Introduction: Cold Porcelain Clay Recipe

I was wondering about polymer clay substitutes and decided to experiment with homemade air-dry clays.

This recipes is very fast and easy to make, not to mention inexpensive. There's no need to bake either.

The things that can be modelled from cold porcelain clays are incredible. Its possible to sculpt finer details than polymer clays.  Objects dry to a light-weight, stone like texture. Try it and see where your creativity takes you.

Step 1: Ingredients You Need

This recipe makes one silky smooth, soft cup of cold porcelain clay. Suitable for thin flowers and leaf sculptures.

1 cup cornflour (optional try using rice flour 50:50 mix)
3/4 cup pva (wood) glue
3 drops of eucalyptus or nutmeg oil (for a preservative)
either 1 teaspoon baby oil or 1/2 tsp petroleum jelly (to prevent cracking during drying)
1/4 cup water

(New Recipe! update here, no cracks! How to Make Cold Porcelain Beads)

Step 2: Cook Ingredients

Ensure there is plenty of ventilation or wear a mask. Take care not to burn PVA as it may be toxic.

This will take only a few of minutes to form into a round mass.

Mix cornflour with water until free of lumps.  Stir in pva glue and oils. Blend until smooth.

Stir on very low heat until the mixture forms first into a sticky glue then a thick ball. (Around 9 minutes)

The texture should be quite sticky.  Once you roll out on a board or sink bench top, everything will come together.  If the texture is rubbery and difficult to mold into thin petals it seems the clay has gone past redemption and is totally unusable and needs to be chucked in the bin.

I experimented with trying to recycle the rubberised mixture and after 72 hours soaking in water it softened and returned to a soft, pulpy mass.

Step 3: Recipe Tips

 I found out later my mixture made up of half a cup of water resulted in various cracks on thick sculptures but the thin flower sculptures were fine. So I changed my recipe to minimal amount of water and added1/2 teaspoon of vaseline instead to prevent cracks during drying. When you add acrylic/oil paint this will be sufficient liquid to soften the mixture further.

Wearing gloves you then need to knead the warm clay until it is smooth texture as in the video and picture below. I try not to add too much flour (after cooking) as the dough became sticky.

Test the texture of your cold porcelain mixture - you should be able to press its nearly paper thin - great for making leaves and flowers.

* Wrap in cling wrap and store in an air tight container immediately after finishing making the clay to prevent drying out.

* Can keep up to a month. If frozen can be kept indefinitely.

* Do not store in fridge or it will harden too quickly to be used again. Steam to restore hard cold porcelain clay for easier blending with a softer batch.  I noticed less cracks on drying.

* Cooking utensils shouldn't be used for food again for safety.

* The less water you add the less likely your sculpture will crack or shrink. Some recipes are 1:1 with cornflour and glue ratios.

Step 4: Colouring the Cold Porcelain Clay

I used food colouring here.

Later I shall experiments with acrylic and oil paints and varnishing with acrylic gloss mediums.

A cold porcelain clay producer site recommends adding colouring when you need it and storing coloured cold porcelain clay may be detrimental to it. The reason is until a cold porcelain clay sculpture is waterproofed with varnish - once soaked in a bowl of water it will return to the gluey mixture before cooking.

Step 5: Leaf Sculptures & Colouring Techniques

Here are some experiments with the hard + soft mix. Next time I'll make a soft batch only for the flowers. I have a penchant for roses!

First I scribbled on a bit of cardboard with some coloured pastels then brushed them onto the flowers.  This technique is great for faces to create subtle makeup effects.

Step 6: Experiments With Hard and Soft Mixtures

Here is a recent test using one very firm mixture cold porcelain and a softer mixture.

The firm batch was mixed with a soft batch and kneaded thoroughly. Afterwards, the test piece hardened and did not crack.

With the softer batch there was a huge crack where I'd stuck on extra pieces for muscles.

* Knead thoroughly and smooth with a bit of water before use, to ensure there are no cracks. One tiny crack will eventually shrink into a huge crack.

* Cold porcelain clays tend to shrink to 15%-30% in size.

* Its recommended not to sculpt solid thick pieces as they tend to crack. Envelope thinner sheets around an armature eg squashed ball of aluminium foil or wire armatures padded with aluminum foil or other light-weight materials such as styrofoam or cardboard.

Step 7: Fixing Cracks

* Fixing cracks - dab on a bit of pva glue into crack. Add on a suitable size of cold porcelain clay to fill the crack - I used the soft batch, after a couple hours the large cracks mended perfectly.

* Some recipes recommend using handcream for smoothing and modelling. Then say if more than 2 tablespoons added the mixture may go mouldy. I found that water to smooth joins works well. So I would leave out the handcream.

* During sculpting, keep extra pieces covered to prevent drying out.

* Add a tiny bit of pva and water mix to help smooth joins and additional pieces together

* Small pieces dry in around 8 hours to a floppy texture. Larger pieces may take longer.

* Experiment with wire armatures covered with cloth tape for added strength.

* I found that my thinly rolled flower test pieces cracked less than the sculpted heads I'd formed and addition facial muscle pieces began to crack at the joints. Next time I'll use pva glue to smooth the joins properly.

Step 8: Making Armatures

This is a visual tutorial on making hand armatures. 

Using the finest wires possible you can find, wrap them in double-sided sticky tape. I watched the Ardman method of making plasticine characters and they use cloth tape.  I find that double-sided sticky works just as well.

The wires will stick together easily. Roll thin pieces around the wires for the fingers. I used a stick dipped in water for a mini rolling pin to sculpt and mold the clay below.

The pictures are easy to follow.  With the different hardness' of cold porcelain clay there was problems with cracking with the softer clays. I can only conclude that less water is best for a clay mix.

I've also included steps for modelling hands without armatures.

Step 9: What You Can Do With Cold Porcelain Clay

I shall put up some examples of my experiments soon. In the meantime here are some lovely examples to enjoy. Notice when the porcelain clays dry there is a glassy appearance.

Rolling Techniques
My next instructable will be about how to make buttons using cold porcelain clay or playdough clay.  The wonderful thing about cold porcelain clay is that it can be rolled very thin and even pulled through a pasta machine while sandwhiched between two pieces of plastic eg. acetate or contact paper might be a good idea.  I'll put up some flower examples that I've been working on soon.

Check out this instructable for drawing and modelling tips which will help greatly with creativity.

I love the downloadable e-books, (several free) about flower making using cold porcelain clay videos from the Thai Flower Art company which produces gorgeous artificial flowers.  Clear high quality videos available showing how to make leaves and flowers. Also how to colour your cold porcelain clay tips. A great resource.