Part 4 of the Shrinky Dink Test lab: Successful sealing.. maybe

[9 Jul 2008 | By | 41 Comment(s) | 54,434 views ]

How to seal shrinky dinks

Go ahead and read below to hear about the experiments (and the comments, some great info there too!), but here is a summary of some of the lessons learned with the various techniques.  What you choose depends on your desired results, and also what you have decorated your shrinkies with:

  • Spray Acrylic – As we learned in our previous experiments, this can cause permanant markers to lighten and/or run together.  So use cautiously, or include these ‘bugs’ as features in your design!
  • Embossing powder – although several people swear by this, our tester did not have much success.  If you use it anyway for other crafts, and have it on hand, give it a try.
  • Polyurethane – my trials with this are documented below.  It is a good option for some projects, but be conscious of the possibility of cracking issues for small items like jewelry that have holes in them.
  • Diamond Glaze (or Triple Thick Glaze or Crystal Effects) – Diamond Glaze has consistently good results from testers, and is recommended.  Cons are that it may be hard to find, but I’ve included Amazon Links at the bottom of this post (support Dabbled!).
  • Mod Podge: Recommended by a couple of readers, but this was not tested as part of the lab.
  • Nail Polish: Apparently works really well, but note that it can yellow over time.
  • Spray Poly:  Able to apply a thinner coat than by dipping or brushing, so this might work really well without having some of the downsides of the paint on kind.
Do you have a sealing story to share? Leave it in the comments!

See all 5 installments in this 4 part series! If you’re starting with this one, go read the first several to get to this point.

Also: an Instructable on the original doodle earrings, including some of the lessons learned.

So, I thought I had it all figured out. After some web research, and checking what supplies were in my basement, I figured I’d seal the shrinkies with a jar of Polyurethane.. There are other methods (embossing powder, nail polish, and other stuff–ValGalArt mentioned in the comments that Shrinky Dinks makes something to seal them with) but this seemed like a good bet.

Recycled Shrinky Dink sealing experiments, first try
I took two charms (colored front & back), and dipped one (the red one) and painted the coating on the other (green). I then hung the green one to dry thoroughly (the poly needs to cure overnight. This actually worked well, no smearing, colors stayed true. However when I started to take pictures, I noticed that both of them had a tiny hairline crack in the plastic itself, by the hole. I’m not sure if the poly stressed the plastic or what. It seems to be structurally sound (i don’t think it’s going to break at the crack or anything), but still not perfect. So read on..

Recycled Shrinky Dink sealing experiments, 2nd try with Poly
I figured that the culprit was either hanging them to dry (stressing the plastic more around the hole) or that the top was just too narrow. So I did a few more experiments. “Star” was done as a rounded rectangle, and dipped and hung. No cracking. “Andrea” was done by painting on the poly and letting it dry flat. No cracking. However the yellow “Dominic” was done the same way, and it cracked after I coated one side. So my guess is it’s somewhat hit or miss. The narrow tops of “Andrea” and “Dominic” are just more prone to cracking. But perhaps I didn’t stress the plastic too much when i hole punched “Andrea”. From this I’d guess that the wider rectangle is just less prone to cracking. But it doesn’t seem to matter if you hang them or lay them flat.

So, I appeal to you, my readers, to let me know your results if you try this method, and if you try anything else. Take before and after pics and send them to me and I’ll post them here @ dabbled as a follow-up. I particularly want to see how embossing powder works (it was recommended several places), but I don’t have an embossing gun so I’ll need a volunteer to do that option.

8/8/08 Edit:
Heather Sitarzewski did some sealing research for us! The results:
Better late than never… I tried coating the shrinkies with embossing powder and I ended up with a bubbly, melted mess. So I decided to try a clear embellishing accent called “Crystal Effects” from Stampin’ Up (you can also get something called Glossy Accents from Archiver’s, Hobby Lobby etc.) it worked brilliantly!!! Although I lost the one I did that to… so I’ll have to make more! Will try to post as soon as I have the next batch completed!

Edit: From the commenters:
meggiecat said…
I love shrinky. JudiKins Diamond Glaze in the squeeze bottle works beautifully as a sealer and a glue for multipiece objects.
Lucky Squirrel has a chart about sealers for their PolyShrink product.

Aimee said…
..I’ve used embossing powder on shrinkies before, and it works really well, I think it would be hard to coat both sides though.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Shrinkies Experiment series! I’ve had a lot of fun trying all this stuff and hopefully you’re now inspired to create some fun stuff from things you would normally throw away.

Oh yeah, and remember, i need validation that I didn’t write all this up for it never to be seen by human eyes… so don’t forget that posting a comment on one of the posts in this series enters you in the drawing to win some of the output of the experiments!

See all 5 installments in this 4 part series!

Not on Amazon: Crystal Effects from Stampin’ Up

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41 Comment(s) »

  • aubrey [] :

    thanks for doing all the hard work for us. now i just need to get on it and do it myself

  • John [] :

    I’m really impressed. I plan on trying it out with my kids.

  • Diana Evans [] :

    oh awesome Dot…I bought some of this stuff and haven’t had a chance to shrink anything yet…I got the kind you can print on and then shrink….

    I also want to thank you for the interview questions…I will have them back to you this week…


  • nniiccoollee [] :

    I love what you’re doing here, experimenting with shrink plastic techniques, and I’m so glad you decided to share it on your blog. I tried resin casting last week, trying to get an effect similar to what you’re doing here, and I’ve gotta say that I like your results with plastic way better than my results with resin.

  • Heather Sitarzewski [] :

    These are so fun! You’ve inspired me to try a few things too… got some great ideas, now I need to experiment with them and see what happens. I’ll let ya know how they turn out! =) Looking forward to what you have in store for us next!!!

  • Dot [] :

    thanks for the feedback! glad you like the efforts..

    nniiccoollee: I wonder what would happen if you took one of these and dipped it in resin?

  • *lostlittlegirl* [] :

    Gunna go get some sealer tonite and see what happens with our already made dinks. And got more plastic to do even more!!! Such a great idea and so fun! We’ll take pix and let you know.

  • meggiecat [] :

    I love shrinky. JudiKins Diamond Glaze in the squeeze bottle works beautifully as a sealer and a glue for multipiece objects.
    Lucky Squirrel has a chart about sealers for their PolyShrink product.

    Thanks for the great articles.

  • Anitra Cameron [] :

    Wowie Zowie!! I Love Shrinky Dinks, but not buying the sheets. This is Fabulous– Thank you thank you thank you!

  • Jessica [] :

    This is such a fantastic idea, I’ve wanted to try doing some Shrinky dinks again but I was a bit put off by the price they charge for the plastic sheets… Reusing some of my waste plastic would be great… I’ll have to see if I have any #6 in my recycling box… but if not I could always try with some of the other types.

    Thanks for the great tutorials!

  • Wendy [] :

    Thanks for taking the time to document all your attempts for us. I can’t wait to try it out myself. I never had good luck with Shrinky Dinks as a kid, but I’m going to give it another go… until my hubby sees me putting plastic in the oven and has a coronary, that is! ;)

  • Aimee [] :

    This series is fantastic! I’ll be running out for takeout as soon as I’m done with this post. I’ve used embossing powder on shrinkies before, and it works really well, I think it would be hard to coat both sides though.

  • bpod [] :

    I was directed here from the Craft blog; how fantastic! I had no idea you could do this with recyclable containers. Can’t wait to try it. Thank you so much for sharing the fruits of your experiments. It’s much appreciated :-D

  • Kiasa [] :

    This is awesome! I’ve been fascinated with shrinky dinks for about a year and a half (mostly working with kids). I love that you’re so into them! Thanks for all the ground work!

  • lindsey [] :

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiments!! They are really helpful!

  • Dot [] :

    thanks for all the great input! I’ll add those sealer tips to the original post. if anyone else has any, let me know!

  • caroline [] :

    Thanks for posting about the results from your attempts to seal the charms. I made my daughter a bracelet with shrinky dinks, sharpies and sealed them with clear nail polish (which actually caused the sharpies to run). The first time she wore it, large chunks of the designs flaked off (coloring and all). I made my other daughter a similar bracelet with colored pencils and clear nail polish and it’s held up better, but it might have more to do with the size of the charms than anything else (her charms were smaller since she’s not as young).

    I’m checking out that link that someone posted above. I hope to find something that holds up because I’d love to do more with shrink plastic (if I don’t need to worry about my design coming off!).

  • Hello, I'm Sally. [] :

    My question is, do you really have to seal them? What happens if you don’t? Is it more important to seal one that is going to have more wear and tear and maybe not needed on a light catcher? Thanks Dot, for all your experimentation and letting us in on it!

  • Jenney [] :

    Ooooo, these look so fun! I haven’t done shrinky dinks since I was a kid (in the seventies) and now my own kids are looking over my shoulder saying, “let’s do that!” and I think we will.

    Thanks for the totally fun idea!

  • Melanie [] :

    The poly *looks* great – pity about the cracks. I wonder if it yellows. I made my son some shrinky zipper pulls for his school bag, and tried sealing with Diamond Glaze (I wanted to seal them because I used the ink-jet printable shrinky stuff, and figured the ink would probably run). Not only did the glaze *make* the inks run a bit, but it went yuk-yellow in a pretty short time.

  • Lise [] :

    Hi there
    I am heading to the trash can as soon as I hit “Publish” to see if I have any suitable plastic. I have always wanted to try this, but not enough to buy the shrinky stuff at Michaels.
    thank you so much for doing all this experimentation for us.

  • Dorathy [] :

    Thanks for this series. I have been wanting to make stitch markers (for knitting), and I love the idea of using recycled material.

  • Dot [] :

    stitch markers are a great idea!

    the poly says it’s non-yellowing — we’ll have to see how it works!

    Glad you all enjoyed this!

    By the way, just wanted to say, as I included in Part 1, this idea is not original to me.. many thanks to several other websites for ideas (curbly, craftster, and others).

  • Brooke [] :

    I saw them, and I have human eyes! I’m up to my armpits in new craft ideas, but I loved shrinky dinks so much as a kid that this is getting moved to the top of the pile.

  • boberry [] :

    Well i read your blog for the first time today and was totally inspired. I normally don’t buy anything in those plastic containers, but ran out to the shop today and bought some croissants as a treat. Now that i am full from my treat I am going to give shrinking a try. Tomorrow i am going to visit some of my friends and neighbours and ask them to save their plastic for me.
    Thanks so much!

  • Rosie&James [] :

    These are so super cool! I guess I’ve been living in a closet for the last 26 years because I’ve never heard of these things. How awesome are you?! (your validation is well deserved.)

    Thanks for the totally awesome series.

  • Ms. Johnson [] :


    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Shrinky Dinks’s. Thanks soooo much for this WONDERFUL blog. AS I was reading your 5 part series…I was moved…I might send hubby out in an hour to get me a carry out…I feel inspired!!

    RE: the cracking hole
    When I am in full “shrink” mode, I ALWAYS forget to punch holes before I bake. When I do, after they cool off I pull out my handy dandy drill and make the hole any size that I want. I usually use 2 magazines or an old phone book as my base and then I drill my hole. To date, I have not had a problem.

    RE: sealing
    I LOVE and LIVE for a challenge…I WILL make it my life’s work to find a way to seal these puppies. When I do, I will post…

    The self proclaimed “Shrinky Dink Queen”…

  • AllyEmm [] :

    This is a great post!

    I just thought id offer my 2 cents. I have a feeling that you pieces might be cracking because of the amount of Polyurethane you are putting on top of it. It looks as if you use a really good amount and the chemicals in the sealer might be creating some weird sort of chemical reaction as it is drying. I dont know for sure though it is just a thought, you could try using less sealer and see if it continues to crack.

    Hello, I’m Sally – you asked what happens if you don’t seal your pieces. Honestly I think it depends on how you make it and what you plan on using it fore. If you color it with colored pencils it will most definately fade over time and may rub off with skin contact or even on your clothes which I don’t think is very atractive. I you color with sharpies, pens, or even print your designs (depending on your inks i suppose) It can run if it gets wet, warp if it gets hot, and also can rub off on the skin esspecially if someone is sweating, which may cause ink poisoning (in extreme cases).

    There are many different kinds of sealers as well. I usually stick with the spray on sealers because it is quick and painless, but if I want a more thick, glass-like coating I use liquid plastic and pour or paint it on.

    Good luck to everyone :)

  • Calyx Ann [] :

    Thanks for doing all this hard work! This information is exactly what I was looking for to use with kids in afterschool art program! Brilliant!!

  • David [] :

    I’m looking for some #6 plastic right now. I got “tricked” into buying #1 (operator error), but at least the cookies were good. In the mean time, has anyone tried sealing with that old standby, Mod Podge? Or dipping into white glue and letting it dry?

  • Lynn [] :

    I experimented with a few different sealing methods and here’s my 2 cents. I have found that embossing powder, used liberally, works really really well. Just coat the heck out of the side you need sealed (after you have shrinked the dink, of course) and stick it back in the oven for 2-4 minutes at 300*. The clear embossing powder works really well, but I discovered you could get away with printing on the frosted shrinky dinks but you just needed a white or black embossing to seal the ink and make the picture show up. The only hard part is keeping the embossing from getting onto the side of the picture you don’t want opaque!

    I also tried glossy accents with one I did using colored pencil. The colors bled into the sealant. Could be a cool effect for some pieces, but wasn’t what I was looking for. It did leave a great coating, though.

  • amy boswell [] :

    I can’t wait to work on these! I have been looking at autism jewelry to purchase in honor of my daughter and know that I could make some beautiful shrinky’s of my own with the colorful puzzle pieces! Purchased some #6 plastic plates yesterday – in white and royal blue. Also saw some blue tinted solo plates in the recycling dumpster, but there was no number on them…. now I am kicking myself for not grabbing them anyways. All I can say is Thank you for your hard work and love your web site!

  • Brad [] :

    One the best products used to seal these, and other pendant charms is a products called “Triple Thick” that is essentially Diamond Glaze, but easiery to find. Both “Diamond Glaze” and “Triple Thick” yield exceptional results and will give you 3-D quality to the pendant, charm, or piece if brushed on thick. Hobby Lobby and Michaels both have “Triple Thick” on the shelf, so you do not have to wait for “Diamond Glaze” to come in from the online site you ordered it from ;-)

  • L Kim [] :

    Have made shrinky dinks w/ recycled plastic for a over a year and pictures/printed ones never worked. Thank you for the tips!! I have diamond glaze that has just been sitting there b/c I don’t really know what to do with it. Perfect!!

  • Dot [] :


  • Spearcarrier [] :

    So late coming to this, but was surfing looking to see if anything new had come up in the shrinky dink world because I make them to sell.

    That being said: the 2nd most successful sealant I have ever ever used is… (drum roll) clear fingernail polish. Lay them flat to dry, do not hang (they may form a drip at the bottom) and by the next day they’re beautiful. I’ve a personal pair of earrings I made that are a few years old and still kicking and get compliments and “ooohs!” everytime I wear them.

    But, painting them is a real pain in the rear when doing a bulk order so I also use clear acrylic spray. Just started that the other day as an experiment. Had some ink jet shrinkies I needed to seal, so I sprayed them as they lay flat. Then I moved them before they dried completely toanother flat sheet (otherwise they stick to the paper) and in a couple of hours I had finished waterproof durable shrinkies. I even tried to scratch them to no effect.

    Spray them twice and they get shiny.

    If you want the bubble coating, I use a triple thick brush on glaze by DecoARt. I like it the best because the shrinkies take on this embossed gorgeous look. Again I lay them flat to dry.

    But I wouldn’t use it for a bulk order. That’s a LOT of painting.

  • Susan M Ayers [] :

    Ok, I am late to the party as usual but.. lol

    I have some left over rub ons from another project and I was wondering if using rub ons, with the shrinky dinks is even possible? Will the rub on shrink accordingly or will it distort? I know that it would have to be sealed afterwards but would the heat damage the rub on? Or is the temp low enough as not to be a problem?

    Has anyone else tried this?

  • Dot [] :

    I would think that a rub-on would NOT work… but it might depend on the type. Try it and see, and let us know!

  • Theresa [] :

    OMAGOSH!! These projects are so adorable. I am definately going to try this. I was thinking…. I you are worried about the cracking around the hole at the top cracking etc., why not try getting some of those things that you glue on. I’m not sure what they’re called, but they are found in the jewelry making section, and I’ve seen them glued on with E6000 glue. I think they are used when making those scrabble tile pendants. Just and Idea! Thanks for sharring these great projects!

  • Rachel [] :

    I would NOT recommend Diamond Glaze. Used it for making pendant a few years back and ended up with great results. After a few month of wearing one of the pendants, however, the glaze was no longer shiny and clear it had turned gummy and yellow. I only used it to fill in the bezel so it wasn’t in constant contact with my skin or anything. It always bothered me that it wasn’t waterproof, too.

  • Angela [] :

    I use Golden Mediums a lot in mixed media paintings. If it was sprayed first with a Matte fixative, to set colors, followed by a glossy gel- soft gel, tar gel, self-leveling, etc- wonder if that would hold up over time? I’m surprised the diamond glaze would yellow. I bought a new similar product – but will have to find it. Can’t remember the name now.

    Based on my experiments. The sharpie inks are tricky to use with mediums on top unless you use fixative as a barrier first. I have used othe pens- faber-castille, micron with no problems. Basically, anything that says “waterproof” or “water resistant” seems to work better.

    I have a large selection of the Golden products, and some other mediums – if I try anything new, will try to share the results. You’d have to get from art supply store, and not cheap- but they do have sample sizes that should last a long time to cover small pieces.

    And curious if the yellowing is avoidable without doing a final varnish spray. (Similar to making an acrylic or mixed media painting archival.) It would require extra work, but doing pieces in batches with a spray wouldn’t be hard, just multiple steps. ??