Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Adventures with shrinkies

image shrink plastic earrings red toadstool mushroom fly agaric filigree cross black

 Can I get a show of hands how many of you made shrinky dinks, shrinkies or shrank Twisties or other chip packets in the oven when you were kids (or got your mum to help)?  My sister and I absolutely LOVED the free shrinkies which came with the various boxed foods our mum bought for us (from memory, we got several out of cereal and snack boxes and possibly show bags too).  And I think she got a bit tired of us "shrinking" plastic packets in her oven.  Well that phase of my life came and went, but now it is back with a vengeance after I finally bought some inkjet printable shrink plastic!  I was so excited about my purchase that I have put together a step-by-step "tutorial" of what I did to rekindle my love of a fun childhood craft.

image grafix shrink film plastic shrinky

 - inkjet printable shrink plastic - I used the Grafix brand, but Shrinky Dinks also make good quality printable shrink plastic
- inkjet printer (of course)
- marker pens for colouring in your shrinkies (this is optional as you could print your image in colour, I used Sharpies to colour my designs)
- greaseproof paper
- a heavy book (you'll need this in step 4, don't worry!)
- Varnish or sealant spray or clear embossing powder
- hole punch (optional)
- decorative cord (optional)

image christmas ornament design layout in microsoft publisher before printing

1. Now if you're anything like me, you'll want to minimise wastage of your shrink plastic as much as possible.  To do this, I recommend laying out your intended designs in a program such as Publisher, Illustrator or Corel Draw to maximise use of your plastic.  My shrink plastic instructions said to size my image 50% larger than the intended final size, to allow for shrinkage.  However, I found that the final shrunken size was actually a bit smaller than expected, so next time I might increase my images by 60% or so.  When you are satisfied with your layout, print your pictures onto your shrink plastic.
The Grafix shrink plastic came with instructions outlining how to determine the printable side of the plastic.  I had A LOT of trouble determining which side was the printable side, even following the instructions, and eventually found that both sides of the plastic printed without any problems.  I know that some shrink plastics are printable on both sides, so maybe mine came with outdated instructions?  Just bear all of this in mind when you are printing on your plastic.

image shrink plastic angels christmas ornaments strawberry before shrinking

2. Let your printer ink dry completely before cutting out your designs; also make sure your hands are completely clean and dry because smudges are near impossible to remove.  I should also have mentioned that intricate or very small designs can be hard to cut out accurately, so great care should be used at this point.  I wouldn't recommend letting your kids do any cutting out unless the designs are simple or you really don't mind bits being chopped off, etc.   :)  It is also VERY IMPORTANT to remember to punch holes for hanging if you are intending to use your shrinkies as charms or are planning to hang them on a cord or chain.  It is too late to make holes after your plastic has shrunk!

image colour in shrink plastic prior to shrinking using Sharpie pens

3. If you are planning to colour in your shrinkies by hand, now is the time to do it.  My oldest cheeky monkey wanted to know why we couldn't colour them in AFTER they had been shrunk and I had to point out that the designs would probably be too small and fiddly to colour in by then.  The only thing to note at this part of your project is that colours intensify and darken once the plastic has shrunk down in size.  This means that your beautiful mid-blue could easily become a dark blue in your final product.

image shrink plastic in oven at specified temperature christmas ornaments shrinkies

4. Once you are happy with your shrinkies, it's time to put them in the oven and watch them shrink before your eyes!  I lined a metal biscuit tray with greaseproof baking paper to prevent my shrinkies from sticking.  I'm afraid that I don't have a photo of my shrinkies shrinking in the oven as I was too busy controlling the overexcited cheeky monkeys around the hot oven and hot metal trays.  Don't be alarmed when your shrinkies start to curl up when they are shrinking.  They should eventually flatten out again, which is generally your signal to take them out of the oven.  At this point, I place another piece of greaseproof paper on top of my shrinkies and then flatten them with a heavy book to make sure that they are fully flat.

image shrinkie shrink plastic angel christmas ornament seal with varnish spray

5. Most shrink plastics recommend covering your shrinkie with some sort of sealant spray or top coat after baking to prevent moisture damage to your design.  I tried a polyurethane gloss spray on several of my shrinkies but found that it caused some of my colours to run/smudge into adjacent areas of the design (see the angel's wing and the decorations on her dress).  I don't know if this was due to my hasty (and probably inaccurate) application of the gloss spray or if Sharpies just don't mix with this type of varnish spray.

image shrinkies shrink plastic grafix mushroom strawberry seal shrinkies with clear embossing powder

6. Next I tried sealing my shrinkies with a layer of clear embossing powder.  I sprinkled a layer of the embossing powder onto my shrinkies and returned them to my greaseproof paper-lined tray.  Then I melted the embossing powder by placing my shrinkies under a hot grill, though you could just as easily use a heat tool/gun.  Remove the shrinkies from the heat source as soon as the powder has completely melted.
Unfortunately, my clear embossing powder contained glitter, making the shrinkies a little hard to photograph, but I think you get the point. I really liked "sealing" my shrinkies with the embossing powder - my only problem with this method was that the shrinkies tend to curl up a bit when re-heated to melt the powder.  You can't flatten the shrinkies with the heavy book once they have been embossed (it takes a while for the molten powder to harden), so you may have to try poking down any curling edges with your finger nails while trying not to ruin your finish.

So there you have it, a "how to" for making your very own shrinkies.  As you can see, you can make all sort of fun items with shrink plastic.  The two cheeky monkeys had a blast making ornaments for our Christmas tree as well as little charms to add to the keyrings they hang on their backpacks.  And I had fun making charms to embellish the quilted ball ornaments I am making for end of year teacher appreciation gifts as well as the teeny earrings you see in the first photo of this post.  Do let me know if you try making your own shrinkies, I'd love to see them!


  1. Yes, I seem to remember a science day experiment or two with twisties packets :) My girls love these too. Thanks for the reminder coming up to holidays :) K

  2. Yes I've been making shriky dinks the last few days - I don't have an inkjet printer though so we've just been drawing on them. The kids drawings turn out lovely and I will make them into magnets for their kinder teachers. We also experimented with a takeaway container - and it worked!

  3. I had a play with Shrinkle sheets for the first time last week and it was just the best fun!!!!
    Thank you for your lovely comment over at mine. :)
    Vivienne x

  4. shrinkies- so much eighties fun! will have to check out that product to go with my fimo creations this week ;)sarah


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