MAU Art & Design Glossary

Paper Clay



Paper clay is generally made of pulp mixed with glue and water, and is cheap and easy to obtain. A key feature of this product is that it hardens and becomes lighter when dried. (This is the main difference between paper clay and oil clay. Oil clay does not harden with time.)

When shaping paper clay, using wires, chopsticks and urethane foam for the core will broaden the range of possible expressions and give the object greater stability and strength. Having a core also reduces the amount of clay required and the time it takes for it to dry. When making a core out of a thin or slippery material, such as a wire, it is good to wrap it in hemp string to help the clay stick. To add clay to a half-finished piece, apply some water on its surface to soften it up to the same texture. After it is completely dry, paper clay can also be sculpted into shape. You can either paint the finished product or knead some water-based paint into the clay before shaping.

There are various types of paper clay products. Some turn stark white when dry, others are very light or stretchy. There are also products which contain stone powder. The density and weight and the level of hardness after setting vary. Check the package for details and choose the appropriate product depending on its use. For example, dense clay which becomes very hard is more suitable if it is to be shaped in fine detail using a file after drying as it is less likely to crumble in the process. (Note that resin clay may look similar to paper clay but this is a completely different product as it becomes extremely hard when it is dried.)

Once opened, paper clay should be stored in a sealed container which will trap the moisture inside, if it is to be stored for an extended period of time. When doing so, it is advisable to place a wet tissue inside. Paper clay can be purchased at art supply stores, hobby shops and stationery stores.


  • A core may be used when shaping the clayA core may be used when shaping the clay