How to Create Clay Animals

Creating clay animals is a great way to make a small gift for someone you love, create a colorful zoo for your living room, or just to spend a fun afternoon flexing your creativity muscle. If you want to know how to create clay animals, all you need is some modeling clay, a willingness to learn, and a love for clay creatures. Just follow these steps and you'll be on your way to creating your own clay zoo in no time at all.


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    Start with a lump of clay. Any sort of clay will work, though modeling clay will work best. Use a lump of clay that is firm enough to hold a position, but soft enough to be sculpted. The more clay you use, the bigger the animal will be. Start off with a piece of clay that you can comfortably hold in one hand -- about the size of a tangerine.
    • Make sure to place the clay on a flat surface.
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    Roll a snake from the clay. Just place your hand flat over the clay and roll your palm and fingers up and down until you've created a long and round shape. You can even squeeze the clay a bit so it's already long and not too thick before you really start rolling it so the process is easier.
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    Break off a small piece of clay to form the head. Just break off about 1/5 of the snake to separate the clay that you'll use to make the animal's head. To break off the head, just gently pinch the snake at the part where you want to pull of the head and pull it off with your other hand.
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    Roll the head into a ball. To roll the head into a ball, simply place your palm over the clay and roll it in a circular motion. It shouldn't take more than a few seconds to roll the head into a neat round ball.
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    Form arms and legs out of the snake. First, roll the snake one more time to even out the edge that you broke off to form the head. Take a popsicle stick or something with a similar shape and firmness and push it down through the left and right side of the snake. Lift it and see that you've created two arms and two legs for your clay creature.
    • Make sure at least 1/3 of the snake stays untouched. This will be the body of the creature.
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    Pose the arms and legs. You can pose the arms and legs any way you want depending on what the animal is doing, whether it's sitting, standing, pouncing, rolling over, or lying down. Here's how you can pose the arms and legs a variety of ways:
    • Sitting. To make the pose the arms and legs in sitting position, simply bend the clay in the middle and bend the clay so that the entire body and the arms are bent forward, creating an upside-down "U." Then, move the back legs forward so that they face the same direction as the arms and are curved over as well. They should be partly resting on the floor in the back so the creature is in true sitting position.
    • Standing (on all fours). Just lift up the torso and lift up the back and front legs, resting it slightly more on the back legs, but making sure that both the arms and legs are positioned perpendicularly to the torso and floor. The front half of the creature will be lifted higher than the back half. This will help support the head.
    • Lying down. Tuck the legs slightly under the body and stretch the arms out forward so the creature can by spread out on the floor. You can also stretch the legs back instead of tucking them in, as long as it's clear that the creature is lying down. Just lift up the part of the snake that will support the head slightly.
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    Form the head of the animal. You can create eyes, ears, a nose, a mouth, and even eyebrows or whiskers if your want. You can use your fingers to pinch the ears of the animal gently upward, and use a toothpick to draw the creature's features onto the head.
    • If you're making a creature with floppy ears, you can roll two tiny snakes and then flatten them out and stick them to the sides of the head.
    • You can also make pointy ears by pinching the sides of the animal's head more strongly.
    • When you're done creating the features, connect the head to the front of the snake, or the neck. Gently pinch the clay below the head to help position it.
    • You can also use different colors of clay to add different features to the animal, such as spots or a cute bow-tie.


  • If you are making your animal out of ceramic clay to fire in a kiln, the body should not be too big. Make it about as big as your fist, no more, otherwise the clay could explode in the kiln. Or, If it is going to be larger than your fist, using ceramic clay, you simply need to hollow out the body from beneath.
  • If you want to build your animal another way, go ahead. Birds and bears may work better starting with a ball and then attaching wings, arms, and legs.
  • Very thin parts, like ears and tails, are fragile.
  • In ceramic clay, make sure to attach heads and tails securely. Make scratches in both surfaces with a pencil or anything pointy. Get both sides wet with a mixture of clay and water (called slip) and stick them together firmly.
  • You always have to use imagination!
  • If you do something that makes a shape you don't like, you can always change it or start over.
  • It might help to look at a picture of the animal you want to make and notice how it is shaped.
  • Put an old plastic tablecloth or paper bag under your work to keep the table clean.
  • If your using polymer clay, bake it in a toaster oven or an oven. Never use a microwave because it will burn and ruin the clay. Never bake the polymer clay over 30min and 270F. If you get your clay individually, the pkg. will say how long to bake it and how hot the oven should be.

Things You'll Need

  • Clay or dough
  • A popsicle stick or a toothpick

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