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Varnish for air dry clay: A guide to varnish and sealants

Discover how to create a glazed finish on your air dry clay using varnishes and sealants.

glazing air dry clay

Once you’ve made your air dry clay objects you’re very likely to want to help protect them and keep them lasting longer. Adding some sort of sealant to the air dry clay is a particularly good idea if paint or any other colour has been added to the surface.

With ordinary clay a glaze is used to seal it which is then placed in a kiln to be fired, creating a hard finish. As air dry clay isn’t fired then a different sort of medium is required to seal and protect the surface.

Is air dry clay waterproof?

No, unlike traditional clay objects, it isn’t possible to make air dry clay waterproof. Anything added to the surface will help make it water-resistant and help it avoid becoming soft again by soaking up any moisture.

Is air dry clay food safe?

Air dry clay objects, although non-toxic, won’t be food safe. Any varnish or sealant will prevent the peeling and chipping of paint, help protect against fading and allow any dust to be removed. Air dry clay items should be used for decorative purposes only.

What should I use to varnish air dry clay?

There are various mediums that can be used to seal or varnish air dry clay. The most economical option is using PVA glue. Most of us have some of this in our craft stash and it’s ideal to use on any projects the kids have made.

Can you use Mod Podge air dry clay?

Mod Podge is similar to using PVA but a more upmarket version. It’s a glue and sealer in one and is available in gloss, matte and glitter versions. Both of these options will add a protective seal but will offer little water resistance.

What is the best sealant for air dry clay?

The best option to provide a water-resistant, durable seal on air dry clay objects is to use a polyurethane or acrylic sealer. These provide a durable, water-resistant finish to protect the air dry clay and prevent it from yellowing.

They are available in glass and matte versions and also in spray form, ideal for large items or any items that have intricate areas that are difficult to get a brush into.

Make your own sealant for air dry clay

It is possible to create a DIY varnish recipe with just three ingredients. To create a clear, water-resistant medium:

  1. Place a whole bottle of clear nail varnish in a small container with two tablespoons of clear glue and three tablespoons of water.
  2. Mix thoroughly then apply to your chosen air dry clay object.
  3. A small amount of acrylic paint can be added to this varnish which will create a coloured glaze effect on the air dry clay. This works particularly well if the air dry clay object has a pattern pressed into it. The coloured varnish will collect in areas of the pattern and accentuates it.
  4. To achieve the best results when varnishing air dry clay make sure the object to be sealed is thoroughly dry and dust-free.
  5. Apply your chosen medium with a good quality small flat brush or a foam brush. Either one of these will ensure an even application with no obvious brush marks visible on the surface.
  6. Apply the varnish or sealant in a thin, even layer then allow to dry thoroughly before adding another layer. For optimum protection, add two or three thin layers, drying in between.

Varnish for air dry clay: How to varnish air dry clay

What materials do I need to follow this tutorial?

  • PVA glue – The cheapest option, ideal for kids’ projects. May yellow over time.
  • Mod Podge – Adds protection to air dry clay but isn’t water-resistant. Available in matte, gloss and glitter finishes.
  • Polyurethane varnish – Available in a bottle or a spray and in various finishes. Provides a water-resistant seal to air dry clay
  • Flat brushes
  • Foam brushes

The following steps show how to get the best varnish results using Mod Podge on a small painted bowl.


You Will Need

  • PVA glue
  • mod podge
  • Polyurethane varnish
  • Flat brushes
  • Foam brushes

Total time:

Step 1

Prepare the air dry clay surface

Check the air dry clay object is completely dry then wipe it with a soft cloth to remove any dust.

wipe clean the air dr clay to prepare for varnish

Step 2

Decant the Mod Podge and Mix

Pour some Modge Podge into a small container, check there are no stray lumps then gently mix.


Step 3

Apply Mod Podge to the top of the bowl

Using a small flat brush or foam brush, apply a thin, even layer of Mod Podge to the top of the bowl then leave to dry thoroughly.

apply the first layer of mod podge to your air dry clay

Step 4

Apply Mod Podge To The Base of the bowl

Turn the bowl over, apply a layer of Mod Podge to the base of the bowl then leave to dry.

Apply sealant to the bottom of the air dry clay bowl

Step 5

Add another layer

Apply another layer of Mod Podge to the top of the bowl then leave to dry. Turn the bowl over, apply a layer to the base then leave to dry.

add another layer of mod podge

Protect and preserve your air dry clay creations with ease

In just a few simple steps your air dry clay objects will be safely sealed, helping to prolong their shelf life, particularly important if the object has sentimental value.

Your creations will be able to take some wear and tear and can be dusted easily. The varnish will help enhance any painted design and ensure it won’t peel off.

Carry on experimenting with air dry clay

Air dry clay is an extremely versatile medium and has numerous crafty uses. If you’re keen to experiment further with air dry clay then why not try making a gorgeous stamped trinket dish?

This would look lovely with a coat of varnish added and it can be found in this article about how to use air dry clay.

How to use air dry clay - air dry clay dish 1