Thursday, January 3, 2013

Shrinky Dinks!

Remember the Shrinky Dink fad in the 80's and 90's? 
photo from amazon
I remember. I was so jealous of my friend Jessie when she got a shrinky dink set for her birthday. Those things were the coolest thing ever. Everyone had them on their backpacks and their bracelets and they even made them into earrings. All the cool kids had them. Isn't it funny what is considered cool at the time? I wonder in 20 years what fads we'll be looking back on and laughing about. 

But back to shrinky dinks. They may not be as popular now as they were then...but they are still awesome. Draw on a big piece of weird plasticy paper, bake it, and it shrinks down to an awesome plastic wearable work of art...who wouldn't love that?! 

Elaine found a pin on Pinterest on making DIY Shrinky Dinks and sent us her results. 

The Original Pin
Can you believe that is made out of this:
Pretty cool, huh?! 

Elaine told us, "I saw this pin on Pinterest and had to try it! I wasn't going to make a bracelet per se but I thought about making key chains or cellphone charms. Overall, the thing worked and I am very pleased with the results but there were a few hiccups."
1. Image drawn in permanent marker before baking.
2. Finished product after baking at 250 degrees.
3. Finished product vs. original image that she traced from.

Elaine had to tweak the project slightly to fit her supplies at home...but we don't think these tweaks changed the outcome too much. She didn't have any Sharpies on hand, so she used some permanent overhead projector film pens she had lying around (I love that she had those handy). Also, she didn't have parchment paper so use found a pin with similar instructions which directed her to make a tray out of aluminum foil.

Here were her hiccups with the project: 
  • She says that rather than taking a few minutes to shrink, it took around 30 minutes to an hour. She says, " I kept checking back to see how it was doing. I can't tell you exactly how long it takes, but the OP is right that once flattens out after curling up and shrinking it should be done." I'm thinking here that if her caption on the photo Elaine sent us is correct, that her oven temperature was low by 100 degrees. The original directions say to bake at 350 and Elaine's caption shows she baked at 250. That would account for the difference in time needed.
  • The left side of her shrinky dink ended up with a funny little wave to it. "Kind of annoying seeing as everything else was straight. I think what happened was that I must have had the most minuscule dip or curve when I cut the original that when it shrank it became more pronounced."
  • She said she forgot to punch holes in the plastic ahead of time. "This wasn't the fault of the pin," she said, "I was just forgetful. Next time I will definitely punch them in ahead." 
  • She wasn't sure how small her art would shrink...she just kinda had to eyeball it. So before you set out to make your final finished product...test out how much shrinkage you'll have by doing a test run. 
Even with her hiccups, Elaine is quite pleased with how her project turned out. She says, "Over all, this is really easy to do. The plastic is actually pretty easy to cut with scissors. Next time I am going to see if I can do one picture, cut it up, and then shrink to make matching cell phone charms for me and my bf."

Thank you so much for sending us your results and tips Elaine! This would have been fun to put ornaments together for my tree for Christmas/New Years...I'll have to pin it for next year. 


  1. I've done this. I agree that the temperature was the problem. I put mine in a pre-heated 350 degree toaster oven and it twisted and turned and shrunk perfectly in about thirty seconds. I just covered my existing toaster oven tray in foil. I didn't look at the original pin, but make sure your plastic has a 6 in the recycle triangle thingy. I have no idea what a different number would end up like, I just read it must be a six, so that is what I used!
    Don't be discouraged Elaine!

  2. Works with soda bottle plastic. Used the bottoms and a heat gun to make flowers for my wedding! :)

  3. When the plastic is still hot, press it flat. I use an old spatula with no holes to flatten mine.

  4. Shrink Plastic is great for ornaments! I bought some that is made to go through an inkjet printer, found an old picture of me and my siblings sitting with Santa - printed on the shrink paper, cut out, bake, awesome ornament!

    Tip 1) colors intensify as the shrinking happens (all the pigment you put over several inches comes together into a much smaller space, making a more intense color) so start lighter than you want to end up.
    Tip 2)pre punch your holes, or use a glue on bail. While it is technically possible to drill through it, it can cause the piece to crack on occasion. Why risk it.
    Tip 3) most shrink plastic shrinks to about 1/3 it's size, but can vary by brand. Also, it does not shrink evenly on the horizontal vs the vertical, so if you are making a set (for earrings or such) orient them the same on the sheet.

    I won a great book a couple of weeks ago called Shrink Shrank Shrunk that has all sorts of great info/ideas/patterns!

  5. I've made tons of Shrinky Dink stuff as an adult, but I always used the sheets that shrinky dink still sells - just saw them at Michaels the other day. There's so much fun you can do with it. I think my favorite thing I made was I stamped butterflies on the plastic with black ink then colored them in with sparkly gel pens. They looked fabulous. To get the gel ink to stick, if you don't have the pre-fab shrinky dink plastic, you'll need to scuff it with fine-grit sandpaper (400+) to have something for the gel to adhere to. Also, if you look for more projects, you can take different colors of shrunk plastic and bake again stacked, they will fuse together. My favorite one that I remember was a magnet, brown square background, smaller white frilly square on top of that, then the clear layer with the drawing. When it melts it looks more like glass. Find instructions though for temps and times!

    I agree about the temperature being the issue as well, I never had a problem with my stuff - and I did this exact project (although with the branded shrinky dink plastic) with a bunch of teenage girls in a church kitchen. If it could have gone wrong, it would have :)

    Hmm, I wonder where all those supplies went...

  6. Sadly, I haven't found any plastic boxes in my local stores that fit the bill. I tried with one from a bakery department at Safeway, but the number on the bottom was different and sure enough it just melted in to a pile of goo. Sigh...

    1. The plastic I used was the lid for a disposable pan that I bought at a dollar store. Have you checked dollar stores?

    2. #6 is food safe plastic, check the plastic trays crackers or cookies come in

  7. I still have a bunch of shrinky dinks I made in the 70s when I discovered them. I had all the special pens and pencils for them. Is the plastic still available in stores?

    1. Yes, there are a couple of different brands of "shrink plastic", one of which is Shrinky Dinks. They have more kinds than they did when we were little, they now not only have clear and opaque for markers, and frosted for colored pencils, but also black and types that you can run through your inkjet printer. I tried one brand for inkjet printers, that I ordered online, and it shrunk evenly, but was translucent so you had to paint the back white. I then bought Shrinky Dink brand at Michael's and it was opaque, but didn't shrink the same in all directions (so a circle became an oval). That wasn't the end of the world, but it does distort your image.

  8. I love shrink plastic! We used it in three different places for our wedding invitations and favors. PolyShrink by Lucky Squirrel ( comes in different colors, thicknesses, and finishes. It always shrank evenly in all directions (all of my circles stayed circles). You can color it with a pigment ink made for rubber stamping because most pigment inks will set up with heat.

  9. Is this safe for sure? These containers don't give off any fumes or anything we have to be careful of?

  10. You can use overhead projector slides, too, since they're also made of polystyrene. Don't know if any other plastics would work the same since their glass transition temperature (the temperature where they get "shrinky") is different. The plastics are generally very pure, so long as you're not heating them hotter than the directions.


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