So what is Cold Porcelain Clay, really?
Cold Porcelain is an air dried home made clay made out of mostly corn starch and glue. Despite its name, it’s not porcelain and it has a similar look and consistency to polymer clay, only softer, more pliable and without the need of baking.
It’s particularly popular in some countries in South America, such as Brazil and Argentina. It was traditionally used to make realistic flower petals and leaves for cake decorations, but soon crafters discovered just how versatile and useful this clay can be for many different purposes.
How to Make Cold Porcelain:
Over the years I have tested many different recipes for Cold Porcelain. A lot of them were a total failure, leaving me very frustrated and confused. I couldn’t understand how some artists could achieve such perfect consistency, but mine kept being too soft no matter how well I cooked it or if I used an armature.
If I still lived back home in Brazil, I could purchase one of the many brands of ready made clay, but being in the US, it was my mission to find the perfect recipe. The use of stearine flakes is what changed things it for me. This affordable ingredient is used on the manufacture of candles and soaps. Once I added it to my clay recipe, it was finally able to harden enough for all the dolls and figurines I make.
- Use a ceramic or glass bowl
- 2 cups of all purpose glue (I use Elmer’s)
- 2 cups of corn starch
- 1 tablespoon of stearine flakes (I buy the Yaley kind from amazon)
- 1 tablespoon of mineral oil / baby oil (found in pharmacies at the baby session)
- 1 tablespoon of lime extract
- 1/3 of a cup of water (I use a little bit less than 1/3 to make it a bit harder)
Mix the glue and the corn starch together. Stir well until blended. Press the stearine flakes against a small bowl with the back of a spoon to break it up a little bit. This will avoid small lumps on the clay. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like it’s doing much, just smash it anyway! Do it for about 1 min.
Add the stearine to the glue/ corn starch mix, stir, then add the baby oil, stir, then the lime extract, stir again and finally the water and stir.
Take it to the microwave on high potency for 1 min. – 1st time
Stir well, the clay will be really soft.
Take it to the microwave on high potency for 1 min. – 2nd time
Stir well, the clay will be a bit harder, but still too soft.
Take it to the microwave on high potency for 1 min. – 3rd time
Stir again. Now the clay is very close to ready. Depending on how it looks, you’ll have to guess if you’ll need to do it for 30 more seconds, 45 seconds or 1 more min. I usually do it for another whole minute, since my microwave is not that powerful. As you can see there are big lumps, but there is quite a bit of soft clay on the bottom.
Microwave it one last time on high potency – 30 to 60 secs – 4th time
This is what you’d want the final clay to look like. When you lift it up, most of it is pretty solid, but you will see a tiny bit of moist clay on the bottom. It’s perfect!
Cover it with Plastic Film for 20 mins to let it cool off.
You don’t want to burn your hands on this thing. It’s pretty hot, so I learned that if you do this and come back after about 20 mins is much easier to knead without burning yourself. If you want to go ahead and brave it right after it’s microwaved, do it at your own risk. I’ve done it before, but I’ve gotten smarter now.
Time to knead!
Grab a small amount and knead it until blended well. Keep on adding more clay and kneading until you got the whole thing.
Every tiny little bit counts! Scrape that bowl away!
Cover the clay with plastic film.
Only take out what you are going to use. Keep the rest well covered otherwise it dries out.
A few tips about the clay:
You may find a few droplets of water on the inside part of the plastic film. If you don’t plan on using all the clay within the next couple of weeks, throw out that plastic film, dry the clay with a paper towel and cover it with a new film. This will avoid mold in the clay.
If you don’t plan on using the clay for a while, consider covering it with a dark bag and put it inside your refrigerator so it doesn’t dry so fast.
If the clay is too soft:
Sometimes after microwaving, the clay is still too soft. That can happen because not all microwaves work its potency the same way or if you’re not careful to use the highest potency in it. You can keep trying to microwave more minutes, but it has to reach a high enough heat to get the clay at the right consistency. If your microwave is not doing the job, consider doing it on your stove top instead, using a pan and mixing it well with a wooden spoon until it reaches the right point.
If your clay seems too dry:
This can happen if you passed the point a little bit. You have two options: Sprinkle water on the clay and keep kneading to see if it seems to soften a bit. If that’s not doing the job, consider doing another batch and keep it a little on the softer side, then combine both clays together.
Water is your friend here. Use it to stick pieces together and to smooth the surface for a nice finish. Also, sprinkle water if the clay you’re about to add to your piece seems to be a little too dry. When I’m working really small scale, I sometimes add enough water to a small batch of clay inside of a small container to bring it to the consistency of a “toothpaste”. I then use a toothpick to add the clay to small corrections, let’s say, fix a detail on a small nose, add eyebrows, etc.
Water is not the only bonding material you can use. Glue works really well too. Basically, I use water when I want to blend parts together (Ex.: keep adding the skin to a body part) and glue when I want to combine two different pieces (Ex.: flowers on a hat)
The clay can be colored in two ways:
1- You can add paint to it and knead. The trick here is that the final color will be a darker once it’s dry, so if you want, let’s say a bright red, you will use enough red to make it pink, and once the clay dries, it will get darker to a red tone. Same goes to all the colors. I use acrylics, but you can also use fabric paints or oil paints. The clay dries a bit translucent, so if you want white, add white paint to it as well.
2- The other way is to just paint after the piece is dry. I usually only do that when I wan to add details to the piece: eyes, mouth, etc..
Cold Porcelain will air dry and shrink about 15% to 20%, so keep that in mind when you make your pieces. It’s totally fine to let part of your work dry and add more clay at another time. Keep the clay you’re not using covered with plastic film with minimum amount of air in it. This will slow down the drying process. The time it takes for a sculpted piece to dry will depend on how thick the piece is. I often use aluminum foil, wire and styrofoam to keep the piece strong and lighter. This will also help me have more clay for other pieces. Clays that are already mixed with paint tend to dry faster, even when covered. No matter what, even when well covered, your clay will slowly harden itself throughout the days, so only make one batch at a time to avoid wasting.
I like to have a wire armature when I’m making people and I tend to cover it with masking tape to help the clay stay in place, otherwise the clay tends to slide on the wire, which can be quite annoying.
If you don’t paint on your piece, you can polish it under running water for a nice finish. It will bring a nice satin like look to it. You can use a toothbrush or a sponge for this purpose. Sanding works well too.
If you have any questions, please contact me at:
There are endless things you can do with this clay. Take a look at my work on my blog to explore the various ways I’ve approached this fun and inexpensive material.