Making Clay Models of Cars as Part of Car Design

Updated on March 24, 2018
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Luciano Bove is a car design manager working at Renault Design. Born in Italy, graduated from Art Center College of Design in California.

Clay Modeling
Clay Modeling

Clay Models Are Essential to Understanding Car Design

In schools that teach car design, a course in model making is important to a complete education in car design. To model our own design with our own hands is the best thing we can do to learn about car design.

Some designers have never had the opportunity to learn how to use model making tools, work with wood, clay, resin, paint, and bondo, and transfer sections of their own their design onto a clay "buck" to turn the design into a good looking car model. This step is very important because it helps us understand how to convert the 2D phase of design into a more complex 3D one. Designers who haven't had this experience have some problems in judging volumes and proportions on a real model. They will have the same problems in judging a digital model on an Alias computer.

My message of today to all young students reading this article is: be serious with your models, learn well how to make a good model using all available materials. Most important to use is clay. Learn the technique first of applying clay to a buck (a structure made of wood and white light polystyrene) and later with the application of your design sections (YO center line, a plan sectionm plus 3 or 4 cross sections).

The next step is the best one; it is the real modelling of your car's surfaces and proportions with insertions of fine details.

When we are finished with our sections we can start using clay tools to really model the main volume using the sections as reference. The volume we will get is just our clay sketch model with which we check proportions and main lines (roof line, belt line, center line balance...). Now, with our clay tools and some 4mm black flexible tape we can apply our design.

Our color sketches in all views will help to create the wanted design and most important preserve the feeling our sketches. We can retrace lines on our clay surface to make corrections, and quickly clean up the surface with our clay tools.

When we think the clay model is done, we can just close our eyes (this is not a joke!), put our hands on the model clay model and "feel" surfaces and intersections to check the harmony of the shapes and the quality of the surfaces.

Now we can apply all necessary details.

When you start spraying your favourite paint with your personal spraygun you will have an incredible experience! Your baby is born. Reflecting yourself in that model will bring life to it.

This will help you to make you into a good starting professional designer and will make your life in design studios a lot easier!

Watch the video to better understand what I wrote.

Thank you.

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    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 8 weeks ago from Paris

      Hi, yes to go to IED learning how to model with clay with the sensibility of a car designer is exactly the right thing to do to make car clay models...CEMI is also a very good school with a year program and a very professional approach. Design departments in automotive industry like people that work digital modeling or clay modeling coming from design schools.

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      Yassine 8 weeks ago

      Good evening Mr BOVE,

      The IED in Torino includes clay modeling in its summer intensive courses. I am considering attending them. Is it enough a training and can one consider becoming a clay modeller from such courses in case one is not good enough a designer ? Otherwise, thank you so much for the great idea of clay modeling ! I used to make small/toy scal car models with mostly modeling dough and lego blocks as a kid, with everything on them, up to a spare wheel, with the minutest details and an amazing minds eye ... then I stopped in my teens ... Do you then know about any other automotive clay modelling schools part from the one in Italy you mention here ( i.e. CEMI ) ? Thank you so much !

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      bhavesh 11 months ago

      i am sculpture artist creating small & big clay models (birds,trees,animals,human figures) searching job opportunity.i complete 4 year sculpture degree courses

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      Larz 3 years ago

      Here's a link where a clay model is destroyed which is sad, but you get an idea of the underpinnings of the model which is useful:

      http://www.topspeed.com/cars/car-news/jag-shows-us...

      Here's a link with some info on materials and resources as well:

      http://makingsociety.com/2014/03/modelling-clay-mo...

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 3 years ago from Paris

      No idea there are several brands...try this: To order directly from Chavant:

      •Call: 1-800-CHAVANT (800-242-8268)

      •Fax the order to: 732-751-1982

      •E-mail a Purchase Order to: info@chavant.com

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      Peter 3 years ago

      can some please tell me what is the name of this clay? bonyos16@yahoo.com

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 3 years ago from Paris

      Hi davis, I cannot estimate amount of clay. Pottery clay is not good for car modeling I know it...about wheels..in school I made them with hard foam and paint them with simple black spray paint then stick on it image of your Wheel design fotoshop image.

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      Davis 3 years ago

      Can you tell me how many pounds of clay I would need to make a 1/8 scale model (estimate)? I also would like to know if anyone has tried pottery clay and gotten good results. And does anyone know where I can buy the model wheels?

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 3 years ago from Paris

      Dear Andrew I totally agree with you...I often talk to some design schools directors like IAAD, but at the moment looks like it is about complicated rules to respect to have a clay modeling facility...specially in Italy! it is sad but I believe it is a cultural problem...USA is always 20 years head of Europe!!!

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      Andrew R. 3 years ago

      Hi Luciano, why do you think some car design schools are no longer offering clay modeling for bachelor and master's programs? Ex. ISD, IAAD...

      The school can say (to reduce costs) that we are in the digital era and the important is to bring innovative ideas. But now I think is pretty important tool for competivity and volume understanding process. And it makes me fear to invest in a not competitive academic program.

      You can have the best ideas, but if you don't have the tools to show them the best way, I think you're not competitive.

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 4 years ago from Paris

      On Linkedin there is a group named clay modeler....there you will find all experts...

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      takkatan 4 years ago

      hi Luciano,

      thanks for your answer, yes you right have a good structure is essential. I already have a design with the structure and will not be big issue due that the car 'cause is quite square.

      Also I've seen few videos but I still having some doubts I could not figure out by watching them.

      Mostly I asked hoping to get some council/tip or warm about possible issue I might face using that different material, from someone who already know and have used both clay types.

      I guess I will be able solve any problem I might have. Just to save little time.

      Thanks anyway.

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 4 years ago from Paris

      Dear Takkatan,

      in school I made several clay model for my cra projects and the modeling clay is great for that...you will find many videos on youtube to see how it is easy to work with if you already know how to medel. Most important thing to make a car is how your prepare your buck structure and how you model your clay sactions and surfaces with clay tools.

      if you live next to a design school I suggest you to go check students and teachers working clay...CCS in Detroit ACCD in Pasadena Art University in SF....

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      takkatan 4 years ago

      I am freelance sculptor. I use to make my sculptures with usual clay. Now someone ordered me to do a small car, and I know that the modeling clay would be more adequate to do that work.

      Could somebody tell me what are the differences with the usual clay?

      I know just that basic, that I have to heat it to modeling it and that gets hard when lose temperature.

      I mind what will be the issues I will find using modeling clay instead of the traditional one.

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 4 years ago from Paris

      I'll be at your school soon for a visit...

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      Tim.S 4 years ago

      Thanks for these advices Luciano !

      Unfortunately not every transportation design school thinks Clay modeling is important.

      I'm studying at the ISD in Valenciennes, France, and they almost gave up Clay modeling for years now..

      Sad to see computer skills are more important for school directors & administration board than scale 1 experimentations & real mock ups & clay models..

      Hope I'll learn better this techniques once I'll get a job in the automotive industry :)

      Thanks

      T.

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      Alexey 4 years ago

      Thank you, Luciano)

    • Sawsw Huk profile image

      Sawsw Huk 4 years ago

      thank you

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 4 years ago from Paris

      Sorry I don't!

    • Sawsw Huk profile image

      Sawsw Huk 4 years ago

      please if you know any other schools of clay modeling in Quebec ; Canada let me know ... thank you very much

    • Sawsw Huk profile image

      Sawsw Huk 4 years ago

      grazie mille luciano

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 4 years ago from Paris

      Yes there is a school about clay modeling it is in Italy near Torino here the adress: C.E.M.I. Centro Europeo Modellismo Industriale

      Via Gattiera 2, 12038 Savigliano (CN)

      Tel. + 39 0172 716757, Fax +39 0172 716757

      cemi@agenform.it

    • Sawsw Huk profile image

      Sawsw Huk 4 years ago

      hello luciano, i m yacht finisher ,

      im interessed to study clay or modeling as mentioned in the video.

      can you advice me in school in europe or canada. ?

      i will be thankful

      my email is

      c_sabar@yahoo.fr

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 4 years ago from Paris

      adarsh...you wll find plenty of videos on Youtube!

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      adarsh 4 years ago

      hi i also want to be a car desinger and i want to know that "the inner structure is made of cheap wood and light white foam glued on the wood buck " then u said "after we cover all this with hot Clay applying it with our fingers and hands" this is not enough for me can u mail me a video of making this "adakum951@gmail.com"

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      Pietro Marrone 5 years ago

      Ciao Luciano, bella iniziativa, come vedi ogni tanto butto l'occhio sulla mia vecchia passione, e ti ricordo che sono a tua disposizione per un eventuale progetto. Saluti

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 5 years ago from Paris

      Thanks!

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      rain 5 years ago

      that is so cool

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 6 years ago from Paris

      Dear Sam, here the material list for you:

      the inner structure is made of cheap wood and light white foam glued on the wood buck (the structure).

      after we cover all this with hot Clay applying it with our fingers and hands (it smells a bit and it is oily).

      The Clay becomes cold with temperature (a place with air conditioning is preferred to work)and now we can give shape modeling with Clay modeling tools.

      once you have the shape you put a layer of Dynok metallic gray applied with water (so it sticks perfectly to the clay shape) and you will see all volumes and reflexions. OK?

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      Sam 6 years ago

      Wat r d materials used for clay modelin

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 6 years ago from Paris

      Hi Talz thanks for your comment I'll write to you soon!

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      talz 6 years ago

      Hi. I am in South africa. I have a passion for cars. Designing and also modeling. Is there anyone that can help? South africa does not offer any car design courses or do they? talha747@yahoo.com. Thanks guys

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      Abdul Rahim 7 years ago

      i am a computer engg student... but i love cars... and i would love to explore designes of my own... is there anyone who can help me out?... my e-add is gazekhan@gmail.com

    • luciano63 profile image
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      Luciano Bove 7 years ago from Paris

      Thanks for your comment!

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      Bima.Purnawan1 7 years ago from Republic of Indonesia

      In those schools there is a car design modeling program that is very important to complement our car design education programs. This is very interesting and helpful in education.

      Please visit also our hub - thank you

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