The Best Paint for Air Dry Clay for Optimal Results

Sculpting is a popular form of creative DIY and crafting. And for that, many types of clay are used. One of those is Air-Dry clay. As the name states itself, the clay will dry to the air. Because of that, it is trendy amongst crafters. This type of clay is easy to work with, as you will not need an oven or kiln at hand to finish your project in contrast to other types of sculpting clay. 

Next to that, it is often mineral-based and non-toxic, making it a safe choice for kids as well. But, how great would it be to spice up your air-dry craft with a next step: adding some extra creativity and personality by using color? For that, you will need to find yourself some suitable paint goods for it. It is also essential to let this air-dry sculpture sit for drying first for a couple of hours to avoid bleeding colors or the clay softening up again, as it is not waterproof.

Luckily, that won’t spoil the fun. Acrylic paint is one of the most suitable paint types for air-dry clay modeling. It will hold up best compared to other types of paint, such as Tempera. Next to it being durable, it is also budget-friendly in most cases, which is a big win! 

Although acrylic paint is known to be a water-resistant substance, it won’t automatically provide your sculpture with a waterproof seal. For that, it is recommended to seal your paint after applying it. For most air-dry clay modeling projects, acrylic paint will work great, as they are thicker fluids, water-dilutable, and easy to use in many different art mediums. 

But, what is the best paint for air dry clay? To find out, we have put together a comprehensive guide on the best paints of the moment and reviewed them one by one. Also, you will find a few helpful tips and the answers to frequently asked questions around this topic. Enjoy reading! 


#1: Best Overall Choice: Magicfly Bulk Acrylic Paint Set

With no less than 14 different color shades, including white, gold, and silver, Magicfly offers their customers the real deal with this item. This complete set of acrylic paints are of high quality and are easy to blend to achieve your preferred finishing for your air-dry clay projects. The pigments are vibrant and can be used on many different types of surfaces. Each bottle contains 12 oz. and leaves your crafts with a non-fade finish.

On each bottle, the color is clearly stated with a number to avoid confusion. As acrylic paint is known to have a thicker substance, it is vital to shake the bottles thoroughly before use. On top of that, the colors are easy to blend, so you can achieve any color you wish. 

Pros:

  • The package contains 14 different colors
  • Non-toxic for both environment and both kids and adults
  • Quick-drying and good coverage
  • Also suitable to use on canvas, wood, stone, and paper
  • It makes a great gift as well

Cons:

  • Some colors might be sheer
  • Some bottles might not be filled entirely

#2: Best for A Glossy Finish: Spreey Acrylic Paint Set of 18 Colors Rich Pigment

As finding the perfect acrylic paint that leaves your work with a beautiful glossy finish might be hard sometimes, we have done the hard work for you and found the best choice on the market. This set of eighteen different color shades are perfectly suitable to add color to your air-dry clay artworks, or maybe even terracotta pots in the most vibrant tones. The paints’ substance is again quite thick but is despite that easy to blend and thin with water.

Each bottle contains 2 oz of paint and is convenient to use thanks to the flip-top squeezable design. All of them are individually sealed and are, because of that, less likely to leak. Next to that, the colors dry quickly, and all of them have their unique name. 

Pros:

  • The acrylic paint is non-toxic
  • The package contains 18 different colors
  • Quick-drying and with a glossy finish
  • Next to air-dry clay, great to use on terracotta pottery
  • Suitable for both beginners and more experienced users

Cons:

  • The paint might have a slight, undefined smell to them 
  • Some colors may not be as vibrant as expected

#3: Best for Outdoor Decor: Arteza Outdoor Acrylic Paint, Rich Pigment Multi-Surface Paints

Arteza’s package of acrylic paints includes all the right colors for your works of art. This extensive set of paints includes 20 different color shades and is suitable to use on many different types of surfaces, both indoors and outdoors, such as wood, pottery, canvas, paper, small and big crafts, and of course, air-dry clay. The paint dries quickly and leaves a soft finish on your sculptures. 

The colors are highly pigmented and are easy to use for both beginners and experienced acrylic paint users, and won’t bleed over time. A big plus to this acrylic paint set is that it is certified safe and non-toxic as well. Next to eighteen basic colors, the package contains two metallics as well: gold and silver, allowing your creativity to flow freely and create any beautiful crafts in a breeze.

Pros:

  • The acrylic paint has a great coverage
  • The package contains 20 different colors
  • Quick-drying and is suitable for outdoor items
  • ACMI-certified safe and non-toxic
  • Ideal for painting many different surfaces

Cons:

  • The paint might be somewhat thicker than other acrylic paints 
  • Some colors may be hard to blend and might cause clumps

#4: Best Value for Money: MyArtScape Acrylic Paint Set

As a beginning artist in modeling and clay sculpting, there is a chance you are going to purchase and shop for a few tools to start out well. Best case scenario: many values for money options! As we are a big fan of that ourselves (who isn’t!), we couldn’t carry on with the list without adding a good starter option with a good balance between quality and price. This acrylic paint set by MyArtScape does contain significantly fewer colors than the other paint sets, but all of them are easy to blend and are just the basics you will need, with all a smooth finish. 

It is a great set to test out if this is something for you, and with that being said, the bottles have a smaller content to them with 0,4 oz per item. However, each color is high in pigment and is long-lasting and non-toxic. Last but not least, each flask contains a label that indicates the matter of opacity, lightfastness, and pigment codes.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly and great for beginners exploring the field
  • Non-toxic and meets both ASTM D-4236 and EN71-3 standards
  • The package contains 12 different colors
  • Smooth finish
  • The package makes a great option for a gift to people of almost any age, including kids

Cons:

  • The bottles contain significantly less paint than other acrylic paint sets 
  • This might be a less suitable option when your air-dry sculpture is of bigger size as you will likely run out of paint quick

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, we have listed a few commonly asked questions, including an answer to help you find the best paint for your air-dry modeling clay.

Do you need to seal air-dry clay before painting?

No. You don’t have to – however if you want to provide your clay sculpture with a water-resistant finish, it is recommended to seal after using the paint on the air-dry clay. 

What do you use to seal air dry clay?

If you wish to extend the longevity of your air-dry clay sculpture, it is recommended to seal it with a varnish. You are likely to achieve the best results by using an artist-grade sealant or water-based varnish – for example, acrylic sealer or epoxy resin. This makes your craft not just waterproof, but it also prevents it from decoloring due to sun exposure, for example. We recommend a water-based sealant such as this Venus Creator Varnish.

Does air dry clay break easily?

Although air dry clay is slightly more fragile compared to oil- or wax-based modeling clays, it doesn’t mean that it is unpleasant or limiting to work with. If your air-dry clay sculpture does break, there is an easy way to fix it; add, and smooth some water out along the cracks and/or breaks and fill in the uneven parts by using spare clay. 

Do you paint clay before or after baking?

It depends on the type of clay you are using to create your piece. In many cases, both are possible; for example, when using Polymer clay, you can choose to use paint before baking but also after. 

What can I paint air dry clay with?

For the best results, water-based paint such as acrylic paint is recommended. Also, Tempera can be used. It’s important to note that these above-mentioned do need a seal before having a waterproof finish (when used outdoors, for example). Latex or spray-paints would also be an option. These two don’t need any finishing.

How do you get a gloss finish on air dry clay?

In this case, you can use paints that provide your artwork with a glaze of a glossy finish, but also, you can try to opt for Tempera paint. Our recommendation is Van Aken’s Gloss Jazz Paint.


The Takeaway on The Best Paint for Air Dry Clay

When you are seeking a long-lasting, colorful finish on your air-dry clay piece, it is essential to find yourself the right type of paint. For that matter, acrylic paint is a great option as it is water-based, user-friendly, and also extremely budget-friendly. As most of these paints apply a slight sealing effect already, it means that your craft can be done and finished without any complicated extra layers of sealant. However, in some cases, it is recommended to use one to be sure of a waterproof artwork. 

Hopefully, we have helped you find the best paint for your air-dry clay crafts! Please do not hesitate to let us know in the comments what your thoughts are on the best paint for air dry clay, or in case you have any questions about this topic. Get creative and happy sculpting!

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