Charm them with Plastic: Shrink Plastic Jewelry
18 March 2010
Author: Holly Craft
You probably thought shrinkable plastic was just for kids. Actually it is for the kid in all of us, but it can be used to make beautiful shrink plastic jewelry any adult would be proud to wear! Let’s explore what shrinkable plastic is and how it can be paired up with crystals and jewelry findings to make unbelievably beautiful jewelry.
Shrinkable plastic is made by several companies and comes in many colors, such as:
- and several bright colors
There is even an ink jet form of shrinkable plastic so you can print
photos on your ink jet printer.
Each company will have their own
instructions, but there are some basic tips that will work for all the
First, let’s talk about size. If you are concerned about what size your finished piece will be, you can create a test piece.
- Draw off a ruler on a strip of that particular brand of shrinkable plastic.
- Shrink your “ruler” and then you will have an accurate indication of how much the plastic will shrink.
Some brands do not shrink evenly; they might shrink more lengthwise
than in the width. Just be aware of these characteristics if you are
doing a detailed design where you need a perfect circle or something
On this example, you can see how much size reduction occurs
So, how do you get the desired shape or design on the plastic? As far as shape goes, you can punch, die cut or cut the shape with scissors. It is very easy to cut shrinkable plastic before it is heated.
If you are making jewelry pieces that need a hole for a jump ring, be sure to punch the hole before shrinking. An eighth or a quarter inch hole punch works great for the hole. It needs to be large, as it will shrink too.
As far as the design on the plastic, you can draw with a permanent marker, stamp with permanent ink or add the design after shrinking.
If you work while the heated plastic is still warm, you can add texture to the piece or shape it around an object. Take care handling the hot plastic as it will burn your fingers. Also consider that in determining your shape; the more tentacles your piece has, the more likely it is to curl up on itself and be ruined.
For some projects, you might want to add color to the piece after it has been shrunk.
- Alcohol based inks work great on white or clear pieces. With the white pieces you can create wonderful faux cloisonnécolored glass.
- Glass stain paints are another option for the clear plastic.
If you did draw or stamp an image, let’s look at some ways to color those images before shrinking.
- Since the color will be concentrated as the shrinking occurs, you want to begin with color that is lighter than usual.
- A couple of good mediums to use on opaque plastic are chalks or colored pencils.
- Permanent markers can be used too, but remember, the color will intensify.
- Metallic permanent markers can be used on dark color plastic and also work great for use on plastic that has been shrunk.
- Depending on the brand of plastic you are using, you might need to lightly sand the surface of the plastic so that it will take the color. Some brands come already sanded.
- After shrinking, use a non acrylic fixative on the piece to seal it or add gloss with clear dimensional products.
The last part to know is how to shrink the plastic. Here again, it is best to consult the instructions for the specific brand you are using.
Most all brands can be heated with an embossing heat gun, in a conventional oven or a toaster oven.
- Since most heat guns blow air, you might have to use an instrument to hold the piece down as you heat it.
- Most all brands will curl and move during the heating process, so if an oven or toaster oven is accessible; it is a good “hands off” method. You can watch but won’t be as temped to straighten the piece out.
- You can also do several pieces at one time in an oven, placing them on a piece of cardboard or Teflon sheet. Most brands recommend a temperature of 300 to 350 degrees.
- Make extra pieces as you do usually have a few that don’t cooperate.
- You can stack shrunk pieces and fuse them together in the over for more intricate designs.
Let’s look closer at the faux cloisonné method mentioned earlier.
- Use a white shrinkable plastic that has been cut and shrunk.
- Color it with alcohol inks, preferably handling the pieces with Teflon coated tweezers on a Teflon sheet.
Mix the colors as desired, but don’t mix too much or you will end up with “mud”. Allow the inks to dry. Color both sides even on a pendant.
- You might want to wear gloves when using alcohol based inks or you will be wearing the color on your fingers for a few days.
Go around the edges with a permanent metallic paint pen for a finished look. Add a stamped image for additional detail. Apply a clear glossy dimensional product to each side, allowing them to dry thoroughly.
- If you tell your friends that you made the piece from shrinkable plastic, they will have to examine it closely and will look at the back!
Check out the instructions for the charm bracelet made with this method.
The inexpensive charms made with shrinkable plastic become charming when added to the beautiful crystals and jewelry findings.
Working with shrinkable plastic has no limits. Expand your horizons with this cool medium and discover all the hot shrink plastic jewelry projects you can create!