18 Oct 2011

Shrink Plastic Brooches: How-To

I've been making shrink plastic earrings for several months now, they've been really popular at the stall You can read here about my first adventures in shrink plastic, but since then I think I've moved in a bit. I've been meaning to expand my range for a while now, and when I discovered this white shrink plastic it meant that I could make brooches and necklaces. Because of the nature of the clear one you can't pin a brooch on the back, and I found that necklaces the design rubbed off a bit. Whereas with the white plastic the image is on the front, it is not reversed, and the back remains plain.

Here is a quick guide to how I make my brooches:
1. As you can see here I use the whole A6 sheet for my brooch image, where as with the earrings I cut it in half horizontally. I use a black sharpie market for my outline, but with the white plastic a pencil works well too, but the maker makes it pop a bit more. I'm comfortable drawing my designs out freehand with a marker, but you could pencil draw it first, then use marker, and after it has dried use an eraser to take away your pencil drawing.
Because I'm making these to sell them I build up a catalogue of my drawings, which I can then use as a template, this make production a little faster, and if I'm having a creative block it's handy just to refer to my templates. Because the white plastic is not transparent I used John's light box to help me see my template drawing underneath.
 2. After you have finished your drawing then use some colouring pencils to colour in your image. I noticed with the white plastic that you must colour in quite lightly as the image can get blurry/fuzzy if you colour too heavily at this point. Don't worry if they look a little pale at this point, I promise they will be bright when you're done.

 3. Cut around your image leaving a 3mm boarder, you don't have to be too fiddly at this point, just get the basic shape. Any regular scissors will do the job just fine. If you are making them as a pendant or earring use a paper punch at this point as you won't be able to cut a hole after you shrink it down.

4. I didn't take any pictures of the shrinking process. There are two ways of doing it either in the oven, or with a embossing heat gun, which is what I use. Below is a quick video tutorial on how to use the heat gun. Two things to note: I have no idea what this ladies fingers are made of but DO NOT hold your plastic while using the gun,it's incredibly hot. Secondly sometimes the plastic folds and sticks to itself, give it a few seconds to see if it will flatten by itself. If it doesn't you'll have to pick it up and quickly but carefully pry it apart, you will burn your fingers, but hey you gotta suffer for your art sometimes.

5. See how much the pieces have shrunk down? They get seven times smaller and seven times thicker, it's magic. You'll also notice how much brighter they are too. Use a good silicone glue to attach your brooch backs and leave to dry. If you are making a necklace or earrings attach a jump ring and earwire/necklace.

6. Brooches and necklaces are open to the elements a lot, so to protect them from the never ending Limerick rain I used a coat of varnish that I got it the hardware. You'll know at this point if you over coloured your image in the initial stages as it will blur when you put on your varnish. I tried using clear nail varnish but it disrupted the image, so this water based varnish worked way better. Leave them to dry over night.

I will be adding my brooches to my etsy shop over the next week or so, in the meantime I have them for sale at my stall for €7 each (bragaintastic I think, now that you can see how much work goes into them!). I can also take commissions if you want a particular image drawn. To see a full gallery of images go to my facebook album here.


  1. Those are so pretty -- I love the vivid colors!

  2. haha! I have to agree with you Ruth...definitely use a pair of tweezers when you use the heat gun!! I just killed my sinuses actually, heating up ink on some canvas...I really should know better by now. Dangerous life we lead :D LOVE the brooches!!!

  3. Thanks Michelle!!

    Ruby-be careful lady! I used to put my arm in an acid bath in college to retrieve my etching plates if they fell in....ridiculous!!!

  4. Would you be able to use a hair dryer to shrink the plastic ?


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