Plaster Relief vs. Clay Impressions

  • Young Adult
  • Grades 1-3

Learn the difference between a relief and an impression with this experiment with clay and Plaster of Paris.


  • Paint Brushes Triangle Handle
  • Acrylic Paint Jars, 24 Assorted colors
  • Plaster of Paris 4 lb.
  • Skinny Sticks
  • Craft Sticks 150 Pack
  • Small foam plate
  • Water
  • Measuring Cup


Step 1. Gather your supplies.

how to make a plaster relief

plaster relief art project for kids

Step 2.

Knead a small piece of clay between your fingers to make it soft. Gently press the clay into a small foam plate.

Kids craft idea

Step 3.

Continue kneading small pieces of clay and pressing them into the plate, until the plate is completely covered. Tip: If the clay becomes too dry, wet your fingers with water and rub them on the clay to smooth all the pieces together.  Once the clay is pressed into the plate, it should have a lip, just like the plate, as shown.

plaster art

Step 4.

Press a Stone Stamp into the wet clay. Be sure to press firmly down on the Stamp to make a good impression.

clay mold for plaster relief

Step 5.

Use different stamps to create a scene in the clay. Try using the Skinny Stick to draw some designs in the wet clay.

art in plaster

Step 6.

Mix your Plaster of Paris.  For tips on mixing Plaster of Paris, click here. Pour the plaster into the wet clay. Make sure you pour enough plaster to cover right to the edge of the clay. Let the plaster set for at least an hour.

kids craft plaster relief

Step 7.

Very gently remove the plaster from the clay.  It works well to gently pull the clay away from the edges of the set plaster and turn the plate over. The plaster piece should pop right out of the clay. It is important to take your time with this step.

clay and plaster

Step 8.

Compare the plaster piece with the clay piece.  Notice how the the stamps created indents, or impressions, in the clay. When the plaster was poured into the clay, it filled in all the impressions. When you remove the plaster, the impressions from the clay are raised up on the plaster.  When a design is raised, such as the plaster is here, this is called a relief.  Click here to see another example of impressions in plaster.

kids art project

Step 9.

Paint your plaster relief and let dry.

Further Discussion:

Relief is an art term used to describe sculptures where the images are raised up from the background.  Reliefs are commonly done in clay, where the background is carved away, leaving the raised areas of clay to form a design or scene. In this project, the plaster is poured into a clay mold and when it is lifted out of the clay, the design is raised up in the plaster, forming the relief.