How to make a simple Claymation Character


So you want to know how to make a simple claymation character? Here we  will step you through how to easily make a simple modelling clay character. There are a number of things you should watch out for before you start creating your character. Which modelling clay should you use? Do I need armature? How big should my character be? What should my character look like? So before you jump in to your Claymation software or even designing your character for example you will have to choose the most suitable  modelling clay.


There are two main categories of clay. Water based or oil based. You should always use oil based clay as opposed to water based clay for your claymation characters. In simple terms, oil based clay will not dry out and crack. This is in contrast to water based clays which will dry out very quickly and crack. This is something you absolutely want to avoid.  I would recommend Plastalina, Claytoon  or Van Aken plasticine. Oil based clay is slight more expensive than water based clay but not by very much and the difference is really worth it. If you cannot find these brands at your local arts and crafts store then just ask for an oil based modelling non hardening clay. Alternatively there are lots of online sites which supply them at good prices.

Van Aiken


If your claymation characters have limbs then you may need to use some form of wire skeleton or armature as it is called in stop motion animation. You can purchase special armature with articulated arms, legs and head. But these can be expensive. An alternative is to use easily malleable wire. I would recommend 1/8th aluminum armature wire. This wire will easily bend in to position without bouncing back. It also will be easy enough to bend without pushing through the clay at the elbow or knee joints.

If you are new to claymation then I would advise you to start using clay without armature. You can create fantastic claymations without armature. There are many examples of inventive animations using creative characters that have no armature at all. Best examples is Purple and Brown. I suspect Pingu also never used armature. 


purple and brown

When you are new to making claymation characters it is best to start with basic shapes. An example of a very simple shape used to great effect can be seen in the “Purple and Brown” characters. These claymation characters have no arms or legs. Even their faces are very rudimentary. Yet they manage to convey a wide range of emotions with only their eyes and mouth. Such a basic shape also means you do not need any armature or complex support rigging. Such characters will not fall over or crack. The only moving parts will be their eyes and mouth. I would advise anyone starting out to consider designing claymation characters similar to Purple and Brown.


clean hands and a clean surface

Now that you are ready to start making your character you will begin handling your clay. Use clean hands and a clean surface to roll and squeeze your clay. Clay should be handled and molded repeatedly until it warms up. Once warm to the touch you can easily make the shape required. If you are using  multiple colors clean your hands and surface between the handling of each color. If your character has a number of parts you might consider using wire to form a frame. Then mold the various parts over your frame working from the body outward. When you are not animating, store your characters carefully by covering them in “stretch and seal” or food plastic cellophane. This will keep it from drying out too much while you take a break from animating.

Keep It Clean - Handling clay for Stop Motion
Keep It Clean - Handling clay for Stop Motion

clay FIGURES AND characters - inspiration !

Designing your character is the final step. This is the fun bit. All you need is imagination and perhaps a little inspiration. Try googling “claymation characters” under the images category. There are thousands of images available to give you a good starting point for the breadth of characters you can make to tell your story. Avoid going for complex multi limbed characters to start. They will only frustrate your efforts when you are new to clay animation. Start with something simple and build up some experience. So I hope you now know how to make a simple claymation character or at least where to start.

simple characters in clay
Simple Figures and Characters in Clay