Free Starter Guide

How to Make Salt Dough for Ornaments, Handprints, and Crafting

Salt Dough Ornaments painted white, red, silver, and gold lay on a white background.
Project At-A-Glance
Crafts/How-To2 hours (includes cooling/drying time)
This is the exact salt dough recipe we've used in my family for years! It makes beautiful salt dough ornaments, handprints, and crafts every single time. We'll walk you through the entire process step-by-step

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One of our favorite kid craft projects in our house—especially around the holidays—is homemade salt dough! My kid loves making salt dough ornaments, handprints, and other sculptures, and I love that I almost always have the supplies on hand to mix up this salt dough recipe. 

We almost always do a day of making salt dough ornaments in December in our home. It’s a wonderful family activity that ends with us having beautiful ornaments that will last for decades! Let me show you the exact salt dough recipe that we’ve used for years in our house—you will not be dissapointed!

A painted salt dough ornament hangs from a red ribbon on a green Christmas tree.

What ingredients do you need to make this salt dough recipe?

The recipe for these ornaments doesn’t get any easier. You need exactly three ingredients to get you going (scroll down to the bottom of the post for a printable version):

  • All-purpose flour (4 cups)—I recommend sticking with all-purpose flour here because it’s affordable, it’s easy to work with, and it creates the most consistent color. Bleached all-purpose flour is best, but unbleached works, too. Since you aren’t ingesting this at all, go ahead and get the bargain basement generic brand flour to save yourself some cash. Save the whole wheat flour for making muffins or baking bread!
  • Table salt (1 cup)—Again, make sure to add the salt to preserve these ornaments! Just like with the flour, go with the generic brand table salt here—reserve your high-end Himalayan sea salt for cooking.
  • Warm water (1 1/2 cups)—The warm water helps the dough come together a little bit easier. Plus, you’ll knead the dough with your hands, and warm dough is so much more comfortable to knead in the winter!

The ingredients for the salt dough recipe—flour, salt, and water—lie flay on a white countertop.

Why do you need salt in salt dough ornaments?

The large volume of salt makes this dough not-so-tasty, which is a good thing when you have the littlest elves helping you and they are determined to take a sample taste of the craft project. While the dough isn’t toxic, it isn’t exactly recommended anyone eat it. After all, consuming raw flour has been linked to e. coli outbreaks

Secondly, and probably most importantly, salt is an excellent preservative. If you left the salt out of the recipe below, and just mixed together water and flour, you would end up creating a near-perfect little homestead for mold to set up shop in—not so great if you want to keep these ornaments in a box in the basement for the majority of the year. 

Multiple salt dough ornaments painted in gold, red, and black lie flat on a white background.

What tools will you need to make salt dough ornaments and crafts?

Chances are, you’ll have all the tools you need to make these ornaments already in your house. Here’s a general list of what we used to make the ornaments pictured here:

  • Mixing bowl and large spoon
  • Parchment paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie cutters
  • Forks, steel wool, rubber stamps, other textural items—optional, to add texture to the ornaments
  • Straw or toothpick—for poking a hole for the ornaments to hang from
  • Baking sheet
  • White spray paint—optional, for giving the ornaments an even background to decorate
  • Glitter, glue, paint, Mod Podge—optional, for decorating, or leave the rustic salt dough ornaments
  • Polyurethane spray (like this one) or Mod Podge—optional, for extra preservation power
  • Ribbon—for hanging the ornaments

Multiple salt dough ornaments painted in gold, red, and black lie flat on a white background.

How do you make salt dough?

Mixing up a batch the salt dough recipe itself couldn’t be easier! Here’s how to do it:

  1. Grab your large mixing bowl, and add in the flour and salt. Stir until well combined. Then, slowly stream in the warm water while stirring. Keep stirring until you’ve added all the water.
  2. You’ll get to a point where it is too hard to stir with a spoon. Put it down and use your hands to get in there and mix it well.
  3. Once the dough starts to come together, keep kneading with your hands for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable.

Step-by-step photos of making salt dough. Mixing ingredients in glass bowl with wooden spoon.

Now that your salt dough is made, you can use it just like you would modeling clay to make sculptures, or you can roll it and cut it out to make ornaments or salt dough handprints.

How do you roll out and cut salt dough ornaments?

If you’ve ever rolled and cut out sugar cookies, you’ll be an expert at doing with the salt dough! Here’s the process:

  1. Put down a large piece of parchment paper, and place a good-sized chunk of dough in the middle. Place another large piece of parchment on top.
  2. Roll out the dough until 1/8″ thick. You want to err on the side of a thinner dough. Too thick, and the ornaments tend to split or break easily because of air pockets that get trapped in the middle.
  3. Remove the top sheet of parchment, and then using cookie cutters, cut into the dough—do not try to remove the cut out pieces! You want those to stay on the parchment.
  4. When you’re finished cutting the pieces, peel away the excess dough, leaving behind the shapes on the parchment.
  5. Take a drinking straw, and poke a hole in the top of each ornament for a ribbon to hang from. Make sure to blow out the plug in the end of the drinking straw before you go to the next ornament. Trust me, I’ve ruined a good stainless steel straw or two by forgetting the dough inside and having it drying rock-solid inside!

Step by step process of rolling and cutting salt dough ornaments on white background.

Wholefully Protip

I like to put texture into my ornaments, so this is where I bring out any random object that has a fun texture—forks, straws, steel wool, other cookie cutters, scissors. There are no rules! You can also use rubber stamps.

A hand uses a fork to add texture to a heart-shaped salt dough ornament.

How do you bake salt dough ornaments so they harden?

Transfer the whole parchment paper and shapes onto a baking sheet. Bake the ornaments in a 300°F oven for about an hour. This isn’t an exact science, because inevitably, your shapes won’t be 100% even in thickness. They are done when they feel hard. They are really done if they start to brown (no worries, that’s something we can fix later!). Let the ornaments cool completely before proceeding to the next step.

Tight view of various shapes of baked, undecorated salt dough ornaments.

What’s the best way to paint and decorate salt dough ornaments?

Now we get to the really fun part—decorating! If you prefer the rustic, classic look of the salt dough, you can hang the ornaments as-is. But I think part of the fun of making salt dough ornaments is getting out the glitter and making a holiday mess.

Before I start decorating, I like to mist all of my cooled ornaments with a thin coat of white spray paint. This helps cover up any irregularities in color (like when some got too brown from baking), and I think it helps the ornaments looks more like clay than hard bread. A light coating will dry to the touch in just a few minutes so you can keep decorating. Of course, this part is totally optional!

Wholefully Protip

An optional light coat of white spray paint on the ornaments gives them a nice blank canvas for decorating and painting.

Overhead view of various salt-dough oranment shapes on a piece of cardboard that have been spray painted white.

Once the spray paint is dry to the touch, I paint using acrylic paints and brushes (puffy paints would also work wonderfully). I like to use the textural spaces to help guide where I put paint—but it’s really up to you to get creative on how you want to decorate. Where I want glitter, I use Mod Podge or school glue. It’s a fun, carefree way to spend a holiday afternoon!

Hand uses a small paintbrush to paint gold details on a salt-dough ornament. A paint palette sits nearby with extra paint brushes.
A salt dough ornament covered in white glitter sits on a white background with a bottle of Mod Podge and glitter in the background.

How do you protect your salt dough ornaments to make sure they last?

Once all your decorating is dry, it behooves you to seal these ornaments so they last a good, long while. While the salt does an excellent job of preserving the salt dough itself, sealing the ornaments will help keep all the decorations you just lovingly applied looking great for years to come. I like to use spray poly, but coating each one in a thin layer of Mod Podge would also do the trick. I just do one coat on each side and let it dry completely. I like to use matte or satin finish poly so the ornaments still feel like unfinished clay, but if you dig the glossy look, use semi-gloss or glossy poly or Mod Podge.

A hand sprays polyurethane onto finished salt dough ornaments.

String up the ornaments using pretty ribbon or twine, and then put those beautiful new ornaments on your Christmas tree! These also make wonderful, thoughtful gifts. We tend to make either a batch of these or my Cinnamon Ornaments each year to give as stocking stuffers to friends and family.

A sparkly snowflake shaped salt dough ornament hangs from a Christmas tree with a red ribbon. Christmas lights and red sparkly ornaments are blurry in the background.
Multiple salt dough ornaments painted in gold, red, and black lie flat on a white background.

How do you make a salt dough handprint ornaments?

Salt dough handprint ornaments (or pawprints!) are a great way to mark major milestones in your life! Here’s how to do it:

  1. Roll out the dough as directed above, making it slightly thicker than you would for regular ornaments.
  2. Evenly press the hand or foot in the dough.
  3. Cut around the handprint or footprint using the rim of a bowl or glass. You might be tempted to do the other way around (cut out the shape first, then get the handprint), but trust me on this one—wiggly, squirmy babies do not know how to center their hands into a shape! You’re better off having a large piece of salt dough to “catch” the print, and then cutting out around it.
  4. Proceed with the baking, decorating, and sealing steps.

This is a salt dough handprint ornament we made to mark our daughter’s first Christmas. Her hand was so tiny. *sniff* *sniff*

A hand holds a salt dough handprint ornament hanging from a red ribbon. The background is a blurry Christmas tree with lights.

Wholefully Protip

I recommend making more than one of precious  handprint ornaments! Salt dough is incredibly affordable, so you can make lots of “copies” for just pennies more. While salt dough preserves well, it is still breakable.

We’ve included a printable version of this recipe for easy reference. We have a copy printed out and stashed with our holiday craft box, so it’s easy to access every year! Happy crafting.

Looking for more fun holiday crafts and gifts? Check these out:

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  • M&M Cookie Mix in Jar. We gave these M&M Cookie Mixes as gifts a few years back, and everyone absolutely loved them! The cookies that are made from the mix are the BEST.
  • Healthy Homemade Dog Treats. Don’t forget the pooches on your holiday gift list! These homemade dog treats are a favorite of the two puppies in our house.
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Salt Dough Recipe for Ornaments, Handprints, and Crafting

Salt Dough Recipe for Ornaments, Handprints, and Crafting

Yield: 30 ornaments
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Salt dough is a fun craft to do with the kids! Mix up a batch of our salt dough recipe for making Christmas ornaments, keepsake handprints, or other salt dough crafts.


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • Glitter, paint, and ribbon, for decoration
  • Polyurethane spray, for preservation


To Make Dough

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Slowly stream in the water while stirring until it comes together. Finish mixing together with hands. Knead until dough is soft, about five minutes.

To Bake Ornaments

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Place half of the dough between two large pieces of parchment paper. Roll out until 1/8" thick. Remove the top sheet of parchment.
  2. Using cookie cutters, cut shapes (leaving them on the parchment). Peel away the excess dough. Transfer the parchment with shapes to a baking sheet.
  3. Using a straw or toothpick, poke a hole for ribbon or an ornament hanger. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until hard.
  4. Once cooled, decorate using glitter and paint. To make sure the ornaments last a long time (I have one from 30 years ago!), spray with a light coat of polyurethane spray. Thread on a ribbon and hang on tree.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

61 Responses
      1. Danielle @Wholefully

        Hi, Kimberly! We don’t recommend making the dough for this ahead of time. You really want to use it right after making it to keep it from drying out and being difficult to work with. We hope you give it a go this year!

  1. Z

    So, if you put the salt and water together and heat it until the salt completely dissolves, you’ll have a really smooth nice dough that isn’t as “rustic” as this stuff. 🙂

  2. Hi! I am a teacher and I am wanting to do this with my class. Could I go ahead and make the dough the night before? can the dough be ok until lI can go home to bake? What would you suggest the steps be ?

    1. Amber

      If i were you, I would just make the dough and bake them ahead of time and let the students decorate them to take home. That way you don’t have to worry about mixing them up or changing shape.

      Depending on the school and district, you might be able to work something out with the kitchen staff to let you bake them at school.
      Just a thought.

  3. Brooke

    Just to pass along our knowledge, you can add more salt, and it will give the dough built in sparkles. 🙂 Been making these since I was a child, but have to look up the recipe every year lol

    1. Jess

      Hi I’m a little stuck here. I’m making a gingerbread ornament and i already started making this recipe before i realized others were using cinnamon to get the right color instead of painting like i was going to. could i add a tablespoon or 2 of plain cinnamon into this mixture to achieve the color or would i mess it up? thank you!

      1. Jess

        to add to my previous comment- i only have the salt and dough mixed and haven’t added water. i did 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup salt to cut recipe since i don’t need that much. thank you

        1. Danielle @Wholefully

          Hi, Jess! You can definitely add some cinnamon to the flour and salt mixture to give it some color. You might need to adjust the amount of water you use to get the proper consistency for your dough, but it should work out fine. But painting the ornaments to look like gingerbread is also a great choice! And lastly, because we love giving you options, you could also try our cinnamon ornaments which are meant to look like gingerbread and they make your house smell amazing! You can find those instructions here: Super Easy Homemade Cinnamon Ornaments Happy Crafting! =)

    1. Cassie

      Interesting, I’ve never had that happen! I’m not sure there is anything you can do to fix it, sorry. Once something is mildewed, it’s pretty hard to remove it.

      1. Charlotte

        I’ve seen these ornaments mildew if they are kept in an area prone to high humidity. They need to be kept in a dry environment.

  4. Laura

    I want to use this idea to make decorations to be used outside. Does salt dough crack easily in the frost (like terracotta does)??

    1. Cassie

      I wouldn’t recommend this, unless you use a VERY, VERY thick coat of poly over the decorations. The salt dough is very porous, and will swell and shrink with the humidity, causing breakage.

  5. Before I start decorating, I like to mist all of my cooled ornaments with a thin coat of white spray paint. This helps cover up any irregularities in color (like when some got too brown from baking), and I think helps the ornaments looks more like clay than hard bread. This step is totally optional.

  6. When you painted them …what types of paint did you and your children use? I am concerned that if I use just any paint it will soak in and not be distinguishable. Yours are absolutely beautiful! I want to do this with my niece and nephew over Thanksgiving weekend when I babysit! Please advise.

      1. Danielle @Wholefully

        You may need to help with some gentle pressure to get a good imprint! Also, make sure you’re pressing the hand directly into the dough and not using parchment paper or anything in between. Hope this helps!

      1. Danielle @Wholefully

        Hi, Michelle! You could definitely add food coloring to the dough without changing the texture too much. My only concern would be that I’m not sure how well the colors would hold up during baking. I haven’t tried it, so I’m not sure if the color would fade or change as it baked. If you give it a try, please let us know how it turns out!

  7. Meghan

    I want to do these over thanksgiving – hand prints for my son and footprints with my infant. Do you just press the hand/foot straight into the dough or did you use parchment paper in between?

  8. Liz

    I want to try these but I was wondering I have lace left over from my wedding dress, I made garters for all the girls in my family, my sons wedding for my daughter in law to have, and a couple headbands, for my first grand daughter, i also made some clear glass ornaments stuffed with lace for muy other daughter inlaw. I was wondering if i would take lace, and lay a piece cut out like the salt ornaments anda then spray them with the clear coat would the lace stick?

    1. Cassie

      I’m not sure about that (I haven’t tried something like that), but you could definitely press the lace into the dough and get a really good impression—and then the lace pattern is on the ornament. Let me know how either turns out! 🙂

  9. Carrielynn

    I have been looking at the different ways to make the dough ornaments and I have run into a resipe that calls for cream of tartar.what is the difference between using it and not? If any.

    1. Julie @ Wholefully

      Apparently it can make the dough a little more elastic and stretchy? That’s just what my research found though – I haven’t tried it with cream of tartar myself!

    2. Jasmine

      Thank you for sharing this wonderful step by step information! I am planning to do this with my class of first graders (ornament gifts for their families). Do you think I could leave these in the classroom to dry out instead of baking (perhaps you answered this above and I missed it). I have tiny school picture stickers for each student… I am wondering if I could get these to stick on the back. THANKS AGAIN!

      1. Danielle @Wholefully

        Hi, Jasmine! What a wonderful project to make with your first graders! You could leave the ornaments out to dry, but it will probably take a few days for them to dry completely depending on how thick they are and how humid it is. You would also want to flip them frequently to prevent curling. We usually recommend baking them because you have more control over the finished product and the exact amount of time it will take for them to harden!

        One of our readers had a few ideas for another teacher commenting previously to ask similar questions (thanks, Amber!): She suggested making them ahead and having your students decorate them in class and then leaving them overnight to let the decorations dry. Then they can take them home the next day. Or if you want to make them from start to finish with the students and your school has a kitchen, you might be able to arrange to bake them on the premises instead of transporting them.

        The tiny school picture stickers (so cute!) should work on the back, as long as the ornaments are big enough and they stay relatively flat! I hope this helps. Let us know how it all works out for you!

  10. Jeanene

    Happy Holidays! Approximately how many Salt Dough ornaments do you get from using all of the ingredients? My cutters are large to med size.. To make about 30 or more would I need to make a couple of batches of dough? Also, I live in a small 3rd floor apt and..I thought it would be unsafe to use spray poly or I got the kind you brush on. Would that work as well or mess up the glitter, ect. on them? Which one is best to store them in, a cardboard box or a plastic container.

    1. Cassie

      You could definitely get 30 out of one batch with medium ones—if you use the larger ones, I’d double the recipe.

      I’ve never tried the brush on kind with the ornaments, but honestly, you’re going to have just as much of an off-gassing issue as you would with the spray kind. I *highly* recommend doing either spray or paint-on poly outdoors.

      And either is fine for storage. Good luck! 🙂

  11. Stacy

    Hoping someone here can help. My keepsake salt dough ornaments got molding this year while in a wet basement (dumb move on my part, I know). Any ideas on how I can clean them up and preserve them?

    1. Cassie

      My only suggestion would be to repaint them with a good, sturdy paint and then make sure to seal them well—sorry to hear they molded!

  12. Lisa

    I just made 3 hand prints and one foot print but they seem to be puffing out and you can’t really know it’s a foot print what can I do? What would cause this to happen?

    1. Cassie Johnston

      They tend to puff or bubble if the dough is a little thick (or maybe not quite evenly rolled out) or if they have air bubbles. I’d recommend trying again!

    2. Samantha Bennison

      Did not like this recipe. Was crumbly, hard to kneed, and all my ornaments came out cracked and wrinkled. I would suggest either less flour or more water. Even after lots of kneeding, it wasn’t smooth.

      1. Danielle @Wholefully

        So sorry to hear your ornaments didn’t turn out well, Samantha! I’d love to help you troubleshoot if you’re going to give it another go.

        There are so many variables when working with a dough recipe that can contribute to you needing more or less water than the recipe calls for, such as the type of flour you used and the relative humidity in your area (or lack thereof). It sounds like your instincts were spot on—more water most likely would have helped get a smooth and pliable dough. With any dough recipe – edible or not! – it really helps to use those clues and descriptors like “smooth and pliable” to guide you (in addition to the ingredient amounts, of course). The pictures in the post are there to help in this regard, too—giving you an idea of what the dough should look like when it comes together.

        I hope this is helpful and that you give the recipe another go! If you do, please let us know how it turns out! Good luck!

  13. Tonia

    We made these the other day after our dog was hit to have a paw print! We baked them but some were thicker then the others we thought they were done but now a couple days later some are still softish! Are the okay that way or what should we do?

    1. Cassie Johnston

      I would recommend rebaking them or popping them in a dehydrator until they are very dry. I’m afraid soft dough will mold eventually.

  14. Kris

    I just tried this recipe and it completely stuck to the parchment paper! Any idea what would cause this? It was quite a mess.

    1. Cassie Johnston

      That’s interesting! I’ve never had that problem before. I’ve never had anything stick to parchment before! Hmm, my only recommendation would be to try a silicone baking mat next time instead.

    2. Tina

      Baking them at 300 degrees for an hour was a terrible idea. Mine puffed up, like cookies, and were squishy in the middle. I redid the recipe and made another batch and put them in the oven at 175 for an hour. They aren’t quite dried out completely yet, but enough to where my kids could still paint them (the tops dried out but when I flipped them they were still tacky). I would suggest using a baking rack next time in a sheet pan, that way air can move around them.

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Acrylic paints and puffy paints work great for decorating these ornaments! If you want to add sequins, glitter, decorative gems, or things like that, you can use regular school glue or Mod Podge to apply them. You don’t have to use superglue unless you want to or it’s something you already have on hand. We also recommend sealing the ornaments with spray poly or a thin coat of Mod Podge on both sides. This will help all of your decorations last for years! We hope this helps. Let us know how they turn out for you!

  15. Kimberly

    Would appreciate tips on making hand prints. I pressed my 18 month old’s hand firmly into the dough, and the prints disappeared during baking and one of them has a huge bubble covering half the dough circle. I also had lots of trouble rolling the dough, it didn’t roll smoothly and the parchment just wanted to slide all over the table. Thanks!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Kimberly! I’m happy to help with a few more tips for getting those hand prints perfect!

      It sounds like the trouble you had rolling the dough may have played a part in the bubbling and puffing. If the dough is too thick, too uneven, or if there are air bubbles trapped in there, you’re likely to see some misshapen ornaments after baking. So first we need to figure out if the dough was too dry or tough, which caused the difficulty rolling – or – if the slippy parchment paper caused all the trouble!

      If the dough was hard to handle before you put it between the parchment, then try adding a bit more water a tablespoon at a time until you get a nice smooth consistency – like modeling clay. Once you’re happy with the dough, the next step is to keep your parchment paper in place!

      One method you could try is to make your bottom sheet of parchment paper long enough to hang over the edge of the counter or table and press it into place with your body weight or clamps. Then you can roll it outward from the center of the dough and it should stay put. I like to turn my dough a quarter turn each time I roll it, though, so that doesn’t work for me! What I like to do is get a very lightly damp dish towel (paper towel would work, too) and put the parchment on top of that. It should keep it from slipping all over the place and you can turn your paper to your hearts content! This works great for stabilizing cutting boards, too!

      Now that everything should hopefully be staying put for you, try your best to roll the dough evenly. Start with your rolling pin in the center and work outward applying even pressure as best you can. I get the best results when I start in the center and roll away from me, which is why I turn the dough each time. But whatever method works best for you is great! We just recommend that whatever method you use, you start in the center each time and roll out towards the edges for the most consistent results.

      Once your dough is rolled out to a little thicker than 1/8th of an inch, press those hand prints in and cut your preferred shape around them. (<---Cassie talks about this tip in the post!) Remove the scraps from around your ornament shapes (leaving the ornaments on the parchment) and transfer the parchment to a baking sheet and bake! I hope this helps!! Good luck!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Amy! We don’t recommend making this dough ahead of time because it will start to dry out and harden. You need the dough to be smooth and pliable to get the best results and if left too long it will become nearly impossible to work with! Your best bet will be to mix it up right before rolling out and cutting into shapes. Then if you want to leave the cut shapes for a few days to harden without baking you can. You would just need to flip them frequently to prevent curling. Hope this helps!

  16. Brandi S.

    300 degrees is WAY too high. Using a high temperature causes the ornaments to puff up and deform. It ruined my ornaments. I should have known better than to use such high heat. Normally I do set the temp at 200 and bake for 2hrs.

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