Shrink Plastic Fail

Crafting involves a fair bit of trial and error, which often means that for every great result there are a couple of misses. Here’s one of mine.

I recently purchased a package of BIC Mark-It Permanent Markers so when I had a free night I thought I’d continue my shrink plastic journey and see how they work.

Turns out the colour assortment is almost exactly what’s needed for Rainbow Dash.

I traced an image onto bright white shrink plastic, coloured it and cut it out.

Shrink plastic Rainbow Dash before shrinking

I wasn’t super thrilled with all of the marker lines but they were completely impossible to get rid of. My hope was that they wouldn’t be as obvious after shrinking.

Into the oven she went and here’s what come out:

Shrink plastic Rainbow Dash after shrinking


For anyone who doesn’t know, here’s what she’s supposed to look like:

Rainbow Dash

I definitely did not pick the right shade of blue. Mine looks like she’s been rolling in a blueberry patch for a month.

So what should I have done differently? Tested the markers before I started the project. I guess late is better than never. I took another piece of the bright white shrink plastic and added a coloured strip with each marker.

Shrink plastic marker test before shrinking

Into the toaster oven, and voila, a shrink plastic guide to my marker collection comes out.

Shrink plastic marker test after shrinking

Notice how the dark blue on the left turns dark purple. The second blue on the left (the one I used for Rainbow Dash) turns dark blue, the brown on the right turns black, and the red in the middle almost looks brown. Not at all what I was expecting. But now I know for next time.

Here’s the sample with the markers for comparison. (Yeah, there are a couple of Sharpies in the mix. The dark blue in my BIC set was completely dried up, but I threw the receipt away long before I discovered this. And the light purple was just too pretty to pass up).

Shrink plastic marker test with markers

What did I learn from this crafting fail?

  • Test your markers first to see what colour they will be after shrinking.
  • When colouring, let each colour dry before moving on to the next to minimize bleeding.
  • Let the whole piece dry before trying to cut it out to minimize smudging.
  • Brush strokes will still be noticeable after shrinking but not as noticeable as before.
  • Marker is easily scratched off the finished piece so seal it to prevent accidents.
  • If touching up outlines after cutting a piece out, be sure not to get any marker on the edge of the plastic. Or, intentionally colour around all the edges so you won’t have just the occasional spot of colour.

Unintentional spot of blue on edge of shrink plastic Rainbow Dash

(See the nasty spot of blue left behind by a post-cutting, pre-shrinking, outline touch-up?)

  • Rainbow Dash looks really silly in blueberry blue.

So far markers are definitely not my colouring agent of choice for shrink plastic. Does anyone else have any experience colouring shrink plastic with markers? I’d love to know how it worked out for you.

Shrink plastic Legend of Zelda rupee keychain

Shrink Plastic Rupees

My latest shrink plastic creation is a Legend of Zelda rupee keychain.

I started with this rupee image from Zelda Universe. I printed out the image, traced the outline of three rupees onto a piece of clear Shrinky Dinks shrink plastic (unsanded), cut them out, and used a 1/8-inch hole punch to add holes to both ends of two rupees and only one end of the third rupee (this will be the last one of the chain).

Pre-shrinking shrink plastic Legend of Zelda rupees

Into the toaster oven they went, and out came some lovely shrunken rupees.

Post-shrinking shrink plastic Legend of Zelda rupeesI painted the backside of each rupee with three coats of standard acrylic paint – one red, one green, and one blue. paintAfter these were dry I carefully scraped any excess paint off the sides of the rupees using a craft knife and off the front of the rupee using my fingernail. Be careful scraping the front as you can (and I did) accidentally scrape off some of the outline.

Once I was happy with the paint job, I added three coats of a gloss varnish and again scraped off the excess once they were dry.

The final touch was to colour the edges of the rupees with a black permanent marker to give them a finished look.

Painted shrink plastic Legend of Zelda rupees
Three jump rings and a keyring later I had a finished keychain.

Shrink plastic Legend of Zelda rupee keychain

If I were doing this again, the only change I would try would be to colour the edges of the rupees with black marker before adding the varnish, and to varnish the edges as well as the back to seal in the marker. I’m finding mine let off a bit of colour if I run a finger along the edge of a rupee. However, trying to seal the edges without gunking up the front could be a challenge.

I’m enjoying playing with shrink plastic and trying different techniques for how to colour it. If you have a favourite method I would love to hear about it.

Shrink Plastic Akatosh

I’m having a blast trying out some different techniques for shrink plastic and have found that a really intricate look can be achieved by simply cutting a shape from plain white shrink plastic. As a huge Elder Scrolls: Skyrim fan I decided to have a go at a shrink plastic Akatosh. I started with the Akatosh silhouette created by RocketmanTan on DeviantArt, resized to approximately 5-inches tall. I printed off the image and carefully cut away all the black with a small pair of scissors and a craft knife. I then traced the stencil onto a piece of white shrink plastic and again carefully cut away the image.Shrink plastic Akatosh stencil

A little bit of shaping and the final piece was ready to shrink.
Pre-shrinking shrink plastic Akatosh pendant

This is where I learned that intricately cut items don’t play nice in the toaster oven. I wish I had some pictures of what this did, but I was too busy trying to fix it to snap any. The entire thing managed to completely twist in on itself with the bottom piece curling up and right through the hole in the centre of the image forming a knot. It turns out, however, that shrink plastic is pretty amazing stuff and with enough patience you can fix almost anything. I spent close to ten minutes repeatedly returning the piece to the oven until it started to soften and then removing it and carefully trying to untwist the work. Eventually I did get it untwisted but finally gave up when it came to straightening the sides.

Misshapen shrink plastic Akatosh pendant

I think with enough return trips to the oven I could have eventually straightened it out, but it would never quite be perfect due to the extra stretch the plastic endured from twisting.

Instead I opted to start again, this time leaving more plastic around the outside of the image in the hopes that this would help prevent the plastic from twisting in on itself.


Finished shrink plastic Akatosh pendant

I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out. People I have shown it to think it was either laser cut or 3D printed. But no, it was just a piece of plastic in my toaster oven.

Finished shrink plastic cameo

Shrink Plastic Cameo

I finally caught up with my stitch-a-longs a got a bit of time to play with something else. Remember Shrinky Dinks? The thin plastic you’d colour on and then watch as they magically shrunk in the toaster oven into a small hard piece of plastic with a fully detailed miniature version of your artistic creation in tact?

Turns out they are still magical.

After flipping through Shrink! Shrank! Shrunk! an absolutely delightful book by Kathy Sheldon and seeing designer Tamara Berg’s take on a shrink plastic cameo, I knew I had to try one out for myself. With a geeky twist of course! Who better to immortalize in shrunken plastic than Link from The Legend of Zelda?

I started with two packages of shrink plastic in clear and white.

Crystal Clear and Bright White Shrinky Dink packages

Since the clear plastic is quite smooth, it’s difficult to colour with pencil crayons unless you rough it up a bit first. Using a fine grain sand paper I fully sanded one side of a piece of plastic – first sanding horizontally across the piece, and then rotating the piece 90-degrees and sanding horizontally again. This meant the piece was fairly evenly sanded. I wiped the sanding dust off the piece with a soft cloth (read my pant leg) and was good to go.

I cut out a three-inch circle for the center of the cameo using a Fiskars circle cutter and then coloured the rough side of the plastic with a green pencil crayon.

Fiskars circle cutterBad move. Cutting and then colouring left concentrated spots of colour around the outside of the circle (which were even more obvious after shrinking).

Poorly coloured circle

So I threw this circle away and started over, this time colouring an area larger than the circle before I cut it out. I also switched to a darker shade of green for the second circle as I wanted to colour to really pop against the white.

For a white piece for the back of the cameo I used the template from the Shrink! Shrank! Shrunk! book, but there is no shortage of similar badge shapes to be found with a quick Google search.

You can see through the white shrink plastic a small amount but I found it easier to trace the template onto a piece of white paper, cut that out, and then trace around the paper template onto the shrink plastic.

Here’s the final two circular pieces before shrinking:Cameo circles before shrinking

Lastly, is the silhouette for the center of the cameo. I took the head off this gorgeous Link silhouette by Sora3087. Again, cutting the template out of paper, tracing it onto the shrink plastic, and using a small pair of scissors to cut out the image.

Link stencil and tracing

Link before shrinking

Now for the fun part. The specific Shrink plastic directions (time and temperature) will vary based on the brand and type, but the basic concept is always the same. Place the pieces on a parchment lined tray in the toaster oven and watch as they begin to contract and curl, and then somehow, magically, flatten back out. After the pieces flatten, wait another 20-30 seconds before removing them from the oven, immediately transfer them to a perfectly flat surface (I used my counter top) and place a heavy, flat object on top. (I swear I have some textbooks that I’ve used more since I started crafting than I ever used in the classes they were for. They’re a perfect heavy, flat object).

Here’s the shrunken goodness:

Cameo pieces after shrinking before assembly

All that’s left is assembly. I recently discovered E6000 glue and so far I like it. It’s super strong, waterproof, and dries clear. The only drawback is that it’s supposed to be brushed on both surfaces to be bonded, which is easier said than done when trying to glue an intricately cut shape to a circle. In the end I covered the back of the Link cut-out, but just put a couple spots of glue on the circle in areas I knew would be covered by the silhouette. I then made sure to leave it alone to cure for a day and it seems to have worked out.

After the glue was fully cured I drilled a hole through the two circular layers using a 1/16″ drill bit and fed a jump ring through.

Here’s the final result:Finished shrink plastic cameo

You could use a hole punch to make the hole before baking, but the idea of trying to perfectly line up those holes while gluing the pieces together, and not filling the hole with glue, seemed a little too challenging to me.

This was insanely fun to make, and I have a bunch more Shrink Plastic projects in the works, so keep a look out!