How to Make a Car Model: Clay Modeling in Car Design

Clay Modeling
Clay Modeling

Clay models

In car Design schools there is a course of model making which is very important to complete our car design educational course. To be able to model with our hands our own design is the best thing we could do to learn about car design.

In design studios there are several designers (not too many) whom did not have the opportunity to learn how to use model making tools to work with wood, clay, resin, paint, bondo, and transfer their own design's sections on a clay buck to turn it into a good looking car model. This step is very important because helps us to understand how to convert the 2D phase into a 3D and more complex one. So, those designers have some problems in judging volumes and proportions on a real model, at the same time they will have the same problem in judging a digital model on an Alias computer.

My message of today to all young students reading this hub is: be serious on your models, learn well how to make a good model using all materials availables. Most important is to use the Clay, learn the technique starting by its application on a buck (structure made of wood and white light polystirene) and later with the application of your design sections (YO center line, a plan section plus 3 or 4 X sections). The following step is the best one, it is the real modelling of your car surfaces and proportions with insertions of fine details.

When we are finished with our sections we can start using clay tools to really model the main volume using the sections as reference. The volume we will get it is just our sketch clay model with which we check proportions and main lines (roof line, belt line, center line balance...), now with our clay tools and some 4mm black flexible tape we can apply our design.

Our color sketches in all views will help to get the wanted design but most of all the same feeling of our sketches, we can retrace lines on our clay surface to make correction and quickly clean up the surface with our clay tools.

When we think it is done we can just close our eyes (this is not a joke!) put our hands on our clay model and "feel" surfaces and intersections to check harmony and surfaces quality.

Now we can apply all necessary details.

When you will start spraying your favourite paint with your personal spraygun you will have an incredible experience! Your baby is born, reflecting yourself in that model will bring life to it.

This will help you to be formed as a good starting professional designer and will make your life , in design studios, a lot easier!

Watch the video to better understand what I wrote.

Thank you.

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Comments 32 comments

Bima.Purnawan1 profile image

Bima.Purnawan1 6 years ago from Republic of Indonesia

In those schools there is a car design modeling program that is very important to complement our car design education programs. This is very interesting and helpful in education.

Please visit also our hub - thank you

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luciano63 6 years ago from Paris Author

Thanks for your comment!

Abdul Rahim 6 years ago

i am a computer engg student... but i love cars... and i would love to explore designes of my own... is there anyone who can help me out?... my e-add is

talz 5 years ago

Hi. I am in South africa. I have a passion for cars. Designing and also modeling. Is there anyone that can help? South africa does not offer any car design courses or do they? Thanks guys

luciano63 profile image

luciano63 5 years ago from Paris Author

Hi Talz thanks for your comment I'll write to you soon!

Sam 5 years ago

Wat r d materials used for clay modelin

luciano63 profile image

luciano63 5 years ago from Paris Author

Dear Sam, here the material list for you:

the inner structure is made of cheap wood and light white foam glued on the wood buck (the structure).

after we cover all this with hot Clay applying it with our fingers and hands (it smells a bit and it is oily).

The Clay becomes cold with temperature (a place with air conditioning is preferred to work)and now we can give shape modeling with Clay modeling tools.

once you have the shape you put a layer of Dynok metallic gray applied with water (so it sticks perfectly to the clay shape) and you will see all volumes and reflexions. OK?

rain 4 years ago

that is so cool

luciano63 profile image

luciano63 4 years ago from Paris Author


Pietro Marrone 4 years ago

Ciao Luciano, bella iniziativa, come vedi ogni tanto butto l'occhio sulla mia vecchia passione, e ti ricordo che sono a tua disposizione per un eventuale progetto. Saluti

adarsh 3 years ago

hi i also want to be a car desinger and i want to know that "the inner structure is made of cheap wood and light white foam glued on the wood buck " then u said "after we cover all this with hot Clay applying it with our fingers and hands" this is not enough for me can u mail me a video of making this ""

luciano63 profile image

luciano63 3 years ago from Paris Author wll find plenty of videos on Youtube!

Sawsw Huk profile image

Sawsw Huk 3 years ago

hello luciano, i m yacht finisher ,

im interessed to study clay or modeling as mentioned in the video.

can you advice me in school in europe or canada. ?

i will be thankful

my email is

luciano63 profile image

luciano63 3 years ago from Paris Author

Yes there is a school about clay modeling it is in Italy near Torino here the adress: C.E.M.I. Centro Europeo Modellismo Industriale

Via Gattiera 2, 12038 Savigliano (CN)

Tel. + 39 0172 716757, Fax +39 0172 716757

Sawsw Huk profile image

Sawsw Huk 3 years ago

grazie mille luciano

Sawsw Huk profile image

Sawsw Huk 3 years ago

please if you know any other schools of clay modeling in Quebec ; Canada let me know ... thank you very much

luciano63 profile image

luciano63 3 years ago from Paris Author

Sorry I don't!

Sawsw Huk profile image

Sawsw Huk 3 years ago

thank you

Alexey 3 years ago

Thank you, Luciano)

Tim.S 3 years ago

Thanks for these advices Luciano !

Unfortunately not every transportation design school thinks Clay modeling is important.

I'm studying at the ISD in Valenciennes, France, and they almost gave up Clay modeling for years now..

Sad to see computer skills are more important for school directors & administration board than scale 1 experimentations & real mock ups & clay models..

Hope I'll learn better this techniques once I'll get a job in the automotive industry :)



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luciano63 3 years ago from Paris Author

I'll be at your school soon for a visit...

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takkatan 3 years ago

I am freelance sculptor. I use to make my sculptures with usual clay. Now someone ordered me to do a small car, and I know that the modeling clay would be more adequate to do that work.

Could somebody tell me what are the differences with the usual clay?

I know just that basic, that I have to heat it to modeling it and that gets hard when lose temperature.

I mind what will be the issues I will find using modeling clay instead of the traditional one.

luciano63 profile image

luciano63 3 years ago from Paris Author

Dear Takkatan,

in school I made several clay model for my cra projects and the modeling clay is great for will find many videos on youtube to see how it is easy to work with if you already know how to medel. Most important thing to make a car is how your prepare your buck structure and how you model your clay sactions and surfaces with clay tools.

if you live next to a design school I suggest you to go check students and teachers working clay...CCS in Detroit ACCD in Pasadena Art University in SF....

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takkatan 3 years ago

hi Luciano,

thanks for your answer, yes you right have a good structure is essential. I already have a design with the structure and will not be big issue due that the car 'cause is quite square.

Also I've seen few videos but I still having some doubts I could not figure out by watching them.

Mostly I asked hoping to get some council/tip or warm about possible issue I might face using that different material, from someone who already know and have used both clay types.

I guess I will be able solve any problem I might have. Just to save little time.

Thanks anyway.

luciano63 profile image

luciano63 3 years ago from Paris Author

On Linkedin there is a group named clay modeler....there you will find all experts...

Andrew R. 2 years ago

Hi Luciano, why do you think some car design schools are no longer offering clay modeling for bachelor and master's programs? Ex. ISD, IAAD...

The school can say (to reduce costs) that we are in the digital era and the important is to bring innovative ideas. But now I think is pretty important tool for competivity and volume understanding process. And it makes me fear to invest in a not competitive academic program.

You can have the best ideas, but if you don't have the tools to show them the best way, I think you're not competitive.

luciano63 profile image

luciano63 2 years ago from Paris Author

Dear Andrew I totally agree with you...I often talk to some design schools directors like IAAD, but at the moment looks like it is about complicated rules to respect to have a clay modeling facility...specially in Italy! it is sad but I believe it is a cultural problem...USA is always 20 years head of Europe!!!

Davis 2 years ago

Can you tell me how many pounds of clay I would need to make a 1/8 scale model (estimate)? I also would like to know if anyone has tried pottery clay and gotten good results. And does anyone know where I can buy the model wheels?

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luciano63 2 years ago from Paris Author

Hi davis, I cannot estimate amount of clay. Pottery clay is not good for car modeling I know it...about school I made them with hard foam and paint them with simple black spray paint then stick on it image of your Wheel design fotoshop image.

Peter 2 years ago

can some please tell me what is the name of this clay?

luciano63 profile image

luciano63 2 years ago from Paris Author

No idea there are several brands...try this: To order directly from Chavant:

•Call: 1-800-CHAVANT (800-242-8268)

•Fax the order to: 732-751-1982

•E-mail a Purchase Order to:

Larz 2 years ago

Here's a link where a clay model is destroyed which is sad, but you get an idea of the underpinnings of the model which is useful:

Here's a link with some info on materials and resources as well:

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    Luciano Bove (luciano63)142 Followers
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    Luciano Bove is a car design manager working at Renault Design, born in Italy he studied at Art Center College of Design in California.

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