Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Work with Shrinky Dinks

Shrinky Dinks where have you been all my life! I've been puzzling for a while now about how I can make a thick image for a brooch and I have finally figured it out! Polystyrene! aka shrinky dinks or the #6 recyclable plastic you get in some clear takeout containers. I looked for clear containers but no such luck, plus I wanted a white background so I caved and bought the branded Shrinky Dink paper, about 5$ at Michaels. There is a printer-friendly version that costs almost three times as much for 6 sheetes ($13!) if you're interested. I figured I could just trace my own artwork and so I did. This is what I found out about how to (and how not to) work with shrinky dinks:

The white sheet is translucent and I could trace a print of my artwork through it on a window or just a well-lit room. Also the sheet was thin enough to cut very easily and if I cut into my artwork by accident, it just melts back together in the oven!

The media that worked well were:
- sharpies (but sharpies smear when resin is applied over it)
- sharpie paints - baked well, but, again, smears when resin is applied over it - should be fine if you don't want to varnish it.
- copic markers - these worked great and did not smear BUT the color doesn't lay down normally, it just kind of pools on the surface of the plastic. I decided to do a textured fur on my kitty so it worked fine, but you will not get a smooth wash of color like on a piece of bristol or marker paper.
- pastels - bright color, good for covering large areas evenly. Might need some fixative afterward so the color doesn't flake off.

Worked poorly or had issues:
- staedtler water-based markers - smears in the oven
- pencil - just doesn't put color down, might work if you lightly sand the plastic

I pre-heated my toaster oven to 325F and popped it in on top of a piece of parchment paper. It took LITERALLY 20 seconds to shrink, curl and flatten - so don't walk away! Don't be alarmed when it contorts into strange shapes, it will settle down I promise! I didn't handle it much after it flattened but I've seen people say you can extra-flatten it with a spatula. I tried this once with a paper towel and spatula and found that the paper towel's texture gets imprinted on it, which I didn't like. Live and learn. Here's the "after" with resin applied on top:

The drawing shown at the top is the center cat. It looked great before I added Lisa Pavelka's Magic Glos which made the black sharpie paint smear like crazy. Same thing happened to the left kitty which had regular sharpie for its black lines - ARG. The bunny face ended up nicely because I used copic and prismacolor markers for everything with no smearing. The resin is uneven because only one layer has been added, I plan to add another layer when the first is cured. Note that the colors also darkens significantly when the images shrink too.

Another thing I found was that the images all shrank unevenly - they shrank more horizontally, or got 'skinnier' than the original image. If you look at the cat on the very left, I drew him at slight angle to the vertical axis of the plastic sheet, and he shrank on an angle too. So beware! Align your pictures perfectly up and down with the page, and widen them about 15% to compensate for this uneven shrinking.

So in summary, things to be careful of with shrinky dinks:
- uneven shrinking - stretch your image because it will get 'skinnier' as it shrinks
- you probably don't need to handle them much to make them flat
- plastic sheet doesn't like: pencil crayons, water based marker
- if you want to finish with a resin topping don't use sharpies, they will smear