Amazing Dough



AKA Cornstarch Dough or Cold Porcelain Dough

About ten or twelve years ago I started using a homemade modeling dough that was sturdy and durable when air dried and required a few cheap ingredients to make. After years spent working with the well known salt dough, I was looking for something that didn’t disappear before my eyes when the weather turned humid. At the time I was living in a small maritime town and all my sculpting efforts tended to dissolve in a poodle of salty goo. I found the recipe for the cornstarch dough almost by mistake, but I tried it nonetheless, and I have been loyal to it ever since. Recently, I saw that there is a commercial cornstarch dough sold at craft stores. It is quite expensive, but if you are in a hurry, and not sure if the fumes coming from cooking the mix of cornstarch and Elmer’s glue on your stove are healthy, I suggest to go for it.

The Recipe

The Ingredients:

  1. One cup of cornstarch flour
  2. One cup of Elmer’s glue or any other brand of glue with similar characteristics
  3. One tablespoon of vegetable oil
  4. One tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar
  5. One old, no-stick pan
  6. One wooden spoon

How to do it:

Mix the ingredients in the pan and once you have a thick dough turn on the stove and cook it on medium low, stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough comes away in one single piece from the pan. Turn off the stove, remove the dough from it, put it to rest on a cold surface, wait until you can safely handle it without scalding your skin, and work it as if it were pizza dough. When you have thoroughly worked the dough and there are no lumps in it, wrap it in plastic film, and finally store it inside a plastic bag. Remember, the cornstarch dough dries completely if exposed to the air and it becomes hard as porcelain. You can mix drop of food coloring, or acrylic paint, with the freshly prepared batch to obtain colored dough. I personally prefer painting the dough after a piece is done.








A final, important note: clean the pan and the wooden spoon immediately after you have used them and store them away. Do not use them for cooking food.

Other places where I talk about Cold Porcelain and its awesomeness:

Author Gabriela Popa has a blog where guests talk about anything but writing, and this is my humble contribution.

Here is a lens about cold porcelain I created for Squidoo.

Amazing Dough

51 thoughts on “Amazing Dough

  1. Maria E. Rossell says:

    Hi Monica,

    This recipe you present here looks amazing to me. Thanks so much for it. Seeing these little bundles of flowers helpe to inspire yiu to make other things with the dough. If youb ever plan to teach a class to make this dough and do things
    objects with it…ley me know. Thank you. Hugs Maru

  2. I have worked with salt dough, but never this clay, so thanks for sharing your feelings on it. I do have a question – Is it true that unless you varnish your finished project, water will destroy your work? I read/heard that somewhere and wanted to hear what you have to say about it. Also, I have heard that if you dye your clay with acrylic paints, certain colors won’t show up unless you add a ton of paint, which then will alter the texture of your clay.

    1. One final comment regarding the difference between salt dough and cold porcelain. Salt dough is a great medium for kids’ projects: it is not expensive and is easy and fast to make. The only problem is that it doesn’t last long, especially if you live in humid places. I switched to cold porcelain because I used to live by the sea and my pieces, even when perfectly sealed crumbled before my eyes. Cold porcelain is sturdier, I have pieces I made fifteen years ago that only need to be dusted once in a while. Cold porcelain can be colored by adding acrylic to the dough–although I prefer painting the piece once it is dry–and the quality of the obtained shade is normally satisfying.
      If you have any other question, feel free to ask me. I could talk about this craft forever 🙂

      1. serenalee98498501 says:

        Thanks for your feedback concerning this clay. I will need to start looking for an old nonstick pan to make it…

  3. serenalee98498501 says:

    I have used salt dough, but never cold porcelain clay, so thanks for sharing your thoughts on this dough. A couple of comments. I have read/heard that unless you varnish your finished project, water will destroy it. And if you’re using acrylic paints to dye your clay, some colors will require a lot of paint before the clay is the right color, which causes the clay’s texture to change.

    1. Hi, Serena, thanks for stopping by and comment. I used salt dough myself at the very beginning. And yes, regarding any mixture of salt and flour it is true that the finished object must be sealed. Otherwise the salt in the clay will react to the humidity in the air. If you live in a dry area, your salt dough objects will last a long time. And yes, it is also true that large amounts of color will alter the texture of the dough.

      1. Thanks for your reply, but I was talking about this recipe you have for cold porcelain clay. I have never worked with it, but I have heard of these problems with this particular clay. Sorry for confusing you with my questions!

      2. The only problems I ever had with cold porcelain were related to the glue. Not all the white glues react the same way. Some of them make the dough shrink when dry. Once or twice, the dough cracked when drying, but I could salvage the pieces by adding dough to the cracks. Not sure why it happened, but I strongly believe it was the glue even in that case. I usually seal the pieces because I like to paint them after I sculpt them, and I alternate between glossy and matte finish depending on the look I want to achieve.

      3. serenalee98498501 says:

        Very interesting regarding the glue. Thanks for sharing that tidbit.

        BTW, I’ve also heard that if you dye the clay with white acrylic paint, that it tries to a porcelain-like finish. I guess that’s why it’s called cold porcelain clay?

      4. I never dyed the dough with white acrylic color, but what you say makes sense. In my experience, different glues give the final piece either a matte finish or a translucent white finish. Dough made with Elmer’s glue dries into a beautiful ivory/white matte finish.

  4. I can’t wait to try this dough. My mom made traditional salt/flour/water dough ornaments back in the seventies – in Florida. As you can imagine, none of those ornaments still exist. I’ve been wanting to make some new ones that reflect our current style, but feared they would eventually disintegrate. Mom always dipped her finished ornaments in polyurethane a couple times to protect them from the elements (for a decade or so, anyway). While I’d probably use the spray poly, I wonder if that is necessary with this type of dough. Any thoughts on this?

    1. Hi, I apologize for not getting back to you earlier. Thank you for stopping by! You don’t need to seal the dried ornaments, especially if you mixed the color in the dough. I do seal them though, mainly because I like to make them shine, and also because I usually paint the pieces once they are dry. If you have any other question, please fire away. I promise to be faster in answering next time 🙂

  5. You know, I do have a couple more questions. How long does it typically take for the dough to dry? It doesn’t sound like you bake it at all, so I’m assuming you air dry it. Is it best to dry it in the sun or in your home? Any tips you have on the drying side of it would be greatly appreciated. Again, thanks!

    1. It depends on where you live, but in Seattle there isn’t too much sun which could ruin the dough, and I usually air dry the pieces by a window (maybe on the windowsill if they are small enough to fit on the narrow ledge.) Otherwise, I make a tray out of tin foil and place them on a rack, somewhere safe from dust/dog hair/small hands 🙂 Small pieces (like dollhouses miniatures) are dry in a few hours. While the gnome house took a few days to completely dry, but it was one of the thickest pieces I’ve ever worked on. Something I forgot to tell you in my previous answer is that porcelain dough lasts for a very long time. Some of my earlier works are now more than twenty years old and still perfect. I had a few sculptures I didn’t seal and the colors have paled, but nothing that a good layer of acrylic can’t fix. I recently visited a friend of mine for whom I decorated her wedding bomboniere (gifts we give to our guest as a memento of the day) and they were perfectly preserved and shiny after twenty-two years.

      1. Wonderful to hear. Thank you so much for the information. It bums me out that my mom’s ornaments are lost to the ages, but at least the new ones I make will be around for a couple of decades. And I definitely plan to seal mine. Out of curiosity, have you ever tried drying them in your oven. I’ve heard of people baking them at 200 degrees, but I wonder if it would contribute to cracking. Thanks again for sharing your recipe. I’ll soon have the time to give it a try! 🙂

      2. I’ve never baked them, and I have the feeling that the dough would probably crack because the heat would cause the humidity to dry too fast, but I could be mistaken. Let me know how do you like it when you try 🙂

  6. Tammy says:

    This may seem like a silly question to some, but I’m familiar with cornstarch, but not with cornstarch flour. What is the difference?

  7. can you use this clay right away or does it have to cure in the plastic wrap and bag over night. i saw one recipe for cornstarch dough that you had to do that before you could use it. can i use this with my 4.5 year old. i would like to make some ornaments for Christmas for grandparents with his hands and feet and other kinds. i know it has to be cool enough to touch it and for his little hands.

    1. Hi Hope. You can use the dough right away, and by the time it’s ready it will be okay for your son to interact with it. One year, I made Christmas’s ornaments by creating little vignette inside the wooden rings normally used for curtains and such. I had lots of fun with them. If I can find the pictures, I’ll post about it.

      1. Ok thanks. I plan on using cookie cutters and hand prints foot prints and stamps with ink and paint too. I saw some with a doily on top and you rolled on top and then took doily off looks very cool. Would love to see how you did those you did.

  8. My son and I did a test of this tonight. Love the out come just need to see how they dry. How long does it take to dry. And I found out a non stick pan you definitely need may have wasted some clay. I was too to share a pic but don’t see a place to upload it. We made a few ornaments tonight wanted to share with you.

      1. i was wondering the pieces we made last night started to curl up as they dried over night does that mean they should be thicker?

      2. How thin were they? If the dough is too thin, the piece will curl up at the edges, in that case, and if it is completely flat, cover it with aluminum foil then place a weight on it (a book will work) Usually, if the piece isn’t completely dry, you can flatten it with you hands, then put the weight on it and let it dry for a few hours.

      3. Hope, maybe you could also try laying a cookie sheet on top of your cutouts to keep them from curling. I do that when baking salt dough ornaments.

      4. thanks i kinda did that but some of the ornaments that we made are cracking and i am not sure why but some aren’t so maybe they just need to be thicker.

      5. that 1st batch we only got a few ornaments that didn’t crack but then we made some more and made them thicker and only lost a 2 or so. but the others are fine.

    1. Ciao Dolce 🙂 Si, e’ la colla vinilica. Quando mi sono trasferita negli States mi sono impazzita per trovarla. Ero abituata alle caratteristiche della colla vinilica, e non riuscivo a trovare nulla che le si avvicinasse. La Elmer’s Glue e’ la colla piu’ vicina al Vinavil.

  9. Olá Mônica,faço vários trabalhos em massa de biscuit,independente de cada receita ,quero te dar uma sugestão,para que sua massa nao estrague nunca,troque o limão por uma colher de chá de lisoforme,derivado do formol,caso nao conheça,é encontrado em farmácia e supermercado aqui no Brasil.Um abraço!

    1. Hi Mary. If the dough is too thin, sometimes, depending on the brand of the glue used, the edges curls up. I usually lay something on top of medallions or similar shapes to let them dry perfectly flat, and work on steps to add layers. Although I’m not sure about the rubbery quality of the dried dough, that should not be happening. It might depend on the glue. I’ve had bad batches when trying new brands. In the States, I usually buy Elmer’s Glue, the one in the brown/golden tall bottle-like container. If you can give me more details, I might be able to figure out what went wrong.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s