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How to colour shrink art with Sharpie markers

Updated July 20, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tip

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.

Warning

Be aware of copyright laws when tracing drawings or designs. Take precautions to prevent burns when working with the oven and hot shrink art.

Things You'll Need

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

Pam Raymer-Lea is based in Los Angeles. She holds a M.F.A. in film and television, a master's degree in education and a B.S. in fine art. Raymer-Lea has taught a variety of subjects including filmmaking, writing, art, art history and science. She is a jewelry maker and is skilled in a variety of crafts ranging from glass blowing to home improvement.