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How to make a clay turtle

Updated on September 8, 2014
Two previously made turtles I crafted.
Two previously made turtles I crafted.

Hello there, if you are reading this then that means you are looking to make yourself, or someone else, a cute clay turtle. If you are new to making things with clay you might not have all the right tools, and so for this tutorial I am using things I found around the house as my tools.

What you will need:

  • Razor blade (Preferably with a handle)
  • Something with a rounded end like a paintbrush or a slightly pointed pencil
  • Something with a curved end (Optional if you can't find anything you can use the razor)
  • And a "beauty tool" for your nails as seen with the red tip in the picture.

If you have any problems finding the tools you need, and you feel like you might want to make more clay crafts in the future you can always go to an art supply store and invest in crafting tool sets. I have my own set of sculpting tools but for this beginner tutorial I chose to use other items.

You will also need the clay. I prefer to use Premo Sculpey but you can use Sculpey III or other clay of your choosing however I do not know if your turtle will come out the same as all clays are different. Colors I used (you can choose whatever colors you wish for your turtle):

  • Wasabi green- body
  • Light brown- Shell
  • Black- Eyes

You can buy all that you need from Hobby Lobby or Michaels art stores, you can also buy what you need online through Ebay or Amazon.

Tools and clay needed for this project.
Tools and clay needed for this project.

Making the shell

To start, take a medium size chunk of brown clay and roll it into a ball. You can make your turtle small, medium or large, it's really up to you. You will also want to roll out a log of brown clay for the trim of the shell. Take the small ball and gently push it onto your table or working area and shape the shell on either end till you have a slight hump on the top of the shell.

Next take the brown log you rolled out before and fit it around your shell. It should not be taller or as tall as she shell. But it should not be too thin either, you might need to play around with the thickness of the log until it seems right to you.

Form the top of the shell to a slight hump and roll the log around the outer edges.
Form the top of the shell to a slight hump and roll the log around the outer edges.
Make indents around the shell.
Make indents around the shell.

Next you will want to take your curved tool and gently press it into the log around the shell to make indentations. This gives it the curvy look a shell should have.

Starting on the body

After you're done making the shell place it aside and wash your hands. This is important because you don't want to get any brown clay mixed into your green clay. You will want to make 4 small balls about the size of a marble (make them bigger or smaller depending on the size of your shell). These are going to be the fins/flippers. After this you will want to place one ball between your index finger and thumb on both hands and gently squeeze it to make a half circle shape. It's ok if it's pointed a bit at the top, also don't worry if you mess up! You can always re-roll it into a ball and start over.

After you form your four balls into the half moon shapes, flatten a small corner on each of them. This will be where you connect them to the shell. Next, take your curved tool and make little indentions on the flat side of the fins/flippers.

Making balls into the flippers.
Making balls into the flippers.

Making the head

Making the head can be a bit tricky and you may need to redo it a few times. Take a chunk of clay a little bigger then for the fins and roll it into a ball. Now press your fingers at the bottom and gently roll it out. Do NOT roll the whole ball into a log, just the bottom half, you will want to keep the top of the ball for the face. Once you have a long enough neck that will go under the shell and keep the head upright, take a pencil or (if you have a small enough paint brush) and make two small holes in the sides of the head for the eyes. once you make sure they are even and to your liking, take the curved tool and press it sideways to make a smile under the eyes.

Face side view and front view.
Face side view and front view.

Eyes and connecting the body parts to the shell

After you have the eye holes to your liking you can take two small pieces of black clay and roll them into little balls and press them into the holes for the eyes. You can also take another small piece of green clay at this time and make the tail. Take a small ball and roll out one side of it to a point and gently flatten the other end. This is where it will attach to the shell. The tail can be short or long, depending on how you want your turtle to look.

Once you have all your body pieces done, take the shell and make a slight indention where the front of your shell is. Take a pencil or the paint brush and roll it just a little bit to fit the neck of the turtle. DON'T make it too wide or TOO deep. Go slow on this and check with the neck size and if you need to make it a little bigger then do so, you should not have to make the indention go into the thick part of the shell, just the outer ring.

After you have the neck area done, flip the shell over and place the neck where it needs to go inside the indention. Gently press down on the flattened part where it connects to the bottom of the shell. Take your flippers and tail and do the same, press the flattened area onto the bottom of the shell. If they do not stick you may need to take your beauty tool and press down and smooth the body parts onto the shell.

Underside of the turtle once you have smoothed out the body parts onto the shell.
Underside of the turtle once you have smoothed out the body parts onto the shell.
Detailing your shell with the razor blade.
Detailing your shell with the razor blade.

Detailing the shell

After this is done, flip over the turtle and take your razor blade and start to make designs in the shell. You can make a diamond shape on top and continue on with the diamond shape along the sides or you can make squiggles or other shapes. This is your turtle, you can design the shell how you want. Make sure you don't press hard enough to go through the shell but hard enough that you can see your design. If you have any oven safe beads or other shiny items you can use that to decorate your shell as well. Have fun with it and be creative.

After your turtle is done, you will want to bake it in the oven at 275 degrees F for about a half an hour. Make sure you let it cool completely before handling it as they are very fragile after they come out of the oven! Once it is cooled completely, if you have any glaze you can glaze your turtles or leave them as they are for a more natural clay look.

Congratulations on your first turtle! Here are some links below on where to find the items needed on ebay (I found them to be cheapest) and to my own personal shop page:

Premo Sculpey

Sculpting tools

My personal shop page Legends and Myths

Hope you have lots of fun with crafting your turtles and finding other things to craft!!

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