How to Make Vibrant Clay Animals

Create some colourful clay animals inspired by the vibrant, decorative folk arts of Mexico. Mexican popular art often has a very humorous and light-hearted tone which compliments the intensity of its colours. These characters are easy to make at home and are sure to add a pop of colour to any corner, give as a gift, or even use as a paperweight! 

Francesca Tiley is a British Mexican illustrator with a love for bold colours, patterns and folk art. When visiting Mexico as a child, Francesca was always excited by the markets, toys, food and bright decorations that she would see there. This striking imagery now influences her aesthetic as an illustrator. 

You Will Need Craft Essentials How to Make

1. First start with a small handful of clay and knead this into a ball. It’s good to use a surface that is easy to wipe clean or which you don’t mind getting mucky as the clay may stick.


2. Start to shape the clay into the general shape of your animal. You can make up your own imaginary animal or follow the shape of a real one.


3. Next start to shape out any ears, arms or legs. Start to pinch out parts of clay, extending them from the main body. Here I am starting to make the shape of the rabbit’s ears.

4. You may want to push parts of the clay around the body to add or remove weight in certain areas e.g. I might make take clay from the top of the animal down to the base to create the impression of a head on top of a body.


5. Once you’re happy with the overall shape, add a bit of water to smooth out any bumps or creases with your fingers.


6. Leave your animal to dry in a warm safe place for a couple of days. It’s a good idea to turn the animal over during this time to allow it to dry quickly and evenly.

Top tip! If you’re making more than one animal I recommend making them all in one batch as you can think about how they will look together. I’ve decided to make a rabbit, snail and something between a pig and a bear! Don’t worry about it being realistic, the brighter and more expressive the better!


7. Once your animal is dry decide which base colour you’d like to paint each one. Mix in some white with your chosen colour as this will ensure that it’s opaque enough to fully cover the clay. You can use your largest brush for this part


8. You may want to make your set of animals all the same colour or varied. Mexican colours tend to be bright and bold.

9. Let your base colour dry till it’s okay to touch. Acrylic paints tend to dry quickly depending on how thick you’ve applied them.


10. You can then begin to paint your secondary colour with your medium brush. I like to choose contrasting tones that pop! Your secondary colour is used to highlight certain areas of the animal e.g. its paws, nose or tummy. These highlights will add to its overall personality.


Top tip! If you have painted your animals different base colours, you can use the same palette throughout to keep them looking as a set.


11. Once the secondary colour is dry we come on to do the detail. Use your smallest brush for this. Chose colours that will stand out against your base and secondary colour.


12. This is the point when I get stuck into embellishing the animal! You may want wiggles, dots or abstract shapes – this is when you can really define your animal’s personality


Remember to think about all sides! Front, back, top and…

The base!


13. Once you’re happy with your final design, let your animal dry for an hour and then apply a layer of varnish with your medium brush. Paint one side, allow this to dry, and then turn over and paint the other. You can always add more than one layer of varnish to ensure it’s well protected.


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