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Get a bunch of modeling clay soon!

Get a bunch of modeling clay soon!

A young student’s eye study sculpture.

Hey there ArtSquish educators! Get ready for your upcoming lessons by finding some modeling clay. Every student will need clay to work with.


An advanced student’s inked version of an eye.

We will be working on facial anatomy.

  • EYES

Each of these is a separate lesson, and each of them uses non-hardening modeling clay.

There are a couple of options for clays. Here’s everything you need to know.

Modeling Clay

Modeling clay never hardens, because it’s oil-based. You can get play clay pretty cheap at big box stores when you’re in a time crunch, but you can get better products from art stores or online.

The higher quality clays last much, much longer. The play clays will become slimy or crumbly after a year or even less. Avoid these since they do not cost much less than the best clays, and sometimes even more.

Modeling clay quality is all about finding it. That’s why we’re giving you a big heads up!

  • LOW QUALITY: big box stores clay – play clay
  • MODERATE: Plast-i-clay brand or any plastic wrapped “plastilina” clay
  • BEST QUALITY: Plastilina (Roma or Prima brand) This is a professional quality and is wrapped in wax paper usually. Get medium consistency.

A lb of Moderate quality clay should cost $3.50 – $4.00. A 2 lb block of Prima is available for a little bit more at $5/ lb. If you have classes (that meet at different times) with 20 students each, you’ll need around 7 lbs of clay for 20 students to use at a time (1/3 lb or so per student). They’ll need to understand that the work is for learning, not keeping, and will be destroyed at the end of class.

You can do as many classes as you want with one set of clay and 7 lbs will cost $35 for the very best brand. It’s worth it to look for Roma or Prima Plastilina or order some. We have used gray and white. White is preferred since shadows can be seen more easily on it. Keep your clay in a plastic bin with a cover. It gets dirty easily and grabs everything it touches. There will be more information about clay use and storage in the lessons.


A student displays her sculpted mouth.

Air-dry Clay

Air-dry clay is a great alternative if you can afford it, because students love to keep their work. However, while Crayola brand makes a fantastic air-dry clay that you can buy in big tubs for about the same price as modeling clay, you’ll need a lot more of it – enough for every student you have for 3 projects each. If you have say, 3 classes with 20 students each, that’s about 60 lbs of clay for the 3 weeks of projects. Students use around 1/3 lb of clay for each lesson.

You should be able to purchase that much air-dry clay for around $120 or so.


The Lessons

Students will make 3 models, beginning with the eye. We provide step-by-step instructions for the 3 facial parts. The models help them understand the 3 dimensional form that they’re trying to draw.

Handling and creating the model makes connections in the brain that significantly improve an artist’s ability to draw these items more accurately.

The ArtSquish lessons also have “artists secrets” that make drawing each facial part easier and more fun.

At the beginning of each lesson everyone will do a “before” drawing that emphasizes how much they improve by the end of each lesson. It’s a fantastic learning experience.


Students and parents love to see the drastic improvement from this one lesson on eyes. These sketches were done an hour and a half apart by the same artist.



This before and after, done on the same day, look like completely different artists did them.


About The Author

Dennas Davis

Dennas is the founder of Firstlight Arts Academy in Nashville, and also of The Art Instructor (formerly ArtSquish). He has been designing, painting, illustrating and teaching in various combinations since he learned how to hold a crayon. He is the illustrator of 24 children's books with over 5 million in print worldwide. See his paintings at

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