Whoa, Those Are Shrinky Dinks?

That’s what I said at the last Bazaar Bizarre when I saw these earrings by Heidi of Passionflower. She uses a mix of found printed materials and original artwork to make these.  One of the things that makes her work so unique (and not resemble shrink plastic in the slightest) is her sparing use of color and the way she mixes various materials into one piece.

Then I started noticing shrink plastic everywhere.  Apparently lots of crafters are making really useful, grown-up things out of one of our favorite childhood toys.  For example, I think these stitch markers from Karrie at Girl On the Rocks are ingenious.  I especially love the ones that remind you how to do the kitchener stitch as you go.

I also really like the way Erin of Broken Fingers uses shrink film to turn her graphic designs into wearable art.  She draws these by hand.  Yeesh.

Some crafters make really compelling jewelry just by creatively cutting and punching solid-colored sheets like these pieces by Crafic.

Other ingenious projects? You can make custom buttons with shrink film, perfect for when you can’t find the right button you need to finish a project.  Susan Beal at Craft Stylish has a nice tutorial on this. She also has another useful tutorial for making pet ID tags.

“Okay,” you say, “I’m convinced.”  How do I get started with shrink film myself?  Well, first you have to know that your options have greatly increased since we were kids.  Regular shrink film now comes in clear, white, brown and black, which you can draw on with colored pencils or Sharpie-type markers.  If you go the Sharpie route, I recommend protecting your pieces with a spray or brush-on sealant because it tends to scratch off.

BUT, there’s also inkjet-printable shrink film now, which means you can create complex pieces really fast and in multiples.  This is what I use to make the little meat charms and jewelry I sell at fairs and on Etsy, but you can scan, print and shrink virtually any image.  I use the sheets made by Grafix, which you can get online (Blick is the most consistently inexpensive) or at Pearl art stores, among others.  It comes in white and clear.  You can even call up Grafix for a free sample to try it out.  Occasionally I get a wonky pack that doesn’t shrink correctly but they always replace it right away.  Shrinky Dinks brand also sells all the varieties.

No matter which film you use, remember to use colors at about half strength, as they tend to saturate and darken when your piece shrinks.  Expect your finished piece to measure about 40-50% of the original in each dimension.  I set my oven to between 275-300°F so everything shrinks evenly.  For about ten seconds after they come out you can flatten (or bend) your pieces, but use gloves because they will be extemely hot.

I also read recently that you can use plastic from your recycling bin marked #6 as shrink film.  Apparently the clear plastic kind (think clamshell take-out containers) and the opaque styrofoam kind (think supemarket meat trays) both work.  I have also heard that the fumes are not the healthiest stuff to be breathing so I can’t really recommend this.  I assume given the recent CPSIA brouhaha that store-bought shrink sheets are non-toxic because they are designed for kids, but PLEASE correct me if you have info to the contrary.

13 Comments

  1. I love the earrings at the top of your post especially. I have never used the printable shrink film, but may be ordering some. It has been awhile since I used it, but loved it when I did. I felt like a kid again, watching it shrink is magical.

  2. I know your blog is a bit old but I love Shrinky Dinks… rediscovered them during an art project with my daughter. I am military serving overseas away from my family and these keep me distracted and help the “slow” time go by quicker. My biggest issue is protecting them. I don’t have the ability to print so it’s all I have used is sharpie markers. I’ve tried nail polish and a laquer spray but both make the ink run. Any thoughts on what else might work?
    I’m currently working on a series of wine glass markers for Christmas presents for my family.
    It’s also been fun to send random drawings and pictures to my kiddos so they know mom is thinking of them even though I’m far away.
    I’d love any suggestions on how to protect them… I may just switch to pencil and see if that works better.

  3. Old? I know my last post was put up a month ago, but give a girl a break! 🙂

    I really like the Liquitex brand varnish for sealing pieces since it doesn’t interact with most inks or adhesives, but I haven’t tried it over Sharpie yet. You can also of course go the colored pencil route (the colors get much more intense as you shrink it down), in which case you don’t even really need a sealant, because it doesn’t scratch of like the sharpies. Hope that helps!

  4. I use modge podge to seal mine. I also had the same problem with the sharpie ink running, and if you use regular modge podge (not the dimensional magic), which comes in matte or glossy, the ink does not run. The only thing is to watch out for brush strokes when applying it, and it does take a little longer to dry (but so does everything when you apply it to the plastic type stuff…). For the record, if you seal it with regular modge podge first, let that dry all the way, and use the dimentional magic modge podge over top, you get a really cool bezeled look to your project. Hope this helps somebody…

  5. I found that the clear Ultra Thick Embossing Powder works great for sealing too. Just sprinkle it evenly over your piece, and heat it with a heat gun. Then both sides are shiny too, instead of one shiny side and one matte side.

  6. I have two silicone baking mats. I place all my shrink pieces between the two mats, and bake them. I never have to worry about them curling and sticking to themselves, and they come out completely flat, so I can do large batches at once worry-free.

    I also like Dimensional Magic for creating a smooth glassy bezeled look, but ICE Resin cures harder. UTEE imo is too easy to scratch the finish, and too messyto apply!

  7. Emily,

    What temperature do you use and how long do you keep them in the oven. Are the silicone baking mats clear so you can see when to take the plastic out?

  8. I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of sealants lately… and what I’ve found seems to work the best (with sharpies) is 2 part clear epoxy. It’s tricky, and not cheap, but it works. First, you’ve got to figure out a way to hold the piece firmly from the sides. Once it’s secure, mix the 2 part epoxy (using all disposable materials because, well, it’s epoxy), and apply it to the top of your piece. Use a popsicle stick or some other flat-sided thing to do a single pass over the top to smooth the surface of the epoxy. Do ONLY one pass (or it will start to retain marks). The epoxy smooths itself pretty well after that, if you’re quick enough… and… voila!

  9. Does anyone have suggestions on how to coat both sides with UTEE using your oven or any other appliance you have at home? Thanks!

  10. Thank you so much for this post! Amy, your comment was very helpful, as well. 🙂 I am trying to make Christmas gifts of jewelry with shrinky dinks and didn’t know what to
    seal them with, and wasn’t finding much help.

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