you start with, it takes time to understand its nature. If you are planning on enrolling your kid in ceramic class for summer, we would recommend to start with baking clay for its flexibility and the fact that any unfinished project can be easily completed at home or the next day in class.

It really comes down to what you want to make. For example, polymer clay would work best for jewelry, charms, and sculptures. For making dolls and toys for children, light air dry clay is preferred.