People often ask me what kind of clay I use, so here are my reviews of my three favourites.
When I was looking for a clay to use in our children’s animation workshops, I tried a few different brands and types. The clay you use needs to be non-hardening modelling clay, so it can be reused and won’t harden. All clay eventually hardens a little over time, but pick a brand that is not designed to get hard (it will say on the label), and not one that is meant to go in the oven after sculpting, as the properties in our experience are different.
This is the first clay I used as it is often recommended by professional animators.
I find it is good to sculpt once it is warmed up, but it can be more challenging for children to use as it is quite hard. It can also crack quite easily so the surface needs to be smoothed out once the character is moulded. It is great for older children, teens and adults who are a little more experienced in character making, and those who need something more robust to animate with. Belgrave is available through specialist art shops.
Advantages – used by professional animators, holds its shape well, transfers less colour than other brands*, good value for money
Disadvantages – difficult for young hands to sculpt, hard to mix together when combining colours
After trying a few different brands I found Plasticine to be a great combination of value for money and very easy to work with. It shapes and sculpts very easily for young animators. They can make large and small details and move their characters around with ease. For larger or thinner models, strength is a bit of an issue, but this can be rectified with supports.
Plasticine has now been tried and tested by almost 100 children in my workshops and works very well. It also comes in a great range of colours and is affordable in small or large packets. The only thing to watch is the transfer of colour, which can happen with a few different brands. See tips below to minimise this*. Plasticine is available through a few major suppliers, including Spotlight and Staples.
Advantages – great for children to use, very easy to manipulate, great value for money
Disadvantages – transfers colour*, falls over slightly more often than other brands so needs more supports
Micador is a more recent discovery. I had initially rejected it because of its difficulty to find in the quantities I needed for my workshops. Having eventually got my hands on it, it feels really nice to work with, holds it shape really well and is great for small hands. It is strong and needs less supports than Plasticine when working with larger characters.
It looks great on camera, the colours are vibrant and it is really smooth. Of the three clays, this is my favourite for animation, and I shall be transitioning to this in my workshops now that I have found an educational supplier. Smaller quantities are available through art and craft shops. It is great for the young animator who is serious about their craft.
Advantages – really great for kids to work with, easy to manipulate, holds its shape well, good value for money
Disadvantages – darker clays transfer colour*
*When working with clay, especially in dark colours, sometimes some colour can transfer onto surfaces and hands. Place paper down on your working surfaces and protect clothes, wash your hands and utensils when changing between colours so that the colours don’t mix together.
Belgrave is the clay used by an animator friend of mine, Rachel Beaney for her SpaceDog adventures.
Lotti Kershaw is a former integration aide/education support officer who has a background in broadcast television and runs her own video production company. She started Rock Paper Video to teach filmmaking and animation skills to children, so they can tell their own stories and make their own movies.
She is passionate about bringing video, special effects and animation into schools, and linking her incursions and resources to required curriculum outcomes, enabling teachers to teach media arts and cross-curricular activities through filmmaking.
Lotti has worked in broadcast television in the UK, on programs for the BBC and major network television channels. She has credits on various TV programs, and has worked in many genres including documentary, drama, music, entertainment, live talk shows, reality TV, music programs and feature film, at different stages of the production process from pre-production to post production and even broadcast.
Rock Paper Video runs film making and animation workshops for children. See our latest workshops here