An old favorite gets revisited: Shrinky Dinks!
Q:What is this stuff? A: Thin plastic sheets that shrink down 45% when you put them in the oven. Not only does the material shrink, but whatever artwork you draw/print on them will also shrink with it.
Q: Why is this awesome? A: Because you can get impossibly tiny detailed artwork from what was once simply just artwork.
We took home a few different packs of PolyShrink and made our family ‘craft night’ into an all out craft party. Shrinky Dinks have been around since the 1970′s and i remember making these when i was young kid. Now I’m all grown up, but seeing my doodles and drawings wither, writhe and shrink in the oven is still magic. The mess factor is low, the fun factor is high and anyone who can hold a pencil can make these.
We brought home two types of PolyShrink sheets; the kind you can draw on with pen or colored pencil, and the kind that can be printed on with an inkjet printer.
The classic PolyShrink sheets come out of the package glossy and smooth. You’ll need to do some quick sanding with a fine grit to get them primed for drawing. We used the foam-filled sanding blocks that the manufacturer recommends, and they worked incredibly. It took us no longer than 2 minutes to get each sheet ready for artwork. We followed the directions detailed in the PolyShrink packaging by sanding in a ‘cross-hatch’ pattern (side to side & up to down). The whole sheet looks slightly frosted when its ready. You only need to sand the side of the sheet you will be drawing on.
Now that your sheet is ready for action, start drawing! The cool thing about the clear & translucent sheets is that you can lay them over a photo and use the sheet like tracing paper. We used this technique a lot to help us draw better looking pictures (after a few glasses of wine, we needed some artistic assistance).
We got a brand new pack of colored sharpies(nothing beats a new sharpie pen!), and a set of colored pencils to use. The colored pencil looks so good after it shrinks! In retrospect i think i would have liked to use some ultra-fine-tipped markers in some parts of the artwork. They may have come looking realllllllly detailed if i had done that. But this venture was all about having fun with family and friends, not so much making shrinky-dink masterpieces.
After you have finished drawing and coloring, cut the shape out with some scissors. The black shrink sheet was intimidating. You can’t really draw on it with the sharpies, but you CAN draw on it with the colored pencils!
In the midst of all the drawing we were also using the ink-jet-printable sheets. The family dog, “Twinkie” (a 10 year old rescue Chihuahua with a serious diva attitude) was a favorite subject for a lot of our shrinky dinks.
We used the hole punch on some of these, so that we could later make earrings, key-chains, and necklaces out of our miniature artwork pieces. A regular size hole punch works great. After printing onto the sheets, we also drew onto the images with pens, which worked really well. Remember to set the printer to use the lowest amount of ink possible. it may look really pale straight out of the printer, but when it shrinks the colors move closer together and the the entire image will have a darker appearance. I made the mistake of accidentally printing onto the regular type sheet and my designs just wiped right off after baking. After re-printing onto the ink-jet-compatible sheet, the designs were set permanently after baking. So avoid that mistake if you can.
We used a convection oven for baking these, and i think that the air moving inside the oven caused them to roll around a lot during the shrinking process. I think maybe a toaster oven would work most ideally? Regardless, after a couple of modifications to temperature and baking times, we got the formula down for getting perfect shrinky dinks out of our oven. Around 2 minutes at 300° F. We used a silicone baking mat and a meat press to get our freshly shrunken shrinky dinks perfectly flat. The directions say you can also use a non-stick cookie sheet and a spatula.
Watching these bake in the oven is like watching fireworks. The sheets with writhe around and curl up, twisting around in all kinds of crazy ways until for the first minute, then they calm down and begin the straighten back out once they have done most of their shrinking. They came out of the oven just a bit convex, but before they cool a quick stamp with the meat press put them back down flat forever.
In all, the shrinky dink experience was surprisingly fulfilling and fun. We stayed up until about 1 AM and completely lost track of time. I’m trying to think of ways to incorporate these things into a bigger project, but maybe these may just end up being more about an experience than the final outcome. If any of you out there reading this have used shinky dinks, we would love to see pictures or hear stories from your experiences. I hope this entry has been informative and helpful!