How Do You Make An Air Dry Piggy Bank Out Of Clay?

Air dry clay is a modeling material that dries at room temperature without the need for baking or firing in a kiln. Made from a non-toxic mixture of minerals, water and cellulose, it contains no harmful chemicals and typically comes in white or terra cotta color. Air dry clay is ready to use right out of the package and becomes hard and durable once fully dry.

In this project, we’ll use air dry clay to create a cute piggy bank that doesn’t require any special tools or equipment to make. All that’s needed are some basic sculpting and painting supplies that can easily be found at a craft store. The finished piece will make for a fun decorative item to display, as well as a useful place to store loose change. Read on to learn the full steps for sculpting and decorating your own air dry piggy bank!

Supplies Needed:

  • Air dry clay
  • Rolling pin
  • Paint brushes
  • Acrylic paint
  • Polyurethane sealant (optional)

Choosing Air Dry Clay

When making an air dry clay piggy bank, the type of clay you choose is an important first step. There are a few main types of air dry clay to consider:

Cornstarch clay – This clay is made from cornstarch, glue, and other ingredients. It’s inexpensive, pliable, and dries smooth and hard. However, it can crack easily.

Cellulose clay – Also called paper clay, this type contains cellulose fiber from recycled paper. It’s lightweight, strong, and doesn’t shrink much when drying. However, it can be more expensive and take longer to harden.

Plaster of Paris – Made from gypsum powder, this clay dries very quickly and is easy to sculpt. But it’s also quite heavy and prone to chipping if dropped.

For a piggy bank, I recommend using cornstarch clay. While no clay is perfect, cornstarch clay offers a nice balance of sculptability, strength, smooth finish, and low cost. Just be gentler when handling to avoid cracks. Allow extra drying time and use a sealer for added durability.

Sculpting the Piggy Bank

To sculpt the basic piggy bank shape, start by kneading and conditioning your air dry clay. Kneading helps make the clay soft and pliable so it’s easier to work with. Press the clay firmly with the palms of your hands, fold the clay over itself, and continue pressing and folding until the clay is smooth and free of cracks. You can also work the clay in circles or back and forth motions to evenly distribute moisture throughout.

Once the clay is conditioned, form it into a basic oval or egg shape for the piggy bank’s body. Pinch and pull the clay with your fingers to elongate and refine the shape. Place the body on a flat work surface and gently press down to flatten the bottom.

Use small balls of clay to create the nose, eyes, and ears. Attach them securely by gently pressing and smoothing over the seams. For the tail, roll a rope of clay and curl it into a spiral, attaching it at the back. Add lines and textures for definition using sculpting tools. Let your creativity shine by making the facial features expressive and unique!

As you work, turn the piggy bank sculpture periodically and check it from all angles. Adjust and refine the shape as needed. Mist the clay lightly with water if it starts to dry out.

Creating the Coin Slot

One of the most important parts of making a functional piggy bank out of air dry clay is creating the coin slot. This is the opening where coins will be inserted into the bank.

When planning the placement of the coin slot, think about the shape and size of the sculpture. The slot should be positioned near the top of the piggy bank, but not so high up that it is difficult to reach. Avoid placing it directly on the highest point, as this area often ends up too narrow to cut a clean opening.

Use a clay tool to cut a rectangular opening for the coin slot. A knife tool works well for this. Make sure to cut a clean edged slit with even width all the way through the clay. Remove any excess clay and smooth the edges by rubbing gently with your finger or a silicone modelling tool.

The coin slot should be large enough for coins to easily slip through, but not so big that they fall out once inside the bank. A good standard width is about 1-1.5cm. For a neat finish, try cutting a piece of cardboard to the correct size and using this as a template for the slot.

Drying Process

Air drying clay works by drying through evaporation. The water in the clay evaporates over time when exposed to air, causing the clay to harden. This is different from polymer clay or ceramic clay that needs to be baked in an oven to set and harden.

Air dry clay typically takes 24-48 hours to completely dry and cure. Thinner pieces may only take 12 hours while thicker pieces can take up to 72 hours if the humidity is high. Ensure the piggy bank is dried slowly and evenly to prevent cracking – do not force dry it quickly with heaters or direct sunlight.

To help the piggy bank dry properly, place it in an area with good air circulation but away from vents or windows. Avoid tightly enclosed spaces which can trap moisture. Turn the sculpture periodically so all sides are exposed to air. If drying too fast on one side, cover with plastic wrap to slow evaporation.

Test for dryness by gently squeezing – the sculpture is ready when the surface is hard and free of tackiness. When fully cured, the air dry clay will have a finish similar to baked ceramic.


Once your air dry clay piggy bank has fully dried and hardened, it’s ready for painting! There are several types of paint you can use, with acrylic, tempera and enamel paints being common options.

Acrylic paint is water-based, dries quickly, and provides a smooth finish. It works well on both paper and clay surfaces. Tempera paint is also water-based but requires a bit more patience as it takes longer to dry. It has a matte finish. Enamel paints are oil-based, offer very vibrant colors, and provide a glossy look, but require mineral spirits for cleanup.

When selecting paints, consider the look you want for your bank and how much time you have for the project. Acrylics dry fast but you may need multiple coats for an opaque look. Temperas allow blending but dry slowly. Enamels provide a glossy finish but require solvent for cleaning.

There are a few painting techniques that work well on clay:

  • Dry brushing – use a small amount of paint on a dry brush to lightly brush color onto raised areas for texture.
  • Stippling – use a sponge, brush, or cotton swab to apply small dots of paint for texture.
  • Sponging – use a natural sponge to dab on paint lightly for blending and gradation.

Once painted, apply a clear acrylic sealer or varnish to protect the paint and give your bank a nice finished look. Allow proper drying time between paint coats and before sealing.

Get creative with your painting! Add patterns, designs, faces, textures – anything that reflects the personality of your clay piggy bank.

Sealing Your Clay Piggy Bank

Sealing your air dry clay piggy bank is an important final step to help protect it. Air dry clay is porous, so sealing it will help make it more durable and prevent moisture damage over time.

There are a few common sealants that work well for sealing clay:

  • Polyurethane – This clear coat adds a layer of protection and light shine.
  • Acrylic varnish – Provides a matte finish and protects from moisture and scratches.
  • Mod Podge – Acts as an adhesive and sealer, available in matte or gloss sheens.

When applying your sealant:

  • Do multiple thin coats instead of one thick coat for best results.
  • Allow proper drying time between coats as specified on the product.
  • Use a foam brush or soft cloth to apply the sealant smoothly.
  • Seal all surfaces including the bottom for maximum protection.

Sealing will help your clay piggy bank withstand regular use and keep it looking great for years to come.


Once the sealant has fully dried, you can embellish and decorate your piggy bank however you’d like. There are lots of fun ways to personalize it.

Washi tape comes in tons of colors and patterns, so it’s a great way to add stripes, geometric shapes, or floral designs. Simply cut pieces of washi tape to size and stick them on. Glitter is another easy option – brush some glue on the surface and sprinkle different colored glitter. You can find cute pig-themed stickers or use alphabet stickers to spell out a name.

To finish it off, punched holes on both sides of the piggy bank and thread a ribbon through. Knot the ribbon to make a carrying handle or bow. You can also glue on faux flowers, pom poms, googly eyes, sequins – anything that sparks your creativity! The decorating stage is a chance to make it truly unique.

Usage and Safety

When using your homemade air dry clay piggy bank, keep the following safety guidelines in mind:

Inserting and removing coins safely

Coins can have sharp edges, so take care when inserting and removing them from the piggy bank, especially around the coin slot. Consider having an adult handle the coins if young children will be using the bank.

Supervising children under 3 years old

Do not allow children under age 3 to play with the piggy bank unsupervised. As with any small decorative object, it poses a choking hazard if handled improperly.

Avoiding moisture damage

Even when sealed, air dry clay is vulnerable to moisture damage. Keep the piggy bank in a dry location away from water sources. Do not intentionally wet or submerge the bank, as this can cause the clay to become misshapen or degraded over time.

Alternative Designs

While a traditional piggy bank shape is fun, you can make your air dry clay bank into any shape you’d like. Get creative with different animals like a dog, cat, owl, or dinosaur. You can also sculpt abstract shapes like a moon, star, or geometric pattern.

For more complex designs, start with an air dry clay mold. You can press your clay into molds shaped like cars, animals, letters, numbers, and more. Let the clay dry fully before removing it from the mold.

Some tips for working with molds and more intricate shapes:

  • Apply a thin layer of vegetable oil to the mold before pressing in clay. This will make clay release easier.
  • Roll out clay to 1/4″ thickness before pressing into the mold.
  • Work slowly and press clay firmly into all crevices of the mold.
  • Let clay dry for at least 24 hours before attempting to remove it.
  • Start by gently flexing the mold to loosen the clay before prying it out.
  • Use sculpting tools to add details after removing clay from the mold.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and make the bank into any fun shape you choose! The sculpting process can be just as rewarding as saving money in your personalized piggy bank.

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