How to colour shrink art with Sharpie markers

Written by pam raymer-lea
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How to colour shrink art with Sharpie markers
Try using Sharpies instead of coloured pencils on shrink art. (marker pen image by sarit saliman from

Shrink art is the process of drawing or painting on a special kind of plastic which, when heated, shrinks and thickens, making it usable for crafts and jewellery making. The process was introduced as a craft kit for children in 1973 under the name of "Shrinky Dinks." Shrink art is now popular among adult crafters and you can use a variety of drawing tools, including Sharpie markers.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Shrink plastic
  • Sharpie markers
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch (optional)
  • Paper or foil
  • Toaster oven (preferred) or regular oven
  • Oven glove
  • Blow-dryer

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Choose the shrink plastic product you would like to use. Most arts and crafts stores carry shrink plastic products. They include black, white, clear, frosted and kinds which will go through a printer. Each of these comes in sanded and unsanded. You can also use #6 or #8 recyclable plastic. Look for the "6" or "8" in the recycle triangle on the plastic.

    How to colour shrink art with Sharpie markers
    Try using recyclable plastics instead of commercial shrink plastic. (Wrapped salmon steaks on a plastic tray image by L. Shat from
  2. 2

    Gather the sharpies you plan to use. Any colour will work, but you must use permanent markers. Most drawing mediums require that the shrink plastic be the sanded kind, but sharpies will work on unsanded plastic. Use the sharpie alone, or combine it with other mediums, such as coloured pencil. Try using one kind of colour, like coloured pencil, in the sanded area, then use a sharpie on the smooth side for a 3-D effect.

    How to colour shrink art with Sharpie markers
    Use any colour of permanent Sharpie. (marker image by AGphotographer from
  3. 3

    Draw your designs freehand or trace them from a drawing underneath the clear plastic. Keep in mind that your work will shrink by about two thirds and will be six to nine times thicker. Consult the package for exact shrinkage rates. Use scissors to trim your work and round the corners to obtain a finished look. Make any holes at this time. Remember that they will shrink, too.

    How to colour shrink art with Sharpie markers
    Draw your designs freehand or trace them. (It... Cat! Cartoon. image by Andrey Khritin from
  4. 4

    Bake your creation in an oven at 176 degrees C (350 degrees F) for two to three minutes. Watch as it curls up then flattens out again, then remove it from the oven.

    How to colour shrink art with Sharpie markers
    Take control with a toaster oven. (microwave image by andrey polichenko from
  5. 5

    Flatten or manipulate your shrink art as soon as it comes out of the oven -- you only have about ten seconds. Put a heavy, heat resistant dish on top of it or use tools to shape it. Try using a mould, such as a lipstick tube to shape a ring around. Make sure you have all of these at the ready.

    How to colour shrink art with Sharpie markers
    You have about ten seconds to make changes. (accessoire228 image by Jacques Ribieff from
  6. 6

    Correct shaping mistakes by reheating the work and trying again. A blow-dryer can also be used to spot heat the shrink art while you manipulate just that area. Reheat and rework the piece as many times as you need to.

    How to colour shrink art with Sharpie markers
    You can correct mistakes by reheating the shrink art with an oven or hair dryer. (hair-drier on white image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from

Tips and warnings

  • A toaster oven is best for this project, although a larger oven will work.
  • When cutting shrink plastic with scissors, do not close them all the way or you may snap a straight line in your work.
  • Turn on a ventilation fan before you bake shrink plastic.
  • Baking shrink plastic in an oven does not make it unsafe for food.
  • After you have baked your creation the colours used will be permanent, as well as deeper and smoother than the original.
  • While other media can be protected with clear sealants or embossing powder, sharpie is best left alone since these methods tend to smudge the image.
  • Be aware of copyright laws when tracing drawings or designs.
  • Take precautions to prevent burns when working with the oven and hot shrink art.

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