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DIY Shrinky Dinks: A Shrink Plastic Craft Guide

You can make the coolest things with homemade Shrinky Dinks.

Updated October 26, 2018

What is shrink plastic? Shrink plastic crafts involve printing or drawing a design on plastic then heating it in the oven so the shapes shrink and thicken and become little trinkets. These small plastic shapes can become charms for jewelry, embellishments for paper crafts, and so much more!

You use a specific type of plastic to make these crafts. Shrinky Dinks for example are a popular type of plastic used for these crafts. You can purchase Shrinky Dinks and other brands like Grafix at your local craft store, such as Michaels or JoAnn, or you can get them on Amazon.

How does a Shrinky Dink work? When the thin plastic is manufactured, the strings of molecules in the plastic (polymers) are rapidly cooled to retain the thinness. However, when heated again in the oven, the molecules bunch up, causing the plastic to both shrink and thicken. In fact, the biggest novelty when making Shrinky Dinks is watching the plastic curl, shrink, and flatten in the oven! 

Shrinky Dinks are made of #6 plastic, or polystyrene. In fact, you can use ordinary #6 plastic packaging to make your own DIY Shrinky Dinks! If you're wondering can you use #5 plastic for making shrink plastic, unfortunately the answer is no. #6 plastic is the only plastic you can use. 

Polystyrene is used in rigid plastics as well as Styrofoam, which poses the question, Are Shrinky Dinks Safe? After all, shrink plastic crafts need to be heated in the oven, so you are literally heating up plastic! The answer is yes, shrink plastic crafts are safe, and you can read more about this in our companion article.

Now that we've covered some shrink plastic basics, learn more about the different types of shrink plastic crafts below!

How to do Shrink Plastic Crafts

What do you use to color Shrinky Dinks?

Chameleon Color Tones Pencils

If you purchase a kit with shapes inside to color, or you purchase sheets of shrink plastic for drawing your own designs, you need to know what materials are safe for coloring them. Do keep in mind that the colors darken as the plastic shrinks, so you can color lightly or with medium pressure in the plastic.

Materials you can use:

  1. Colored Pencils: use these on sanded plastic or pre-roughened sheets.
  2. Acrylic Paint: acceptable on almost all forms of shrink plastic except plastic designed for an inkjet printer.
  3. Markers: some types of shrink plastic will suggest alcohol-based permanent markers. Consult manufacturer's directions for specifics.
  4. Alcohol-Based Permanent Ink: for rubber stamping!
  5. Paint Markers
Materials you should avoid:
  1. Water Colors
  2. Water Color Markers
  3. Crayons
  4. Laser Jet Printer: printing only works with inkjet.

Can you print on Shrinky Dinks?

You can only print Shrinky Dinks with an inkjet printer, and it is recommended that you use a particular type of Shrinky Dink for printing. Not all printers are inkjet printers. Inkjet printers are able to print on a variety of paper types, including shrink plastic! Because laser printers get so hot, the shrink plastic might melt while printing---yikes!

Ways to Shrink Plastic

Wow! Melt-It! Powder

Shrink plastic in the oven: this is the classic way to make Shrinky Dinks that is probably the easiest option. By baking your shrink plastic in the oven for just minutes, you will successfully turn the flat plastic sheet into a thicker, smaller trinket. If you are using Shrinky Dinks or another shrink plastic brand, follow the manufacturer's instructions for temperature and baking time.

Shrinky plastic in the toaster oven: this is another popular option for shrinking plastic! In fact, the official Shrinky Dinks how-to video demonstrates making Shrinky Dinks in a toaster oven. A toaster oven is convenient because you don't need to wait as long for it to heat up. You may use whichever is more convenient for you!

Heat tool: A heat tool or heat gun is a popular craft supply for paper crafters because it's used for embossing. There are all sorts of crafty purposes for heat guns, and one of them is for making shrink plastic! You'll need to be careful when using the heat tool as the air is very hot, and you also run the risk of blowing your shrink plastic about! Try to hold the shape in place with a skewer or similar tool as you shrink the plastic.

Blow dryer: Your regular blow dryer will work to shrink plastic! Similar to the heat tool, keep an eye on the plastic shape and use a skewer or tweezers to keep the plastic relatively in place as you shrink it.

Do you know of anyother way to shrink plastic? Let us know in the comments!

Can you do Shrinky Dinks in the Microwave?

Many people wonder whether you can do Shrinky Dinks in the Microwave. No, it will not work. Since microwaves heat food differently than a traditional convection oven or toaster oven, they do not affect shrink plastic the same way and will not shrink your items. Do not use a microwave.

DIY Shrink Plastic and How to Make Shrinky Dinks

There are so many fantastic and comprehensive tutorials for how to do shrink plastic crafts from start to finish. If you're looking for a DIY shrink plastic with #6 plastic tutorial, Skip to My Lou does an excellent job! You can also see our step-by-step tutorials and tips and tricks below:

Quick Steps for Shrink Plastic Crafts:
  1. Print or draw your design on plastic using the coloring tools suggested above!
  2. Trim your plastic to size. Punch a hole in the plastic before shrinking if you'd like to turn your drawing into a trinket.
  3. Bake in an oven or use a heat tool to shrink the plastic.
  4. Let cool, and then use for jewelry making, embellishing crafts, making bookmarks, and more!

What do you want to make with shrink plastic?

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