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Choosing the Right Clay for Animation

A Mad Hatter Stop Motion Puppet and Replacement Mouth

Oil based clay is the best clay for animation. The best brand is called Van Aken. Van Aken clays come in many colors, is very inexpensive, is animation proven and non toxic. Making new colors out of existing colors from this brand is extremely simple to do. All you will need is a double boiler, a large piece of plastic wrap, and a spatula.

First, boil some water in the double boiler, and place the base color clay you want to change the color of, in the top pot. Once it is fully melted, place different colors of small pieces of clay into the pot to modify the base color. Keep mixing until the clay is completely fluid, and adjust the colors accordingly. Next, place a long piece of plastic wrap on a level table top.

When you have the color clay you want, pour the still melted clay on the plastic wrap slowly, until it is all out of the pot. Any clay left in the pot should be quickly rubbed out with a paper towel so the next time you mix clay in your pot, the new colors wont mix with the old colors. One word of advice when doing this, is to make sure you have plenty of fresh air in your house because the oil can evaporate into the air and make you sick. Also, melted clay can stick to you if it is spilled on your skin, and will burn. Trust me, I have done it a few times and it hurts quite a lot! So use common sense, or ask an adult for help.


Another method is to mix colors by hand. Just smush the appropriate colors together. So if you need the color gray and only have white and black, mix a little black with the white until you get the desired color.


The last method of making new colors is to use a pasta roller machine. Flatten two colors (say blue and yellow) and roll them through together. Fold over the slightly mixed colors and repeat a dozen or so times.

8 Blocks of Modeling Clay in Various Colors

1 Pound blocks of Van Aken Clay


As of 2018, the Van Aken formula has been changed and some ingredients either added or removed. Many animators have complained within the last few years about it, however I personally still find it usable for animating. It really depends on the quality control of each batch and some batches don't make the cut. I still recommend it however as it is still one of the best you can find. You can buy Van Aken clay here.


One of the more expensive options for animating clay characters is to use polymer clays. The two most popular brands are Sculpey and Fimo, but many new companies are starting to create their own brands. Polymer clay has nice qualities in terms of color variation and can be kneaded until it's soft. It can also be baked hard in an oven if hard objects are needed. The drawbacks are that this type of clay is only really good for very tiny puppets. A large eight inch character would be extremely costly.

Another excellent clay for animators is Sargent Art clay. Sargent Art is similar to Van Aken and has great sculpting properties. It has just the right amount of wax and colorants to give vivid and aesthetically pleasing translucency and vibrancy. It also animates well, you can melt it in a double boiler and is has not dried out on us. Even after sitting in a garage for many years. It works like brand new. You can find Sargent Art clay and Puppet Putty
in our store here.


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