by Rena Klingenberg.
You can easily make “stained glass” earrings by decorating clear shrink plastic with permanent markers.
This is a wonderful project if you love to play with color!
It’s also a great project for teens and kids to make for themselves or to give as gifts (however, be sure to provide adult supervision when using the oven to shrink the plastic pieces).
In fact, this could be a fun jewelry birthday party make-and take!
- About 1/4 of a sheet of clear (NOT white or opaque) shrink plastic. Clear plastic is the only one that will give you the luminous stained-glass look.
- One sheet of paper for sketching your design (scratch paper is fine).
- Pencil for drawing your design.
- 1 clean Pringles potato chip can lid (or other item you can draw around to make a circle that’s about 3″ [7.62 cm] in diameter).
- Ruler for drawing your straight lines.
- Masking tape for holding your shrink plastic in place over your paper drawing.
- Permanent markers in a variety of colors, plus black (I used Sharpies and Bic markers – below, you can see the pens I used). Your colors will be much darker after your shrink plastic bakes – so I found that light colors and bright colors give the best stained glass effect.
- Scissors for cutting out your shrinky shapes.
- A standard one-hole paper punch for making the hole at the top of your shrink plastic creations.
- A piece of aluminum foil, about 7″ x 11″ (17.78 cm x 27.94 cm) for baking your shrink plastic in the oven.
- A regular household oven or toaster oven for shrinking your plastic.
- A plastic pancake spatula that you won’t be using for food preparation (for picking up hot shrink plastic, and flattening the plastic pieces while they’re still hot and pliable).
- 4 jump rings.
- 2 ear wires.
- 2 pair of pliers – chain nose or flat nose (for opening and closing jump rings and earwires).
- Optional: Clear acrylic spray to protect colors from scratching off (I don’t bother with this step).
Colorful “Stained Glass”
Shrinky Earrings Tutorial:
I intentionally made my 2 colorful earring components similar but not identical.
In these instructions I’m assuming you’re doing the same!
Important: Test Your Shrink Plastic First
Before you begin, I highly recommend that you make and bake a test piece of your shrink plastic according to the package instructions, so you’ll know the tricks of making your final pieces turn out perfectly.
You’ll want to find out:
- how much your particular plastic shrinks
- how much your marker colors darken during shrinking
- how close to the edge of your plastic you want to punch the hole
- whether you get better results by baking a little longer or at a slightly higher temperature than your shrink plastic instructions recommend.
After making and baking your test piece of shrinky plastic, here’s how to make the actual earring components:
Place your Pringles lid near a corner of your sheet of paper, and draw around it with a pencil to create a circle:
Draw a second circle the same way, near the first one:
Use a ruler as a straight edge to draw 5 random lines across each circle:
Your two circles should now look something like this:
Place a blank sheet of clear shrink plastic on top of your paper. Line up the plastic so that your circles are near the edge, so you’ll have a bigger piece of leftover plastic for other projects.
Use a few pieces of masking tape to attach your shrink plastic to the paper, so you can easily keep your coloring in alignment with your pencil sketches:
Use your markers to color in the sections of your circles on your shrink plastic.
Don’t worry about being too perfect with your coloring – minor mistakes don’t show on the shrunken plastic:
Place your Pringles lid over your colored plastic circles one at a time, and use your black marker to trace around the lid.
You’re creating a nice frame for your stained glass designs:
Use your ruler as a straight edge to trace the 5 straight lines you drew on your pencil sketches.
Now you have nice dividers between the colored sections of your designs, similar to the leading between real stained glass panes:
Use scissors to cut out your two colorful shrink plastic circles.
Use a standard one-hole paper punch to punch a hole in the top of each circle:
Your cut and punched plastic circles should look something like this:
Now you’re ready to bake and shrink your artistry!
Read your shrink plastic package’s instructions and follow them carefully. Decide on any adjustments based on what you learned during your test make-and-bake.
Make a little recyclable pan for baking your shrink plastic pieces, by tearing off a piece of aluminum foil about 7″ x 11″ (17.78 cm x 27.94 cm) and folding up the edges to make a little rim:
Place one of your colorful shrink plastic circles in the center of your little foil pan, put the pan in your oven, and bake to shrink your earring component.
When you remove it from the oven after shrinking, quickly use your pancake spatula to flatten the shrunken plastic while it’s still hot and pliable:
Below, you can see the difference in size and color between an unbaked shrinky on the left, and a baked one on the right.
Notice how much the colors darken during baking:
Optional: Protect Your Designs with Clear Acrylic Spray
(I don’t do this step, but you may want to.)
Over time your colorful marker designs might scratch off, especially if they brush up against other pieces of jewelry in a jewelry box.
If you decide to spray clear acrylic on the colored side of your shrink plastic designs to preserve them, now is the time.
When your plastic pieces have cooled completely, take them outdoors and gently spray a very light coating of clear acrylic spray on the surface you colored with markers.
Don’t hold the spray can too close to your shrinkies, and be careful not to spray a heavy or wet layer of acrylic, or your colorful ink is likely to liquify and run.
After letting the first coating of acrylic spray dry, gently spray a second light coating of it.
Make sure the shrinkies are thoroughly dry before going on to the next step.
Once your stained glass masterpieces are cool and dry, they’re ready to turn into earrings!
Put a jump ring through the hole you punched in the top of each piece:
Then attach a second jump ring to the first one, and attach an earwire to the second jump ring:
Enjoy your colorful, light weight “stained glass” earrings!