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How to make salt dough people

Updated February 14, 2019

Salt dough has long been used as a simple homemade material for crafting and creative play time. It's similar in consistency to clay and brand-name modelling doughs designed for children. Salt dough can be formed into sculptures and then left to air dry overnight. Once dry, your salt dough people can be decorated with paints and markers.

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  1. Measure 240 ml (1 cup) of all-purpose flour and pour it into a large bowl. Measure 120 ml (1/2 cup) of salt and add it to the flour. Mix the flour and salt together with your hands until they are thoroughly combined.

  2. Pour 120 ml (1/2 cup) water into the measuring cup. Slowly add the water to your flour and salt mixture-- start with half the total amount or less--and stir it with the fork as you add it. Continue adding water slowly and mixing the dough with a fork. When you think you have enough water, grab the dough with your hands to test for consistency. When the salt dough has the consistency of cookie dough or play clay dough, you have added enough water.

  3. Spread a sheet of waxed paper on the table or work surface. Sprinkle a little flour over it to help keep the dough from sticking. Knead the dough to ensure the ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Place the dough on the waxed paper, and flatten it as much as possible with the palm of your hand.

  4. Roll the dough flat with the rolling pin until it is 3 to 9 mm (1/8 to 3/8 inch) thick. Keep the dough a consistent thickness. If an area gets too thin, fold it over and reroll that section of dough.

  5. Sprinkle a little flour on the top of the dough to help keep the cookie cutters from sticking. Press the cookie cutter or cutters evenly down into the dough until they've cut through it. Lift the cookie cutter away from the dough. The person shape should be intact beneath it. If the cutout sticks to the cookie cutter, gently push or pull it away from the cutter.

  6. Continue cutting people shapes with the cookie cutters until you have no more room on the dough sheet. Gather up the leftover dough, reroll it and cut more people, if desired. Move any scrap dough off to the side.

  7. Place all the salt dough people on the waxed paper. Allow them to air dry overnight. (They may take two nights to dry if the salt dough is thick or the weather is humid.)

  8. Touch the salt dough people gently to ensure that they are dry and hard. If they are not completely firm, allow them to dry for one more day. If they are completely hardened, you can decorate them with acrylic paints, tempera paints or coloured markers. Leave the waxed paper under the dough people while you decorate them for an easier cleanup.

  9. Tip

    Smooth the surface of your salt dough people as much as possible before drying. This will give them a more finished look and make them easier to decorate later. To smooth the surface, wet your fingers, then rub the dough gently to smooth it out. To tint the dough, add a few drops of food colouring and knead it into the dough. Wear rubber gloves to prevent the dye from getting onto your hands.


    Cover any unused salt dough with a damp cloth and put it into an airtight zipper bag or sealed container. Ideally, you will want to use all the dough in one sitting because the dough will eventually harden otherwise. Salt dough is non-toxic and safe for children, but it's best they do not eat it because it is extremely salty.

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Things You'll Need

  • Measuring cup
  • 300 ml (1.25 cup) all-purpose flour
  • Large bowl
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) salt
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) warm water
  • Fork
  • Waxed paper
  • Cookie cutter(s) in the shape of a person or gingerbread man
  • Craft paint
  • Markers

About the Author

Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.

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