What Is The Best Material To Make Handprint Ornaments?

Handprint ornaments are a popular holiday craft, often made by children as gifts for family members. The process involves using paint or ink to capture an impression of a child’s hands on a material, which is then cut into a shape and hung as a festive decoration. The personal touches of a child’s actual handprint and name make these ornaments especially meaningful. There are many different materials that can be used to make handprint ornaments, each with their own advantages.

Salt Dough

Salt dough is one of the most popular and easy to make homemade ornaments. The ingredients are simple – just flour, salt, and water. The exact measurements vary, but a good basic recipe is 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, and 1/2 cup water.

To make the dough, mix the dry ingredients together first. Then add the water and knead until a smooth dough forms. The dough should be firm and not sticky. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour.

Kids enjoy making salt dough because it’s fun to play with. Once the dough is made, simply roll it out and use cookie cutters to cut into shapes. Or roll pieces into balls or snakes to make other designs. Insert a straw before baking to make a hole for hanging the finished ornament.

A major benefit of salt dough is that it air dries. There’s no need to bake it. Simply allow the ornaments to dry completely, which takes 1-3 days. They can then be painted with acrylic paints and finished with glitter or other decorations. The end result is a keepsake that captured your child’s handprint and creativity.


Clay is a popular material for making handprint ornaments due to its moldable texture that captures fine details like fingerprints. There are several types of clay that can be used:

  • Air-dry clay – This clay air-dries at room temperature. It doesn’t require baking but may take 1-3 days to fully cure.
  • Polymer clay – Also called oven-bake clay, this type needs to be hardened by baking at relatively low temperatures, usually 130-150°C.
  • Ceramic clay – Made from natural clay and needs high firing temperatures exceeding 600°C. Best for making decorative tiles or ornaments that will be glazed and weatherproofed.

The process for making handprint ornaments with clay involves first kneading and softening a lump of clay. Next, the hands or feet are gently pressed into the clay to capture the print. Decorative elements can also be added by engraving the surface or attaching materials like beads.

Air-dry clays can simply be left to cure while polymer and ceramic clays will need to be fired in a kiln or oven based on manufacturer guidelines to fully harden. The end result is a durable personalized ornament.

Plaster of Paris

Plaster of Paris is a quick-setting gypsum plaster that has been calcined to remove water from its chemical structure. It is typically sold as a white powder that can be mixed with water to form a paste which hardens over time. The chemical formula for plaster of paris is CaSO4·1⁄2H2O.

To make plaster of paris ornaments, you’ll need to mix the plaster powder with water, usually in a 1:2 ratio by volume. Stir continuously until a thick, creamy paste forms without any lumps. Once mixed, you have a working time of 5-10 minutes before it starts setting. Pour the plaster paste into molds, let sit for 10 minutes, then remove carefully from the molds and allow to fully dry, which takes 24-48 hours.

The benefits of using plaster of paris for ornaments is that it’s inexpensive, sets quickly so you can unmold faster, and results in a smooth, durable finish. The main downside is that it’s fragile when fully dry, so ornaments are prone to chipping or breaking if handled roughly. Plaster also tends to be heavier than some other materials like salt dough or clay.


Concrete is made from a mixture of cement powder, water, and an aggregate such as sand or gravel. When mixed together, a chemical reaction called hydration occurs, which causes the concrete to harden into a solid, durable material. Concrete has many benefits for handprint projects:

  • It is extremely durable and long-lasting.
  • It can be molded into any shape while wet.
  • It accepts colorants and stains easily.

However, concrete also has some drawbacks to consider:

  • It is very heavy even when dry.
  • It takes 24-48 hours to fully cure and dry.
  • It requires proper safety equipment and ventilation when mixing.

Overall, concrete can make very unique and personalized handprint keepsakes, but requires more time, effort, and care when working with it. Proper planning is needed to allow adequate drying time before handling the ornament.


Homemade play-doh is an excellent material for making handprint ornaments. Here is a simple recipe to make your own play-doh at home:

Combine 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and food coloring in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture forms into a ball. Allow to cool before kneading the dough to make it smooth and pliable.

Play-doh is very moldable when fresh, making it perfect for pressing handprints and cutouts to make ornaments. Small decorations can be shaped by hand, while flatter shapes like handprints work best when pressed firmly into the dough. Let ornaments air dry completely before decorating or hanging.

The soft, moldable texture makes play-doh an engaging sensory material for kids to shape. Homemade play-doh has a smooth, satiny finish when dried, differing from store-bought versions. With its bright colors and ability to imprint details, play-doh is one of the most versatile and fun materials for handprint keepsakes.


Using paper is a popular option for making handprint ornaments. Cardstock and construction paper are commonly used. These provide a stiff, durable material for capturing the handprint. The smooth surface also easily captures the details and contours of the hand.

Paper handprint ornaments can be decorated in many creative ways. Using markers or crayons directly on the paper allows you to add color and designs. Glitter, sequins, and other embellishments can also be glued on for sparkle. Paper is also great for collaging, allowing you to glue on photos, ribbons, buttons, and more.


Using fabric and textiles is a unique way to make handprint ornaments. Materials like felt, burlap, cotton, and more can be used. To create the ornament, cut the fabric into the desired shape, then have the child place their hand on it and trace around with a fabric marker or paint. Sew around the outline by hand or machine to finish it. Glue can also be used instead of sewing. Felt is a good option since it doesn’t require hemming. Make sure to back the fabric with something sturdy like cardboard before gluing the handprint to avoid wrinkles. Burlap gives a rustic look, while cotton is soft. Cutting the fabric into holiday-themed shapes like a stocking, tree, etc. prior to adding the handprint allows for even more customization. Textiles make for a soft, warm handprint perfect for hanging on the tree or gifting.

Natural Materials

Using natural materials found outdoors is a creative way to make unique handprint ornaments. Pinecones, leaves, sticks, seeds, and other natural materials can be gathered and used to decorate or accent the handprint. Here are some ideas for natural material ornaments:

– Press a handprint into air-dry clay or salt dough, then decorate around it with pinecones, leaves, sticks, pebbles, etc. This creates a natural wreath or frame for the print. Let fully dry before removing.

– Make a salt dough handprint, then gently press seeds, grains, or spices into the surface while still soft. This adds pretty texture and dimension. Sandalwood powder, poppy seeds, and coffee grounds work well.

– Using Mod Podge or decoupage medium, affix leaves and pine needles around a handprint cutout on cardstock or canvas. Add a ribbon loop at top to hang.

– Handprints punched out of fall leaves or flower petals using hole punches create lovely ornaments. String them together or glue onto cardstock.

– Imprint handprints into clay or ceramic ornaments, then decorate with twigs, mini pinecones, moss, dried flowers, etc. before baking.


From plaster of Paris to play-doh, there are a variety of materials that can be used to make handprint ornaments. Some are messy but work well for younger children, while others require more skill but deliver finer details. Here’s a summary of the advantages of each:

Salt dough is an affordable, simple option. Kids can shape it easily. It may crack as it dries if the consistency isn’t perfect. Clay offers more shaping freedom and detail. Air dry is simplest but takes days; baking sets faster. Plaster hardens quickly for instant gratification but is messier. Concrete allows shaping impressions but requires more safety precautions.

Play-doh is fun and moldable but not a permanent material. Paper is easy to cut and decorate but delicate. Textiles like felt allow embroidery for custom designs. Natural items like leaves let you incorporate nature’s beauty. Creative combinations like plaster cast leaves make interesting ornaments.

For pure fun and simplicity with young children, salt dough or air dry clay work well. For more artistic, delicate or detailed results, opt for oven-bake clay, plaster or paper based on the age and skill level of the crafter.

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