Oven Bake Clay VS.Air-Dry Clay

Oven-Bake Clay / Polymer Modeling Clay Versus Air- Dry Modeling Clay – What’s the Difference and Which Should You Use?

Modeling, shaping and creating with modeling clay is both fun and rewarding. Modeling clay is great for crafting figurines, jewelry, home decor or free-standing sculptures. Trying to figure out which clay to use may not be as fun. 

In today’s blog, we’ll explain to you to the differences between oven-bake modeling clay and air-dry modeling clay and help you choose the right modeling clay for you. 


What’s Oven-Bake Clay/Polymer Modeling Clay 


Oven-bake clay, also called polymer clay, as its name suggests, is a modeling clay that’ll harden through baking. Oven-bake clay will remain soft at room temperature and harden when baked in an oven. Oven temperature will vary from brand to brand. 

Please note that when we talk about oven-bake clay in this blog, we’re not referring to modeling clays that require a kiln. Those are usually referred to as earthen clay, ceramic or porcelain.


sculpey oven bake clay

Pros & Cons of Oven-Bake Modeling Clay 



  • Oven-bake clay requires close supervision at all times when baking the clay
  • With oven-bake clay, you have to be careful to keep it covered because it picks up every bit of dust in the air
  • Most oven-bake clays must be kneaded prior to use
  • Many oven-bake clays will stain or damage

Our favorite oven-bake clays:


Creatibles Eraser Clay

What’s Air-Dry Modeling Clay


Air-Dry Clay, also called ADC, is a modeling clay, that as its name suggests, is a modeling clay that air-dries. No heating, no oven – just leave the modeling clay at room temperature and it will begin to harden. Don’t worry, the modeling clay won’t harden while you’re working with it. Air-Dry clay is soft and pliable so you’ll be able to mold and shape it easily into whatever you want. It will completely air-dry overnight.


Super Dough - Air-Dry Modeling Clay

Pros & Cons of Air-Dry Modeling Clay


  • Air-Dry clay comes in a wide variety of colors
  • Air-Dry clay is easy to handle and work with making it easy to shape and mold
  • Air-Dry clay is safe and suitable for all ages from toddlers to grandparents
  • Air-Dry clay has a permanent shape after drying
  • Most brands of air-dry clay are non-toxic
  • Air-Dry clay will not pick up every piece of dust like the oven-bake clay
  • Most air-dry clays don’t need to be kneaded prior to use
  • You can easily mix and blend air-dry clay to make new colors
  • Air-Dry clay won’t stick to or stain your hands
  • Air-Dry clay won’t stain or ruin your clothes or furniture
  • Air-Dry clay can be painted with paint or colored with markers once dried
  • Some air-dry clay brands can be sanded, carved and drilled after drying
  • If air-dry clay becomes hard, you can add a little bit of water and kneed it to make it soft and fresh again


Our favorite air-dry clays:


Air-Dry Pearl Beads Modeling Compound

Which Modeling Clay is Better 

Neither is “better” than the other. It just depends on which is better for you and what you like to create! It takes a bit of experimenting though to find the brand of modeling clay that works best for you and your sculpting needs.

Unlike oven-bake clay, where the clay characteristics are generally similar from brand to brand, the characteristics and quality of air-dry clay can vary drastically. Some clays are soft and marshmallow-like, some are stiff. Some are very durable when dried while some actually stay soft when fully cured and are easily dented or scratched. Some air-dry clays are made with a natural stone based formula, some are paper-based, some are even polymer based. Their self-hardening formulas are the main thing they have in common. The quality varies from brand to brand also. The resin and polymer-based air-dry clays are usually the softest clays and easiest to use. However, the soft clays are not very suitable for fine detail sculpting but are very popular for creating clay flowers.


Modeling Clay


Let us know in the comments below which modeling clay you like better and what you made. 

We hope you found this to be helpful. If you did, let us know in the comments below and be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you get all the exclusives, offers and the latest from Econocrafts. We ask that you share this with anyone who you feel might find this helpful as well. 


Econocrafts Who’s EconocraftsEconocrafts is a manufacturer of unique and exciting arts and crafts kits and hobby supplies. They sell to Schools, After-School, Camps, Recreation Centers, Nursing Homes, Hospitals, Government Agencies, and crafters all over the world. From the classroom to your home, for a party to a DIY project, Econocrafts has everything you need to keep you creatively entertained.

Leave a Reply