Reported by Jessica Ripley
Remember Shrinky Dinks? Oh my gosh how I loved those things. These and a Make-it and Bake-it Oven were right up there on my top five favorite list of toys growing up. Something about that extra step of melting something down into a work of art just made it so much fun! I still have a collection of tiny plastic trinkets that became treasures of my childhood.
So how excited was I when shrink plastic started to make a niche in the crafting world? Um, in a word, very.
Enter Grafix, a company that not only offers shrink plastic in professional crafting packaging (to save you that trip down the toy aisle), but that also offers it in a multitude of styles. From clear to matte, to different colors, and even in an ink-jet compatible format. Imagine printing out what will become tiny plastic yous! For this review however, I’m going to focus on just one of those, the clear version.
I have to start off by saying overall I was pleased with the product. It is what it is, and is one of those products that could be many things limited only by your imagination. Of course, there are a few draw backs and things to consider though, so I’ll take you through my first opportunity to play with it below.
My first impression upon opening the package is that the clear shrink plastic is a dead ringer for any other clear craft plastic you can get your hands on today in weight and transparency. At 6, 10, or 50 sheets per pack, it comes in 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets, complete with a set of instructions and tips. The difference of course, is that once heated in an oven (regular or toaster), it shrinks to 20% of its original size and becomes a smaller, sturdier element for your crafting use.
The package states you can color, stamp, paint, punch, etc the plastic before baking. For a few of my test pieces, I decided to use a stamp. Since it is slippery plastic, I used and would recommend Staz-On ink for this. It took a stamp with this ink just like a regular sheet of craft plastic would.
Next I decided to try a few different coloring techniques. It’s much too slippery for colored pencils (the traditional Shrinky Dink coloring tool of choice), though with some sandpaper distressing it would probably take colored pencil better. I, however, can be an impatient crafter, so prefer to use a product as-is whenever possible.
Below, for the heart on the far left I used acrylic paint, the middle heart was colored using metallic markers, and the last I left plain:
Cutting the sheet was fairly easy too. No more difficult than cutting into a piece of heavy cardstock with scissors. Using a paper cutter worked OK too. A regular, sliding 12″ x 12″ cutter did cut through the sheet fine; a plus for those of us who can’t cut a straight line with scissors to save our lives. There was a bit of a ‘snowy’ effect along the edges when doing so, but this went away after baking.
I also gave cutting the plastic in my computerized die-cutting machine a try, and below is the result. While it didn’t cut through completely (note: I used regular blade, not a “deep cut” one), it did give me an easy line to cut along as a kind of traced pattern:
I did get the impression I was severely lessening the life of my blade however, but still, this extends the possibility of homemade acrylic accents exponentially.
Also for this piece, I decided to leave it clear but try a little distressing using a rotary tool. Again, easy to do, just like a regular piece of craft plastic:
Now the fun part. Getting the pieces into the oven to shrink! The package suggests a temperature between 300 and 350 degrees in a regular oven, and a baking time of between 2-3 minutes. I pre-heated my oven to 325, and found that baking for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds was just right.
The instructions also state that the plastic should not be baked on bare metal, but rather a piece of cardboard, or like I used below, parchment paper:
As stated above the pieces were fully shrunken in about 2 and a half minutes. During the baking process, the plastic curls in on itself quite a bit. Once it is shrunk to size however, the piece flattens out again (for the most part), however I can see that a) the larger a piece is the more curling will occur, and b) that if there are very intricate details in a piece, they may curl up and stick to each other causing an issue. Once out of the oven, there are a few seconds time when the plastic remains pliable and you can either un-stick it from itself (carefully, it’s hot!), or lay something heavy on top (like a cookbook) to make sure they remain flat while cooling. The instructions also state that laying another piece of parchment paper or cardboard on top while baking will help prevent curling.
Once out of the oven, the pieces are able to be comfortably handled within 1-2 minutes. Below are my baked up tests:
True to what the packaging says, they baked up to about 20% their original size. I didn’t take any steps to flatten the smaller heart pieces though, and there was a bit of curling:
One of the things I loved the most about shrink plastic when I was younger was the bright, vivid colors that happened once the plastic shrunk, and I was only semi-pleased with the color that occurred with this clear version once it was done. While the marker did get a bit more vivid, the paint didn’t look all that different to me, just a bit more concentrated:
The plain, clear version however stayed pretty transparent, and suddenly I realized what this product is best used for, making clear acrylic elements. From your own ghost letters to even your own acrylic album in whatever shape you desire, there are some real possibilities here.
Below is one last example of the size achieved after baking, which I achieved when attempting to make a mini acrylic album of my own. This is the result of one 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet, cut into quarters… and compared to a quarter:
This would be a ‘mini’ mini-album, but I can see the possibilities. I also took the extra step of laying a heavy book on these pieces before they cooled, and that really did solve any warping issues that I experienced with the heart pieces above. Little tricks and hints they suggest in the packaging really do work.
All in all, I found this Clear Shrink Film by Grafix a lot of fun to play with. And as stated above, if you can use your imagination as to what you can do with it, especially if you are a crafter who loves to add your own homemade accents to your work, I really don’t see how you can go wrong with adding some to your crafting stash. At about $5.00 MSRP for a package of 6 sheets, it’s a great deal too.
- A wonderful way to create your own, clear acrylic elements for a variety of projects.
- Easy to cut with scissors.
- Takes stamping (tested with Staz-On ink), drawing with marker, and paint well.
- Major fun factor! Would be fun for kids to help with too (under supervision of course).
- This clear version is limited in your ability to color it without some extra distressing work. Also I wasn’t terribly impressed with the painted version once done.
- Curling will occur, especially on bigger or more intricate pieces. You must take steps to ensure it lays flat immediately out of the oven.
- Requires use of an oven, and gets HOT. Caution should be used as with any product that might be a burn waiting to happen.
Have you used Shrink Plastic in many projects lately? This kind or any other? What tips or ideas might you like to share? We love to hear from you!