How to: Make DIY Shrinky Dinks

By: Chrisjob Aug 08, 2007

created at: 03/27/2013

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.

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And, when we wanted our own shrinkable art, did we get the sweet pre-printed HeMan or Strawberry Shortcake sheets? 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.

Ingredients:
   - Clean #6 Plastic
   - Permanent Markers
   - Scissors
   - Aluminum Foil
   - Oven and Tongs or Oven Mitt

1. 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.

2. Cut any excess plastic away to make a flat sheet (use both the top and the bottom), and recycle the excess.

3. Draw or write your desired image or text on your plastic canvas 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.)

4. 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.

5. Place your art in the tray, then use the tongs or an oven mitt to place the foil on the bottom rack.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Now, you can do as you please. It’s 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:

created at: 03/27/2013

Or maybe you want to do another science project? Check out these homemade replacements for household beauty items:

created at: 03/27/2013

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Comments

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Thank you so much for making this and so much more information available. I was just about to order Shrinky Dinks from Amazon... but why!  I remember when my kids were small and how we made so many works of art together.. now I can provide this great activity for my grandchildren and future grandkids!  By DIY we can also repurpose that which would be tossed!

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For the love of science, Seriously and Anonymous #4!  :)  He tells you in the blog, "The total image will shrink to about a third of its original size, and five or six times its original thickness."  So take the size you desire the end piece to be and multiply it by three to get the size of your original piece of plastic.  Or divide the original size of plastic by three to see how much it will shrink down to.  

Hi, what if i do the whole process with pp5 instead of pp6? 

thanks in advance!

I'm always looking for crafts I can do with my grandchildren and I remembered doing these with my children when they were small. Thank you so much for providing the information. I'm looking forward to creating more great memories with my grandchildren. I'll probably need to forward your link to their parents as well.

Thank you! I want to make plant labels for my herbs. This will work out perfectly for that!
Can u use #5 plastic for this?

What about a rice cooker?

Does anybody know if you can use drafting mylar (plastic paper) for this project?

Hi, I am definitely trying this. From your comments I take it that doesn't make it toxic when you cook in the oven afterwards?

I have heated these in an electric skillet also.  If you lightly sand the plastic with a fine grit sandpaper before coloring, you can almost use anything to color with.

You can also (CAREFULLY) take a rubber stamp/texture stamp and, while still hot, press the stamp firmly into the plastic and it will retain the texture.  Didn't get it stamped before it solidified?  Blast the plastic with the heat gun - just be careful not to burn the plastic till it lets off fumes.  It's always a good idea to have a dedicated toaster oven for any of your 'cured in the oven' projects so that, if the project gets over-cooked and lets off fumes, they won't transfer to your food-oven elements.

I remember years ago putting crisp (potato chips) packets in the oven and shrinking them down to make key rings.

I used to paint them with acrylic paint then shrink when I was a kid. Nice. Have thought about making tags for labeling all the jewelry received as gifts---so pieces in safe would be distinguished.

GREAT find!  Thank you for the instructions.  I didn't know about the #6 plastic.

Years ago I used to buy shrinky dink material and I made ID tags for my pets.  I used a paper punch to put the hole in the plastic before I shrunk it.

I followed a link to your site and have enjoyed reading not only the instructions but also about your childhood days. (I miss the simpler times....) anyway I've been obsessively checking all the plastic containers in my house to try and find a #6 just so I can try this. Most were either #1, 2, 3, etc and just when I was about to give up I found a #6 on the Swifer Wet container. Of course it's colored but I'm going to try it anyway. I'm hoping the clear plastic top will work to! All I find on the top is 11, with no arrows around it so we'll find out if it works too! Wish me luck!
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Omg so cool i love to recycle its so fun

Can u only use permanent markers?

If I want to make one keychain size how much plastic would I use. And we have a shrinky dink oven, can we use that?

WOW! Thanks so much for sharing this! I was Google searching Shrinky Dinks, as my boss was featuring them on HLN's #RaisingAmerica and I wanted to know where I could find them. They remind me of my own childhood and I wanted to share the fun with my 4 year old daughter. SO  happy I found your post! We love doing science experiments at home with Little One and her friends! We will have to try this out for sure! Bookmarking this and sharing! Thanks again!

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I learned a lot. Thanks a million! !!
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