Introduction: How to Make Conductive Play Dough.

Picture of How to Make Conductive Play Dough.

All credits go to the people over at the squishy circuits website.

I was on hackaday earlier this year and I found an article on squishy circuits.  I thought making circuits from play dough sounded like a very interesting idea.  I did some research into it and it seemed simple enough; different ingredients created different values of resistance and so on.  I thought about it, and decided that I had to make some for myself.  I threw some together and it worked great!  In this instructable I will provide the recipe for conductive dough, insulating dough, as well as some ideas for circuits you can build out of it.  I think this has enormous potential in a classroom setting, being able to teach students how circuits work, something that I didn't even understand until about three years ago.  I can just imagine a whole class of students showing off their creations that glow, and make cool noises.

Step 1: Conductive Dough

Picture of Conductive Dough

In order to make the conductive dough, you will need the following:

1 cup Water
1 1/2 cups Flour
1/4 cup Salt
3 Tbsp. Cream of Tartar*
1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
Food Coloring

*9 Tbsp. of Lemon Juice may be Substituted

Mix water, 1cup of flour, salt, cream of tartar, vegetable oil, and food coloring in a medium sized pot.

Cook over medium heat and stir continuously.

The mixture will begin to boil and start to get chunky.

Keep stirring the mixture until it forms a ball in the center of the pot.

Once a ball forms, place the ball on a lightly floured surface.

Slowly knead the remaining flour into the ball until you’ve reached a desired consistency.

Step 2: Insulating Dough

Picture of Insulating Dough

In order to make the insulating dough, you will need the following:

1 1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Water

Mix solid ingredients and oil in a pot or large bowl, setting aside ½ cup flour to be used later.

Mix with this mixture a small amount of  water (about 1 Tbsp.) and stir.

Repeat this step until a majority of the water is absorbed by the mixture.

Once your mixture is at this consistency, knead the mixture into one “lump”.

Knead more water into the dough until it has a sticky, dough-like texture.

Now, knead the flour into the dough, until a desired texture is reached.

Step 3: Circuit Ideas

Picture of Circuit Ideas

Some provided on the website are: building a circuit with lights, using the conductive dough as a variable resistor, connecting buzzers, motors, LED's, basically anything that could use this to replace wire.  I will be posting more instructables soon on projects involving the play dough.  If you prefer to have the electronics in a kit, check the squishy circuits store.  Please rate, vote, subscribe, and leave comments!  

EDIT:  I will give a pro account to whoever comes up with the best idea to use this play dough for, so leave a comment and you can win a free pro membership!


BrunoD94 (author)2017-10-26

Can you bake it in the oven or heat it up to make it more rigid and strong? Will it still guide electricity?

techxpert (author)2012-01-28

will the play dough heat up if the battery leads are connected directly to a thin strand ?

jastreich (author)techxpert2013-01-30

The dough has pretty high resistance, so a short across it shouldn't cause too much heat...

njmalhq (author)jastreich2017-06-13

At lower voltages.

care to elaborate?

GASSYPOOTS (author)2012-01-02

if u used tartar dont eat it (tartars a laxitive)

zebede5 (author)GASSYPOOTS2012-01-24

If you use PlayDo dount eat it. (PlayDo is toxic)

njmalhq (author)zebede52017-06-13

PlayDough is made for kids. It isn't toxic. Not in the normal sense of the word, any more than the bread you buy from grocery stores. Please don't make this stuff up.

satoko68 (author)GASSYPOOTS2015-01-12

Cream of tartar is commonly used in foods without any problems related to a 'laxative' effect.

Badger55 (author)2017-05-03

Hail impact penetration evaluation system.

Layering the dough like a series of pancake. Each layer separated of the next by a thin layer of non conductive dough. The top layer is the one providing the current.

An object penetrating the layers compress/blend the layers that it penetrate allowing the current to pass between each other. Thus giving a rough estimate of how deep the object went.

This sensor can be used to evaluate cheaply the penetration power of any small object. (Hail, Falling object [Science project], impact of a slug from a sling shot, CSI style [knife penetration], meteorite [I must be hallucinating], etc.)

The only drawback is that it cannot be reset. But so what, it so cheap do make.

This can be use by school or anyone else.

HLightning11 (author)2016-03-29

IDEA: try usong as an extention cord ( if figure out how to not get it stuck in sockets)

HLightning11 (author)2016-03-29

IDEA: try usong as an extention cord ( if figure out how to not get it stuck in sockets)

HLightning11 (author)2016-03-29

IDEA: try usong as an extention cord ( if figure out how to not get it stuck in sockets)

Mennie71 (author)2015-12-24

will the play dough harden and if so how quickly?
(play dough used, not play dough stored)

furrysalamander (author)Mennie712015-12-24

The same as normal play dough

heatherlaura (author)2015-11-14

STEM lesson for my Brownies group! What better way to help young ladies learn about circuits than letting their imaginations go wild with play dough!

Slay. (author)2013-03-15

If i were (and i may be in the process of doing this) to find some bouncy play-doh, kneed in some iron powder so it would be magnetic, and then do this to it, would it still bounce, be conductive, and be magnetic? also, is the iron powder alone enough to make it conductive (the doh was NOT conductive to begin with due to it being a knock-off called bouncy-doh).

furrysalamander (author)Slay.2013-03-15

Possible, what you mean by do this to it. But I'd imagine the iron would make it conductive already.


ginny.williamson.5 (author)2014-09-17

Hi - I'm trying to help my 4th grader design a science project with only one variable. Her original idea was to see whether cookie dough or pizza dough was more conductive (not workable - too many variables). Could you instead suggest two recipes for playdough where only one ingredient differs - and that might give her interesting results as far as conductivity or resistance? What can I say - I'm a musician :).

I realize it's way too late for the science project, but a single variable you could change is the amount of cream of tartar used. See if adding different amounts with the rest of the recipe staying the same makes it more or less conductive.

JoLoveN (author)2015-06-06

I'm just now seeing this. I wonder if you put it in straws or tubing, maybe like IV tubing or the things they put around you head & in your nose to give you O2 when your in the hospital... Something like that, if you put it in it, would it stay wet instead of drying out? If so, you could use any kind of little lights to place wherever on the tubing & poking a small hole to attach the lights & then sealing it so the dough stays wet longer. Then attach power & use it for whatever. Or put the dough in a long tube & use it like an extension cord.

PatrickH8 (author)2015-03-26

Could I use the dough to make a capacitor, and how would I do it?

Jan_Henrik (author)2014-05-05


Nerko-erko (author)2012-04-05

Instead of insulating dough, could one use normal play dough?

jastreich (author)Nerko-erko2013-01-30

No, Play Dough is conductive as well. You could get away with only making the insulating dough and using Play Dough as the conductive dough though.

CrimsonandCoal (author)2012-07-17

I really ejoyedthis. I mixed up a coupleof batches toshow how the brain might conduct electricity. The dtudents kovedit.


BrownDogGadgets (author)2012-04-06

Thanks so much! I made this for my 8th graders and they loved it. I even had some 3rd graders playing with it as well. They could not believe that we were playing with play doh in 8th grade.

But hey, that's science!

Nice! I'm in eighth grade too. I'm glad you tried my project!

techxpert (author)2012-01-28

great job!!! :)

Ugifer (author)2012-01-19

This is excellent stuff!

I might well combine this with the "555 piano" circuit:

You could tape a wire to a spoon and make a "keyboard" out of dough. I guess you would make "fingers" for keys joined by a fairly thin bar at the top to give the resistance.

The resistance of the dough would probably be high enough to give a different pitch for each note! If not, just use less salt in the recipe.

I sometimes do simple projects with my 6-year old and some of her friends so we might make this one, I reckon.

leegeorg07 (author)2012-01-07

I assume changing the amount of Tartar sauce changes the resistance? If so, you could try make colour coded resistors using it somehow. Or show how you can substitute a group of resistors for one larger one. by colour coding them.

It would work, I think, but a better way to do this would be to just change the way you have them connected. Short fat wires=Low resistance, Long skinny wires=High resistance

I should have said, I mainly meant for teaching the resistor colour codes. *note to self, add context*

Dhunter1469 (author)2012-01-04

I'm sooooooooo gonna try this just if it dries it might become like sugru:)))
( we dont gt sugru in SA )

It dries like regular playdo, unfortunately. Gets dry and crumbly.

MR.Geo (author)2011-12-29

This stuff could have come in handy when I was learning about resistivity in my Advanced Subsidary physics course.

resistance=resistivity*length/cross sectional area.

virgimiagrandma (author)2011-12-27

Amazing! I never would have thought of this! 

solomonhorses (author)2011-12-25

Nice stuff! I made some and made a xmas tree with it about ten inches tall, and the wood in the middle was 2 strips of brown and one strip of insulating green twisted to look like a candy cane. and all of the lights were conducting leds off branches, poked in:}Merry late xmas!

post a picture! It might get you a free pro membership!

epignosix (author)2011-12-20

I think this would work well in a car cig lighter outlet if you have the conductive part insulated. You could put a bunch in box to give yourself multiple 12v connections I think....

wilgubeast (author)2011-12-16

That looks like an awesome way to learn circuitry. Good on you for entering it into the Teacher Contest.

I would counsel against traveling with this, as it looks ever-so-slightly like a plastic explosive. An educational plastic explosive, though, no matter how sketchy wires protruding from a plasticine substance may look.

you can win a pro membership by showing me what you make with this.

masterfireeater (author)2011-12-17

Can you use it to make a circuit board?

ivanjacob (author)2011-12-16

you can use it to make sure firework doesnt fall down

electrical uses

suresh.gopikrishnan (author)2011-12-16

In case the batteries don't fit into the battery case that well, you can put the dough in there and make it fit snugly.

elizjvv (author)2011-12-15

Why not enter this into the teacher competition? I teach Maths and English, this makes me wish I was a science teacher. Very cool.

furrysalamander (author)elizjvv2011-12-15

Please rate!

elizjvv (author)furrysalamander2011-12-15

Voted & rated

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm still working on my electronics skills. If you see a flaw in any of my crazy plans, feel free to let me know!
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