My parents are both science teachers: which means they always ruined the secrets to magic tricks, they forced me to identify every tree by leaf and bark type, and we always created our own versions of ‘science-y’ toys. We used to cook our Easy-Bake Oven meals with foil and a light bulb, and created our own slime with cornstarch and food coloring. Which brings me to our homemade shrinky dinks.
And, when we wanted our own shrinkable art, did we get the sweet pre-printed HeMan or Strawberry Shortcake shrinky dink Paper? Nope. We freehanded it on blank sheets of plastic, and copied the designs from coloring books. (Luckily, neither of my parents could draw, or else we might have had hand drawn versions of those, too.)
The process is simple. I don’t know what kind of shrinky dinks are available, if any, but I’ll always be able to make some on my own… I guess my parents actually taught me something. Nuts.
- Clean #6 Plastic
- Permanent Markers
- Aluminum Foil
- Oven and Tongs or Oven Mitt
Steps for making shrinky dinks
- Obtain a piece of #6 plastic (polystyrene).
Most clear containers at salad bars, delis, and grocery stores will work. Just flip it over and look for a “6” inside the recycling arrows. If you ask nicely, they’ll usually give you a fresh one.
- Cut any excess plastic away to make a flat sheet (use both the top and the bottom), and recycle the excess. Now you've got your shrinky dink paper.
- Draw or write your desired image or text on your shrinky dink paper using permanent markers.
The total image will shrink to about a third of its original size, and five or six times its original thickness. (My parents, of course, would make us measure before and after, and figure how much it had changed.)
- Pre-heat your oven to 350°, and place a rack in the lowest position.
Create a “tray” out of the aluminum foil by bending up the sides. Technically, you could cover a baking sheet with foil, but the thinner surface allows for more direct heat and quicker shrinking.
- Place your art in the tray, then use the tongs or an oven mitt to place the foil on the bottom rack.
- “Cook” for about 3 1/2 minutes
For the first minute your art will curl up all crazy-like, but soon, it will flatten itself out. If you have an oven door through which you can see, then just keep an eye on it. If your door is solid, open it just slightly (as you would do when broiling) after 90 seconds. Total time for a large piece (5-6” starting size) will be about 3 1/2 minutes.
- Using the tongs or oven mitt, remove the tray.
At this point, it’s still plyable, so if you want to flatten it more, or add waves or bend the corners, do so CAREFULLY within the first ten seconds.
Now you're done!
The shrinky dinks are still cut-able, sand-able, drill-able, glue-able, and plenty more. Attach it to jewelry, make a luggage label, or even a guitar pick!
Please include more application ideas in the comments below. Cheers.
Interested in other creative craft ideas? Try this Hot Rock Crayon Art project:
Or maybe you want to do another science project? Check out these homemade replacements for household beauty items: