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Grafix Shrink Film Clear

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:

(The “Crash Test Piece” is just a scrap that I wanted to test my handwriting on… it writes on just fine).

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.

Pros:

  • 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).

Cons:

  • 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!

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Rubber Stamped Jewelry

Reported by Sara McKenzie

I purchased Rubber Stamped Jewelry a few years ago at a local craft store which has since, unfortunately closed. The good news is that it is still available through Barnes & Noble, or Amazon, at a range of $15-22.

If you are not familiar with the author, Sharilyn Miller, she was editor-in-chief of “Somerset Studio” magazine for a number of years, and she created and launched both “Belle Armoire” and “Art Doll Quarterly” magazines. She has since ventured off to write and teach jewelry crafting. You can check out her work and other details here.

In her art, Sharilyn explored many mixed-media art forms, including collage, painting, bookmaking, fiber arts and jewelry. This particular book explores jewelry making with various materials, all incorporating the use of rubber stamps to create unique images and designs. The first 53 pages describe materials and methods in excellent detail, including clear, full-color photos and close-ups. It covers basic jewelry-making instructions, including how to use wire tools correctly, description of types of wire, and even how to make your own jump rings. (Which, by the way, is VERY simple, and comes in handy when you are trying to hang embellishments on your art work!). The instruction section goes onto describe various methods of working with polymer clay; making fiber art embellishments; and decorating shrink plastic to incorporate into jewelry.

The remaining 70-or so pages are devoted to specific projects. Sharilyn called upon many talented rubber stamp artists to contribute to the Project Gallery. this was a great approach, as it resulted in a number of different styles and looks for the finished jewelry projects.

This is a terrific reference book to have on your shelves. Sharilyn has covered a variety of basic approaches that you can explore, insufficient detail that you can feel comfortable to embark on something that you’ve never tried before. The step-by-step photos are clear and close-up enough to understand the well-written instructions. The added bonus is the inclusion of 20 jewelry projects. You can copy these or use them as a starting point for your own creations. A few are shown below.

Copper sheet jewelry
by Doris Arndt

Soldered glass
by Suzie Heinzel

Polymer clay
by Debbie Shipley

Shrink Plastic
by Sherrill Kahn

(another of my favorite
rubber stamp artists!)

I tried my hand at making a necklace from shrink plastic, but went in a different direction than Sherrill Kahn, in that I used black shrink plastic, and added brilliant colors with Lumiere acrylic paints after shrinking.


I cut random, free-form shapes of black shrink plastic to create the elements that would dangle from a leather cord. A 1/4″ hole was punched at the top of each piece before shrinking with my heat gun. Immediately upon shrinking each piece, while it was still quite hot and soft, I impressed it (using VERY firm pressure) with a rubber stamp to create a textured image. Various colors of Lumiere paint were applied to highlight the design and I edged each piece with my Krylon gold leafing pen (one of my all time favorite tools!). A jump ring was added to the top of each piece, and I used a black leather cord for stringing, alternating the shrink plastic pieces with colored glass beads. I finished the ends with an S-hook type clasp.

Pretty simple, and pretty stunning. Use this book like I did to explore a new technique, and create some wearable art! And if you have already ventured into the world of Rubber Stamped Jewelry, share what you did and didn’t like about the book!

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Toast the New Year with Shrink Plastic Wine Glass Charms

Reported by Heather Strenzwilk

In recent years, wine glass charms have become the “in” party accessory to mark your territory. They are widely available pre-made in a wide variety of themes and prices. But they can be easily handmade with jewelry findings and shrink plastic. What a way to add a personal touch! Imagine creating custom charms for New Year’s 2008 and sending your guests home with their own set of charms.

Shrink plastic (aka shrink) has come a long way since the Shrinky Dinks for kids in the 1970’s. After heating the plastic in the oven or with a heat gun, the resulting piece shrinks to about 40% of its original size and becomes 3 times thicker, it is durable and lightweight and is ideal for jewelry, among other things. Shrinky Dinks offer Frosted Ruff N’ Ready, Clear, Bright White, Black & Brown and Almond varieties. Geared toward children, they also offer several themed pre-printed sheets for coloring and cutting. The Ruff N’ Ready style is pre-textured which makes it ideal for coloring with colored pencils.

Joining the next generation of shrink plastic is Lucky Squirrel. Die hard crafters swear by Lucky Squirrel products which include: Clear, Translucent, Canvas White and Black and tools such as sanding blocks. All of these styles and smooth and sanding might be required. This plastic works well with ink, acrylic paint, colored pencil, chalk and permanent markers. Resulting pieces shrink evenly and have little distortion.

I became hooked on Shrinky Dinks when I was a kid and rediscovered shrink plastic again as an adult. Learning to sand shrink plastic has taken some practice because it takes just the right amount of pressure. I struggled with regular sandpaper until I ordered a Sanding Block from Lucky Squirrel. Not only is it easier to hold, but it has the right grit for the job. They come in a pack of 2 and I use one for black shrink only and the other block for everything else. Essentially you sand in one direction, turn the sheet 90 degrees and sand the other direction, resulting in a cross hair pattern. The idea is to remove the shine by giving the pre-shrunken plastic some tooth. I always sand very lightly because I can always sand more but you can’t undo it and too much sanding may result in stamped images becoming feathered.


Speaking of stamping on shrink plastic, you’ll want to use a permanent, crafter’s or heat-set ink. I have used Memories, Brilliance and ColorBox Crafter’s Ink. Memories Ink stamps a clean crisp image the black especially is good for solid image stamps. I also gave high marks to Brilliance Ink which I used on the Chinese coins sample. Brilliance ink isn’t heat set until the piece is shrunken so mistakes can be corrected. I have had mixed results with Crafter’s Ink because it is a thinner ink and I have had issues with it feathering.

Punches or a die cut machine and paper cutters are a great way to ensure a smooth cut. Due to the rigid nature of the finished product, it is imperative to punch holes and round corners prior to heating. To keep my shrink plastic from blowing away with the heat gun I held it in place with a toothpick through the hole. I use a standard size hole punch most of the time because the resulting hole is adequate for jump rings or other embellishments. Sometimes the hole punch can distress the plastic so for the smoothest holes I use a Japanese Book Drill.


For fast coloring on shrink (even unsanded shrink), nothing can beat Sharpie Markers. In recent years, they have marketed a vast variety of colors. Colored pencils are another fast and clean way to add color prior to heating. I am particularly fond of Lyra Metallic pencils and used them to color the peacock sample.


My favorite way to add color to shrink is to use decorator chalks. I have tried Stampin’ Up chalks and decorator chalks with equal success. No matter what media is used, any color will intensify upon shrinking, so you’ll need to experiment with the application of color. I usually start by dabbing on the lightest color of chalk with a cotton swab, and adding dabs of darker colors. Sometimes I blend with a clean swab and other times I blend with my finger because the oils in your skin help bind the chalk. Applying chalk to both sides of translucent shrink makes the resulting piece look more like glass as I did for my faux sea glass sample. When I use chalk, I usually seal the finished piece with Diamond Glaze by Judikins or a spray sealer.

To create these wine charms, I used hoop earring blanks which I found at a bead store. I found this as a tip online and it was much easier than working with wire because the hoops maintain their shape. I used jump rings to attach the charms on the hoop and smaller beads as spacers. Once I had the shrink charms finished, it took just a few minutes to string everything on the hoop. The hoops and jump rings had minimal cost and I was able to use beads and shrink from my craft stash so this was an economical project. I can easily customize my charms for the theme of the party or for individual guests like spelling out a word in alphabet beads like for the champagne sample.

For these samples, I used 4 styles of shrink: Lucky Squirrel Black, Clear and Translucent and Shrink Dink Almond. I experimented and made several versions of each charm. When shrunken the Lucky Squirrel plastic distorted less and maintained its shape more consistently than the other brand. Like paper, shrink plastic has a “grain” and it is important to cut pieces for the same project in the same direction. I used my oven for the coin and sea glass and a heat gun for the champagne and peacock and the oven shrunk the pieces more evenly.

In summary, I had fun playing with shrink plastic (again) and these small charms would be a great way to use leftover pieces. Wineglass charms were a new medium for me and I liked the lightweight durability of the shrink plastic. They will definitely stand up to being handled by guests or (children who wants their alphabet beads back). Details of my projects can be found in my blog. I think I prefer working with larger shrink plastic projects and I am eager to experiment more with this fun medium.

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