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It’s no mystery that I have quite the love for working in concrete. My fascination with casting things from molds started as a little kid and led me to this. Before I knew it I had used a bunch of different Concrete mixes, made my own and created quite the slue of original projects. I learned from ‘hands-on’ experimentation to create my own easy system that makes it all mess free and simple. For many the idea of making concrete brings visions of huge metal mixers, shovels and mess. Let me show you some of my Tips and Tricks for Concrete Crafting so you too can make it all the time, like baking a cake.

“What is concrete?”

The term ‘concrete’ is for a material that is created from a mix of aggregates with a cement that is activated with water. Once it goes through it’s reaction, which usually involves some heat production it ends up almost as hard as stone. Lime-based Portland cement is commonly used and mixed with gravel (crushed stone) to make the typical mix used for your sidewalks. But as a crafter I often use a finer mix but there are still a few to choose from.

Question: “What concrete mix should I use?”

I get many questions about this. If you get the wrong mix, it will usually not work. Many of my projects are designed with the character of the mix. This post will also help explain the pre-made mixes.

Portland Cement

Portland Cement can be purchased as is so that you can make your own mix by adding other aggregates. It is also used when making ‘HyperTufa’. Depending what you mix into the portland cement will determine the final characteristics. It can range from just sand to perlite, peat, vermiculite, paper, styrofoam and probably more I’ve yet to discover.

If you want total control, this would be your choice as you are starting from ‘scratch’. I use this when making the CONCRETE ORBS using some dipping of yarn, and also the STEP SPOOK. In those cases the fabric fibres are the ‘aggregate’. Paper can be used as an additive and works quite well as in my PAPERCRETE BIRD

Sand Topping Mix

Sand Topping Mix is also one of my favourites. It is a simple mix of portland cement and sand. This inexpensive mix is meant to be used at less than 2″ thickness so it was perfect for the STEPPING STONES which were my first concrete adventure many years ago. They still grace my garden and are aging nicely. It has a fair strength when used at thicknesses over 3/8″ and worked well for the making of BOWLS and LIVE EDGE BOWLS and casting LEAF PLANTER. If you are new to concrete this is a good way to experiment. It can not be used at a very thin thickness.

Setting time is not accelerated and will need a good 24 hours before unmolding.




RapidSet Cementall

Rapidset Cementall is a brand name for a quickset concrete. This mix acts quite differently as it sets really quickly (5 minutes) and can be unmolded in 1 hour. I love this mix since I am impatient, but also because it is super strong! I experimented and have used it at 1/8″ thick with good strength (obviously not walking on) as it my LEAF COASTERS. This mix can be used at different consistencies such as pourable or thicker malleable concrete. This pourability has allowed the ‘slush pouring’ of the CUTE HEADS and the TIN CANS, and even the EGGS. Thicker use has allowed the sculpting of the LEAF CIRCLES and the hilarious SMILING STONES and LARGE FACE SCULPTURE. Even the GEODES and GEODE LAMP used this mix!

There is something about this mix that does make the end product much finer though, as there are many additives to set it quick and add that strength. If you like the more rough industrial look this concrete has less of that since the aggregates are very very (powdered sugar-like) fine. Those are decisions you have to make. It is also more expensive due to those ingredients.






If you would like to see side-by-side comparison of a few mixes visit my post about fast-set and extra strength mixes.

Top’n Bond

Sakrete Top’N Bond is a form of a patching concrete which makes it adhere to existing concrete. It is sometimes called vinyl patch as there are added polymers. It has a good strength at minimal thickness and also some has malleability. The final product does have the coarser texture since there is sand in the mix. It has a medium setting time so it worked well for the GIANT ORBS since they are worked in stages.

“What do I need to Work with concrete?”

This is a what my collection of concrete ‘stuff’ looks like. It is really quite simple and I have quite the system now.

  • Watering Can – is great as it just needs a bit of a tip to dispense, no fussing with a hose.
  • Bucket of Concrete Mix and Scoop – keep this scoop dry and in the container to be able to add mix when needed.
  • Plastic Mixing Containers – It is best if these are not too rigid (Yogurt containers work well). Wider containers are better for mixing than tall ones.
  • Measuring Cup to dispense small amounts of water into the mixing container.
  • Rubber or Nitrile Gloves – better quality makes them last longer.
  • Dust Maskrated for concrete silica dust I like my 3M8833 as it has an exhale valve.
  • Spray Bottle with water – to mist when adding to existing dry concrete
  • Mixing Spoons/Utensils – Plastic or wood
  • Concrete Colour – if you would like a darker or tinted colour ( acrylic paints can work as well)
  • Optional; Additives – if making a custom mix like Hypertufa or Papercrete; peat, sand, perlite, vermiculite, paper fibres, etc.
  • Other Tools – like brushes, sticks, skewers, depending on project

“How To Work with Concrete and not make a big Mess?”

Step #1

Use the scoop and place some ‘mix’ into the mixing vessel

Step #2

Use the measuring cup to add water slowly, mixing after each addition. The consistency that is needed will depend on the particular project and type of mix. The Rapidset Cementall works better if the water is added first. (each project tutorial also has details) Then follow the instructions to make your ‘great concrete project’.

Step #3

Do not wash anything, just let it set and dry. NEVER EVER wash it down the drain! It’s like NOT doing the dishes… We are not making a sidewalk here, usually just smaller craft objects.

Step #4

Once it is hard, just flex the container and the concrete will chip off. Bang it a bit and it will be clean enough for the next use. I like to use recyclable yogurt containers. Plastic buckets work well if you are working a bit larger scale.

Flex the spoon as well and it will become clean too.

Keep a bucket for all the cast off concrete. It can be used as aggregate later on or other planting uses. No mess or fuss!

“How do I make the concrete stronger?”

There may be times where you need a bit of assurance that your project won’t just crumble into pieces. In the big professional world they use steel rebar rods inside the concrete. We can use other methods of adding some reinforcement.

Drywall mesh acts as a reinforcement that can be cut and covered with concrete. If it is visible after curing it can be burnt away with a little torch.

You can also buy reinforcing fibres that are added to the mix. These work great as I have seen pieces that crack but hold together since there is the cross lacing of the fibres.

Anything that does not stretch can act as a reinforcement. Chicken wire, other metal mesh, yarn, wire, even fabric will add strength.

“How do I finish the rough edges?”

I admit, I hate sanding! I do not want to make a cloud of dust! So I design ways to keep that part to the minimum. That is why I like the rustic edges. There are times where you may have mixed a bit too much concrete, don’t throw it away! Make a ‘patty’ on some smooth surface (plastic is best) and let set.

This is now a great ‘sanding disc’, instead of using sandpaper or emery cloth. Also if you work with the pieces wet, there will  be no dust and it will work well enough to take off the sharp corners.

I like to come up with projects where the rough edges are part of the design as in the LIVE EDGE CONCRETE BOWLS. That’s an artist’s trick; make any ‘mistake’ look intentional…

Simple Clean up:

Fill a very large bucket with water. If you need to get your hands or utensils clean use the bucket of water like a sink (I keep a rag nearby to dry). The particles will settle and you can use this for a while. When done, pour off the water and let the bottom sludge harden/dry to be knocked out.

So, there you have it! It isn’t as bad as you had imagined?! I hope I have taken away some of the fear of being covered in concrete. It is similar to working with plaster of paris but is much more durable. Go check out all the concrete projects I have and give it a shot! I know you can do it!

See this post before you go to the concrete store…

I'm an artist & I make things... all kinds of things.

This Post Has 186 Comments

  1. I love this site of yours Barb! Sadly don’t have the work space–I’ll stick to crocheting..
    Question: Did you post the picture of a somewhat turgid male member on purpose?
    (Top left corner)

    1. Well, I have even resorted to small pouring of concrete in my basement when the weather does not cooperate! The coasters use so little mix that it’s easier than a cake. As for the member, yikes, it’s the thumb of the hand!

    2. I am VERY new at this. To make the pots or whatever. Do I use sakkrete or make my own.
      Also I have noticed they use a kind of slurry at times to cover. Is their a distinct recipe to the slurry. I’ve noticed they just put in concrete??? And sand mix it well ,add water and mix some more. Is this correct
      Thank you

      1. This post has links to all the different concrete things to make. Each one uses a specific mix. I don’t like to mix to make my own as buying a pre-made mix is easier and often cheaper. Read through and pick a project! Happy making!

  2. Brab, I always love your site, always great ideas. I make concrete leaves using vinyl patch cement and certain leaves always have more “bug holes” in the concrete than others. I pat the wet cement a lot but still they show up. Any suggestions.

    1. If you want really detailed prints maybe a layer of a quickset concrete like the rapidset cementall and then a layer of the other stuff. It is so fine it almost doesn’t even look like concrete. You could add the other layer within the hour. Or make sure it is a tad on the wetter side and really ‘slap-slap-slap’ the first layer. I use sand topping mix for my leaves.

  3. I just found your wonderful site. I’m new at crafting with cement and I LOVE it. Soooo many wonderful ideas to try. Keep them coming please.

  4. Hi Barb,

    I have always wanted to try crafting with concrete, but haven’t dared to take the plunge. You help take the mystery out of all the different types of concrete (& availability), best uses and final results. I am making plans for next summer’s project(s). Have you heard of Shape Crete? What are your thoughts on this type of concrete?
    Martina (from Waterloo,ON)

    1. Yes, I have heard about Shapecrete! I did want to try it but I was a bit surprised at the cost per amount. It would be well worth it if you are not making a lot. I always like to figure out a cheaper way of doing my arts/crafts (maybe I do too many) and I like the availability for everyone. Maybe the ShapeCrete guys should send me some to test (hint-hint) I used to sculpt with real clay that needed to be fired and that is what it seems like. Honestly. I can’t keep up making all the ideas that pop into this brain of mine… If you try it let me know.

      1. I’ve used the Shapecrete, it’s ok…. My favorite is still the Rapid set, as it seems it is yours too…. the shapecrete isn’t like clay, which I was hoping it would be…. it works best if you have something to mold it onto, doesn’t work if your trying to “freehand”sculpt……

        1. Oh, thanks for letting me know. Yes, I love the RapidSet, so little waiting! Sometimes I pop a load of laundry in and pour a bit of concrete… both done about same time!

  5. Barbmaker,
    Thank you for all your great info. I would like your input on a project I haven’t the knowledge to do. I have two outdoor cement flamingos that are falling apart. How can I repair them ? Please advise
    Thank You

    1. Hmmm, sounds like a bit of a patch job? If it is a matter of filling in the cracks to hold it together I think the Rapidset Cementall would work for that. The only issue is that you get good adherence by wetting and perhaps using a bonding agent (buy at hardware/home depot) or sub some white glue. (I’ve heard) The key is not to have the old concrete ‘suck’ the water out of the new add. The beauty of this mix is that sets really fast and is workable. You could use a putty knife or artist palette knife and ‘butter it’ into the cracks. I usually have a spray bottle handy for the wetting. I did that to some cracks in the sidewalk a couple years ago and they have been holding and we drive over it… If you are not sure, do a tiny test on the bottom. It’s all about experimentation. Good luck

  6. I have tried making orb’s by buying glass light balls then breaking the glass. But all the quick cement seems to harden so fast. And I struggle getting it to be level and air bubbles out.. What other type of cement product would you use.. Also do or have you used a vibrating table to help get the air bubbles out?? I have kinda drunk the cement loving cool aide… Thanks so much…. Off to play some more…

    1. Hi There! I don’t make the solid orbs as they use a lot of concrete and need the glass. I make other orbs that are hollow. Then I also don’t need to worry about bubbles so much. Maybe you would like the large ones and you could the quick set concrete for them, and add the layers. They will end up more rough though. If you want to use the glass, then why not use the sandtopping mix. It is a general purpose mix and you can tap and use s tir stick to get the bubbles out. I personally like the bubbles so that it looks like concrete’ not plastic. Good luck!

      1. Hi, I may not be understanding the orb making problem correctly. I made many different kinds and sizes by using old tennis balls, golf balls, etc. All sizes and not much concrete needed.

    1. Well, that is a good question… I personally like the look of aged old plain concrete. I find sealers change the whole nature of the concrete.

      Even the neighbourhood driveways that had sealers seem to look worse and need refreshing more than the natural ones. I am always hoping that some moss will grow and make it look even older.

      Sealing the inside is sometimes a good idea, but I have yet to find one that I can get in smaller quantities and feel that it would be safe for the plant. Even beeswax feels like it would be a good sealer (works for waxed cloth) and is natural

      The Rapidset Cementall is so dense that the water I left in an untreated bowl stayed for days without leaching through. My ‘sandtopping mix’ bowls have been inside over a year and don’t leak, but do need a bit more watering due to leaching.

      If you want to buy some, look for a food-safe counter sealer. It would probably make it darker and change the sheen…

  7. I am a first-timer who would love to make a draped fabric “sculpture” out of concrete. I have an old shirt I would like to dip and then hang outside. I need guidance! Thanks!

    1. Oh, sounds like fun! Have you seen this fellow? He is made with draping. When I have used fabric I try to find one that has some texture that will hold the concrete. Just as the orbs were a fuzzy type of yarn. The next thing to consider is what will hold the heavy shape til it is cured and will you be able to get it out? Or leave it in? If using a fuzzy fabric then I use the ‘Portland Cement” since the fabric is the ‘aggregate’. Not sure what shape you are hoping for…

      1. Hi Barb,
        I have been wanting to try my hands on concrete Crafting , making hypertufa first (glad I found your website) but couldn’t find Portland cement here in Queensland, Australia. Any substitute?
        Thanks a lot!
        Edita Walsh

        1. I’m glad that you are starting some concreting. There must be a similar product in your country. I did a quick search and I think this is the same as portland cement. The brand may be different but it is the most important ingredient in concrete mixes. There are also hypertufa groups online that could possibly help you. It is a small world on the internet

  8. Hi Barb,

    Thank you for THE best concrete tutorial ever! I’m just getting started with concrete and the information you have provided is awesome!
    I live in Australia so I’ll have to research the equivalent products over here. Shame, guess I’ll have to spend some time at the shops (any excuse) 😉
    Hope you don’t mind me picking your brains but can you please tell me what you use to make lightweight concrete products? I’d prefer to not have aggregates show through the surface. I’m a bit stumped.
    Thanks again 😊

    1. Light weight concrete? Hmmm, some people make the hypertufa with the peat, perlite, vermiculite added in but I think that is not what you like since it shows on the surface. I have tried it as well but I am so impatient as it takes longer to cure and has a different consistency than I really like. It is much more porous. When I made the papercrete Bird it did end up quite light due to the paper content AND that he is hollow. Sometimes it takes a bit of thinking at how to design to create less bulk = less weight.

      Funny though; I had just picked up a small bag of styrofoam pellets (used as fake snow for christmas ornaments) and had an idea that involves concrete… I have yet to test it though. And sadly it is getting cold here on the other side of the world, not much concreting outdoors anymore.

      Draping can make lighter products as well, and hoping to post on that soon.

      Do watch for new ideas…

      1. Thanks Barb you’re a legend! There is a product called Citymix that is a lightweight additive for concrete that looks interesting. Might be expensive but no harm in investigating.
        Thanks again.

    1. I was looking to see what exactly the Pelefix was? I am not familiar with it. If I am right it looks like a glue type substance that can add strength? If so, then I would add it with the liquid(water) so that it gets incorporated before the dry mix. I do also sometimes use the fibres in the concrete, and add them after it some mix is added and then adjust til you get the desired consistency. Hope that helps…

  9. Thank you do much for all this useful information! So many sites assume everyone already knows the basics.
    I can’t wait to give this a try!

  10. I’m interested in making some snowmen using concrete and unfortunately every blog I look at is in another language! I’d appreciate any thoughts on what type of concrete to use, I’d like them to be about 12- 15 inches tall. You have some great info on here thanks so much!

      1. Hi barb!! Me again!! Snowmen turned out great.. used nylon hose for mold to hold together and I feel I let them set too long. That being said struggling a bit getting-them off any suggestions to soften the concrete to remove? I removed one the next day and it was a breeze but these have set on for about 10 days. Frustrated!!!

  11. This is the BEST tutorial I’ve come across!! I too enjoy working with cement but have struggled to get proper instructions. Thank you for your detailed information. AND the tips on not making too much of a mess!!!

  12. Thank you! This is the best , clearest, easiest to understand posting I’ve ever read on this subject. I have gathered most of what I need, a great addition to the creative clutter in my home! Now to find the time to just jump in and play! Thanks again for sharing!

  13. I appreciate the advice to use a spray bottle with water to mist when working with concrete. My driveway is all cracked and uneven, so I would like to work with a specialist in concrete products to help me fix my driveway. Getting a spray bottle and dust mask will be some tools I’ll get for when working with concrete.

    1. Good Luck! For some reason the concrete driveways of these years are crumbling whereas the ones from many many years ago are outlasting them. Must be different mix…

    2. Good Luck! For some reason the concrete driveways of these years are crumbling whereas the ones from many many years ago are outlasting them. Must be different mix…

  14. Thanks for talking more about Portland cement. As you talked about it, I thought about how the texture and consistency can change depending on what you mix with it. My wife and I are looking to put some concrete in our backyard, so I will contact a contractor this week to talk about the details. Thanks!

  15. Great post !
    I’ve been trying to make a free form bowl over a balloon , of course with a crumbling disaster. I’m going to try adding reinforcement fibers and cross my fingers . Enjoyed your site , thanks

  16. I have not been able to find answers from anyone else so I thought I’d give you a shot. I have 2 life sized cement deer statues that were given to me. They are missing the cement on their legs and ears and a tail on one of them. What would you recommend as the best cement product to rebuild the legs and ears, etc? Do you have any suggestions as to the best way to do this….in layers or should i just sculpt the entire leg at once? The thickest part of the leg might be 3 or 4 inches at the hock. I appreciate any ideas, suggestions, instructions or what have you to help me to restore these deer.

    1. That is a tough one. It is probably going to be a lot of work nut maybe there is sentimental attachment to them.May they did not have any reinforcement in the legs and that is why they broke to begin with. Anything long and thin is apt to break.

      If you want to recreate tall legs I would suggest drilling a hole into the bottom for each leg and starting by epoxying some rebar (that is what is inside concrete slabs) Then you can add some metal mesh and build up an sculpt the leg(s). I am a big fan of the Rapidset Cementall since it sets really fast and that is how I sculpted the original face or you can use another quicksetting or vinyl patch concrete. If you don’t build all at once just make sure you are not adding to completely dry concrete, wet it down or even add adhesion mix (like acrylic medium) before adding. I would just work incrementally without too much time in between. If it was whole new one it would be a different story but I bet the torsos are quite heavy so the legs need to be pretty solid. Same would be for the ears, a metal rod to get a start and some mesh… Let me know how it went!

  17. Hi Barb! I am beginning to work with cement making tiny art houses. I am making molds from 1/2 & 1/2 containers since they are waxed and won’t require a release agent. Since these are so small (.5”x.5”x various heights) I need to make a mix that is quite liquidy. Is it ok to just add more water to get a pourable solution? If so, how much longer is the dry time? Will the additional water result in a crumbling mess? Thanks!

    1. It will depend on what mix your use. The Rapidset Cementall states that it can be used in a fluid or or mose plastic state. Have used it in a more fluid state (for the monster eggs) and it still sets well and is strong. Quikrete has a version called Fastcrete. The finish is quite smooth and fine.

  18. I have problems with mushrooms. I use the nylons as my mold. Some, not many, have broken. The top just seem to fall off after a soft fall over…. Love making them but do not want to sell these cute Mushrooms if there May fall apart. I have tried several types of cement but would love your input.

  19. How do I use cement to make fairy gardens. I don’t want the square houses I wanted to look like a logs in crooked little doors chimneys. I would love some ideas scared to try it on my own

    1. I have been mulling that idea in my head for a while. I hate to just regurgitate what is on the net so I wanted something comletely unique. Hint; use some plastic bottles as a form, possibly use some fabric soaked in concrete/portland cement and maybe some papercrete… I’m hoping to get to some this summer! See my witch, she has a lot of texture.

      If it is scary, then I always do tiny test pieces. That way it is not going to waste much. Stay tuned…

    1. I learn how things work mostly by experience. I guess adding portland and sand is like a hybrid fastset+sandtopping mix. So it may not be quite as strong as pure fastset. I am also hoping to try just adding dish-soap as that will add some air. In my mind of ideas the days are much longer!

  20. Barb, your tutorials and photos on concrete projects are the BEST on the web, Thank You!! I just completed my first doll head mold and pour. I might add that my silicone & corn starch mold initially had some thin spots where I had pressed it too hard. I simply applied some additional silicone directly from the tube to build up the thin spots and it adhered perfectly. —– I want to donate to your website, but only by PayPal. How can I do that?

    1. Thanks! Paypal is easy to set up and use with debit or credit etc. I have had a lot of good use of the silicone molds as well. I have also used the silicone to mend/fix. Happy concreting!

  21. Barb-fantastic info

    I want to make smaller orbs to fill with water and float a votive. My vision is slightly more textured exterior on an orb about 12 inches. Any suggestions for which concrete to use as I may have to create in sections over a few sessions. The thickness could be up to one inch.

    Assume interior has to be waterproof as well-suggestions as to paint type?


    1. Have you seen these? They could be made with just concrete. I’d say they are still slightly smaller than 12″.

      I had the intention of testing some waterproofing last year. I used 3 vessels made with the Rapidset cementall and 3 different interior methods. What I found was that that concrete was so dense that the water did not penetrate at all over a length of time in any of them or even natural. Sooo, maybe you don’t need to coat the inside. I think it would be problematic to have a waterproof paint unless you use something like a pool paint. You could also keep them thinner as this is strong concrete (see these) Let me know how you make out Good Luck!

  22. I’m looking for a way to cement my little daughters sneakers. You know, stick them out in the garden. I haven’t worked with quickcrete but I’m hoping the rapid set you mentioned works best. Any advice? Maybe you have dipped some boots for planters? I have some little rain boots I could ‘Crete instead of the sneakers.

    1. The rapidset does turn out the hardest and quickly. The problem is that in order to harden them the concrete needs to get into the fabric enough to build up some thickness. You could add repeated layers to thicken it but then the details are often lost. I find that the mixes have sand in them so its harder to get into the fabric. Portland cement will be more smooth to be able to impregnate the fibres. Maybe a combination of a good portland dip and then some extra layering… Have you looked at the Ghoul and witch?

  23. Hi. I am very new at this. I am trying to cover with concrete a half pipe for finger boards that I made out of wood. What kind of concrete shoul I use? Thanks

    1. Hmmm, I suspect that it’s a wood box shape with a ‘half pipe’ hollow section. If there is a good thickness to the form you could use a simple Sand topping mix. If you are worried about cracking you could add some fibres or internal reinforcement metal or wire. It is strong enough for my Stepping Stones and finished pretty flat. If it is thinner you could use a RapidSet Cementall as it sets really fast and is much harder and smoother than usual concrete.

      Do consider what surface will be touching the concrete as you may need some mold release. (oil, or spray)

  24. Hi Barb -love your ideas and suggestions. I am a concreteaholic and use sand and non sanded grout for a lot of my projects mainly for the smoothness and color choices. What are your thoughts? I would love to chat-do you actually see my email address? First time I’ve ever posted on here 😉

    1. I have not used the grout other than the mixes that state they can be used a non-shrink grout. I know it seems complicated when shopping for mixes as they have multiple uses. The RapidSet Cementall seems like a grout and does cure so smooth that it will shine if cast on a smooth surface. That is how I make the geodes You can add some colour to mixes as well.
      Thanks for taking the time to write.

  25. Hi Barb, i am following all your fab work, i am interested in making the Draped Hypertufa Planters, i live in Ireland, and i see you use portland cement, is that just an ordinary cement, i can’t find the portland cement here only our Irish Cement, also is there any sand to be used, Many thanks for reading this and keep up the great work.

    1. Portland cement is the active part in most mixes that contain sand and sometimes gravel (aggregate). It is quite fine in nature and I use it along with the fabric being the aggregate. You could add sand and peat etc but it tends to sit on the surface since it won’t get absorbed by the fibres. As I researched I believe the Irish cement is indeed portland see here Ask if it has additives like sand or gravel. Good luck. You may also like this fellow as he is also a draped concrete

  26. Hi Bab,

    Awesome ideas you have. I see recommendations elsewhere to not paint any concrete creations until it has set for 27-30 days. What say you?


      1. Thanks for the quick reply. This is for some small pieces that will primarily go indoors. I wanted to paint a little ‘gold’ in some intentional ‘cracks’. TY again

      2. Hello love reading your posts, you have a wealth of information!!
        I can’t seem to find any rapid set cement all here where I live Victoria, Australia is there another name for it or a similar product? Thanks

        1. I think I was looking for someone and did notice there were a few choices. Look for fast setting (read specs on the bag and setting time), super strong and no minimum thickness (no stone in the mix) The very fast setting are usually significantly more expensive as well and mix differently with water. I hope that helps

  27. I made a sculpture out of clay but I want to make copies out of cement. I’m worried about crevices in the original. Do you have any advice for making molds and casting cement?

  28. Barb thank you. You’re a great inspritation and all your tips are so helpful.
    I’m from India so you reach far and wide.

  29. Hi
    I have a question,I bought a bag of quikrete fast settings concrete mix.
    I bought this, because I am trying to fix a urn that is broken from the bottom.
    The thing is that it has gravel so..I swift it thinking it would be better without them.
    Well I tested by making a small pot just to see if it would work.
    Well when the required time was up for it to cure,I went ahead and checked the turn to powder :(.
    How can I fix this urn? Or would it work if I just use it with the gravel,will it turn out good?

    1. I have not really used the one with gravel except when doing sidewalk stuff. I have seen some instruction where they had suggested to just sift as you did. I suspect maybe that it was either not wet enough to activate the ‘concrete’ reaction or that it was not enough curing time (dampening during curing is also good). One of my go-to mixes is the Rapidset Cementall as I can basically sculpt with it (as I did with the face) Let me know how it goes… everything is a lesson in learning how to work with a media. It’s part of being a maker…

  30. Barb you certainly have many talents. I am enjoying working with cement but sure have a lot to learn. Reading your projects has helped in many areas. Still trying to figure out cracking and such but I will keep trudging on. Thanks for all your resources you have quite the selections on your site with soap and sewing. You bring lots of Joy!!!

    1. Sometimes I feel odd in all that I like to do, but they did almost build from each other… So many cross ideas can cross media and that’s what makes them more unique… Happy making

  31. Hi Barb, love your posts.
    I’m just starting my concrete adventure, having loads of fun playing with different colours & moulds.
    However, all of my pots are EXTREMELY DUSTY. I don’t see anything on net where other people’s pots are very dusty.
    I’ve washed them, had them for a few days soaking in water & vinegar. However they’re still very dusty.
    I’ve been using Bastion 20kg Real White Cement & Westbuild 20kg Sand And Cement Dry Mix.
    I’ve searched high and low for information on a sealer, that is low cost & still safe for plants, but no one seems to use one.

    Also, I’ve tried sanding, using a lump of offcast concrete, but that doesn’t seem to achieve much.
    Any advice?

    1. I think it is some particles of the concrete coming off. It may be specific to the mix that you use as I have not seen it happen with so maybe there is no extra particles. Give it a good scrub in/under water to get rid of the extra. I’m hesitant to use sealer as I see how they usually fail after time and look way worse. I may experiment and beeswax is on my radar… Good luck.

  32. Hi barb, I love everything you make your so creative, on one of the pictures you have a set of giant lips such as a huge face , thats what I’ve been looking for to make, how did you do that? Was it with a giant face mask or what because I can’t find a mask that big or bigger

  33. Hello. I would like to ask a question. I use a product called Ultracal 30. It’s a gypsum cement. It gets poured into 3.5 inch silicone molds. Do you have any suggestions other than just tapping and shaking the mold to avoid (as much as possible) to avoid surface voids? No matter what I try, bottled water, clean interior molds. mixing longer, I’m simply getting too many (surface) air bubbles. Thank you in advance if you respond.

    1. Since I have not used that I can’t be too sure. I would think that the air is coming from somewhere. Since it’s a powder it must include some air. When mixing, folding would be better than rapid ‘whipping’. After it’s been mixed, knock it on the table to get the air to surface before going into the mold. You could also try a thin mix/pour to just coat the walls of the mold first. And then add more later. I think it’s called slip casting. I did something like that here. Happy making, you’ll figure it out!

  34. HI! Do you have a preferred release agent? My daughter wants to make little cement gems using a silicone mold. Any thoughts/suggestions?

    1. Which concrete are you using? Some (like the RapidSet Cementall) have polymers in them so the molds may need cleaning afterward. I have used a beeswax/mineral oil rubbed on, Pam (cooking spray) and some use WD40 or other silicone spray. I sometimes avoid any since I don’t want it in the final concrete. Silicone is pretty resistent to concrete sticking since it’s flexible. When ever I am in doubt, I do a small test pour, just a bit to see how easy it comes out. I had thought even some old lip balm could work as it’s waxes and oils. Happy making

  35. nice information, please guide whether mix of cement and sand is good for art work ( small size objects) or only cement is recommended?

  36. Thanks Barb for all of the fantastic project ideas…..i’m interested in seeing how others have been able to create their own using your inspirations….do you have a place on your website for your “FANS”

  37. oops…hit enter before I finished my post….my bad. Anyway….to continue…
    do you have a place on your website for your “Fans” creations? Would love to see what others have done.
    Thanks Barb…
    Peggy Davis
    (working on Step Spook #2 tonight and some concrete hands which will be peeking their way out of gravestones on Halloween!) 🙂

    1. Wow, that’s a good idea! I should make a post where I put up pictures! Just send them as a ‘reply’ from the Newsletter subscription. Once I have a bunch I will post!

  38. I just started dabbling in this concrete business. I’ve been making bowls.planters etc….I have people wanting to buy but I don’t know how to properly wash the concrete and how long this process takes. Also I’ve had requests for a birdbath which I will handprint on the outside but I guess I would leave the inside plain …but I want it to be safe for the little critters… would u please advise? TIA 🙂

    1. Some say to soak in water for a month. I have heard a bit of acid like vinegar can help take the alkali down but not too much as it will weaken the concrete. Eventually it will leach out when constantly refilling with water. The birds that drink from the sidewalk are fine. A sealer may give a temporary seal but I bet it would not last indefinitely as even pools need to be re-surfaced/painted. If you can testing with PH strips will help…

  39. HELP! I did my first casting 3 days ago on a rhubarb leaf. I used 3-1 fine sand to Portland cement. I also added a little color and concrete bonding adhesive acrylic fortifier along with water. I thought I got it on the leaf fairly thick in the middle with it graduating down to maybe a 1/4″ or a little less on the edges. When finished, I covered the leaf with plastic and let it sit for 2 days. When I took the plastic off today, I had fine cracks all through the leaf and when I carefully turned it over and take the leaf off, the edges started crumbling and the whole thing falling apart. I also did this indoors so weather didn’t have a factor in this epic fail. What happeded???

    1. Wow, I have not had that happen. It sounds strange as the fortifier should help. You did not make them how I do as I use a commercial sand-topping mix and don’t add fortifier. I have never seen fine cracks so I wonder if it had something to do with the colour or acrylic. Can you get the sandtopping mix as it is pretty cheap and foolproof. See how I make mine here 1/4″ is too thin for a regular mix. There is also the possibility that the portland cement was too old…

  40. Barb,
    From one artist to another artist, you are so kind to not only entice us with great ideas, you take the time to share great instructions. You seem so patient in your explanation. You are a great artist and I’ll bet a wonderful person in person, someone you would like as a neighbor and friend. Thank you for being you.


    1. Hmmm, that’s quite interesting! I had no idea that much would through my writing. Yes, I have often been described as being very patient. So happy to hear it from another artist!

  41. Hi Barb,

    Thanks for your recent post Tips & Tricks of Cement Crafting. I have a question, when you are making the slurry for dipping cloth, how much portland cement do you use for each cup of water?

    1. I don’t have an exact measurement as it depends on a few factors. Some fabrics are denser and some not so I may vary it slightly. I mix it to be thicker than milk, like melted ice cream. It needs to get into the fabric quite well to do it’s job. Recipes depend on humidity and also how packed it is… Don’t worry, you will figure it out!

  42. I’d like to color my Portland cement and drop cloth strips. Is there a recipe for how much latex paint to mix with water? Or can you use 100% paint as a mixer? Will copper metallic acrylic paint retain its sheen?

    1. In my experience it’s not quite like just mixing paint. I find it does sometimes make the concrete act weird like coagulating. When possible use colouring made for concrete. Concrete has a reaction that needs to take place, so too much paint may hinder that. I would do a small mix test sample. I’ve tried the metallic and it seems to get ‘lost’ in the muck of the concrete. I usually just add as a paint. Check back, I’m hoping to try something new soon… Good luck!

    1. Since there is practice of making Hypertufa with additives like soil, perlite, and there is also papercrete which adds paper pulp, I’d say it is possible. It would absorb moisture as does the Hypertufa and papercrete so it acts different than regular concrete. I’d say it’s less strong as well. Hope that helps

  43. Hi there
    I need to make elephant tusks life size for a project.
    Can you recommend the right white concrete I should try by chance.
    I was gonna carve them out of soap stone but cant find any bulk stone this size and cost is up there lol.
    Thank you

    1. It depends if they need to be pure white? The Rapidset Cementall is quite light coloured but not pure white. It is really strong and can be very smooth! There are some white portland cements available but then you’d have to mix it. Maybe look for a counter-top mix. Good luck!

  44. Hey Barb, you have the BEST site on this subject. I cast and paint tetrapanax and elephant type leaves, some of which are quite large. I have to bathe the leaves in a vinegar/water spray for a few minutes and then neutralize it with a baking soda/water mix in order to prevent chalking on the paint. I let them cure for three days, neutralize and then I can paint and finish with a clear coat spray. Do you experience chalking or don’t you paint them?

    1. In my observation of concrete that has been sealed I always see that it fails after time. I actually like the look of uncoloured aged concrete, even if it gets a bit green/mossy. If it’s meant to be indoors then I may use an acrylic sealer. The rapidset Cementall has no efflorescence. Leaf casting is so much fun!

  45. Hi, a question re soda cans as moulds for concrete, you mention pushing the bottom of can with a broom handle, that would not give a flat bottom to the item being moulded?

    1. The idea is not to push it out that far, just enough to get rid of the way it is very indented. Cans are designed to old shape well and the bottoms are very concave which will just not allow you to pull out the concrete. Just flatten it enough… Hope that helps.

  46. Hi there! I’m SO glad I stumbled across your page! Thank you for your insight! I’m a candle maker and I’ve been casting small planter molds but I’m not sure what to seal them with. I’ve read suggestions to use dealers and not to use them. Any advice? My concern is the safety of the sealer interacting with the candle flame. So I seal the inside? How is it applied? I’d love some good advice. 🙂

    1. I don’t like sealers generally as they eventually fail in the elements. I had thought of beeswax but so far not tested. But why do you need a sealer??

  47. The first batch of stepping stones I made with quikcrete I lightly coated the inside of the plastic molds with oil and then wiped with a clean cloth but when I demolded them and they dried there were dark areas, was this because of the oil? I also made a second batch only wiping with the oiled cloth previously used and, when I demolded them some were cracked and some had air bubbles despite shaking them to remove air. I used the same type of concrete last year and had no issues but I wasn’t making stepping stones. Any advice would be helpful! thanks so much

    1. That is strange. I can’t say I’ve had that happen in all the dozens of bowls etc I made. I avoid any mold release even to the risky point. If it’s a plastic then I know concrete will not stick and don’t use it. I was getting the gunky stuff on the mold with the oils and sprays. The silicone/cornstarch are bit ‘stickier’ so it’s maybe a bit safer to use some. Something that is thicker like a vaseline, maybe even some beeswax in it. (I make soap and lipbalm so it is much like a wax with oils) Maybe it was dark from undermixing? I don’t think cracking is from the mold release, more from consistency or curing. Don’t hurry the curing, damp & slow will make it stronger! I like air bubbles as then it has another design element – texture! Was it the quickcrete Sand Topping mix? If not stored properly they can go bad over time. Hope it helps!

  48. We happen to be a professional concrete company, we have used many of the tips and tricks offered in the article, and we can attest they are actually very good. Thank you for taking the time to share, look forward to more articles!

    -Professional Concrete Contractor Redding

  49. I get so confused with all the Quickrete products. I want to make a birdbath ( I have beautiful Gunnera). What would you suggest is the best.

    1. I have made a top similar to making a stepping stones but over a mound of sand to create a bowl. I then made a base and attached it. I used Sand Topping mix as there are no rocks in it. You could also use Rapidset Cementall as it is crazy hard and cures so fast. It is more expensive though. Good luck! (cover during the winter to prevent water freezing in it)

    1. I actually do not seal my concrete. I have seen that most people who seal their driveways have to repeat all the time. I like the way concrete ages naturally, and gets some discolouration, moss etc on it. The Rapidset Cementall is very dense and does not seem to absorb much moisture at all. Just be careful of there is any part that will collect water, as freezing over the winter will damage that. Vessels should be turned over. Concrete ‘breathes’ so minimal coverings like paint are best, but that is my opinion. I should make a ‘how did they last’ post… thatnks for the idea!

  50. I was going to make the leaf container with quickcrete but was also thinking of making concrete pumpkins. Which would be best for that since it is a thicker project.

    1. I’m wondering what way the pumpkins are molded? In pantyhose? I have not done that since it’s already out there so much, but I’d guess the Quikrete sandtopping mix. I like the Rapidset for thinner applications and detail

      1. I did it in tights and ended up buying quickcrete high strength. Lowes only had a couple options in small bags. I made your leaf planters too with it but need to wait until tomorrow to see how those come out.

  51. Another question – I was thinking of tinting the concrete in different colors and layering it. Do I have to wait until its dry or do it while its wet? If I do it after it dries, do I need to use a special concrete mix so that they adhere to eachother?

  52. Wow. These are incredible! Great ideas. I have been in the concrete industry for a while, and you kind of just blew my mine. I will try some of these for sure. My wife with love them! Thank you!

  53. I recently found your page as I was searching for the best type of concrete for fiber art and your page was presented.

    Your work is beautiful and your instructions are perfect.

    Thank you kindly.

  54. Love your work. Thank you! Do you know if you can add resin to the cement mix to reinforce it and give it a sheen??

    1. I am not completely sure but I would guess no. Resin can be picky about how it cures and concrete mixes have water in them. There are polymer additives to add strength and then a sealer can add the sheen. You could also use acrylic/latex paint. I would test a but first as some of the high strength mixes do not work well with additives.

  55. Hi Barb
    Love you’re work and appreciate you thoughts on a project I’m working on. My wife got me this really great concrete desk organizer from Owen and Fred ( and I’m trying to reproduce it. I made a mold with Mold Star 30 but whenever I pour in the concrete, with and without hardener, the thin curb walls won’t dry even if I leave it in the mold for days. And suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  56. I’m retring in May and find the ciment project interesting your post looks very helpful 😉 Can we make a planter with ciment and leave it outside in the winter with the dirt in it , will it crack ???

    1. There is a big chance it will. The reason is that anything that has moisture potentially will expand and therefore force the planter to crack. Concrete on it’s own does not break, that’s why I like orbs, they do not hold water or soil so they are fine. You can empty them and place a cover and they will be fine.

  57. Would you happen to know the recipe for the watery cement you paint with. I’ve seen some sites where they shape styrofoam to resemble rocks and then they say they use Portland & water to paint over it and it really resembles rocks. But I’ve tried using just Portland & water on an object, and after it dries, it just rubs off and turns to sand again. Since you have such a vast knowledge of cement, I’m hoping you have touched on this technique in your travels. Any info you can share would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Well, I have not done that directly as so but the draping I do with fabrics is just the portland cement and water. Maybe you let it ‘dry’ too quickly instead of curing under damp conditions. Water and portland cement will solidify but not be the strongest without other additives. I have some rock making ideas in my head and it’s just about getting warm enough (finally) here in Canada!!! I think you’d need some reinforcement and a stronger mix for the rocks.

  58. Hi. I loved finding your sight, it is so helpful. Can you tell me when using the sand mixture in the yellow bag what the best mixture is ? Is it 2 to 1. How so you measure yours? I find it hard to get it right..

    1. ‘Happy you found it! I do not measure the Sandtopping mix, I mix it to a consistency that does not run away when put on the stepping stones. If I am making bowls then it can be a bit more fluid to fill the mold nicely. Suggested mix is 3.8 litres of water to 80lbs. That is about 47 millilitres per pound of mix. If you mix and stir, look at how much it slumps (flattens by itself) you can see if it is runny or will stay put. You will get the hang of it!

  59. I love reading about all the things you make. I to love to create with concrete. At the moment I have a small problem which i hope you may be able to help me with. I have been making concrete pumpkins and yesterday I used tights instead of ordinary pantyhose. I cant get the tights off the structures. Have you any ideas?. I have tried sanding it off but all that does is make the concrete black in the area i sand.
    Kind regards

    1. I bet the problem is that it’s now imbedded in the concrete. How about a really stiff wire brush? It would break the fibres and maybe let them come off or get fuzzy. Maybe torching them off like I do the extra drywall mesh. If it if charred maybe a good scrub with some strong cleaner. Or just leave it and add a panted on layer of portland cement. I have seen those pumpkins and wondered if the hose actually would come off… 🤷🏻‍♀️

  60. I was looking for a way to learn more about concrete crafting and I found this great guide. It is very helpful and gives you tips on how to make your own concrete projects. It is easy to understand because it provides clear instructions with pictures. This article will help you learn all the basic steps needed in order that you can create many different types of projects from small decorative items, such as vases, candle holders, or bottles, to larger ones like tables or benches.

  61. Hello,
    I love all your wonderful projects. I am getting ready to make some cement mushrooms. I am wanting to put mosaic tiles on them but I am having a hard time trying to find out if I should prime them first with some thing and or as the grout will stick to it if I do? If you have any suggestions I would greatly appreciate it thank you so much.

    1. Well, I have not done that so it would be a guess. Maybe the designer of that project could give suggestions. Generally speaking; the less you need to rely on one product adhering to another the better, since if it fails you lose a lot of work. I have seen stepping stones with mosaic imbedded ‘into’ the concrete, as that is probably a safer idea. Good luck

  62. I have been making ponds, waterfalls, and stones. Quite by accident I found that mixing great stuff (the insulation in a can) and concrete make an almost concrete superglue. Have you ever experimented with other things in the concrete?

    1. Wow, I can’t even imagine that! I also find each commercial concrete mix is quite different. I added acrylic colour to Cementall and it somewhat congealed. I am afraid to alter the strength. I do like incorporating rock, stones aand glass gems though. ‘Great stuff’ sticks so much though…

  63. I was hoping for help! I am using cement-all….and I made it in a bucket, as the mold, and put in dowels for legs…it is going to be a plant stand. When I unfolded it 24 hrs after pouring, it was fine, but 24 hrs later it had huge cracks everywhere! Can I fix this to still use it? Also, what did I do wrong with my mixture??

    1. I am a bit surprised! I have not had problems with Rapidset Cementall. Did you cure it slowly? Was it hot and cured very fast? There must be some shrinkage (concrete shrunk more than wood dowels?) or other problem that made it crack. I would do a small test in a plastic container to see how it cures. Keep it cool and damp to see how it cures. Maybe you had too much water that causes more shrinkage when curing. I’d be interested to hear back…

  64. Hi,
    What type of cement mixture would you use to make a cement gnome or doorstop? Thanks, I love all of your creations!

    1. My ‘go-to’ mix is Rapidset Cementall! It’s unmoldable in an hour usually. It is also strong. If you want the sandier true concrete look then sand-topping mix could work if the mold/shape is sturdy.

  65. I was wondering how to calculate how much you need for specific projects? I bought silicone molds and am having a hard time with figuring out him much mix to make so I make enough to fill them.

    1. You can pour water in the mold to measure, and then do some tests of proportions. Since I often make the proportions according to what I’m making I mostly just wing it. Any extra mix can make some ‘sanding’ paddies or other small molds.

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