Stop motion animation is an animation that is captured one frame at a time with physical objects that are moved between frames, thus creating the illusion of movement.
For stop motion animation, you can use ordinary inanimate objects you find around the house or make your things using clay, Lego bricks, or other crafting materials.
This article is for you if you choose to make your objects using clay. We have covered types of clay you can use for your clay animation characters, the best clay to use for stop motion animation, how to store your clay characters, and some frequently asked questions.
Types of clay
Polymer clay is an art medium known for its versatility, flexibility, and simplicity. It is an oven-baked modeling material used by artists, hobbyists, and moviemakers.
This clay comprises polymers, resins, coloring agents, and fillers. It is not a natural clay; it is artificial from a plastic, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) base.
It has a unique quality of remaining soft and can be baked in a home oven, retaining its color and size.
You can find a variety of colors, including metallic, glow-in-the-dark, and stone colors.
Oil-based clay is helpful for many reasons, from those that make Polymer clay popular.
Unlike Polymer clay, which does not dry out until you bake it, oil-based clay will not dry out at all and can be worked with time and again, allowing you to create a wide range of different animations.
Oil-based clay contains waxes and oils that do not evaporate and prevent the clay from hardening.
Oil-based clay has a pretty long shelf life. If properly stored, it will last for a few years, especially if it is sealed after use.
Water-based clay is clay mixed with water. This clay needs to be kept covered at all times. Otherwise, it will dry out.
Water-based clay is easy to work with when it has just the right amount of water.
One of the disadvantages of water-based clay is that it sags and separates easily, especially if the project goes on for days.
It also cannot be used with plastic, polymer, or epoxies.
If added to a sealed bag and then put in a sealed box, the clay can stay workable for weeks. However, if you put the clay in a damp box, it will remain workable indefinitely.
Air dry clay
Air dry clay is a versatile product used in many craft projects.
Air dry clay does not need to be heated at a high temperature. This kind of clay hardens and cures at average room temperatures; once dry, it can be painted and decorated.
However, it can take up to one week for the Air dry clay to completely dry up. The exact time will also depend on the thickness of the item and the room temperature.
You can use tempera, acrylic paints, marker pens, and inks on the finished sculpture of the Air dry clay animation.
Air dry clay is readily available from craft and hobby stores. It can also be purchased online.
Soft plasticine clay is a lump of oil-based modeling material.
Unlike wax and other clays, it stays soft and workable and neither hardens nor dries. Hence, it is commonly used by artists, sculptures, and in stop motion clay animation.
It comes in a wide array of colors that can be blended into something creative.
The main advantage of plasticine is that it doesn’t stick to the hands!
Best clay for stop motion animation
Van Aken Plastilina clay
Plastilina clay from the Van Aken company is one of the best clay to use for stop motion animation.
It comes in a wide range of colors and is a formulation of wax and clay. As it is a wax-based clay, it does not weep oil.
Some clays need to be heated up or kneaded before they can be worked with, but with this clay, just the warmth of your hands should be sufficient to heat the clay enough to keep it workable.
If you use a double boiler, you can melt different colors of clay and blend them to obtain a wide color pallet to work with.
You can conveniently purchase this clay from toys, hobby ideas, and other art stores.
Sculpey Polymer clays
Another type of clay you can use for stop motion is Sculpey Polymer clay.
Instead of ceramic mud, this clay is made of plastic and is pliable for many months.
It comes in various colors so that you can blend them to create a unique pallet and take your animation to another level.
This clay has the unique feature of hardening in a home oven when baked to a temperature of 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plastilina clay and baked Polymer clay are an ideal choice for animation as you don’t want to distort parts of your character.
Claytoon oil-based clay
The Claytoon oil-based clay is the best clay to use for stop animation because it is easy to shape and sculpt as it is extremely malleable and soft.
It also air dries and does not require any baking. Therefore, animators of all skill levels can use this clay and produce amazing clay animation.
It has various colours just waiting to be blended at a very affordable price. You can even mix Claytoon with other colours without worrying about them going muddy.
If you make your characters out of this clay, you can leave them at air or room temperatures for weeks and they won’t lose their shape or get deformed.
Another advantage of Claytoon is that it does not stick to your hands, tools or surfaces as much as the other types of clay.
However, this clay has many advantages, but it has one disadvantage. It transfers colour onto your hands and clothes easily.
So if you don’t want your work area or your hands to get messy, make sure to wear gloves.
Sargent Art modeling clay
The Sargent art modeling clay is easy to use and does not require baking. It is soft and very easy to mould so you can make as many clay models as you want.
It is perfect for children and others who are just beginning to try their hand at clay animation.
The clay comes in 48 different colours so you have a wide range to choose from. You can even mix and match the colours to create new shades.
This clay dries fast but it does not turn into hardened clay so you don’t have to worry about clay breaking.
However, the one downside you might face with this clay is that your characters won’t last more than a few weeks.
But overall, this is the best clay option for beginners to start with as it is easy to mould and easy to clean off!
The Newplast Plasticine clay is the best clay to use if you are a professional animator.
This is non-hardening oil-based plasticine that you can re-use many times over. It does not get hard, or dry and remains pliable.
Newplast does not require baking but still, your clay models will keep their form quite well and if you make a mistake you can squish it back and start from scratch.
To prevent it from drying out, keep it in an air-tight container. You can even add water, canola oil, or a bit of vaseline if you find the clay is starting to get hard.
It comes with a large variety of colours that you can mix and create your new colours. It should be used at room temperature or else it can become a bit firm when exposed to cooler temperatures,
This clay is a bit more pricey than other clays, but it is worth it because the results are superior and the figures hold their shape well.
How to store clay characters
It might be impossible to create an ideal environment to store your clay characters but there are steps that you can take to help preserve your ceramic clay animation.
Clays dry out quickly when exposed to air so the characters should be carefully wrapped in a damp cloth to help them retain moisture for shorter periods.
You can also use a spray bottle to add moisture to the cloth around the clay animation to ensure that they remain workable.
Plastic wrap is one of the most common ways to keep the clay from drying out. It’s particularly versatile because plastic wrap can be easily wrapped completely around a ceramic clay project and will keep the air from reaching the clay.
Keeping the clay in a warm, humid environment will help it retain moisture for a long time. While a warm and dry environment will dry out the clay if it is not stored in a sealed container.
Keep the clay characters away from freezing temperatures as it can cause the clay to flake and fracture.
Frequently asked questions
What clay is used for Wallace and Gromit?
Wallace and Gromit are made entirely from Newplast modeling clay, apart from his eyes and nose which are simple beads.
Can you use Play-Doh for stop motion animation?
You can use Play-Doh for stop motion animation.
Play-Doh is a water-based clay that is used for modeling. However, Play-Doh is the best clay for temporary creations.
It is great for younger kids as it is very soft and easy to clean up when it dries out.
Since Play-Doh tends to crack, dry out and crumble, your creations will lose their beauty over time.
Which clay sticks to armature?
Air Dry clay sticks to the armature as unlike other traditional clays it does not have to undergo a lot of heat to become hard, so the armature stays put.
From the nature of the different clays mentioned above, the non-hardening plasticine or plastalina clay is the best clay to use for stop motion. However, this does not mean that the other clay types are not important.
The hardening clays are also needed to create claymation characters or parts which are not supposed to be movable. In addition, the hardened clay will serve as internal support and frame for the soft plasticine clay.
Another thing worth remembering is that if you want your clay figurines to last longer then follow the storing method carefully and avoid cold temperatures at all costs!