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I know I’ve said this a few times before BUT I really do think this might be my new favourite craft! I’d used Shrink Plastic years ago after picking up a kids activity pack to see how it worked, it was fun but I’m not very good at drawing so I was a bit limited with what I could create. Fast forward to now and the fact that I’ve discovered Printable Shrink Plastic and well, it’s a revelation – Dean has got used to seeing me sitting in front of the oven of an evening exctedly waiting for my creations shrink, it really is mesmiring and incredibly cool to watch!
We know that Christmas isn’t going to look exactly as we expected it to this year so I’ve put together this tutorial to show you how to make some amazing Shrink plastic crafts (that are ideal for Christmas Gifts) using your home printer, oven and image files purchased from Design Bundles.
What is Shrink Plastic
Shrink plastic, as the name suggests, is a special form of polystyrene plastic that shrinks to around one-third of its size, gets 9 times thicker and still retains its original shape and design when heated in the oven. In short, it is crafty magic 😉 A lot of people know it by the name ‘Shrinky Dinks’ which was the original branding that was popular the US in the early 80’s
DIY Shrink Plastic Crafts
Here’s what you’ll need
Shrink Plastic Sheets
- Inkjet Shrink Plastic Sheets – Auihiay Printable Shrink Plastic Sheets from Amazon are the best value (you get 6 white and 6 clear A4 sheets for £8.99) If you purchase from elsewhere you need to make sure you are purchasing printable shrink plastic.
- Inkjet Printer
- Scissors – If you want some really good, sharp scissors then you have to look at Fiskars, I have multiple pairs of scissors and rotary cutters from them and they are still in pristine condition
- Keyring and jump rings
- Mod Podge Dimensional Magic
- Butterfly Pin Clutch Blanks
Images/Illustrations from Design Bundles
I don’t know about you but I am not a talented artist – I would love to be but drawing is not something that comes naturally to me. For this project, I’m going to be using image files from DesignBundles.net. I’ve gone for a range of image styles with this DIY – some are more detailed, others have higher colour saturation as I wanted to see how they all did with the shrinking process (Spoiler: They all worked perfectly 👍)
DesignBundles has some amazing collections to choose from, I’ve just discovered their Tattoo SVG collection and think some of the designs there would be perfect for making into pins.
Shrink Plastic How-To
Arranging your design
The easiest way to arrange images for printable shrink plastic is to use Canva – Visit the Canva website and log in if you have an existing account or create a FREE account.
On Canva and search for A4 Document project in the search bar at the top of the page and then select the ‘blank’ option. (we’re using A4 document as that’s the size of our shrink plastic sheets so it saves any messing around later when we come to the printing) On the left-hand toolbar, you will see the ‘Uploads’ option. Click here and upload your design components/images
Add your images to your sheet and start adjusting their size bearing in mind that the shrink plastic will shrink to just over half its original size once heated.
Top Tip – Colour Saturation
When shrink plastic shrinks it makes any colours you have added to the surface of it look darker and more saturated – this can ruin a whole project but there is an easy way to fix it if we’re using Canva. Select each image you have and, using the transparency tool in the top left of the design area, turn the opacity down to 60. It’ll look a little odd and it’ll seem really pale when you print it out but trust me, this is an important step.
Save as a PDF Print
Click on the download button at the top of your Canva toolbar and select ‘PDF Print’ as your file type.
Printing your designs
Open the PDF file of your design and go to the print screen, I always use the ‘Scale to Fit’ and ‘Fill Entire Page’ options so that I know I’m getting a full-page printed off (don’t want to waste any of the shrink plastic!)
Insert your shrink plastic into the printer same as you would regular paper and hit print. Once it is finished give it a few minutes to make sure the ink is fully dry, don’t want to smudge anything!
Cut out your designs
I like to leave a thin border of white around my designs, this is entirely personal preference but I feel that it makes my finished pieces look a bit neater. You also need to punch any holes you might need in your designs now before putting them in the oven – you can do this with a standard hole punch or you can buy a single hole punch tool from Amazon.
Pre-Heat the oven
Check your shrink plastic packaging to see what temperature you need your oven set to (as a general rule 150°c seems to be a good temperature, if you go higher they can shrink too quickly).
We also need to line the baking tray we will be using before we put the shrink plastic on it, you can use a piece of cardboard, baking paper or a Teflon sheet to do this – the main thing is to not have the shrink plastic sitting directly on the metal as it could stick.
Space your shink plastic designs out on the baking tray so that none of them are touching. Once the oven has got to temperature, pop the tray in and set a time for 4 minutes.
The Shrinking Process
When your designs first go into the oven they won’t look like they are doing much for a minute or so and then all of a sudden you’ll see them start to curl up a bit at the edges – it really is fascinating to watch! Don’t panic if they roll up on themselves, they should straighten back up (it’s just where parts of the plastic shrink at different rates)
Once the timer has reached 4 minutes, or you can see that they have finished shrinking, remove the tray from the oven and use a spatula to gently press on any pieces that might be a bit curled still, this will help them set completely flat.
Leave them to fully cool down before removing from the tray – we don’t want any burnt fingers
Shrink Plastic DIY Pins
I decided to make cute Dachshund pins as I’m a little bit obsessed with them and they will make great Christmas gifts for my other equally sausage dog-obsessed friends! The steps are all exactly the same as above with just a few additional materials needed…
- Mod Podge Dimensional Magic
- Butterfly Pin Clutch Blanks
- Adhesive/Glue (I’m using my hot glue gun)
- Dachshund Clip Art
Creating a ‘domed’ finish
To make our badges/pins look extra polished we’re going to use Mod Podge Dimensional Magic to give it a domed finish. All you need to do is apply as even a coat as possible to your design and try not to get any air bubbles in it (if you do you can drag them out to the edge of the design with a pin) The Mode Podge will take around 3 hours to fully set, once it has you can go in and apply another layer if you think it needs it.
Adding the pin back
The last thing we need to do is to add the pin back to the back of our design. I find it easiest to remove the butterfly from the back and just work with the actual ‘pin’ part, apply a dab of glue to it and then place in in the centre of the back of your design. Leave to dry for a few hours and then you’re all done!
Video – How to Make Shrink Plastic Pins
Shrink Plastic DIY Keyring
Keyrings are another great stocking filler and the range of designs you could do are endless – I wanted to see how the designs turned out when using something with a lot more detail and colour variations so I picked a Gothic Floral Skull set of designs. They printed just as well as the Dachshund designs and look great with the glossy domed finish too!
Creating holes in shrink plastic
You want to make any holes you’ll need for jump rings/ribbon in shrink plastic before you put it in the oven. If you forget you can make the holes after using a Dremel tool but it’s not as easy.
Open a jewellery jump ring and loop it through the hole you’ve made in your design and the link on your key chain. using jewellery pliers to close it back up and you’re done!
Shrink Plastic Christmas Ornaments
I love how these Christmas Gnomes (actually called Nisse/Tomte/TomteNisse) turned out, they are the perfect size to be hung on the tree or even used as a gift tag first and then saved as next years ornaments.
Scale your design
I wanted the finished ornaments to be a lot bigger than the other items I had made so I had to scale them larger for the initial print, this made them a lot easier to cut out so I was able to get a really nice and even white outline around them all
Create a hole for hanging
If you are going to make hanging ornaments for a tree think carefully about where you put your hanging hole, you want it to be as central to the image as possible so that it hangs straight.
Shrink in the oven
Larger or longer designs tend to curl up in the shrinking process but don’t panic, they will uncurl themselves as they continue shrinking, if they are completely flat when you take them out of the oven you can use a spatula to press them into shape or just lay a book on top of them (this is the way I prefer to do it), they won’t stick to it and it helps them to stay flat as they cool.
Loop through your thread
Cut your thread/string/ribbon to loop through the hole, tie a knot and then you have a lovely ‘Tomte’ Tag to add to a present or a Christmas Gnome to add to the tree!
What do you think – Will you be giving this DIY a go?
What other designs should I turn into pins/keyrings/Christmas ornaments?