DIY: Emojis

by Kelly Brennan

With some paint and oven-bake clay, you can easily turn your favorite emojis into magnets for your personal space, kitchen, office or any other place you'd like to decorate. After a bit of practice, you can get creative with even more complex shapes and designs.


Aubrey Yeo / Daily Bruin

For this project, we will use Sculpey III Oven-Bake Clay, which is a type of modeling clay that stays soft until it is baked in an oven. If you do not have an oven available, you can use Crayola Air-Dry Clay as an alternative. However, this type of clay can take up to 24 hours to harden.

I painted my clay because it is cheaper to buy one color in bulk than it is to buy small packages of multiple colors. However, if you decide to use colored clay, try to keep your clay as clean as possible before baking.

Step one: Molding your clay

Aubrey Yeo / Daily Bruin

Pick off a small piece of clay and roll it into a ball about 1/2-inch to 1-inch in diameter. Set the ball down on a flat, clean surface. Use your fingers to gently flatten the ball. Round out the edges with your fingers to make sure your clay is a perfect circle.

Aubrey Yeo / Daily Bruin

This is your basic emoji face shape! If desired, take some more clay and create small teardrop or heart shapes to add to the face. To create a teardrop, roll a small ball of clay and pinch one side with your fingers. To create a heart, first make a teardrop shape, then use a toothpick to shape the unpinched side.

Step two: Curing the clay

Bake your clay in a regular kitchen oven or a toaster oven. It is safe to cook small pieces of clay in the same oven that you use to cook food if you do not bake clay very often. Oven-bake clay is nontoxic when cured, but baking large clay pieces often can leave behind an odor in your regular cooking oven. Do not bake food and clay at the same time, and do not microwave your clay! It will burn due to insufficient, uneven heating from the microwave. (It will also make your microwave smell horrible for days.) This type of clay needs even, consistent heating from an oven in order for it to cure properly.

Heat your oven to 275 F. Bake your clay pieces for 15 minutes per 1/4-inch of thickness. Since my emoji faces were about 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick, I baked them for around 25 minutes.

I bake all of my clay pieces at once on a baking tray or a glass plate. Use parchment paper between your clay pieces and baking tray or glass plate if you don’t want them to get dirty.

When you pull the clay pieces out of the oven, let them cool before you try to pick them up. The clay pieces will still be a little soft right out of the oven; they finish hardening as they cool.

If you are using yellow clay and do not plan on painting the bases yellow, you should check your cured clay pieces for any dust or dirt particles. You can use a nail file to gently sand those particles off.

Step three: Painting

Aubrey Yeo / Daily Bruin

If you are using white clay like I am, you will need to paint a yellow base on your clay emojis. You can either dip your brush directly into the paint bottle, or you can pour the paint out onto a palette and mix it with a few drops of water. When you mix the paint with a bit of water, your clay emojis will dry smoother, but require more coats of paint. Paint straight from the bottle will be very thick and may leave some brush marks on your clay pieces; however, you will only need about one or two coats of paint.

Aubrey Yeo / Daily Bruin

Once you have a dry, solid yellow coat on your clay emoji, you can start on the details of the face. Use a toothpick for thin lines and the tip of an old pencil for making larger circles, such as the large round eyes on the “flushed” emoji.

Take your time with the facial details. If you make a mistake, you can paint it over with some yellow paint.

Step four: Final touches

Aubrey Yeo / Daily Bruin
Aubrey Yeo / Daily Bruin

Once you are satisfied with your emoji face, you may paint on a coat of gloss to protect your clay emoji from getting damaged. I prefer to use a water-based gloss called Varathane polyurethane gloss for all of my clay projects, but it can only be purchased in large quantities from hardware stores. You can use Sculpey gloss glaze as a cheaper alternative – it should be available in most craft stores. I usually apply one or two coats of gloss. Gloss isn't necessary if your magnet is going to stay in one place or if you prefer the matte finish of the paint.

Aubrey Yeo / Daily Bruin
Aubrey Yeo / Daily Bruin

When your clay emoji is completely dry, take a 1/2-inch craft magnet and apply it to the back of your emoji face with a drop of super glue. Once the glue sets, your emoji magnets are finished and ready for use on your fridge, whiteboard or any other magnetic surface you want to attach them to!