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How to Make a Clay Turtle (Easy Step-by-Step Instructions)

Two previously-made turtles I crafted.

Two previously-made turtles I crafted.

A Beginner's Guide to Crafting With Clay

Hello there! If you are reading this, then that means you are looking to make yourself or someone else a cute clay turtle. If you are new to making things with clay, you might not have all the right tools. For this tutorial, I am using things I found around the house as my tools.

What Household Items Can I Use as Sculpting Tools?

  • A razor blade, preferably with a handle
  • Something with a rounded end, like a paintbrush or a slightly pointed pencil
  • Something with a curved end (this is optional; if you can't find anything, you can use the razor)
  • A "beauty tool" normally used for nails (like the item with the red tip, as seen in the picture)
Tools and clay needed for this project.

Tools and clay needed for this project.

What Clay Should I Use?

I prefer to use Premo Sculpey, but you can use Sculpey III or another clay of your choosing. However, I do not know if your turtle will come out the same as mine, as all clays are different.

You can choose whatever colors you wish for your turtle, but the colors I used were:

  • Wasabi green (for the body)
  • Light brown (for the shell)
  • Black (for the eyes)

Where Can I Buy Sculpting Supplies?

If you have any problems finding the tools you need and you feel like you might want to make more clay crafts in the future, you can always go to an art supply store and invest in crafting toolsets. I have my own set of sculpting tools, but for this beginner tutorial, I chose to use other items.

You can buy all that you need from Hobby Lobby or Michaels art stores, or you can also buy what you need online through eBay or Amazon. Personally, I found items like Premo Sculpey and sculpting tools to be the cheapest on eBay.

Form the top of the shell to a slight hump and roll the log around the outer edges.

Form the top of the shell to a slight hump and roll the log around the outer edges.

Step 1: Make the Shell

  1. To start, take a medium-sized chunk of brown clay and roll it into a ball. You can make your turtle small, medium, or large—it's really up to you.
  2. You will also want to roll out a log of brown clay for the trim of the shell.
  3. Take the small ball and gently push it onto your table or working area. Shape the shell on either end till you have a slight hump on the top of the shell.
  4. Take the brown log you rolled out before and fit it around your shell. It should not be taller or as tall as the shell, but it should not be too thin either. You might need to play around with the thickness of the log until it seems right to you.
  5. Next, you will want to take your curved tool and gently press it into the log around the shell to make indentations. This gives it the curvy look a shell should have.
Make indents around the shell.

Make indents around the shell.

Step 2: Start Creating the Body Shapes

  1. After you're done making the shell, place it aside and wash your hands. This is important because you don't want to get any brown clay mixed into your green clay!
  2. You will want to make four small balls about the size of a marble (make them bigger or smaller, depending on the size of your shell). These are going to be the fins/flippers.
  3. After this, you will want to place one ball between your index finger and thumb on both hands and gently squeeze it to make a half-circle shape. It's ok if it's pointed a bit at the top—also don't worry if you mess up! You can always re-roll it into a ball and start over.
  4. After you form your four balls into half-moon shapes, flatten a small corner on each of them. This will be where you connect them to the shell.
  5. Next, take your curved tool and make little indentions on the flat side of the fins/flippers.
Making balls into the flippers.

Making balls into the flippers.

Step 3: Make the Head

  1. Making the head can be a bit tricky and you may need to redo it a few times. First, take a chunk of clay a little bigger than for the fins and roll it into a ball.
  2. Now press your fingers at the bottom and gently roll it out. Do NOT roll the whole ball into a log, just the bottom half. You will want to keep the top of the ball for the face.
  3. Once you have a long enough neck that will go under the shell and keep the head upright, take a pencil (or a paintbrush, if you have one small enough) and make two small holes in the sides of the head for the eyes.
  4. Once you make sure they are even and to your liking, take the curved tool and press it sideways to make a smile under the eyes.
Face side view and front view.

Face side view and front view.

Step 4: Make the Eyes and Tail

  1. After you have the eye holes to your liking, you can take two small pieces of black clay and roll them into little balls.
  2. Press the black balls into the holes, for the eyes.
  3. You can also take another small piece of green clay at this time and make the tail. Take a small ball and roll out one side of it to a point and gently flatten the other end. This is where it will attach to the shell. The tail can be short or long, depending on how you want your turtle to look.
Underside of the turtle once you have smoothed out the body parts onto the shell.

Underside of the turtle once you have smoothed out the body parts onto the shell.

Step 5: Connect the Body Parts to the Shell

  1. Once you have all your body pieces done, take the shell and make a slight indention where the front of your shell is. Take the pencil or paintbrush and roll it just a little bit to fit the neck of the turtle.
  2. DON'T make the indention too wide or TOO deep. Go slow on this and check with the neck size. If you need to make it a little bigger, then do so. You should not have to make the indention go into the thick part of the shell, just the outer ring.
  3. After you have the neck area done, flip the shell over and place the neck where it needs to go inside the indention. Gently press down on the flattened part where it connects to the bottom of the shell.
  4. Take your flippers and tail and do the same. Press the flattened area onto the bottom of the shell.
  5. If they do not stick, you may need to take your beauty tool and press down and smooth the body parts onto the shell.
Detailing your shell with the razor blade.

Detailing your shell with the razor blade.

Step 6: Detail the Shell

  1. Flip over the turtle and start to make designs in the shell with your razor blade. You can make a diamond shape on top and continue on with the diamond shape along the sides, or you can make squiggles or other shapes. This is your turtle—you can design the shell how you want.
  2. Make sure you don't press hard enough to go through the shell but hard enough that you can see your design.
  3. If you have any oven-safe beads or other shiny items, you can use those to decorate your shell as well. Have fun with it and be creative.

Step 7: Complete Your Turtle

  1. After your turtle is done, you will want to bake it in the oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for about half an hour. Make sure you let it cool completely before handling it, as clay sculptures are very fragile after they come out of the oven!
  2. If you have any glaze, you can glaze your turtles after they've cooled completely, or you leave them as they are for a more natural clay look.

Congratulations on your first turtle! Hope you have lots of fun crafting your turtles and finding other things to craft!


Pola from Viersen on February 29, 2020:

Really cute :)