How to Make a Tiger out of Clay

Photos by Melanie Gibbs

Things You'll Need

  • Air-drying clay (as opposed to oven- or kiln-drying)
  • Disposable table covering
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Plastic knife
  • Toothpick
  • Pictures of tigers for reference

Tigers have an undeniable allure. You may not be able to keep a live one, but you can make one out of clay.

Cover your workspace with a garbage bag, disposable tablecloth or newspaper.

Mix a small amount of clay with a little water and vinegar. You will use this when you connect pieces of clay or if you need to repair damage.

Form the body and head.

Break off two fist-sized pieces of clay. One will become the tiger's body--form it into a rectangular block. The other will be the head and legs--divide it in half.

Take the half and slice off about 1/4 of the clay and make a rectangle. Take the larger portion and form it into a triangular wedge. Flatten the smaller end of the wedge to form the tiger's nose. Referring to your tiger pictures, form the wider end into the ears, forehead and jowl. Using the knife, score the back of this piece and the smaller rectangle you cut from it. Use a little of the clay you prepared with water and vinegar to attach the rectangle to the head and form a neck. Then score this neck piece as well as one of the thin ends of the body block, use more of the prepared clay and connect the neck to the body.

Attach legs.

Form a block out of the remaining portion of clay. Cut that block in half, and then cut each piece in half again, diagonally this time, so you will have four triangles. Flatten the point of one triangle to make a paw, and spread the wide end to make the thigh. Score the back of the thigh and the side of the body where it will attach. Use a little of the prepared clay, and press the leg against the body, referring to your tiger photos to form a realistic-looking leg. Repeat this with the three other triangles until your tiger can stand on four legs.

Take a small piece of clay and roll it to form a pinkie-sized "snake." Flatten one end and score it. Attach the tail on the tiger's backside between the hips. Consider your tiger's attitude when you position the tail. Is he relaxed or angry?

Finish the piece by adding facial features and stripes. Refer to your tiger pictures for help.

Place the tiger where it can air dry. Turn it occasionally so it will dry evenly. Be patient--since the head and body are solid pieces of clay, this will take longer to dry than a hollow piece would.


  • Knead in a little water if your clay is too hard to work with. You can paint your tiger if you like. Read your clay package for specifics.