Homemade Model Magic vs Crayola Model Magic - A Comparison
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Homemade Model Magic vs Crayola Model Magic

Homemade Model Magic vs Crayola Model Magic
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We’ve tried Model Magic in two forms in the past week :: the official Crayola version and a homemade recipe that I found on Southern as Biscuits.

I’m not sure why I’ve avoided buying Model Magic before now (maybe I just figured it was another play clay and I’m very happy with the playdough we make ourselves), but I finally broke down and bought some for the girls for Christmas. And then when I came across Kristi’s DIY recipe, I added it to my list of activities to try over the holidays and thought it would be fun to compare the two.

Homemade Model Magic Air Dry Clay

Crayola Model Magic

We opened the Crayola Model Magic on Christmas day. It was about the first thing Maia wanted to play with, besides the fun butterfly umbrella her grandma sent. She LOVED this stuff! And I have to say that I did, too. I imagine most of you have tried Model Magic already and that I am (was) a lone holdout? Anyway, if you haven’t, it’s super lightweight, super soft, super stretchy, super fun. I’ve heard it compared to marshmallows, but I kept thinking of it as cloud dough. It was definitely a new modeling dough experience for us and a positive one. Maia had a smile on her face almost the entire time she worked with it.

First she just poked and squeezed and pulled the dough, exploring it’s texture and properties. Then she spent a long time rolling and shaping every last bit of the Model Magic into letters to form all of our names. We set them aside to dry (she has big plans for them).

Homemade Model Magic Air Dry Clay

Homemade Model Magic Recipe

Next we cooked up a batch of homemade Model Magic. In making the homemade air dry clay, I followed Kristi’s recipe which called for 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup cornstarch, 1 1/2 cups cold water, and food coloring. The ingredients are ones that you likely already have around the home and are super cheap. The photos above show the dough at various stages during the process of making it.

  1. First, we whisked together all the ingredients in a large pot (I keep an old one just for making playdough and other artsy projects). Maia asked for pink dough, big surprise, so we added red food coloring gel until it was the shade she wanted. The lighting makes it look orange-ish in a couple of the photos, but it was really rather pink.
  2. Then I heated the mixture over medium heat, whisking pretty much constantly until it started to bubble.
  3. I kept mixing as the dough cooked, thickened, and pulled together. While Kristi had a couple of additional steps (leaving it to cook with the lid partly on, etc), mine seemed to cook and form quickly and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving it.
  4. Following Kirsti’s instructions, I dumped the hot dough into a bowl
  5. covered it with a wet towel, and let it sit until it was cool.
  6. Finally, we kneaded the dough. While she suggests kneading in cornstarch if the dough is too wet or sticky, we didn’t have to do that (ours wasn’t sticky).

Overall, this was a very easy recipe to make.

Homemade Model Magic in Use

Now to play, sculpt, and model with it…

Homemade Model Magic Air Dry Clay

The homemade version of Model Magic is very soft and nice to work with and we ended up making a tray full of play food with it.

Maia made pretzels and Daphne and I worked on some chocolate chip cookies (she also just poked and prodded it).

Homemade Model Magic Air Dry Clay

How Do They Compare?

The texture and weight of the two are very different. The Crayola Model Magic is light as air (well, practically, anyway), spongy, and stretchy. The homemade version is soft and pleasing to work with, but doesn’t have any of those Model Magic qualities. It is heavier, doughy, and pulls right apart rather than stretching.

So, if the special tactile experience of Model Magic is what you like, then the homemade version won’t compete. Maia wasn’t terribly impressed, but it was probably partly because she had just fallen in love with the Crayola version a couple of days earlier.


Homemade Model Magic vs Crayola Model Magic - A Comparison

Model Magic is not cheap. Our three pack was $9.99. (And we’ve since bought the more value conscious 2 lb bucket of Crayola Model Magic for 20 bucks.) If you are looking for an inexpensive modeling clay, then consider making your own. Especially if your goal is more to have a finished, air dried sculpture (like the cheetah Kristi’s son made for a school project) rather than the experience of working with Model Magic specifically. You’ll also know exactly what is in your homemade version, which will give you peace of mind if your child is still tasting art materials (Model Magic is labeled as nontoxic, but is recommended for ages 3+).

Maia’s Model Magic letters have since air dried. The homemade Model Magic play food has been drying for less that 24 hours, and still has a ways to go (I’m guessing a few days). We’re planning to paint both once they are dry. So I may do a follow up post once both versions are completely dried, painted, and decorated.

UPDATE: Both dried just fine. Both took paint well. And both were prone to a bit of breakage. I’d say the homemade air dry clay is great if you just want an air dry clay for sculpting with. The Crayola Model Magic is great for the unique texture experience.

By the way, I just found this recipe for No Flour Playdough that is the same as the homemade Model Magic recipe. You could make this and just use it as playdough as long as you keep it well covered between use (she mentions that she left it out overnight and it dried).

Question… Are you a DIY person when it comes to arts and crafts materials or would you rather just buy your materials ready to use?

  • peace love and rainbows
    December 29, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I do both we buy some (like when I’m short on time to have around) but we make most of our stuff. I have found our playdough gets super gooey in the summer if we leave it out overnight. but we love homemade. I know what is in the product and just the expense alone is worth it.

  • Deborah
    December 29, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I wonder what could be added to make the homemade version more “airy”. It would be fun to figure this out:)

  • Georgine
    December 29, 2011 at 11:06 am

    We (I) love model magic. The feel is unique and it rips so smoothly. I hesitate to try the homemade B
    Because I cannot stand corn starch. It gives me goose bumps thinking about it. Still, model magic is so expensive! And my kids tend to walk away and forget to put the lid on, so making it would save me money. Cannot wait for your follow up post!

  • Jodie
    December 29, 2011 at 11:22 am

    As a teacher I love model magic and one big trick is that you can use markers to write on it! It actually works better then painting and the clean up is super easy :)

  • molly
    December 29, 2011 at 11:39 am

    At home, we like to make our own, I have a hard ime spending $10 for playdoh! But, my kids have received model magic as gifts before, and have loved it. I also love that they can draw on it with markers as Jodie said…very fun. I teach preschool, and we love to try out different textural experiences with our kids, many of which have special needs..they love this stuff!!!

  • Melissa @ The Chocolate Muffin Tree
    December 29, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I love model magic and have used it as a teacher. My students would always say it was like marshmallows…especially because it was white and squishy! It was nice because you could color it with markers like Jodie said above! The only disadvantage was that when you let it air dry for a finished project it would break apart easily and was frustrating to kids because of that. Playing with it is great….the texture is the best! I love that you made a homemade version of model magic. Thanks for sharing!

  • Katie
    December 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    I love model magic too! I have colored it with markers before but find that painting it with watercolors works really well too! I have never tried the homemade version but it sounds like a fun new dough to explore. We will have to give it a shot on one of our upcoming winter days inside. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • Moriah
    December 29, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I always make our playdough, clay, cloud dough, but after reading this review I am certainly going to give Model Magic a chance! It is very expensive as far as dough goes, but for a special project, esp. since others mentioned you can draw on it with markers, maybe we can splurge. Thanks for the review and honesty about the differences between them.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    You’re welcome! Definitely give Model Magic a try! It’s so fun. If you have a Michaels or AC Moore nearby, you can buy it with a 40-50% off coupon — that’s what I did.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks for the idea! We’ll try painting it with watercolors.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Oh darn (about the breaking apart easily part). But it’s so fun before it dries, it feels like it’s worth it anyway.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Cool! I didn’t know you could draw on it with markers! We’ll have to try that.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I bet!

  • Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Hmm, maybe if your kids are old enough they can take care of measuring and pouring the cornstarch while you’re in the other room. :) Once it’s in the pan with the water, it changes consistency and shouldn’t give you goosebumps.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    I wonder, too. Of course those Crayola people have a fancy lab, scientists, and all kinds of materials to work with to create materials like this.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    December 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    What playdough recipe do you use? Ours doesn’t get gooey in the summer. Perhaps you need a summer recipe and a winter recipe. :)

  • Carla
    December 29, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I much prefer homemade aye ugh to the store bought stuff but it sound like model magic might be worth the cash. Thanks for sharing!

  • Carla
    December 29, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Darn auto correct that was supposed to read play dough.

  • Lori CC
    December 29, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Oh how we LOVE model magic around here. The white packs seem to be cheaper than the colored ones. You can draw on the model magic to decorate it. OR you can use the markers in large quantities like you would food coloring for icing. I have twins. One prefers to make and draw on the product. The other prefers to color the large piece and create from there. The idea of making our own is wonderful! THANKS for sharing.

  • Juise
    December 29, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    I’d never heard of it before! It sounds pretty neat.
    We generally make the art supplies we can, and buy things like paints. (Although, if I found a good paint recipe… :) ) Even in the case of “non-toxic” I can’t help but wonder what is really in it, and if, 5, 10 years down the line, they will realize it wasn’t so non-toxic after all. It happens all too often. : We absorb so much through our skin, and it doesn’t even get filtered by the digestive system, so I try to watch it, especially when it comes to materials that will have so much tactile contact.
    Not that I may not give it a try once or twice. ;) Please do give us a follow up review! I am very interested to hear how well each version holds up after curing.
    We make this recipe for our baking clay: https://thejuicery.blogspot.com/2010/10/homemade-baking-clay-tutorial.html It holds up reasonably well with rules like, “only to be played with over carpet”, but will break quickly with animated play on our tile floors, (like making the figure jump…) and completely falls apart with water.
    Noting the differences you listed between your homemade model magic and the branded version, I was wondering if you could tell me… Did you feel like there was a significant difference between the texture and nature of your homemade modeling clay, and homemade playdough? I was comparing our playdough recipes, and they looked almost identical, so I am very curious.

  • Heather
    December 31, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    has anyone compared it to marshmallow fondant? I’m curious if it’s similar enough to use MMF instead of the expensive real stuff. Bonus, it’s edible. I don’t think it’ll harden as quickly, if at all though… I’ll keep my eye out for when Toys R Us has B1G1 free crayola products!!

  • Kat
    January 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Interesting comparison! I make our play clays, since there are so many neat recipes and I don’t have the $ to keep buying the pre-made stuff. However, I’m totally going to get some, thanks to your experiment! I really never knew what it was. It also sounds like it would make a nice gift for kid friends.

  • Ann
    January 4, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Great review! I keep thinking about trying the Model Magic but have not yet. I will use my 50% JoAnne’s coupon for some. I did get a birthday present for my daughter that I mistakenly thought had it but then figured out it was a different horrible play dough that crumbled everywhere. Love our homemade play dough.

  • Addie
    January 5, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Have you tried making a mold out of the Model Magic and the homemade dough as well? It is so much fun to take any small objects and turn them into a mold to recast over and over.

  • Jessa
    February 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    I made a ton of snowflake Christmas tree ornaments out of Model Magic and they turned out great! I love the texture and for the most part it dries okay. A couple of my pieces got crumbly, but for the most part they didn’t. I wish there was an adequate homemade substitute, but I tried lots of recipes and none compared. :(

  • CdninAK
    March 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    We have been making handprint ornaments with the Model Magic. The dough is so light, that it doesn’t weigh down the tree branches. I mold it into a circle or oval shape, press my child’s hand into it (can even see the lines!) and allow to dry. I use a wide straw (like from McDee’s) to punch a hole at the top. Once dry, I write her name and year, tie a pretty ribbon to hang on the tree. A friend of mine paints hers, but I leave mine white. In the past, I have bought the large container of white from Michaels using their weekly coupon, so it makes it much more economical. I found that you can make 4 ornaments from 1 of the pkgs inside (maybe 5 if they’re under 3 – think play group activity!). The dough doesn’t need to be very thick, just make sure you press down on a hard surface.

  • poonam
    April 12, 2012 at 3:07 am

    just amazing .. i read n tried in 5 min :) it works :)

  • wilma
    June 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Im wondering about KEEPING it. When little ones do art with it, how long can I keep it?? (My grandkids) lol… I would want that to be for a long long time…would it sour or go bad? what would it do if it got damp after it had hardened? Anyone know yet? Is it a permanent hard ?? thanks!

  • Jean Van't Hul
    June 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Ours has kept for 6 months now without a problem. It has stayed hard, but I don’t know what would happen if it got too wet. I imagine it would just dry again, but I’m not sure. I don’t think it would go bad, considering the materials.

  • Jackie
    July 15, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Hey, do you know if you can bake it at all to help speed up the drying process? I don’t really have the patience to wait for hours for my clay to dry, and I was wondering if it would burn up or something in the oven if I tried.

  • Jean Van't Hul
    July 16, 2012 at 5:37 am

    I haven’t tried baking it, Jackie, so I can’t say for sure. I *think* it would be okay. If you try it, maybe just try one piece first at a low-ish temp. And then let me know if it works!

  • Jean Van't Hul
    July 16, 2012 at 5:38 am

    What an awesome idea, Addie! We’ve made molds with sculpey to use with playdough, but not with model magic.

  • Jackie
    July 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    I tried baking it last night, and it ended horrendously. I had it at the lowest temperature my oven would go (only 200 degreesF) on a tinfoil-covered baking sheet for only a few minutes, and it cracked very thoroughly. I was making a set of horns (I know, it’s unusual) for a friend, and they just about split into pieces after they went into the oven. But the other tiny pieces of clay that have dried seemed to air dry pretty solidly, so no problem there. Luckilly, the pieces did not burn when placed in the oven (merely cracked very badly), and I think that if someone were to bake handprints or the like at a very low temperature it would be ok. However, I believe that patience is better. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly though! But as I’ve said, I would not advise baking. Lesson learned. Amazing, durable clay though (when not roasted)!

  • Ellen
    December 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

    I used model magic over styrofoam balls to make snowmen. when the model magic dried it cracked all over. Did I do anything wrong or is this just how it dries.
    Very disappointed.

  • Diane
    January 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    How do you store the homemade Model Magic? I was thinking of putting it in a Ziploc bag in the refridgerator, but I wondered if it needed to have a wet cloth kept on it to remain moist.

  • Amy Rose Walter
    January 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    This is fantastic! I teach five year olds in Tanzania and often wish there was somewhere here to buy fun stuff like airdry clay. I won’t have to wish any longer!

  • Tina J
    January 26, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Can’t wait to try this recipe I’ve been looking for a homemade clay for me and my girls. We tried crayolas we set clay..i never set after 3 weeks our pieces were still soft. So I decided to try and bake it ..bad idea turns out wet set us oil based our projects melted. I’m hoping to find a recipe or a relatively cheap store bought clay that will last and not crack or melt…

  • Tina J
    January 26, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Made our first batch tonight its fantastic so far easy to work with but id recommend using an old pan for cooking it. There was a hard layer left on the bottom of our pot when we finished boiling the dough . This has officially become our clay making pot :D once it cooled we.put it in a Ziploc and into the fridge .if you place it in the bag before it’s cool moisture condenses on the inside if the bag and the dough becomes gooey.

  • Simone
    March 5, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Thanks for the post. We had a ball playing with the clay but unfortunately everything we made split open and was ruined. We were making small egg shapes which were were going to decorate and make into baby birds in a nest. Even though they were quite small perhaps this kind of mixture isn’t ideal for solid items. Sadly we will have to go out and buy the real stuff to finish our project.

  • Miss Courtney
    March 14, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I haven’t had that much luck with the Crayola modeling clay. I used it in a program and the older children found it difficult to work with for the desired finished project. We’ve used regular clay since then, which they love. At home, if we really like one of our Play-doh creations, we let it dry and it looks great. It will break if you’re really rough with it. Much cheaper than the Crayola clay.

  • Beth
    June 12, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Thank you for this wonderful comparison. I’m an art teacher, and use Model Magic as a reward, but it is pricey. I had pinned this recipe and wondered how it compared, so appreciate your thorough post about it!

  • [email protected]
    June 14, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    I buy Model Magic at JoAnn’s or Michael’s ONLY with the 40-50% off coupons, but I am excited to try this recipe as I have 26 summer campers in my 2hour/8day clay class and we are going to need a TON of clay to keep them busy. I’d rather spend $3 for this clay than $10 (with the discount) for MM. Thanks for the idea!
    Caught this idea on Pinterest, BTW.

  • Magical Homestuck Cosplayer
    June 25, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    I’m actually using Model Magic right now, and it’s a great clay in general. Of course, it does crack if it dries too quickly-a major concern especially if you’re like me and using Model Magic for cosplaying in Homestuck-, but it certainly doesn’t crack as badly when left in a box to dry. I know this from personal experience; this is my second time making horns for Terezi Pyrope. With the first set, I found myself unable to fix the large cracks that seemed to pop up everywhere. The box-drying method has, so far, kept my horns with no visible cracks for a week and a half, whereas normal drying seems to have some sort of magical crack spawning button. The methods just depend on how stressed for time you are. Just leaving it out in the open takes about 3 days to fully harden, with the expense of having to patch up a lot of cracks. Setting them in a box does get rid of many more cracks that would normally happen, but it takes around a week to fully harden.

  • Caitlin
    July 1, 2013 at 10:27 am

    The big 2lb tubs of Model Magic are great. They are around 20-30 dollars but you get significantly more than you would with the tiny coloured packs, and if you get the white ones adding food colouring (or colouring the dough with marker and then mixing it) is a messy but fun experience. Plus these packs come in this rectangular tub that’s excellent for holding other craft supplies later on.
    The only thing is that the big 2lb tubs come with 4 BIG metallic pouches. Once they’re out of those pouches you’ve got to be very careful about letting the clay dry out. ziplock baggies and air tight containers are great. Water also rejuvenates the clay that’s starting to dry.
    During a big Harry Potter phase I made owls from Model Magic that had little letters and scrolls addressed to the child’s bedroom to hang from her bedroom ceiling. I attached them to thread or fishing wire and hung them on glow in the dark stars (just quite easily over 2 points) Because model magic is such a light clay, none of them came crashing down because of weight. I’m sure the same could be done with fish or planets or anything.

  • Emily @ ReMarkable Home
    July 11, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    At our family reunion next week the kids are going to be making some little bugs out of leaves and twigs, etc. I need some type of air dry clay for them to make the bodies with, and hopefully something that would hold the stem of a leaf if it were stuck into it.
    do you think this homemade stuff would work for that? guess I could just go try making a batch!

  • Samantha
    July 22, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Does it shrink when it dries? I am trying to find a way to “texturize” a picture frame with independent seniors. We planned on paining over the texture, immediately.

  • Isabelle the biochemist
    September 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    From the smell of it, there is perhaps some kind of vinegar, which might help make it airy since the vinegar would react with the soda and produce gas (CO2 to be exact). Added at the right moment during thickening the small bubbles could become trapped and make it airy?!? I might try toying around with this for fun someday…! :-)

  • Rose
    October 21, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    try adding a little school glue, it will not break so easily when dried, also a little more elastic

  • Carolyn Densley
    November 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    So fun! I want to make this for my second graders to make a pottery pot for our American Indians unit. Do you know how many batches I’d need to make for 26 kids? Thanks! :)

  • [email protected]
    December 17, 2013 at 10:58 am

    That’s an interesting idea, ITB…I was also wondering if maybe it has something to do with entraining air into the mixture.
    Jean, you said you “whisked” it – I assume you mean that you did this by hand?
    I wonder what would happen if you used an electric whisk..something to add more air to into the mix at a greater rate of speed.
    Jean, THANKS for this experiment – you’ve taken the guesswork out of it for me. I just came across the Crayola stuff in the art store last night but balked at purchasing because of the high price!
    If my experiments return any interesting results I’ll report back.