Shrink Plastic Photos

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in blog | 0 comments

Shrink Plastic Photos

I can recall as a kid, standing in front of the oven watching Shrinky Dinks in the oven. There was something fascinating about seeing those colored sheets transform into tiny, albeit useless, pieces of plastic. But did you know that there are blank Shrink Plastic sheets that you can put in your inkjet printer? Did you also know that there are things you can actually do with the finished products?

If you want to make shrink plastic photos, you’ll need to buy blank shrink plastic sheets that are specifically for printing in an inkjet printer. The plastic is a little different so the ink will stick. I’m not sure if the product will differ depending on the brand you get, so make sure you read all the manufacturer’s instructions. I got the Shrinky Dink brand and while there were very thorough instructions, I learned some tips along the way.

Find what photos you want to use. Ones that don’t have large dark sections in them will work the best so they don’t get too dark once they’re shrunk. This time I decided not to go with antique family photos, but I chose some photos I took on a trip to our local conservatory which is where my husband and I got married.

The levels adjustment dialog box should look like this when you're done.

The levels dialog box should look like this when you’re done.

You’ll need to alter them a little bit on your computer before you print them out. If you don’t have any photo manipulation software, you can do this online (for free!) with sites like pixlr.com. Resize your photos so they are about 2-3 times larger than you want them to be when they’re finished. The amount they scale down isn’t an exact science. The plastic may not shrink at the same rate, so this isn’t great for a finished project that requires a lot of precision.

Then lighten your photo(s) by 50%. To do this, once you’ve uploaded your photo onto pixlr, go to adjustment>levels and a dialog box will open. On the Output levels bar, scroll the black slider (originally labeled 0) up to 127. Then save your edited picture. Your photos should look pale and washed out.

Set your printer settings according to the package instructions. With the Shrinky Dinks, there is a list of which paper choice and print mode you should use for different printer brands. Load the plastic in your printer and print your images.

Printed and cut plastic sheets

Printed and cut plastic sheets

Cut out your images. I’m making some charms and some Christmas ornaments, so I punched holes in them all. I also attempted to do a ring after seeing other people do it online. It was a miserable failure and I haven’t yet tried it again.

Bake them according to package instructions in your oven or toaster oven. The instructions say to heat your oven between 275° and 300°. I had better luck with the hotter temperature.

Maybe because they do something to the plastic to make it printable, but these don’t flatten out as well as the ones I remember as a kid. Be ready with a metal spatula to flatten them out the rest of the way when they’re done shrinking. Only do a couple at a time or you won’t be able to flatten them all out by the time they harden. If they do harden before you can flatten them, just stick them back in the oven and they’ll get soft and pliable again in a few minutes.

Plastic starting to shrink in the oven

Plastic starting to shrink in the oven

Some people online suggest putting brown paper or parchment paper over them while they bake to help them stay flatter. Don’t bother. It didn’t do any good and it means you can’t watch them shrink. Why miss out on the best part? Just leave them uncovered and flatten them as soon as you take them out.

I had much better luck with small pieces than large ones. They don’t curl up as much and shrank pretty evenly. I eventually got the larger ones to work, but it took longer than the 3-5 minute cooking time stated in the instructions. It could be an error on the manufacturer’s part or my oven could have been lying to me about how hot it actually was, which is very possible.

Finished Shrinky Dinks

Finished Shrinky Dinks

Once they’re cool. if you like the matte finish, leave them how they are. If you want them shinier, you can give them a coat of acrylic varnish.

So, what can you do with these? I put a ribbon through the large ones so they can be Christmas ornaments. They could also be gift tags. I put jump rings through the small ones that can be used on a necklace, bracelet or earrings which would make nice alternatives to lockets. You could also use them as wine glass charms. With the right findings from the jewelry section of your local craft store, Shrinky Dinks can be used to create broachs, tie pins, or cuff links. I’ve also seen people make buttons with them by punching two or four holes in the center.

Finished Charms and Christmas Ornaments

Finished Charms and Christmas Ornaments

So here are my finished products. In addition to the photographs, I also printed non-photo vintage Christmas graphics that I found at thegraphicsfairy.com.

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