How to Use Shrink Plastic for Rubber Stamping Crafts

Shrink Plastic Sewing Needle Heads
Kate Pullen

Shrink plastic is a very versatile material—as the name suggests, shrink plastic is a form of plastic that shrinks to a fraction of its original size when it is heated. While it is often thought of as being a child's plaything, shrink plastic is an exciting medium for rubber stampers, mixed media artists, and anyone else looking for something a little different. At its most basic, shrink plastic can be used to create quick custom embellishments for cards or scrapbooks; however, it has the versatility to make interesting items of jewelry, accessories, and elements for inclusion in other mixed media projects.

Using Shrink Plastic

Shrink plastic is easy to use. It can be cut and shaped with normal crafting scissors and hole punches. Before shrinking, the surface of the shrink plastic can be decorated with rubber stamps and colored with a wide variety of coloring media.

After the shrink plastic has been heated and shrunk, additional embellishments can be added. When hot, the shrink plastic is malleable and it can be shaped further. Most brands of shrink plastic differ slightly in performance. Therefore, the precise shrinkage will vary from brand to brand. It is best to work a test piece if a precise size is required.

Rough or Sanded Surface

It is difficult for inks to set on shiny plastic surfaces, so for best results, the surface of the shrink plastic should be slightly rough to allow the inks to grab the surface of the shrink plastic. Some shrink plastic brands are sold with one side ready roughened, but shrink plastic that doesn't have a rough side can easily be prepared by being lightly sanded with sandpaper.

Rubber Stamping on Shrink Plastic

Rubber stamps are ideal for using on shrink plastic. However, it is important to keep in mind that the plastic shrinks to a fraction of its original size when deciding what stamps to use. The best type of inks to use are pigment inks and permanent inks such as Stazon; however, be aware that not all inks perform the same on all brands of shrink plastic. One of the problems that may occur is the ink not setting, even after shrinking. A coat of varnish can help to address this, but the item will be vulnerable to smudging until it has been sealed.

Coloring Shrink Plastic

Markers, inks, pencils, and acrylic paint are ideal to use for coloring images on shrink plastic before shrinking. Colors become deeper and more saturated when the shrink plastic has been shrunk. It is often a good idea to use a shade or two lighter than the required shade to account for this.

Shrinking Shrink Plastic

Shrink plastic can be shrunk using a heat tool or by placing it in the oven. When the plastic shrinks, it curls and bends. When the shrinking process has completely finished, the piece of plastic should return to a flat shape. Occasionally the plastic may stick to itself during the shrinking process. If this happens it can be carefully pulled apart while it is still hot. Shrink plastic is very lightweight, therefore when heating the plastic with a heat tool, it is important not to let the air from the heat tool blow the pieces away.