How to Make a Dolphin Out of Clay

Updated November 21, 2016

Making a clay dolphin requires either air-dry clay, polymer clay or organic clay. Air-dry clay is the best choice if you don't have a pottery kiln and you don't want to spend time baking polymer clay. The way you build your clay dolphin depends on its size. If making a small dolphin, the simple hand-building technique is suitable, while a larger dolphin requires a wire armature with clay applied on it. This technique enables you to use less clay and obtain a lighter figurine.

Find a detailed picture of a dolphin. Make a sketch including all the essential components of the mammal's body.

Use your sketch to build a three-dimensional wire armature for the dolphin. Make the basic shape of the dolphin first and then attach the beak, the flukes, the fin and the flipper.

Reinforce the armature with tape.

Tape strips of newspaper onto the wire armature.

Warm up the clay with your hands to make it softer and easier to work with. This is known as clay conditioning.

Prepare clay slabs with your hands or using a rolling pin. Apply the clay slabs onto the paper dolphin. Place the clay slabs close together and unify these with your fingers.

Allow the clay to dry overnight. Air-dry clay dries within 2 hours or more, depending on the thickness of the clay slabs you use.

Paint the dolphin using oil-based or water-based colours. Use white or light grey for the belly and dark blue or brown-grey shades for the back and the flipper. Paint small circular eyes, small ears and a blowhole with black or dark brown. Allow the paint to dry before mounting the dolphin on a stand or displaying it.


Prepare a stand for the dolphin using clay, papier-mâché or wire armature. Alternatively, make the dolphin's belly flat when you shape the armature, so that the dolphin will stand on its own. If you want to make a small dolphin, you don't need a wire armature. Shape a solid figurine using clay. You can also create a dolphin by pressing the clay into a store-bought mould.

Things You'll Need

  • Detailed image of dolphin
  • Wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Tape
  • Newspaper
  • Scissors
  • Air-dry clay
  • Paints
  • Paintbrushes
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