KA Hanna holds a degree in Fine Art/Digital Art. She enjoys creating works from small to very large.
Make Miniature Clay Animals
Tiny animals made of clay are easy to make! This is a fun afternoon project for kids who love to work with clay and for crafty adults, too. If you use air-dry clay, pieces will dry overnight and be ready to paint the next day. You can also use oven-baked clay like Sculpey.
Finished mini animals are primarily decorative, suitable for dioramas; air-dried pieces can be fragile and will not stand up to rough play.
You will need air-dry clay to make these animals. Keep in mind that air-dried, unfired clay can be brittle, so these animals aren't intended to be long-lived. They are fun and quick to make and to keep for a little while.
Here are some ideas for clay types for you to consider:
- Marblex: This is a gray self-hardening clay that is very hard when dry. It can be painted with acrylic paint and gives good results.
- Crayola Air-Dry Clay: This is a white clay that is very soft and easy to work with. It's also inexpensive and widely available. The downside is that the finished, dried pieces are delicate and can easily break, especially fine details like tails and ears.
- Play-Doh: The quintessential children's sculpting media. It is not very hard when dry, and is more crumbly than Crayola Air-Dry Clay. It works in a pinch, however.
- Sculpey: This isn't an air-dry clay, but included because it's easy to find in many stores and does not need to be fired. It is simply baked in a home oven at a low temperature, resulting in a very hard and resilient piece. Sculpey is nice because it doesn't dry out at room temperature, giving you an extra long working time. It also comes in many colors, so you don't need to paint the finished piece.
There are special sculpting tools for clay work, but with kids, you can use the following:
- Mini dowels or toothpicks
- Popsicle sticks
- Thin plastic palette knives
- Mini plastic spoons, from ice cream shops
- Water container
- Paper towels
- Baby wipes for cleanup, or soap and water
- Acrylic paints and brushes, if you wish to paint your animals when dry
How to Sculpt a Pig
A pig has a stout round body, tiny legs, a large head, and no neck. It has pointed ears that flop forward. Its snout is flat with a slight upward tilt. With that in mind, here are the steps to make a miniature pig out of clay:
- Start with a piece of clay about the size of a quarter and about " thick. This will be the body piece. You will also need four small pieces of clay about 5/8" in diameter and 1/8" thick to make the legs. Set leg pieces aside.
- Working with the body piece of clay, roll it into an egg shape, then lightly pinch and manipulate the smaller end so that it is slightly pointy and triangularly shaped. This will be the snout end.
- With the snout facing you, pinch two ears at the top, above the snout. Continue to shape and smooth the clay so that you have two pointy ears to define the head and face. Check the pig's body to make sure it is smooth. Use a slightly dampened finger or a miniature plastic spoon to help with smoothing.
- Carefully bend the ears so that they point forward and slightly downward towards the snout.
- Lightly flatten the snout.
- Now you are ready to work on the tail. Turn the pig's body around and pinch a small amount of clay from the body so that it makes a long, thin tail of approximately 3/4" in length.
- Smooth the body around the tail using your fingers or tools.
- Curl the tail into a small tight circle, close to the body. Set the body aside to work on the legs
- Create four short cylinders out of each of the remaining clay pieces.
- To attach the legs to the body, use a toothpick or miniature wooden dowel to scratch a hash pattern into one end of each leg. On the underside of the body, scratch a hash pattern to where you will attach each leg.
- Press each leg, matching hash mark to hash mark, into the body. Use a lightly dampened miniature dowel or miniature plastic spoon to blend the leg pieces to the body so that good contact is made.
- Set the pig onto a flat surface to check balance. Carefully pinch the front feet slightly forward to indicate hooves.
- Allow pig to air dry thoroughly before handling or painting. Enjoy your pig!
How to Sculpt a Miniature Cat
A cat has a long sturdy body, a defined neck, and a triangular head. Its ears are pointed and upright. It has a long tail, held high, and four sturdy legs with defined paws.
To sculpt a cat, start with a piece of clay approximately 1" in diameter and 3/4" thick. Divide clay in half. Set one piece aside—this will be the body piece. Divide the remaining piece in half. Set one piece aside—this will be the headpiece. Divide the remaining piece into four pieces of equal size. These will be the leg pieces. Set aside.
- Working with the body piece, roll and manipulate it into an egg shape. Then continue to pinch, elongate and manipulate the small end of the egg into a tail. Curve the tail upwards.
- Working on the other end of the body, pinch a short neck. Smooth the body with lightly dampened fingers. You will end up with a shape that looks like a sprouted bean. Set body aside.
- Working with the head piece, roll into a smooth ball. The lightly pinch the ball to make a triangular shape. Turn one of the points to face you and pinch two ears to define the top of the head and muzzle. Continue to shape ears into two triangles. Shape and smooth muzzle and back of head.
- Use a toothpick to scratch a hash pattern into the neck part of the body piece where the head will attach. Scratch a hash pattern into the bottom of the head towards the back where it will attach to the neck. Join head to neck and use fingers or miniature spoon to smooth the two pieces to ensure a good join.
- Working with the leg pieces, roll each piece into cylinders that are approximately 3/8" long and 3/8" in diameter. Lightly press the top of each leg piece so that it is slightly flattened. This is the top joint of the leg, where it will attach to the body.
- The top inner part of the legs will join the bottom outer part of the body. To accomplish this, scratch a hash pattern into one side of the flattened part of each leg. Scratch hash patterns into the outside edges of the body where the legs will attach. See the picture for detail.
- Using the miniature spoon or a dowel, smooth the leg joints so that they look well integrated into the body. Turn the cat over to smooth the underside of the body.
- Place cat onto a flat surface to check balance and feet placement. Bend and pinch clay to make paws.
- Allow to air dry thoroughly before handling or painting. Enjoy your cat!
Tips for Making Miniature Clay Animals
- Making miniature animals out of clay is largely about proportion. For most animals, the body uses about 2x the amount of clay that the head uses. Legs use about 1/4 the amount of clay as the head. Add more or take some away as desired to achieve different looks.
- Animals that walk on four legs may look better by creating a leg joint that is attached to the sides of the body, as indicated in the directions for making a cat. If you find this is too difficult, you can still get great results by attaching the legs as you did with the pig—to the underside of the body.
- Save those "miniature spoons" that you get from ice cream shops like Baskin-Robbins. They make great tools for sculpting!
Tips for Painting Miniature Animals
- Allow the clay to dry completely before trying to paint. Otherwise, the paint will flake off when dry.
- I've found that acrylic paints work the best and last the longest. The colors are bright and varied.
- Tempera paints can also be used, but good quality paints last the longest. Dick Blick brand tempera paints are smooth and glossy and give excellent results.
KA Hanna (author) from America's Finest City on March 21, 2018:
Hi Sabrina, Thanks for commenting! I may do another article to show how to do “wild” animals like jaguars, so stay tuned!
sabrina on March 21, 2018:
can you do a jaguar
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 19, 2015:
KA Hanna (author) from America's Finest City on May 19, 2015:
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 19, 2015:
Pretty cool. Congrats on Editor's Choice in 2013. Voted up for awesome!
Loraine Brummer from Hartington, Nebraska on October 11, 2014:
Nice article with easy to understand tutorial. Great for classroom use also.
Allaboutmom on September 29, 2013:
KA Hanna (author) from America's Finest City on August 04, 2013:
Hi flourish, This works really well for Girl Scouts! Especially when doing badge work or cabin activity when camping. If you want to make tiny animal SWAPS, I suggest using Sculpy for durability.
FlourishAnyway from USA on August 04, 2013:
Very creative. I especially love the little kitty. I can imagine painting him and putting little googlie eyes. Perfect craft for tweens and teens, girl scout troops.
LG from Ozamiz City, Philippines on August 03, 2013:
KA Hanna (author) from America's Finest City on August 02, 2013:
Thanks light20! Hope your nieces enjoy!
LG from Ozamiz City, Philippines on August 02, 2013:
Great...this will be fun...I'll teach this to my 5 cute nieces...I have seen them playing with clays several times...so i think that they would really love this stuff...When it comes to family, I am all about my nieces... hahaha...They are too adorable...
Beautiful hub...and thank you for giving me a great idea for sharing quality time...
Ceres Schwarz on July 29, 2013:
These clay animals look really cute. The instructions for how to make them would really help those that are interested in making clay animals. The tips on making and painting the clay animals are also very useful.
KA Hanna (author) from America's Finest City on July 28, 2013:
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on July 28, 2013: