How To Make Shrink Plastic Jewelry on Your Computer

posted in: Craft Tutorials | 0
Happy Wednesday! (I refuse to say ‘hump day’).
Well, today I just finished and mailed out a custom order and thought I’d bring you along for the ride.  
I was contacted via Etsy for a custom wasp pin.  The woman, Sarah, had seen and admired my bee pins, but wanting something more aggressive.  
So step one, draw it up.  I utilize the information superhighway for pictures to reference.  Once I find one I like I bust out my trusty mechanical pencil and get to work.  
So here is what I started with:
pencil drawing
As you can see, it isn’t perfect.  It has eraser marks, incomplete lines, etc.  Doesn’t matter because we are going to clean this waspy up and get him looking pretty.
Step Two, I scan my drawing and open it in my favorite editing tool.  Personally, I use Photoshop because that’s what I have, but there are many many programs out there.  Many of them FREE!

scanned drawing
Once my drawing is scanned in then I begin step three- editing.  How you go about this is totally up to you.  Generally, I try to crisp up the pencil lines using the ‘Curves’ tool, erase my background using the ‘Select Range’ tool, add in a crisp, clean, new white background then set about coloring it in.  Make sure to take time to clean up lines and erase odd marks and all that.  
*I’m not going into great detail as every program is different and everyone has their own way that might work better for them.  Want more detail? I suggest checking out YouTube.  That’s where I find the best tutorials- especially as I’m a visual learner. 
Drawing once pencil lines are sharpened up

I also like to work in layers keeping my white background, my pencil drawing, and my fill in colors all separate.  This way if I want to change something, mess something up, etc, I don’t harm my original pencil marks.  Thanks to my hubby I have a drawing tablet/pen which makes this all pretty quick once you get the hang of it.  This is what my little guy looked like once he was colored: 

Wasp with color
SOMETHING TO NOTE when making images for shrink plastic:  Your colors WILL change.  Because the area is shrinking, colors will generally darken.  There are artists out there who like to change the opacity of their items prior to shrinking to allow for this.  I prefer to leave the opacity alone and instead choose colors a few shades lighter than what I want.  For instance, you will notice that the yellow I chose was fairly pale, but this will darken into a nice bold yellow once it’s shrunk. I also like to give some a colored background.  I generally leave a space between my cut and the actual image line so a color next to the white wings will lend a nice pop.  
Once that part is complete you can go ahead and print out your design on your inkjet shrink plastic.  Make sure that you are using plastic designed for use with an inkjet printer! It has a special coating that will allow the ink to adhere.  
There are many different brands out there and personally, I feel that they all work pretty much the same.  I have been purchasing the Grafix brand through Amazon, of late, simply because I can buy it in a 50 sheet set at a really reasonable “bulk” cost. 
My wasp along with some other designs I am printing. 

Once your image is printed it is as simple as cutting out the design and baking it according to your shrink plastic brand’s instructions.  Once I pull it out of the oven I use a big ol’ art history book to lay on top of my shrinks while they are still hot making sure they are nice and flat.
After cooling, you can use a little superglue and adhere your pin back.  If it’s a necklace your making, make sure to use a standard sized hole punch to make a hole for your jump ring.

*I also like to coat mine with a matte finish acrylic sealer just for extra durability.  I haven’t tested it, but I’ve read other non-coaters having issues with color fade and such.  Better to be safe than sorry I say!


Here’s my guy all finished and ready to ship across the seas to Australia.  
See how the yellow became bolder.  You may want to do some test runs or make a shrink plastic color swatch for future reference.  Yellow can quickly change to mustard and look real bad. 

custom pin brooch, wasp pin, shrink plastic jewelry, shrinky dinks, holey socks art

Are you still a kid at heart making shrinky dinks?

I would love to see some of the items you’ve made.  Feel free to post them in comments or if you’re not that savvy, email them to me at and I will share them for you!