How To Make - Shrink Art by PixelBrat

If you were a child of the 70's you may recall playing with Shrink . . .  Shrink is basically sheets of thin, flexible plastic that you could draw or color on.  The plastic sheets were then put into a pre-heated oven.  The heat of the oven would make them curl up and shrink, eventually laying flat and becoming much smaller and rigid.  They were great for making colorful jewelry, wine charms, key chains, zipper pulls and other fun items.  You can still buy Shrink . . . today but until recently you could not use the plastic sheets in your ink jet printer.  Thanks to a product called Shrink Art, you can now use your ink jet printer to print photographic images, graphics, cartoons... anything you like!  To give you an idea of how to use it, read further!  For those of you that want to skip all of the instructions and see the finished product, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

First, find an image or photograph that you would like to shrink.  In this tutorial, I chose my logo.  Open it in your favorite graphics editor and lighten the image a bit.  When the plastic shrinks it tends to darken the colors.  It may take some experimentation to get the brightness correct so your colors don't become overpowering. Always be sure to mirror your image in your graphics program!  Especially if you are printing words! (In other words, flip the image so it is a mirror image) Since my logo has words on it, I had to be sure to mirror it before printing.

Shrink Art Article by Pixelbrat

When you size your image for printing, you should make it fairly large because the image will shrink by about one half of the original size in each direction.  To save on time and materials you should also try to print several images to one sheet of plastic.  When you are ready to print, remove all paper from your printer and only feed in one sheet at a time.  . . .

When choosing the settings for your printer, choose Glossy or Transparency.  Once you have printed your page, remove your design from the printer, being very careful not to touch the image surface.  The ink will need to dry before attempting to place it in the over.  This can take up to 30 minutes.  I have found that black and darker colors take even longer so avoid them if you are in a hurry.

When the ink is dry, cut each picture out, using a pair of small, sharp scissors, such as manicure scissors.  Be sure to round off any sharp corners because these will become extremely sharp after baking.  Now’s the time to punch a small hole in the edge of a picture if you want to make a zipper pull or key chain

Pixelbrat Inkjet Shrink ArtShrink Art Sheets

Be sure to make note of which side is the printed side while cutting as the printed side should be face down while baking.  The image will also be very easy to scratch so be very careful while cutting or handling.  You can use a regular conventional oven or a toaster oven to bake your design.  I use a toaster oven because it doesn't heat up my entire house and it can be easily moved to my office/studio when needed. (You cannot use a microwave oven!)  I have found that it is best to place your plastic onto a piece of cardboard that has been very lightly dusted with talcum powder.  (Be sure to remove all excess powder from your cardboard!)  The cardboard keeps the plastic from sticking to the pan as it shrinks.  You can also use a Teflon coated pan but I have not personally tried this.

Set your conventional oven or toaster oven to between 275° and 300° F.  It will take about 3 to 5 minutes to shrink your design completely.  Your design will curl as it shrinks but don't be alarmed.  This is normal.  It will usually lay flat once it has been completely shrunk.  When it appears to be flat, remove the pan from the oven.  I have found that by placing an empty Altoids tin on top of my design right after removing, it helps to flatten it completely.  Otherwise your design may have slightly curled up edges.  When your design has cooled enough to handle remove from the pan onto a flat surface.  You may want to flatten it one more time with a book or an Altoids tin if it's still warm.  The plastic is quite malleable while warm so it's easy to become disfigured if you're not careful.  Below, you can see how much an image or design will shrink once it has been baked.

Shrink Plastic Sheets for Inkjet

Once your design has completely cooled you'll notice that the plastic has a bit of a transparent look.  I solved this by painting the back (the printed ink side) with white spray paint.  I have found that Krylon spray paint works better than Testors spray enamel as it dries much quicker and seems more durable.  Before you spray, you must put tape over the smooth, non ink side of your design.  This will protect it from excess paint.  Notice that I cover my thumb with tape before pressing my design onto the sticky side of the tape.  If you don't, you may get finger prints on the back that will show up after painting.  I used painters tape here but regular masking tape works just fine. Your design may require more than one coat of paint, depending on your preference.

Pixelbrat Shrink Art Inkjet

Allow your painted design to dry according to the instructions on your can of paint.  I prefer to allow drying overnight just to make sure it's good and dry.  Now you are ready to add cording, key chains, magnets, or jewelry backings for pins or earrings.