Which clay should I choose as a beginner?

If you want to start sculpting, you will face the problem of which clay to use for your sculpt. And you probably asked yourself: Which polymer clay should I choose as a beginner to sculpting? The varieties of clay can be a bit overwhelming, let’s take a closer look at them and talk about some pros and cons.

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Throughout the article you will see photographs and mentions of brands. I’m not sponsored, these are my personal recommendations or brands that I currently use.

First, I sculpt figures with Polymer Clay. This kind of clay will harden up in an oven when baked (often at around 130° Celsius). Polymer clay has the advantage that you can theoretically work on it for an infinite time, since it won’t dry by air. Theoretically because old clay will get crumbly (several years old clay) with time.

Some clays get a different texture if they are put aside for a long time. They need to be “conditioned” (kneaded) to return them to their soft state. This is can be a problem if the figure is half sculpted and needs refining.

Air drying clay is usually a bit cheaper than polymer clay. But if you’re working on a project for several weeks, it’s a difficult task to keep it moist for sculpting. It can dry up or get too wet and starts to deform, or worse, starts to mold.

You will face the same problem with ceramic clay. Ceramic clay can also dry by air. Also: you will have to bake/burn it with much higher temperatures (around 2000°Celsius). So you can’t do that at home, but need to find a service to do so for you.

There is a big variety of Polymer Clay, and I haven’t tried them all – I will refer to those I have worked with.

For real now, which polymer clay should I choose as a beginner to sculpting?

The answer is as difficult as it is easy: everyone will have preferences. From my experience that can be different from person to person. I have watched a lot “sculpting for beginners” videos before I started sculpting. People tell “not to use clay XYZ”, when to the next video tells you “to use clay XYZ”.

Fret not: I’m not leaving you in the dark of my personal opinion.

I think, from my experience, that a firmer clay is easier to use for beginners. Most people who have searched for polymer clay will have stumbled over the brand name “Super Sculpey”. This is an established clay by the brand “Sculpey”. Sculpey themselves has a variety of sub brands, but “Super Sculpey” is their “Pro” clay.

Super Sculpey comes in a few kinds, and among them “Firm”. Super Sculpey Firm is my personal go-to clay for basic figures.

Another clay around this firmness is Fimo. Fimo is mostly known for its colorful variants and isn’t really considered a “professional clay” (at least in Germany, where I live). But they do have a “pro” product line, which is essentially selling black, white and gray clay in larger badges.

I’m not a big fan of Fimo, because I prefer Super Sculpeys texture, but as I said in the start, this is preference. Also, in Germany, Fimo is easier to come by as Super Sculpey, as it is usually in stock in every craft store.

The equivalent of sculpey to Fimo is Sculpey Premo. This is a reasonably firm clay as well, and in my eyes suited well for beginners.

Packaging of Super Sculpey Firm (left) and Sculpey Premo (right)

Here in Germany, it’s rare to find Super Sculpey firm in a store. I’m ordering mine at modellierbu.de. You can find a vide variety of clay brands in their shop.

Why should I use firmer clay as a beginner?

Now that I’ve put some brand names down, let me tell you why I think that firmer clay is better for beginners:

  1. It doesn’t stick to your fingers too much. To sculpt a base figure, it’s easier if it’s not smooshy and sticking everywhere.
  2. It’s not that easily deformable. You do initially need more pressure to piece it together. But once in shape it won’t deform by just looking at it. This can be helpful if you accidentally touch a part you shouldn’t.
  3. In the process of sculpting, you’re less likely to make big scratches or accidentally deform small parts. That easily happens with softer clay.

But what about the other brands?

As I said there are a lot of other brands or sub brands of clay (let alone Sculpey has a big product variety). I only worked with a small portion of them – here’s my experiences. I’m going to add to them as time goes on and I try different brands.

Super Sculpey beige

Super sculpey beige is a softer variant of Super sculpey. Compared to the gray version it’s a lot more smooshy and soft. This gave me a bit of trouble keeping already sculpted parts in shape and not to destroy them by touching them. If you’re not experienced, you might have to bake the figure more times in between the sculpting process. That makes sculpting individual parts easier.

Packaging of Super Sculpey beige


Cosclay is a relatively new clay that has some interesting attributes: if baked correctly, it stays flexible. That means you can bend it without breaking which makes shipping figures a lot easier.

There are four sub brands that are similar clay, three of them feature different colors and different density (soft, medium firm, doll). Their touch is very soft and in my opinion great for details. It is, however, hard to work with on a whole sculpture if you’re a beginner. I use it for stick-out-details that run in danger of breaking, or to sculpt small details.

The one that stands out to me is Cosclay Extra-firm. It has around the firmness of sculpey firm, a very nice and not oily touch, and close to now memory when blending, so you can easily blend parts seamlessly. This is a new version of their first kickstarter clay, that has definitely improved.

Top: Kickstarter Version of Cosclay

Bottom: Retail Version of Cosclay

Packaging of Kickstarter Cosclay
Packaging of Retail Cosclay Medium Firm


Cernit is a rather overlooked clay in the face of Cosclay nowadays – the “base” clay, “Cernit One” is similar to it in attributes. It is a bit softer than Cosclay Kickstarter. On the other hand, it’s a bit firmer than Super Sculpey Firm. It feels similar in touch, and it stays flexible after baking. When I tested in on a sheet of about 1 mm strength, I could almost fold it, with just a few stretchmarks.

There is a translucent version of Cernit that is easily to dye with alcohol based ink. It gets milky white after baking and stays very flexible as well. However, when it’s conditioned, it can take on a texture that feels almost like bubble gum. Or kneadable erasers. So it is hard to sculpt with it.

I’m sorry the packaging is so wrecked! I’m going to take a new picture when I order new Cernit.

Top: Cernit One

Bottom: Cernit Translucent

Packaging of Cernit one
Packaging of Cernit Translucent

Bees putty

Bees putty is a clay that is made to behave like beeswax. That makes it stick better to already baked clay and armatures (wire skeleton cores of sculpts). It is a bit sticky. I use it to help my Sculpey stick to armatures and for small pieces with armature like Hands. Bees Putty is also less rigid than sculpey and breaks less easily. One thing to keep in mind is that it gets a waxy surface and needs to be treated with solvent (like Acetone) before painting.

Packaging of BeesPutty


Fimo is easy to come by in my country, thus it’s the first polymer clay that people in general work with. Shops sell “Fimo Soft” most of the time, which is not comparable in softness with, for example, medium firm Cosclay. It is still rather firm. The “normal” Fimo is firmer and needs a lot of conditioning, similar to Cernit. In my experience the texture is different from Super Sculpey firm, it has less grain. That doesn’t mean Super Sculpey Firm has a lot of grain, Fimo just feels more “slippery” to me.

Packaging of Fimo Soft

Papa’s clay

Papa’s clay is yet another clay I have tried, and it feels similar to Super Sculpey Firm. The firmness and touch is very similar, though it took me longer time to condition it. It was originally way more crumbly, but that can be because it was an older badge. Unfortunately it didn’t have a date on it. Otherwise, I’d say it’s exchangeable with Super Sculpey firm.

Packaging of Papas Clay

Mix them up and use multiple clays for each purpose!

The world of clay is big, and it’s interesting to venture out there and try all the clays! I think that using a firmer clay like Super Sculpey Firm as a base for your figure is great. But other clays can be nice additions for certain fields of use.

I use a mix of Super Sculpey, Bees Putty, Cosclay and Cernit, depending on what I do:

  • Sculpey for the base figure
  • Bees Putty for the parts where the clay goes directly on slippery armature pieces (e.g. Hands)
  • Cernit for bigger parts that need to stay flexible
  • Cosclay for small details where a very soft clay is of use, and to fill in gaps

I hope I could give you some ideas about the question: Which polymer clay should I choose as a beginner to sculpting ! Once you got into the topic, there will be products that interest you more than others. Go and try them!

You are looking for more guides?
Here is my Tools and Material guide.

Don’t know what project to tackle first?
Here’s my advice on a good starter project!

What is a good first sculpting project?

Here’s my totally biased opinion on what is a good first sculpting project for beginners.

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When you’re reading this, you probably saw some really cool sculptures on the internet. A fantasy monster, a cute chibi, an elaborate anime figure… If you are anything like me, you want to start on all of these at once! But what is a good first project to start sculpting? Is it good to just throw yourself into that big fantasy dragon?

Start out with writing down a list of ideas or collecting references if you are going for fan art.

Try to gauge your skills, experience and interests

Looking at what to start out with, you may want to look at those things:

  • Do I know how to tackle the project?
  • Is there a good reference of my project?
  • Do I already have some experience with sculpting? And how does that experience look like?
  • How big do I want my sculpture to be?
  • What surface will my project have?
  • How patient am I?

Let’s tackle those one by one.

Do I know how to tackle the project?

Did you already look up and research about sculpting? Did you read or watch videos? Do you have a vague idea to tackle your project? Do you know how to keep proportions, make an armature, have an idea where to pre-bake? Visualize your ideas and see if you have an idea to tackle them. You should at least know how to start out and give your sculpture a solid base. If you don’t have any idea how to achieve that, put the project aside for now.

Do I have a good reference?

It is a lot easier to start a project if you have a proportional image reference. It will help you to keep your the proportions of your sculpture while you are working. No matter if it is self drawn or a screenshot from some media. Do you have the skill to visualize your project? For example draw it in a side and front view? If not, you might want to put it aside if you have more experience. Experience will make it easier to sculpt from your thoughts instead of a reference.
Video games can make great references here. These days, a lot of games feature “photo-mode” in some form. In photo-mode you can compose and take screenshots, which helps a lot with reference and proportions.

What is a good first sculpting project? Reference picture from the front (taken with gpose in final fantasy 14)

Videogames can often easily give you reference pictures from all sides

Reference picture from the side(taken with gpose in final fantasy 14)

Pictures taken with gpose in Final Fantasy 14

Reference picture from the back (taken with gpose in final fantasy 14)

Do I have experience in Sculpting?

Any experience is experience, but clay can behave very differently from each other. However, if you already worked a lot with ceramic clay, you will find sculpting easier than if you don’t have any experience at all. The theme or topic of the project does matter, though. Do you want to make a human, and you already sculpted human body parts? Great! Did you only sculpt flower pots so far? That is a very different experience. See if something of your experience matches one of your potential projects. Maybe there’s something similar?

How big do you want your sculpture to be?

There are many sizes of sculptures you can go for! Most people are aiming for the typical put-them-on-your-shelf sized sculptures, but maybe you are interested in miniatures? Or you want to make something huge? Stop a moment and think of the size you want to go for. A bigger size is always easier if you want to go for many details. But it can be a hassle to bake your sculpture, if you want to make it with polymer clay. That means: huge sculptures are better made from ceramic clay. Otherwise, you will have to take them apart. Make sure you can bake the ceramic clay in one though, check with your baking/burning service. Miniatures will require you to do very small details and are a lot harder to make than bigger sculptures. Without sculpting experience this can get frustrating.
A good first sculpting project is better a bit bigger: A 20cm figure of Xianglin from Genshin Impact compared to a miniature sculpture of about 1,5cm height

Shelf size projects are usually more suited for beginners

A miniature compared to the size of a shelf sized figure

Miniatures require very small details and are rather difficult to make (Cast of a handsculpted miniature by Mallius – InstagramTwitch)

What surface does your project have?

Also look into the theme of your projects: for example structured Items are often initially a bit easier to sculpt. They don’t require that much smoothing, and it’s not apparent if something is a bit uneven. Whereas artificial sci-fi surfaces and shapes are a lot harder to make. If you are going for fan art, and you have a very detailed reference: it is harder to keep the proportions right than a less detailed reference. That is because you have to think of more details on a surface and how big they are or how much space they take.
Sculpture with a structured surface (Chocobo from Final Fantasy 14): usually a bit easier first sculpting project than a smooth figure

Structured surfaces that do not have repeating patterns are easier to sculpt

Sculpture with a smooth surface (poppy from animal crossing new horizons): harder to achieve for a first sculpting project

Smooth surfaces show flaws and are harder to sculpt

Are you patient?

This may seem like a dumb question at first. But if you know that you aren’t a very patient person, starting out on something rather detailed can be frustrating. Considering you probably don’t have much experience things will go slowly in the start. Slower than with experience. If you’re an impatient person (like me), don’t put the strain of many details on you.

Now, what is a good first project to start sculpting? An overview of easy and hard things to sculpt

To learn what is a good first project to start sculpting let’s take a look at easy and hard things to sculpt.
Obviously this is my personal experience that again and some things might be easier for me than for you and the other way round. I’m also talking about shelf-size here. Everything is more complex when it’s small and gets easier when it’s big. At least to a certain point. Maintaining proportions can be tricky if the sculpture gets huge.

Easy things to sculpt

  • Blobb-like creatures
  • Structures that do not have to be super defined (fur, feathers)
  • Not too detailed small animals (Mice, Hamsters and such)
  • Things that have a decent amount of volume
  • Figures that are standing steady on two or four feet
  • Limbs that are not interacting with each other (Arms or hands)
  • Chibi/anime Faces
  • Folds and creases (in clothing)
  • Stone

Difficult things to sculpt

  • Realistic humans in shelf size
  • Human hands
  • Thin things, thin, flowy fabric
  • Dynamic poses
  • Armatures that aren’t connected much to the base
  • Small details
  • Hair (especially floaty hair)
  • Interacting limbs and figures
  • Things with very small armature (miniatures)
  • Artificial, very geometric shapes and surfaces

Now all these are guides and, again, you might have a certain knack for something I don’t. Just try to think about the points above when tackling your first project. The most important part is that you are having fun trying. Even if the project might be a bit too difficult, as long as you’re not getting frustrated, it’s great! You can always come back to it a year or two later to see how much you have improved. This can be incredibly satisfying.

Love for your project is important

I am personally not a big fan of sculpting things you don’t like, just “to get better”. I saw someone suggest you sculpt different things like animals, cars, architecture… Yes, this is helpful when you want to pursue a career in this or an artistic field. However, if you just sculpt for fun or want to try yourself, and you’re super into Pokémon, sculpt Pokémon. It is probably more frustrating to work yourself through things you don’t like, than making 3 Pokémon until you get where you want to be.

Comparison of my first sculpting project and the same made a year later. Two Lalafells with wearing the white moonfire faire top, white harem pants, the white moogle mask and the Yokai Event Scholar book.

My first sculpture revisited after a year of sculpting. The idea of having my own character of FFXIV turned into a figure got me into sculpting in the first place.

So, did you decide for your first project? You can read about my clay recommendations for beginners here.

Not sure where to start with tools and materials? Hier is my Overview to sculpting.

Overview to sculpting figures with Polymer Clay

In this article I will to give a brief overview of what is important as a beginner to start sculpting figures with polymer clay.

Throughout the article you will see photographs and mentions of brands. I’m not sponsored, these are my personal recommendations or brands that I currently use.

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In this beginners guide to sculpting with polymer clay, I want to show you some materials and tools that will help you when you want to start making a sculpture. Please note: you don’t need all of what I’m mentioning here to start out and to try yourself, since the cost might be intimidating. The most important thing is that you start sculpting. Everything else can come later, or in steps.

Polymer Clay

This overview to sculpting figures with polymer clay specifically talks about Polymer Clay, but why do most sculpters use Polymer Clay, or a non-curing clay (like for example Monster Clay)? When air drying clay is often much easier to obtain and also cheaper?

Of course, nothing is stopping you from starting to sculpt with air drying clay if you already have some. But there is a reason why most sculptors are not going with it: time. Often a project will take multiple days to complete, sometimes weeks or up to a year. It is hard to keep air drying clay workable over an extended period. You can wrap it into moist cloth, but will run into the problem to keep it the right amount of moist. Or it will still harden up or get too wet, which can cause it to collapse or mold.

That being said, I would personally advise you to take that money in your hand and get some polymer clay.Which clay you want to use is up to you and your preferences. You might try out several clays until you find the one that you personally prefer. I will try to make a video about the clays I use in the future. My recommendation would be super sculpey firm or sculpey premo for starters.This clay is easy to bake in the oven at 130 °C, it’s usually, even if firm, well kneadable/conditionable by hand. The firmness is nice in a way that you don’t destroy details instantly if you accidentally touch them. Also, it is in most cases well controllable with tools. Sculpey premo also does have little “memory” when working on it, so blending parts is easy.

Different kinds of airdrying clay (apoxie sculpt, keramilight)

Air drying clay

Different kinds of polymer clay (cosclay kickstarter, cernit one, super sculpey firm, beesputty firm)

Polymer Clay


Your life will become considerably easier if you start out making an armature for your sculpture. An armature is a wire skeleton that you can pose into its final shape and build the figure around. It will also support limbs and “stick-out” parts in your sculpture and prevent them from collapsing.

There are, again, multiple different wires. I personally prefer about 1 mm diameter steel wire. It’s still bendable by hand, but quite sturdy and doesn’t easily deform, unlike aluminum wire, that transforms easily.

Again, this will come down to your preference and your tools. You don’t want to use a single wire as an armature, but you want to twist at least two wires around each other. It will not only help for stability, but also help clay to stick to it in places where it’s not padded.
This is most easily achieved with a drill (fold the wire in half, stick it in the drill, grab the other end with pliers and drill), that means if you don’t have one at hand, aluminum is easier for you to use. In any case, a wire cutter and pliers will help you a lot to cut and hold your wire while twisting it.

Different wires (aluminium and steel wire)

Different Wires I’m using

Different wires twisted with a drill for armatures

Wires twisted for Armature

Aluminum Foil

More voluminous parts in sculptures are padded with aluminum foil. This has several advantages: first, you don’t need as much clay. Clay is expensive, so padding it will make a sculpture use up less.

Secondly, it will make the sculpture a bit lighter and less massive.

Thirdly it helps the sculpture to bake “from inside out”. The Foil will heat up fast in the oven and bake the clay from the inside. There is less chance of unbaked clay. If the sculpture is only made of clay, it is harder for the inside to get exposed to the right amount of heat.

You can use your kitchen aluminum foil for this.

Kitchen aluminium foil

Use ordinary kitchen aluminium foil


Shaping Tools

Shaping tools will help you to refine your sculpture and sculpt little details. Don’t worry too much about them when starting out. You can literally use everything around you as a shaping tool: toothpicks, backs of spoons, dough rollers, chopsticks… There is no need for a huge collection of professional tools to start out.

If you find liking in sculpting and want to pursue the hobby further, it might be easier to invest in some wax-carving tools. They aren’t very expensive and come in a good variety in premade packs. You will find yourself using some more than others, so just try out which ones you like.

I also like to use my silicon brush. This came in a pack with some more silicone brushes that have ballpoint tools on the opposite side of the tool. These come in handy, for example when making holes for eyeballs. I have seen a fair large number of sculpters use these, you might consider getting a silicone brush in the long run.

Tools around the house (chopsticks, needles, old pencils)

You can find all kinds of tools around the house!

Waxcarving tools made of metal

My wax carving  tools (of which I use effectively mostly two)

Silicone brushes and Ballpoint tools

Silicone Brush and Ballpoint tool

Alcohol and Brushes

This might sound a bit weird, but I’m not talking about drinking beer anytime you sculpt. 90% + Alcohol is used with polymer clay like water with ceramic clay. It dissolves the surface of the clay and helps to smoothen it out, remove small scratches and fingerprints. Alcohol behaves a little differently on different clays, so you need to experiment with the clay you’re using and how it reacts.

Brushes or Q-Tips can help you even out the surface or scratching away some uneven parts, depending on clay and brush.

You can start out your first sculpt without this easily though. See if you like it, and then get some alcohol for the next one.

High percentage alcohol for smoothing

Alcohol works with polymer clay like water with air-drying- or ceramic clay

Q-Tips and brushes for smoothing

I’m using brushes and Q-Tips to smooth the surfaces


It is often easier if you have something to hold your armature and sculpt. You will see people stick their armature into a base. I use a small block of wood for this that has holes drilled into it. This way I can put the sculpture in there when I can’t hold it in my hand. Or want to rest it somewhere to get things or sculpt details. Later I replace that base with one that fits thematically to the sculpture.

Wooden base for work in Progress

My “work in progress” base

Sculpture with fitting base

Sculpture with fitting base

Post Processing


This is super optional. Acetone is like alcohol on cured clay – it dissolves the surface and helps you smooth out left over fingerprints and remove dust lints on the surface.

Sanding paper

Sanding polymer clay is more of a pain than airdrying clay, but you can use sanding paper to even out the surfaces. Sponges for sanding work great, as they can be cut into smaller pieces to reach smaller parts.


If you plan on painting your Sculpture, you will also need paint. Acrylic paint works well on most Polymer Clays. They’re a bit porous and take the paint without any sort of primer. From my experience Paint for miniatures works great. Any acrylic paint you have left will suffice to try around with it.
If you want, you can also put varnish on the finished result for a more glossy, or a more matte look. I personally use varnish as a primer to shade my sculptures with pastel chalks.

Acetone to remove fingerprints

Acetone helps to remove fingerprints

Sanding sponges of different grades

Sanding sponges are great for small details

Miniature paints

Miniature paints are great for polymer clay

Got all your stuff? Great! Have a look at my other guides! Here you can find tipps on how to choose your first sculpting project. If you don’t know which clay to choose, I have you covered! Here’s an articles on different clays. Happy Sculpting!