Common Materials Used For Sculpting


sculpting material alabaster

Sculpting as a medium of expression goes beyond the pristine statues and other masterpieces of art which were sculpted by the great artists of the High Renaissance like Michelangelo.

One very different example could be a funny looking figure of a sheep in an animated screen calling himself “Shawn”. It could be a virtual sculpt in 3D software like the Maya, Mudbox, Zbrush etc. Although 3D software creations may have their own charm, having an inanimate object in your hand and breathing life into it brings exuberant joy and produces a feeling of freedom of expression.

But which medium is the best and what are the different types of sculpture materials that one would need to kick start a sculpting venture ? Here’s a cursory review of some of the cool sculpting materials you can use for your next project, whether it be large or small.

Various Types Of Sculpting Materials Exist

There is a wide variety of awesome options available when it comes to sculpting your imagination, bringing form to nebulous creatures, beckoning them from your dreams and nightmares. Following is a list of the various types of sculpting materials that you can scour through and decide for yourself, as to which one you would want to pursue for some leisure art in your backyard or your home studio.


Clay is one of the most versatile of the sculpting mediums and is the only medium that can be allowed amongst kids as young as preschool age as it is flexible and will not cause a fatal choking hazard under proper monitoring! Owing to its very dough like ductile and malleable form, clay is used in a wide variety and genres of sculpting art.

Clay comes in many types. There are clay products that are oil based and are excellent for making durable art works that can be used as decorative objects. There are clay varieties that are plastic based with plastic elements that provide the clay with elasticity which normal clay does not have.

Clay sculpting is fairly easy to learn, practice and master. In addition, it is among the most affordable of all sculpting materials with the possible exceptions of sand sculpting, rock sculpting or word carving.


Bronze is the most popular material used in caste metal sculpting. The sculpting method is simply called bronze.

The process by which the bronze sculpting is done is the traditional lost-wax casting process which has been historically used for magnificent sculpting across many civilizations across the ages.

The metal had been revered across the millennia by various cultures and hence was widely prevalent as a medium of sculpting deities and figurines for worship.

The process of obtaining a fine art sculpture using bronze as the source material makes it a bit too complex to be practiced at home. This is among one of the types of sculpting techniques which needs to be taught and monitored by skilled experts. The material and the technique are not suitable for kids or even novice adult students.


Like glazed clay, terracotta is a medium that is highly popular among the masses. This particular material has been the medium of creation and expression amongst artists and artisans who had no means to obtain marble or precious metals to sculpt, beginning back in prehistoric times.

terracotta as a sculpting material

Not only used as an art form but terracotta is also used to create utilities like pottery that blends culinary art and sculpture. Terracotta is also the preferred medium of art for making 3D murals. Being among the few mediums that are readily available and easily processed, terracotta can enliven your backyard art and any craft project. The most popular and well known of all terracotta creations in history is the Chinese Terracotta Army from 210–209 BCE.

Plaster of Paris (POP)

Plaster of Paris (or POP as it is widely known) has become another trendy form of sculpting and this material is professionally used to create beautiful wall hanging murals, show pieces, centerpieces, statues etc. It’s a little easier on your budget when compared with the other sculpting material options like terracotta and clay.


Alabaster is a type of soft rock that is widely used by stone sculptors. It’s a smooth, soft gypsum rock and it literally means “soft”.

An alabaster rock, as a sculpting medium, gives more flexibility than marble, granite or other hard rocks. Marble being a metamorphic rock is twice as hard as an alabaster rock. Although the methodology of sculpting both alabaster and marble is somewhat different, they make use of the same set of tools.

You can craft sturdy statues, bowls, vases, etc. if you master this particular material. You will need rock solid practice, perseverance and patience to grasp the nuances and tricks of stone sculpting.

Foam or Styrofoam

Foam is the exact antonym of stone! And the exact opposite of sturdiness. Foam or Styrofoam provides a lot of fun whilst sculpting. It can be a very challenging material to master. This particular material provides some sort of flexibility but can be tough to master as it is too delicate for rigid and rugged hands.

Some sculpture artists use a hot knife to carve the desired shape as this material breaks too often with any blunt edges of any tool that you might be using. Foam is also a very inexpensive medium the same as sand, wood or clay. It’s also one of the most kid friendly mediums that can be explored by young ones after they get creatively exhausted from sculpting with clay for too long.

Papier-Mâché Sculpting

Another well-known medium is Papier Mâché, which as the name suggests is nothing but paper. More precisely, it is a textured variety of paper.

With paper mache you can explore and create a wide variety of wall art, abstract sculptures, animal sculptures, origami, DIY arts and crafts and so much more. In addition, it is among the safest of all mediums and hence recommended for tiny tots to create fun objects with.

Who would have known that the Chinese invention could be a medium of expression not just when it is inked but also when it is bend, curved, carved and folded beyond recognition to make something unique and appealing.

Now that you are more familiar with the various types of sculpture materials, you can choose one and create your own masterpiece.