How to Use Shrink Plastic

Written by sue stepp
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How to Use Shrink Plastic
Create beautiful shrink plastic jewellery and crafts using simple tools. (Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

People make crafts using shrink plastic. The plastic starts out as an opaque or transparent sheet. The sheet is easily cut with scissors or hole punchers. People cut the clear, white or coloured sheet into shapes, and decorate the shapes. After decorating, the plastic is heated until it shrinks to a third of the original size. Shrink plastic makes Christmas ornaments, key chains, jewellery and many other craft items. There is even a special type of shrink plastic that works in an ink jet printer. The directions for using shrink plastic are simple, and work the same way for any project.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Shrink plastic for ink jet printer
  • Heat gun or oven
  • Gel pens or permanent markers (desired colour choice)
  • Scissors
  • Hole puncher
  • Shish kebab skewer
  • Key holding ring
  • Ink jet printer
  • Computer

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Instructions

    Making a Key Chain

  1. 1

    Draw a design for your key chain on a piece of paper using a pencil. If you want the design on the key chain 1 inch long, draw it 3 inches long. Triple the length because it shrinks to a third of the original size after heating. Place the design under the shrink wrap plastic, and trace the design onto the plastic with a permanent marker. Colour the design with gel pens or permanent markers.

  2. 2

    Cut out the design, and punch a hole in the top of the plastic 1/4 inch from the edge. This hole is where the ring fits on the key ring.

  3. 3

    Place the cutout design on a flat, heat-proof surface. Hold the design in place using a shish kebab skewer as you heat the design with the heat gun. It curls and bends as it shrinks. If you don't have a heat gun, preheat the oven to 162 degrees C. Put the design on a baking tray and bake until it flattens. Let cool for 10 minutes before moving the design. It hardens as it cools.

  4. 4

    Put the key ring though the hole. Once the ring is on, the key chain is ready for use.

    With an Inkjet Printer

  1. 1

    Open a drawing program on the computer. Programs like Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint or Gimp work well for this. Draw a design using the drawing tools and the mouse, or open an existing picture. Open a picture by clicking on "File," "Open," "From File." Click on your image and click "Open."

  2. 2

    Insert a piece of shrink plastic in the ink jet printer with the rough side facing up. The rough side has texture that holds the colour.

  3. 3

    Click on "File," and "Print." When the print folder comes up, click on "Properties." Find the "Fast Speed" or "Draft" printing feature. Click on it, and print. The image on the computer screen prints on the shrink plastic.

  4. 4

    Cut out the design, and place the design on a flat, heat-proof surface. Hold the design in place using a shish kebab skewer as you heat the design with the heat gun. It curls and bends as it shrinks. If you don't have a heat gun, preheat the oven to 162 degrees C. Put the design on a baking tray and bake until it flattens. Let cool for 10 minutes before moving the design. It hardens as it cools.

Tips and warnings

  • Cut any holes needed in the plastic before baking. Once it is cooked, it takes a drill or rotary tool for cutting.
  • Heated shrink plastic gets really hot. Children using shrink plastic need an adult present during the heating process.
  • Do not use shrink plastic in a toner printer. Toner-style printers use heat during printing. Shrink plastic will shrink during printing, causing severe damage to this type of printer.

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