How to Make Clay Lions

Updated November 21, 2016

Lions are a symbol of power, courage and authority and have been represented in paintings and sculptures throughout history. However, lions have also been used as a source of inspiration for cartoons and are popular with children, who often paint or draw them. If your child is fascinated by lions, suggest a figurine-making project using clay. The project requires up to 1 hour to shape the lion and the same amount of time to paint the figurine. You also need to allow the clay to dry before painting it.

Knead the air-dry clay on a flat table to soften it. If you have a pasta machine, run the clay through it.

Roll a lump of clay between your palms to create a cylinder, which is the body of the lion. Create a thin clay rope for the lion's tail, and attach it to the back of the body.

Shape four thinner cylinders to use as the feet of the lion.

Insert toothpick edges in four points of the lion's body. Attach the feet to the body by slightly pressing the feet into the toothpicks.

Create a pyramid-shaped pad for the main paw. Round the edges of the pyramid with your fingers. Make four smaller toe pads and unite them with the main paw pad using toothpicks. Carve the claws with the knitting needle. Do the same for the three remaining paws.

Join the paws with the feet of the lion using toothpicks.

Form the head of the lion, which is the most important part of your project. The head will make your figurine look like a lion. Make a round shape and carve the eyes, or form two smaller balls, flatten them and add them to the head as the eyes of the lion. Shape a ball and flatten it, which will be the lion's nose.

Insert a small lump of clay into the garlic press. Squeeze out clay strands, which you position all around the lion's head to form the mane. Press the strands onto the head using the knitting needle. If the clay head has hardened, wet it with a small paintbrush. Use a few strands as whiskers and for the tuft at the end of the tail.

Place the lion aside and ensure it is stable so it won't fall and distort while drying. Allow the clay to dry for 12 hours.

Colour your lion with water-based paints such as acrylics, which dry faster than oil colours.

Apply varnish to protect the colours and the surface of the clay.


Cover your working table with freezer paper to protect the table. The clay won't stick to the paper. To speed up the drying process, use a blow dryer. When joining two pieces of clay, ensure the clay is still soft so the pieces adhere better. If the pieces are partially dry, wet them with a paintbrush or sponge.

Things You'll Need

  • Air-dry clay
  • Pasta machine (optional)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Garlic press
  • Knitting needle
  • Toothpicks
  • Water-based paints
  • Varnish
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