The stop motion technique is one of the best ways to help you quickly immerse yourself in animation without incurring a great expense while animating clay or objects with satisfactory results. What makes the stop motion technique, also called clay animation, more enthralling is that it allows for flexibility and lends itself online perfectly to the amorphous transformations offered by drawn animation.
One of the first things to do is get a capture system that allows you to animate using any number of cameras within reach, such as a video camera, web camera, and a digital still camera. Using animation software to produce a stop motion animation is challenging and enthralling in equal measure. One of the most challenging activities is the process of forming and shaping the clay characters.
Before processing the characters with your stop motion software, you will need to mold and shape them. The process of creating the clay characters is comparable to sculpting, an artistic skill you need to perfect and improve on to enjoy the best results. Once these fundamentals are in place, you should choose the right kind of clay that complements the process and lends itself to animation.
Which is the best Clay for stop motion?
Many beginners generally begin with classic water-based ceramic clay. This happens to be one of the prime materials that have been here for a while and have served the art industry for hundreds of years. This clay may allow for animation but happens to only do so for a short period as it rapidly starts to dry out in the lights and air. As it dries, it also hardens, and in the process, cracks begin to appear, which makes sculpting more challenging.
Eventually, the clay needs to be moistened continuously for it to be malleable and pliant, and with this comes the challenge of it being muddy and messy. Ceramic clay also does not lend itself to clay as it only comes in gray and brown. In the end, ceramic clay ends up being a poor choice in animation. As the art evolved and progressed in the coming years, the artisans discovered that adding mineral oil rather than water solved the problem of the clay drying out.
This clay is known as Roma Pastilina, and the formula is over a century old and is based on Gudicci Italian modeling clay of the 1800s. This clay is versatile and further comes in many hardness grades from very soft to a hard wax consistency that can be sculpted. It comes in gray, green, and white only, and the oil has a habit of weeping out of the clay during animation and is very good for making prototypes. The artist can make use of rubber mold-making materials if the clay doesn’t have sulfur. It is important to note that sulfur must be excluded from the formula as it reacts with the rubber mold-making materials impeding their ability to set.
Stop Motion clay
So what clay is the best for you when jumping to stop motion animation? Should you go for the most expensive or the cheapest ones available in the market? Should you use the normal or the playschool type of clay to give you the best results in your clay animation? Before we answer the questions above, you must understand that there are numerous types of clay and familiarizing yourself with a number of them. Some of the types of clay you can familiarize yourself with are:
The Kiln-fired Hardening clays
These types of clay require extreme amounts of heat to harden after shaping them. They are not very much suited for clay animation characters in general. Rarely would you need to make a part of a set of characters with this type of clay? Examples of this type of clay are porcelain and ceramic clay, often used in pottery, and high gloss and colorful sculptures.
The Non-hardening clays
These are the most popular ones in stop motion and are used to create soft and movable characters and happen to be oil-based. Just as their name suggests, they do not harden even under air and humidity exposure for extended periods. They depend on their oil component to give them moisture rather than water, which significantly contributes to its non-hardening property. The best example of this clay that is very common is the soft and colorful plasticine found quickly in the market and mostly used by children.
Oven-Baked hardening clays
This category includes clays that remain in their malleable and moldable state until they are baked in medium to high heat temperatures. The essential thing to know here is once you heat the shaped clay over a specified range of temperature, it hardens. An example of this is the polymer clay that is used in clay animation.
These clays quickly dry up after being exposed to air for relatively short periods of time. They are water-based air-dried clays, and an example of the same is the “Plus” clay or WED clay. This will definitely not be suited for stop motion because you need your clay to be flexible and supple as you animate.
From the categorization described above, it is clear that oil-based and non-hardening are the ones mostly used in stop animation. This does not mean the rest are useless because the hardening clays are used to create parts of the stop-animation characters that are not movable. The best of the clays to use in stop animation is therefore oil-based, and the brands that stand out are Van Aken, Sagen Art, and Puppet Putty described below:
It is one of the most popular clays for stop animation worldwide and happens to be very affordable and inexpensive, contrary to what you would believe. It is animation-proven, non-toxic, and comes in a variety of colors, which allows you to get more creative in your craft. In addition to that, the oil-based Van Aken clay is also easy to mix, which enables you to make new colors from existing colors. This does come in handy when you are making a large number of spot animation videos, and it is economical to make your own colors.
Another alternative that is similar to Van Aken is Sagen Art and has excellent sculpting properties. It also has the perfect blend of wax and colors to give evocative and aesthetically pleasing clarity and vibrance. It also animates well, and it can be melted on a double boiler, and it does not dry out.
This happens to be one of the formulas made explicitly for spot animation. Another compelling fact about this is that it is entirely made by hand. It also shows a lot of versatility and the most flexible of the clays recommended. It is a bit shiny due to the high wax content, which is not a desirable attribute; hence a matte version is in the works. It happens to be lighter than clay, and therefore puppets do not fall easily due to gravity.
Puppets also don’t exhibit color bleeding effects like the rest of the clays, meaning it is possible to make a puppet with black and white putty without worrying about the colors smearing on each other. With that said, it is not uncommon to get artists mixing the white Puppet Putty with Van Aken to create a hybrid that boasts of Puppets’ flexibility and the matte sheen of the Van Aken.