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Making Clay Models of Cars as Part of Car Design

Luciano Bove is a car design manager working at Renault Design. Born in Italy, he 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 and learn how to make a good model using all available materials. Most important to use is clay. Learn the technique 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 section plus 3 or 4 cross sections).

The next step is the best one; it is the real modeling 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 spray gun, 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.


sepehr on May 27, 2018:


Those are the materials that they make with it

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on February 25, 2018:

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.

Yassine on February 25, 2018:

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 !

bhavesh on May 06, 2017:

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

Larz on January 14, 2015:

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:


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


Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on September 10, 2014:

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

Peter on September 09, 2014:

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

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on August 29, 2014:

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.

Davis on August 27, 2014:

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?

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on June 22, 2014:

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!!!

Andrew R. on June 22, 2014:

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.

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on December 06, 2013:

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

takkatan on December 06, 2013:

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.

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on December 06, 2013:

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....

takkatan on December 06, 2013:

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.

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on November 02, 2013:

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

Tim.S on November 02, 2013:

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 :)



Alexey on November 02, 2013:

Thank you, Luciano)

Sawsw Huk on October 13, 2013:

thank you

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on October 12, 2013:

Sorry I don't!

Sawsw Huk on October 11, 2013:

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

Sawsw Huk on October 09, 2013:

grazie mille luciano

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on October 08, 2013:

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


Sawsw Huk on October 07, 2013:

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


Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on June 12, 2013:

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

adarsh on June 12, 2013:

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"

Pietro Marrone on September 27, 2012:

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

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on September 05, 2012:


rain on September 04, 2012:

that is so cool

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on December 30, 2011:

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?

Sam on December 30, 2011:

Wat r d materials used for clay modelin

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on July 19, 2011:

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

talz on July 18, 2011:

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

Abdul Rahim on November 21, 2010:

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

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on July 31, 2010:

Thanks for your comment!

Bima.Purnawan1 from Republic of Indonesia on July 30, 2010:

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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