How to Make a Clay Penguin


Making a penguin is an introduction to creating bird or animal shapes from clay, simple enough for children or beginners. Break the project down into manageable parts, one area of the penguin at a time, instead of trying to create the entire adorable bird out of one hunk of clay. The type of clay you use is a matter of personal choice: Dough-style play clay is generally the softest and most workable, while polymer clay takes a bit of warming and working with the hands to become soft enough to shape easily.

Things You'll Need

  • Wax paper
  • Play clay or polymer clay in black, white and orange (or desired penguin colors)
  • Plastic knife
  • Toothpick
  • Cover the work surface with wax paper. Place the clay atop the wax paper.

  • Tear off a small hunk of black clay to form a penguin body. Use another color such as blue, if you prefer. If working with polymer clay, you may need to slice through it with a plastic knife instead of tearing it. Use a hunk approximately the size of the penguin you wish to create, such as the size of a bite-sized candy bar.

  • Roll the clay between your hands or over the wax paper to create a ball shape. Once it is relatively round, flatten it a bit so it is narrower at one end, more like an oval. The wide end is the body of the penguin; the narrow end is the head.

  • Squeeze the area between the narrow and wide portions of the clay slightly to create a slight indentation all the way around, which helps differentiate the head and body. Press the bottom of the body shape down onto the wax paper slightly to make the bottom flat once you're happy with the overall shape. This allows the penguin to stand on its own.

  • Tear or slice three pea-sized amounts of orange clay to form the beak and feet, respectively.

  • Form the beak by making a cone shape from one of the pea-sized orange clay pieces, working the clay between your fingers into the desired shape. Press the beak onto the penguin head and smooth the beak's edges down to secure it. Continue shaping the beak until it resembles a beak again. Slide a toothpick around the beak from one side to the other to form a mouth shape, if desired.

  • Create two similar balls from the remaining orange clay pieces; then flatten them slightly on one side to form the bottom of the feet. Set the feet in front of the penguin in the desired location; and lift the penguin to position it atop the feet slightly so the feet attach to the body. Lift the penguin again and smooth the orange clay over the bottom of the penguin so the feet stay in place. Set the penguin back in upright position.

  • Slice off a thin piece of white clay to form the light front of the penguin body. Roll it into a sphere; squeeze it into an oval; then flatten it completely. Slice the top off straight or at an arc to turn the white pancake into a bib shape. Place the bib over the penguin's chest, beneath the beak, smoothing it in place.

  • Cut two more small pieces of white clay to form eyes. The amount of clay needed for each is minimal, like a large crumb or tiny piece of gravel. Roll the white clay into matching tiny balls; then flatten them into flat oval for eyes. Place the eyes on the penguin face above the beak, slightly touching the top of the beak. Form pupils by poking small holes in the eyes with the toothpick, or by using tiny dots of black clay pressed into place.

  • Slice two narrow pieces of black or body-colored clay for wings. Press and shape the clay with your fingers into flat elongated triangles, slightly rounded on the edges. Smooth and press the wide end of the wings onto the penguin below the shoulder line. Squeeze and shape the clay so the wings stick out a bit on the bottom on their own.

  • Allow the clay to air dry for several days, if you're using a dough-style air-drying clay, or bake according to the instructions on the polymer clay package; instructions vary based on brand and composition of the polymer clay.

Tips & Warnings

  • Create a colony of penguins, including baby penguins shaped more like balls, just for fun. Turn a clay creation into a key chain by placing a small screw-eye through the top of the penguin head before baking or drying. Add a jump ring and key ring after baking.
  • If young children are playing with the clay as well, keep an eye on them to ensure they do not eat the clay; alternatively, use non-toxic play clay to ensure maximum safety.

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  • Photo Credit Chepko Danil/iStock/Getty Images
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