Sculpting Skulls with Air Dry Clay

See two ways to sculpt a skull in air dry clay: a skull with a small wire armature to stand it up, and a distorted skull without an armature.

47 min. video

Hear about the specifics of working with air dry clay, including the many advantages that are inherent in the clay such as using water to moisten the clay, options for painting the sculpture once it’s dry, and more.

Demo by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Deepti Menon.

Video Walkthrough

  • Many air dry clays are typically sticky and lack body; Sculpey Air-Dry™ has a substantial body to it and isn’t sticky at all.
  • Sculpey Air-Dry™ doesn’t have any odor, which is often a problem with plastilene.
  • Sculpey Air-Dry™ can be moistened with water to get the clay more malleable
  • Sculpey Air-Dry™ can be sprayed with water before wrapping in plastic to keep it hydrated.
  • After Sculpey Air-Dry™ is fully dry, it can be painted with acrylic paint and can also be drawn on with paint markers.
  • Clay is a wonderful material to engage with, it can be soothing to get your hands into the clay!
  • Teeth are so hard to sculpt! What helps is not “drawing” the outline of the teeth into your sculpture.
  • Instead, carve out the crevices in between the teeth to get a more dimensional effect.
  • Prof Lieu’s armature is constructed with a styrofoam ball wrapped in armature wire, and hammered into a wood base.
  • The armature also includes a “butterfly,” which is 2 pieces of wood assembled in a cross, wrapped with 1/16″ armature wire to prevent the chin from falling off.
  • See Prof Lieu build an armature for head in this portrait sculpture tutorial.
  • A skull is essentially pure sculpture, and using a tool can prevent the sculpture from looking mushy.
air dry skull sculpture, banner

Prof Lieu’s Tips

Clara cartoon

You really do need to buy armature wire; don’t get wire at a hardware store as it won’t be malleable enough.

Portrait Sculpture Tutorial: Air Dry Clay, banner

The key to armatures is very tight wrapping, using pliers, (don’t use your hands!) and having the right gauge of armature. For example, the 1/16″ gauge is super soft and not good for the central structure.

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