Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shrink Plastic (Shrink Film - Shrinky Dinks) and Ink Jet Printers

O.k....not sure what happened to the original post ~ blogger must be getting into the shrink plastic mode because it randomly shrunk various portions of my's all readable now ;) Sorry about that!

In the last post I spoke about using a variety of color mediums on sanded and unsanded shrink film ~ now I'd like to discuss running the shrink plastic through your ink jet printer.

(NOTE ~ do not EVER run shrink film through a laser printer...the heat will melt the film and possibly ruin your printer!!!!)

The mfg. of shrink plastic offer regular old shrink film at a reasonable price but many also offer an ink jet variety which can be quite a bit more costly. They say it has some sort of coating on it which makes it possible for the ink to stick to the shrink film. This may be true but I don't buy it ~ literally - LOL!! You can run regular old shrink film through the printer with a bit of sanding before hand! It works very well and it's far less expensive than the special "ink jet" shrink film.

Sanding the Shrinky Dink Material....

I know it might not seem like it but the type of sand paper you use makes quite a bit of difference. I like to use the finest sand paper I can get. My favorite is 400 - Wet/Dry Automotive or Finish paper (the black stuff). This sandpaper roughs the surface up enough to give the ink a tooth to grab hold of but minimizes the feathering (spreading out in the little lines) and offers up a nicer finished product (IMO). In a pinch I will use 220 (brown) or 150 grits if I run out of the other. (Yes, I'm a sand paper aficionado - LOL!!! I have lots of each type cause you never know what a project will call for!)

You can actually see a real difference between the 400 and 220 in this photo.

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No matter what sandpaper you use you'll want to sand in a cross hatch pattern...sand one layer horizontal then tilt the shrink film and sand again on a diagonal.

After you have sanded the shrink film, you MUST wipe away all of the dust particles from the film. You'll gum up your printer heads otherwise and we sooooo don't want that!

Ink Jet Printed Images on Shrink Film....

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O.k. now that you've sanded and cleaned the shrink plastic, it's time to run it through the printer. Remember you need to print on the sanded side of the shrink film ~ trust me, I've run them through on the wrong side and kicked myself for wasting the darn ink more than once ;) Always double check to be sure!

Now, this photo shows three images printed on 3 different surfaces of the same sheet. (you can click on the photo to get to a larger image to see more closely what I'm talking about below...)

Wonder Woman is printed mainly on the 220 grit sanded are ~ you'll notice the right section has been printed on plain unsanded shrink film. Notice the feathering in the lower left hand corner by the USA 39. That is why I like to use the 400 grit as my first choice.

The monarch butterfly is printed again on an unsanded area of the shrink film. Notice how the colored portion of both the butterfly and WW bead up and give a grainy appearance. This will transfer to the finished example. It doesn't shrink down that far to give a smooth appearance.

Finally the pointing finger is printed entirely on the 400 sanded area. Notice how there is virtually no feathering at all and you have sharp crisp and clear lines. THIS is why I LOVE to use the 400 wet/dry sandpaper. It yields a remarkable image every time!

It's time to shrink!!! Cut the images out and punch a hole in each piece if they are going to be used as a charm. I use a normal office hole punch ~ once shrunk it leaves a nice hole small enough not to be ugly but large enough to get a jump ring through.

The following are just some fun pics of before and during the shrinking....
Trim your images and place on parchment paper on your baking sheet.... (not sure why they recommend putting in on parchment paper and not directly on the pan but I always do it.)

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Pre-Heat your oven to anywhere between 250 - 400F degrees (121 - 204C) I like to go somewhere in the middle ~ usually 325F (162C).

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Now watch em wiggle...

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You know they are done when they are completely flat again... If by chance your shrink film in it's contortions sticks to it's self use a bamboo skewer or something to pull them apart and let them finish shrinking. Be careful if you use your fingers...they are WAY hot and WILL burn you!! I know from blistering experience on this ;)

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And the results....

The butterfly printed on un sanded shrink material....

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Pointing Finger on 400 Grit sanded portion....

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Wonder Woman printed partially on 220 sanded area (L) and partly on unsanded shrink film (R)....

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and a couple more examples (both printed on 4oo sanded shrink film)....


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and After....

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This is looking at the charm from the opposite side that it was printed on.

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After the image has cooled spray it with a layer or two of some sort of sealer...Spray on or brush on work great. This just protects the ink from being scratched up with use. I normally use a spray sealer like Krylon's Crystal Clear.

Now, something else I did want to mention about printing images is the glossy or back side of the image always looks better than the side that it was printed on. It's a good idea to print a mirror image on the shrink film if you are incorporating words or text on the shrink film. This way you will be able to read it from the back side...which of course I forgot to do on the WW & Campbell's soup examples. Remember to do as I say, not as I do (sometimes) - LOL!!! It's easy to forget about this obviously but you'll end up with a much nicer finished project if you do.

So there you go...more fun info on shrinky dinks, shrink film, shrink plastic....or whatever you want to call it ;)  It's all fun stuff!! Tomorrow I'll be sharing some finished projects using various shrink film pieces :)

Hope you tune in then!


  1. Roni, you are the best! Thank you for doing these experiments - I think I'm off to do some sanding and printing :D

  2. LOL, those are SO COOL! I love your pictures when they are all curled up, I am again and again getting a kick out of it when it does that. First time I totally freaked LOL.... can't wait to see your projects with the little charms.

  3. lol another hero...YOU! I love this stuff! You are such a great teacher not ever stop sharing with us...u are a doll! I love how u caution us and let us in on your tidbits...really makes me think! TY Cher

  4. thanks So much for this tutorial! I thought you had to buy the special ink jet shrink film to use in the I know better! You answered all my questions! I have a bunch of shrink film from when my kids were little and love this idea!

  5. Mediterranean Advanced Technical Indu. offers PVDC Rigid Film, PVC Shrink Film from Jordan .

  6. Oh my gosh. You are GOD! I love you for this <3<3 Thank you so much. No more wasting money on expensive "inkjet" shrink plastic.

    *give you an award if I can*

  7. Not sure if I missed something or not if I did I'm sorry. When using the Shrink Plastic in Ink Jet Printers what paper thickness do you use? Do you keep it at normal, or card stock or photograph or what? Also is there a preferred dpi for printing on the shrink plastic? Thanks a bunch.

  8. Hi i have a question i send you an e-mail , i waiting you answer .

    I printed them on the plastic but I sanded the ink runs

  9. Shrink arts and crafts for children, many adults find the craftsmen of the product is suitable for jewelry and other projects.
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  10. I'm impressed, I tried sanding and printing and it did not work well. I was using shrink purchased from RioGrande... will try again, maybe my sanding was too coarse. Would be so much easier to print some things...
    do you print a photo quality level of ink?

  11. nice blog.Established in 2009 Star Flexi Film has today gained the credentials of being leading world class manufacturers, importers and suppliers of an extensive range of Polyester Film, Metallic Polyester Film, adhesive’s, laminated pouch, BOPP films, CPP films, opaque films, PVC films, also we import lldp resins,pp,hm,hdpe,pvc, bopp granules and resins and stockiest and traders of similar products.B grade stock lot of plastic films.

  12. This blog is good.Established in 2009 Star Flexi Film has today gained the credentials of being leading world class manufacturers, importers and suppliers of an extensive range of Polyester Film, Metallic Polyester Film, adhesive’s, laminated pouch, BOPP films, CPP films, opaque films, PVC films, also we import lldp resins,pp,hm,hdpe,pvc, bopp granules and resins and stockiest and traders of similar products. BOPP Polyster Films.

  13. hello,

    Thank you for the tutorial, can you please tell me where did you find the hand illustration? Thanks

  14. Shared a valuable information i will defiantly going to apply that technique in plastic cards printing process...

  15. Hi,
    Thank you very much, this tutorial provides me great help.
    I still have a question... do I need to let dry after printing? The ink stays wet for hours... even after shrinking!
    Thanks in advance!

  16. Great tutorial, saved me a lot of experimenting. What setting do you suggest on the printer? I have a setting for transparencies and thought this might work quite well?

  17. Its amazing work..!!! thanks for sharing..!!! Plastic card

  18. Just the info I was looking for. Thanks!

  19. Only one on the internet that was clear and tested! Thankyou so much for saving me time and money! Wonderful :)

  20. Thanks so much for the reminder to reverse lettering! My whole project would have been blown without that double-take.

    Also, too, for the explanation on sanding. I thought I had it down, but my redo is so much better now.

    Thanks, again!

  21. I sanded regular shrink dink plastic with the 400 grit and the images printed out horribly! I had deep scratch lines. maybe I was being too forceful? my images also shrank down to dark blobs... did I need to adjust my printer settings? I need help :(

    1. Hi Jenny - It sounds like you may have sanded it a bit too vigorously which resulted in the deep scratch lines. You only need to very lightly sand the shrink plastic in order to give the ink something to grab hold of.

      As far as shrinking down to dark blobs - that has more to do with image quality and details rather than print settings. The images you choose shouldn't have too many details and/or be too dark. Highly detailed images or images with lots of color will intensify the dark look of an image because you are basically taking lots of darker colors and details then concentrating it all into a really small area once it's been shrunk. If possible you might want to lighten an image prior to printing to help with the color issue and use images that have more open space with fewer details. A good example of this can be seen in the pointing finger piece above - there are lots of details in the hand, particularly in the palm area - once this image is shrunk down you can see how many detailed areas look like they are solid black. This was because there were so many detail lines in a small area in the original image.

      I hate to say it but shrink film really comes down to trial and error. Some images work great while others don't shrink down so well at all.


Thanks for your thoughts and comments!