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How to Soften Plasticine for a New Art Project

Emmanuel Kariuki is an environmentalist, artist, Sculptor and the author of several children's and young adult's fiction.

The head of a Dodo modelled with plasticine

The head of a Dodo modelled with plasticine

Plasticine

Many sculptors choose to work with plasticine for their models. It is easy to model with tools and bare hands, and unwanted sections are easily removed. If the artist wishes to make a copy of the model, the next step is to make a mold. Molds can be made from Plaster of Paris or fiberglass. In the case of fiberglass, it is a good thing to apply silicone latex rubber on the mold as the first step to get the artwork's details. Fiberglass and polyester resin mixed with hardener is then applied to make a casing for the mold. Once the cast has been made, the plasticine can be used again in another project. This hub will show you how to keep your plasticine always looking and feeling fresh.

After casting, plasticine is bound to get softer due to the heat generated when the hardener and resin are reacting. This soft plasticine will be difficult to work with in the future since it will tend to stick to your hands.

To refresh plasticine that has gone too soft, add some plaster of Paris – a little at a time. Knead it thoroughly into the plasticine until you get a good consistency.

Advantages of Plasticine

Plasticine is made of plaster, wax and petroleum jelly in varying quantities. It is used as artificial clay for modelling. Children love it and so do artists, especially those artists who model and cast their art objects to make copies. Plasticine has the following advantages when compared with natural clay.

  • Plasticine can be used over and over for years. This is unlike clay, which will dry out whether it is the end product or it is intended for casting.
  • Plasticine is cheap and easily available in supermarkets and art and crafts shops. Clay has to come from a few specialists.
  • Plasticine comes in a wide range of colours, unlike clay which usually takes the earthly colours of where it was mined.
Old used plasticine

Old used plasticine

How to Soften Plasticine

When buying new plasticine, select a brand that is not too soft. Good plasticine should not stick to your hands as you work. New plasticine that feels hard often softens after a little kneading on a hard surface. Plasticine that has been used repeatedly tends to harden to uncomfortable levels and may need some treatment to make it pliable again. This article will show you how.

The hardening of plasticine can be accelerated by poor storage, especially if it is not covered with polythene. This exposes it to wind, dust, and other impurities. Over time the oils in the plasticine are lost to the atmosphere, making it brittle, dry, and difficult to work with.

How to Make Plasticine Soft

To make plasticine soft, follow these steps:

  1. Break the plasticine into small fist-size pieces.
  2. Knead each piece into a flat pad, well spread out.
  3. Apply petroleum jelly on the surface of each flat pad and lay it on top of another. You can make up to three tiers this way.
  4. Roll the layered plasticine up into a tube shape.
  5. Hammer the tube on the top surface with your fist or palm; roll it over and hammer it again.
  6. Use any method to ensure that the layers are embedded into each other.
  7. Repeat this action until the petroleum jelly is well kneaded in.
  8. Chop the refreshed, pliable plasticine into neat shapes and store it in a polythene bag.

What Is Plasticine?

Plasticine is a versatile material, safe to use, and readily available. If you normally work on large modeling projects, you will find yourself adding more and more stock to your existing plasticine. The older stock will tend to be less malleable than the latest. Using the information in this hub, you will be able to refresh your old plasticine for recycling over and over.

Below is a demonstration by one of my favorite YouTube sculptors. Note that plasticine is sometimes called "clay," as in this video, not to be confused with natural clay from the soil.

Comments

Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on January 22, 2013:

Re-use and re-cycle DDE. You will save both money and planet earth. Thanks for commenting.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 21, 2013:

I always got rid of old Plasticine, now I know exactly what to do, thanks for this helpful Hub.