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See also: Homemade Cornstarch Clay

How To Make Salt Dough - Crafting with Homemade Salt Dough

By J. Black

Editor’s note: Salt dough crafting makes a great activity for even the littlest hands! With older children, be sure to talk about the science behind the recipes.

Folk art -- and in particular, the art of making craft objects using salt dough recipes -- has become a very popular hobby in recent years. Getting started requires only the minimum of equipment and materials, most of which are already in your kitchen. These include:

A bowl to mix your dough

A rolling pin for producing smooth sheets of dough

A grater for making decorative imprints on your dough

A garlic press for making strands for hair and foliage
Small pointed knife for cutting and indenting details

An assortment of pastry cutters and moulds for decorative shapes found at any kitchenware outlet

I have found the following salt dough recipe to be a good all-around recipe for most projects.

2 cups plain flour (not self-rising)
1 cup fine-grained plain salt
1/2 cup water at room temperature

Mix the salt and flour in a large bowl and then add the water. Knead the mixture for about five to 10 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic. Cover with cling wrap to keep the dough from drying out, and let the dough sit for 30 minutes before using.

Here are two other salt flour dough recipes that I often use, depending on the project I am working on.

Fine dough for filigree work
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
100 grams cornstarch
1/2 cup water

Firm dough for making tiles and plates
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons wallpaper paste
1/2 cup water

Make these recipes up the same way as the basic recipe.

Fresh dough is best for modeling. However, if you find you have any leftover dough, it can be wrapped in cling wrap or an airtight container and stored in a cool place for a few days.

Dough details
To improve the elasticity of the salt dough, add dry wallpaper paste to the basic mixture. The addition of one to two teaspoons of vegetable oil improves suppleness of the salt dough and make it easier to work with.

Different colored salt doughs can be made using:

Food coloring (red, green, blue or yellow). Two or more food colors can be combined to make different colors and shades or for a marbled dough effect.

Add spices that act as natural dyes, such as cinnamon, curry powder, saffron or paprika.

Add cocoa powder or instant coffee for different hues of brown.

Wearing protective gloves, add a little paint to the mixture, then knead the dough until the paint is uniformly distributed through the mix.

Get in shape
The dough is now ready to use for things like salt dough valentines. The next step is to shape your project. For flat or rolled projects, it is best to roll out the salt flour dough straight onto a baking sheet; then it can be put straight into the oven. Models or larger pieces can be assembled on a piece of hardboard that has been oiled with vegetable oil to prevent sticking.

When you are finished and happy with your results, you have a choice of air drying or baking your project in the oven. Ensuring that your projects are correctly dried ensures they will last a long time, so it is important that this not be hurried.

Air drying is suitable for flat, small pieces or for colored pieces in which baking will alter the color of the finished project. Oven drying is the most popular method and requires careful attention to accurate temperature control to avoid burning.

Bake for approximately two hours at a low temperature setting: 50-70 degrees Centigrade for the first half-hour, then increase temperature slowly to 90-100 degrees Centigrade and cook until the piece is uniform in color.

If any air bubbles appear while baking, pierce the bubbles with a pin and gently depress the dough. If the dough starts to darken before cooking is complete, cover with a piece of aluminum foil.

The dough is cooked when it's hard and sounds hollow when tapped. Turn the oven off and leave the salt dough in the oven until cool.

Any burns can be sandpapered off with fine- to medium-grade sandpaper. An emery board or small file can be used for delicate or intricate sanding on objects.

Your finished project

Projects can be left unpainted but they must be sealed on all sides with varnish, gloss or matte for protection; otherwise, they will not last long when exposed to air.

When thoroughly dry, sand any imperfections. At this stage, you can paint your projects, then seal with a final coat of varnish. Brightly colored pieces will look more vibrant painted with a glossy finish. Neutral, muted colors are suited to a matte finish. Using a polyurethane varnish on food-colored models instead of water-based varnish helps to intensify the color.

That's it! Salt Flour Dough projects make great children's art and family projects. Happy modeling.

© J. Black

For more articles and craft ideas like this one, visit Jill Black at


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