(updated 10/2018 with new supply links as some supplies listed in this tutorial have been discontinued.)
Hello everyone! I am so excited to share this tutorial with you! Back in 2011 (yikes, I can’t believe it has been that long!) I shared a series of projects I created for Ranger for CHA featuring Shrink Plastic and UTEE (Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel). You might remember the projects: Papillon UTEE Pendant, Curiosities Charm Necklace, and the Heart in Hand Charm Necklace. Because I get so many emails asking about those projects, I decided to create this tutorial.
I think one of the reasons I love this Shrink Art and UTEE combination so much is because it reminds me of fused glass. Several years ago when I was part of a local Etsy group I met several artists who worked with fused glass, slumping, and lampwork. I was so fascinated by it all. I always thought if I were to take up a new craft it would be something with glass. Unfortunately my budget would never allow for it!
This technique for dipping Shrink Plastic in UTEE (thanks Suze Weinberg!) reminds me so much of the magic of lampwork and fits in my budget using supplies I already have. Adding in layered elements reminds me of fused glass, which is why I call this technique Faux Fused Glass.
Faux Fused Glass Tutorial:
Begin by die cutting shrink plastic into shapes. For pendants, I like to have a base that is a basic shape (Tim Holtz Sizzix Sized Rectangles, small) and a shape (Tim Holtz Sizzix Mini Love Struck Movers & Shapers- heart.)
In these examples, I chose to color the Shrink Plastic with Adirondack Alcohol Inks. In the older projects I linked above, I colored the stamped images with alcohol ink based markers like Copic and Letraset as well as Ranger alcohol ink in the fillable pen they have. I like how the alcohol ink based products dry on the film and create vivid and clear colors when shrunk.
The package directions for the Shrink Film instruct you to sand one side of the film. I find this very helpful when I am stamping or coloring with pencils and some markers where having some “tooth” on the film is helpful. With alcohol inks, they don’t need “tooth” and work well on slick surfaces so I often like to skip the sanding to create a more clear glass like shrink piece.
To use alcohol ink, place a felt pad on an ink blending tool. Place about a 2 second drop (meaning I counted to 2 as I applied ink to the felt) of ink onto the felt and then tap the color onto one side of the film. Let the first layer dry (it will take just seconds) and then tap on a second layer randomly. The new ink will react with the old and create really cool effects as it moves on the film.
For this heart, I decided I wanted to add a few spots of white to soften the color and to add some areas that were opaque. I added a 2 second drop onto the same felt and then tapped the ink onto the hear over the first color. Again, the fresh ink will react with the dried ink and create really great texture and effects. The Snow Cap Mixative (as well as the metallics) are very opaque so you can use them to create areas that won’t be clear when shrunk.
One thing to keep in mind as you work, that the color will intensify after the piece is shrunk. Really elaborate details on the full size pieces may be lost when the piece is shrunk (I have an example below). You may want to work with a “less is more” attitude on your first pieces until you see first hand how the pieces look after shrinking. (Colors in this example: Watermelon and Snow Cap.)
I mentioned that I often skip sanding the film when I want to get a glass-like effect… unless I plan to stamp on the back side (more about that in a second) or if I want to add the look of texture to the design. Depending on what texture I want I might sand in a cross-hatch design or I might just do a very random sanding to emulate tossed and tumbled glass.
If you are making pendants, be sure to punch a hole in the film before shrinking. Remember that the hole too will shrink so use a good-sized hole punch. I tend to use a standard size hole punch or the larger hole punch on my Crop-a-dile.
If you forget to punch your hole before shrinking, you can punch a hole using the Tim Holtz Drill Punch. You have to go very gently and very slow and leave a good amount of space between the top of the pendant and the hole. If you are too close to the top of the charm it will crack. I really recommend punching that hole before shrinking.
Working with Alcohol Ink:
To add multiple colors for a watercolor like effect, simply add several colors of ink to the felt. (Shown Sunshine Yellow, Sunset Orange, and Mountain Rose). Some people add Alcohol Ink Blending Solution to the felt with the colors, but I don’t. I recommend trying it both ways and seeing which way your prefer. You may find from some projects you like it with and some you like it without.
If my felt dries out and I want to squeeze another use out of it before throwing it away, I will use blending solution to reactivate the dried ink.
Tap the color onto the sanded side of the film. Add multiple layers until you have a design that you like. I often blow on the film as the ink is drying. It helps dry it more quickly so I can add the new layer of ink and it also helps move the ink creating really neat effects.
You can see that the ink accentuated the lines created from sanding. This pendant is will be pretty small and this detail will end up kind of lost. It would be most effective and visible on a larger pendant.
I love that this butterfly really shows off how layered colors can look. This piece has 4 or 5 applications of the same colors. I allowed each application to dry before adding the next layer. With enough layers, it will actually build some texture. In this project, texture doesn’t really matter, but for other projects it can be a really great added touch. (Colors: Sunshine Yellow, Sunset Orange, Mountain Rose, and Caramel.)
Adding Stamped Images:
To add a stamped image, I like to lay the stamp face up, lay the film on the stamp (sanded and inked side toward the stamp), and use my fingers to transfer the image. For this piece, I used StazOn Jet Black Ink. When inking and stamping on the same side, generally you want to color first and then stamp since fresh alcohol ink on top of stamped image could remove or damage the stamped image.
If you are stamping an image to color with markers (like these Papillon UTEE Pendant, Curiosities Charm Necklace, and the Heart in Hand Charm Necklace), you need to stamp on the front of the film and color with markers on the back. For my pieces linked above, I stamped my images with Staz-on ink. It worked well on the slick surface and dried well without heat.
On those pieces you are coloring with markers, especially markers like Copics, you need to color on the opposite side to avoid contact with the stamp ink. Staz-on can contaminate your markers. The alcohol base of the markers can also wipe a stamped image right off of the slick surface so definitely keep those two on different sides.
Keep in mind as you stamp that the image will be reduced significantly when shrunk. Choose designs that will not lose so much detail that you won’t know what they are when shrunk. Also, remember that the image will be in reverse when the image is finished (the stamped and inked side is the back, except as noted above about markers) so choose a design that will be ok when viewed in reverse. For text, look for stamps like Tim Holtz’s Reflections stamps which feature reverse images of text that are made specifically for uses like this.
I mentioned that you ideally want to stamp last to avoid damaging the stamped image… on this piece I decided to see what would happen if I added a layer of Silver Mixative. The Silver Mixative created a solid opaque backing that did not affect the stamping. From the front (on the left) you can see the distinct layer of colors and images, ink (colors: Sunshine Yellow, Sunset Orange, Mountain Rose, and Caramel), the stamping (Tim Holtz CMS111 Reflections), and the silver backing. In person, it truly looks like three layers.
I mentioned above about how something really cool can be lost when shrunk… this this a good example of that. The finished example (below with the star and key) is really neat, but the stamping is almost lost with the colors that darkened and with the elements on top. This same look would probably be more effective and more wow on a larger charm with fewer elements on top.
If you follow me regularly, you know how much I love Vintage Photo Distress Ink. I can’t seem to do a project without it. To me, a brown Vintage Photo edges is the perfect finish in just about every project. These charms are no exception! To add a brown edge, I simply swiped the edge of my ink applicator tool on the sanded edge of this piece. I didn’t try it on an un-sanded piece, but my guess is that it will work best on the sanded surface.
Shrinking Your Pieces:
Once you are done inking and stamping, shrink the piece. There are many ways to shrink the piece, but my favorite is to use my Heat It Craft Tool on top of my non-stick craft sheet. As the piece shrinks, it will curl up on itself. Don’t worry, it will flatten back out as the shrinking finishes. You can also place a piece to shrink in an empty clean melting pot.
For larger pieces I prefer the heat tool because I tend to fidget with the piece as it melts. For tiny pieces that blow away easy, the melting pot method is really nice. You can do several pieces at the same time and down have to hunt for them each time they blow away!
If you don’t trust it, you can use a silicone spatula (I use the one that came with my melting pot) to help flatten the piece as it melts.
Adding Texture and Layering Pieces:
I find the more I mess with the piece as it melts, the more wonky the shape ends up. I let the piece on the left do its own thing as it shrunk. It stayed really straight. I messed with the one on the right a lot, flattening it with my spatula as it melted. You can see that it is kind of mis-shaped and wonky. I actually like the wonky pieces the best. 🙂 It is kind of funny that the more you try to control it, the less perfect they turn out. The pieces you leave alone come out more precise.
This photo also demonstrates the difference in leaving a piece clear with sanding (right) and without (left). You can see that the sanding gives the piece a frosted more opaque finish while the un-sanded ends up very clear.
For this piece I wanted to get the look of sea glass so I did very random sanding and only one color of ink (Aqua). The specks of color are bits of random color picked up off of my craft sheet. I didn’t clean it between projects so some of the later pieces picked up some “litter” off of the sheet. I also added Vintage Photo Distress Ink to the edges before shrinking.
Here is the stamped piece after shrinking…
and the heart…
Place Wonder Tap on the back of the element. Wonder Tape is heat stable so it can withstand being dipped into the hot UTEE. Other adhesives, including liquid adhesives will not stand up to the heat which will cause the element to slide and move when it is dipped.
Remove the backing from the Wonder Tape and adhere the element to the pendant base.
Dipping Your Pieces in UTEE:
Make a metal loop from 7″ length of paddle wire. Hang the pendant from the wire.
Melt clear UTEE in a Melting Pot. Use enough UTEE that you will be able to dip the pendant in the UTEE covering it completely. Use the wire as a handle to dip the pendant in the melted UTEE. Lift the pendant is completely covered, use the wire to lift it back out.
If you are doing a charm that is a single layer, you can actually shrink it and dip it at the same time. Un-shrunk shrink plastic will shrink in melted UTEE. Since this project has layered pieces, they need to be shrunk before dipping.
10/18 NOTE: The Ranger Melting Pot has been discontinued and may be difficult to locate. There are several other melting pots on the market for melting glue and wax. They should work fine.
Hold the pendant over the hot melting pot out of the UTEE while any excess drips away.
If you have a little bump after the last drip, you can drag the pendant over the lip of the melting pot to help smooth it.
You may have some color transfer in the UTEE. I consider this a bonus. If you don’t, you can try to move it with your spatula or try to avoid it while dipping other pieces. If you have pieces with clear areas that you want to keep perfectly clear, be sure to dip those first.
You will notice that the longer the UTEE is in the pot, it will develop an amber color. You won’t notice this on the colored pieces. On the clear, you may see it so be sure to dip any clear pieces first. On my examples, you will see the amber color on the piece with the butterfly.
A word of caution: Alcohol Ink and Blending solution are flammable . Keep them a safe distance away from your hot melting pot. NEVER drop alcohol ink directly into the melting pot. The color transfer show above is ok because the ink had already been applied to a surface and dried so the alcohol had evaporated. Also, trust me on this, melting UTEE is super hot… don’t ever dip your fingers into it… 😉
Use the wire to hang the pendant somewhere to cool where it won’t touch any thing. After it has cooled, you can remove the wire. You may have to twist it some to work it free.
To clear the hole, use a bead reamer, round metal file, or craft pick to poke through the UTEE. I recommend the bead reamer (like a fine round metal file). They are inexpensive and are sold in the beading section of craft stores. The set I was a set of four for under $5.
This piece got a flat spot on the back because I sat it down on my craft sheet before it had cooled. To smooth this or other imperfections out, hold the piece with tweezers and heat it with a heat tool.
The heat tool may take several minutes to melt the UTEE so be patient. If you end up with a thick edges, you can heat the piece with the heat tool until the thick edge melts and drips off.
For pieces that have shaped edges (like my heart in hand pendant) use scissors or a craft knife to cut away excess UTEE from the shaped edges (shown here, between the petals and along the top and bottom of the wing). Use a heat tool to re-melt and smooth the edges that were trimmed.
Finished Faux Fused Glass Pendants:
Stamp- Reflections CMS111; Dies- Sized Rectangles (medium), Mini Love Struck, and Mini Crown & Fleur; Colors- Aqua (heart), Watermelon (background and Fleur), Caramel and Silver Mixative (Fleur).
Stamp: Urban Chic CMS086; Dies- Mini Hearts, Sized Rectangle (small); Colors- Watermelon and Snow Cap (heart), Sunshine Yellow, Sunset Orange, and Mountain Rose (background).
Dies- Sized Ovals (medium); Colors Sailboat Blue, Pool, and Aqua (oval) and Watermelon (heart), Silver Mixative (front edge of oval). This piece picked up a ton of “litter” from my craft sheet. The back is so amazing and is a complete random accident!
Stamp- Reflections CMS111; Dies- Sized Circles (medium), Mini Old Glory Set, Mini Lock & Key; Colors- Silver Mixative (key, circle, and star), Sunshine Yellow, Sunset Orange, Carmel, and Mountain Rose (circle), and Caramel (key).
Something interesting on this one, on the back (above, lower right) when dipped, the back was solid silver as show several photos above. When the piece was dipped, the colors that were below the silver mixed into the silver and created a unique metallic copper. The circle looks like it is metal with a glass surface. It is crazy cool in person!
Stamp- Reflections CMS111; Dies- Sized Rectangle (medium), Mini Butterflies, Mini Tattered Florals; Colors- Sunshine Yellow, Sunset Orange, Caramel, and Mountain Rose (butterflies), Watermelon (flower), Purple Twilight (metal flower and brad).
I wanted to show on this example how it would look to add other items to the pendant before dipping. To attach the flower, I punched an extra hole in the rectangle and in the center of the flower before shrinking. After shrinking I attached the metal flower and the shrink flower with a brad. I flattened the brad on the back of the pendant and then dipped the entire piece.
Taking it further…
Finally today, I have another old project to share. I made this necklace with the other pieces in 2011. It was slated for a tutorial on another site so I never shared it here. The tutorial featuring it never when live. I thought it would be perfect to share today to give you an idea of just how far you can go with shrink plastic and UTEE. The center of the necklace is shrink plastic die cut with the Tim Holtz Sizzix Weathered Clock die. Needless to say, it took a lot of time to clean out and smooth all the inside sections of the clock but it was worth it because it is so cool looking!
Wow, tons of information on this one! I hope you got some great ideas for what you can do with Shrink Plastic and UTEE together. You can go from super simple single layer pendants (like this one), fun stamped images, layered pieces like those I showed today, or crazy detailed like the clock necklace above.
I hope you will give the technique a try and share a link with your crafty friends by pinning the image below!