Fun with Shrink Plastic and the Mirror Image Trick

Shrink plastic, or “Shrinky Dinks” is one of those indelible memories of childhood, like Play-Doh or Crayola Crayons. Here is a chance to relive your youth and have fun with your rubber stamps at the same time!  Rubber stamping works very well with shrink plastic, and once you get the knack of it you can create all kinds of embellishments for your art projects. For this one, we’ll be making a pair of earrings, and learning a nifty trick for making mirror images that you can use in lots of different stamping projects.

Here is a look at the materials we will be using…

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Most of the supplies you’ll need are common tools in rubber stamping. The special items are the shrink plastic and clear linoleum, but they can be easily found online:

Start by cutting out two pieces of shrink plastic, in about the size of the stamp you want to use. For my project, I’m using Morel Mushroom by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps, because I know my friend likes this stamp and I want to make her a gift. For a first project with shrink plastic, I like using the clear frosted kind but it comes in other colors too. You can get great results with black or white, for instance.

Start by taking the fine grit sand paper and gently rough up one side of the shrink plastic. This is the side you will stamp on.

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

If you were making a necklace pendant, you might need only one image. However I want to make earrings, so I will want to make two images. Also, I want them to be mirror images of each other.  This is where your clear linoleum comes in. You will be stamping the clear linoleum, and using this to transfer the mirror image to one piece of shrink plastic.

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

When you use this mirror image transfer trick, the stamped image that you transfer will end up being a bit lighter than if you stamped it directly on the surface of the plastic. So in order to get the images to come out about the same you will want to follow this sequence:

  1. Stamp the image on the linoleum;
  2. Without cleaning or re-inking your stamp, stamp it again directly on one piece of shrink plastic;
  3. Put the other piece of clear plastic, sanded side down on the linoleum, and rub the back of the sheet to transfer the image to it.

So here are steps (1) and (2). Both images are the same:

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Now place the other sheet of shrink plastic, rough side down, on the clear linoleum. Hold it in place with one hand, and with the other, rub the back surface to make sure the ink transfers well to the shrink plastic. By using the clear-colored plastic, you can see when it transfers!

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Then carefully lift the shrink plastic with the transferred image off the linoleum.  Now you have mirror image stamped images! If you are using a Colorbox pigment pad, you can now wash off your linoleum with water, and it will be clean.  If you’ve used another kind of ink you can try a little rubbing alcohol to remove it.  It may leave a bit of a trace (you can see mine has a bit of a blue stain from a previous project), but you can use your linoleum again without worry of the ink getting on your new project.

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Now, using a sharp pair of scissors, you’ll want to cut out your image on the shrink plastic, leaving a bit of a margin but keeping it close to the image. Leave a bit of extra room at the top so you can punch a hole. Use a 1/8 inch hole punch for best results.

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

After you cut out the images and punch holes at the top, you are ready to start shrinking. Put your cut out image on a heat resistant surface (I like to use a paving stone). Turn on your heat tool and aim it at the shrink plastic.  Move it around, rather than holding it in one place so the piece heats as evenly as possible.  It will start to buckle and curl. You can use the point of your scissors to hold it in place until it shrinks to keep it from rolling around.

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

When your shrink plastic is reduced in size, and still warm, flip it over ink-side down, and flatten it with your acrylic block.  It wont stick to either the stone or the acrylic.  Do the same with the other shrink plastic image.

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

Now we have two tiny versions of our stamp image that are mirror-image versions of each other!

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

If you like, you can coat your shrunken plastic images with clear embossing ink and ultra thick embossing powder. I find this helps keep the pigment from smearing. Use your heat tool, and apply several layers to give the pieces a glossy finish. You may need to take a pin and carefully push out any embossing powder that has melted into the hole at the top. In a minute or so when the embossing powder has cooled and hardened they are ready to be made into earrings.

The easiest way to make them into earrings is to attach a pair of earring wires directly to the top of the shrink plastic pieces. I ended up making them a little fancier, and added a jump ring, along with three wire-wrapped beads.  Here is the finished project – I gave them to my friend and she’s modeling them here!

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps

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