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The Clay Modeler

Updated on February 18, 2018
luciano63 profile image

Luciano Bove is a car design manager working at Renault Design. Born in Italy, he graduated from Art Center College of Design in California.

Clay modelers at work
Clay modelers at work | Source

Car Design Roles

In Car Design there are several professional roles, but the most common and dreamed about is the Car Designer one.

It is the role that makes everybody think about great cars and designers of the past as well as of today's ones. It is about a certain type of Hollywood life feeling in the head of many young design students, even if the reality is not so close to such imagined life experience. It is a lot harder.

However, very rarely we talk about other important roles that play around the car design world such as project & budget planners, prototype manual modelers, Clay modelers, digital modelers, Color & Trim designers, UX designers, Graphic designers, Trends & Design Marketing analysts, Design Communication activities, and more.

Clay Tools
Clay Tools

The Clay Modeler

What is Clay and what can we do with it?

Clay is a modeling soft material (a paste) specially made for modeling big surfaces in 3D or objects, Clay is soft when heated and hard when cold. This modeling paste has a particular oil in it that gives that malleable property that makes easy to shape in 3D by using specific tools.

Clay is used to make sculptures, in Car Design is the key material to sculpt Design models.

The Clay modeler is an expert in shaping volumes and objects with a strong dose of artistic talent and sensibility, it is not a case that many Clay modelers come from artistic schools.

Car designers work with clay modelers to shape to perfections their designs, their color sketches are transferred in 3D and interpreted by those modelers. This activity is done following few steps.

First one is to work on a small scale model, this is an important step to verify several things about a design proposal like: proportions, main sections, bone lines and some details. It takes a month to make a buck, cover it of clay and model it real fast to nail down the main surfaces and lines presents on the sketches.

Later on, a Clay model is milled out in full scale and reworked by hand to implement necessary modifications, but most important is that artistic quality that only a good modeler can bring. This means that the small scale model is reproduced in virtual 3D reconstructed completely by a digital modeler and later on milled by a big milling machine.

If some cars look really beautiful it is because of the high quality manual modeling phase. To care for a surface or crossing surfaces, to check how reflections go on them controlling their value and intensity is something that can be determined by changing a surface of few millimeters. This is Art!

A Clay modeler feels under his hands surfaces, and feeling them he/she can decide how to modify it to improve it, a dynok skin will be applied after the change to check again that reflection and how the overall surface feels or is perceived.

This role is fundamental in the Car Design world, the art of sculpting a car is something that comes from the glorious past of car styling. In Italy, from the early 50’ to today, all the most beautifull cars have been modeled by real artist modelers. Pininfarina, Bertone, Zagato, Italdesign they all had and have great modeling teams. In USA same thing.

The artistic tradition continues.

Clay Tools
Clay Tools

The Tradition of Clay Modeling

Think about this job!

There are several Design schools in the world in which modeling is taught, many young students do not have exactly the right talent & skills to be designers, however they make really good quality models.

Those students should seriously consider going to work in modeling cars, it is always a requested profession and also an international one. Today, to be a clay modeler means to speak fluently the English language, to be open culturally, to be ready to adapt to different cultures, many times to work a lot under pressure.

There is a great satisfaction when a model is finished and painted, to watch all those surfaces and details, see all reflections, admire the beauty of it. A clay modeler working as freelancer is also well paid.

I really hope that those students understand they can have a professional future as modelers more than designers. They should consider seriously to turn themselves into modeling and clay modeling, they can do it employed by a car company or as freelancers working for different companies and traveling around adding a little extra excitement to their life.

Clay modeling creates fantastic things bringing art and giving emotions.


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© 2018 Luciano Bove


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    • luciano63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Luciano Bove 

      2 years ago from Paris

      Thank you for following.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I see, thank you so much Sir. Your posts are always helpful.

    • luciano63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Luciano Bove 

      2 years ago from Paris

      Hi, a car designer must understand clay modelling it helps for the 3D evolution of his/her sketches...about age limit to enter the job market ..not really of course not at 50yrs but between 22 and 30/35 could be fine. The most important is to love this type of professional role with passion first. And work hard for the quality of the job.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Thank you sir, i always thought a car designer had to know both clay modeling and car design. I think i was wrong. Is there an age limit that companies base upon to hire clay modelers, or Just talent? Thank you so much


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