by Rena Klingenberg.
These transparent earrings are colored with alcohol ink, creating a lovely ombre effect (gradual changes in a color from light to dark).
The earrings are made from shrink plastic (“shrinkies”) – so you’ll color and cut them in a much larger size, then shrink them down to their final size in the oven.
Here you can see how transparent they are – the edge of the earring on the right can be seen through the the earring on the left:
- About 1/4 of a sheet of clear (NOT white or opaque) shrink plastic. Clear plastic is the only kind that will give you the transparent look. (Available in craft stores and online.)
This is the shrink plastic I used:
- A template for drawing your earring shapes on the shrink plastic. The template can be any object with a flat surface that’s about 2x as long and 2x as wide as you want your finished earrings to be.
For my round earrings (which ended up about 34mm in diameter after shrinking), my template was the bottom of 15-oz. food can, which measured 74mm in diameter.
For my rectangular earrings (which ended up about 23mm x 36mm after shrinking), my template was the rectangular cardboard from the back of a package of Artistic wire – the cardboard measured 48mm x 89mm.
- A Sharpie marker – for drawing around your template item onto the shrink plastic.
- Scissors – for cutting your shapes out of the shrink plastic.
- Ruler – for centering holes in rectangular or square earrings.
- A standard one-hole paper punch – for making the hole at the top of your shrink-plastic earring shapes.
- Alcohol ink – one color per pair of earrings.
For the earrings you see in this tutorial, I used Ranger alcohol inks in the colors “Sail Boat Blue” and “Watermelon”:
- Cotton swabs (Q-tips) – for painting the alcohol ink onto your shrink plastic.
- Paper towels – for wiping up / protecting surfaces while using alcohol ink.
- 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 cookie sheet or other flat baking pan to place under the aluminum foil.
- 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.
- A pair of earwires.
- Jump rings (optional) – if you want a bit of space between your earwires and the dangles.
- Chain nose / flat nose pliers – for opening and closing earwires and jump rings.
My red earrings have earwires from my Bead and Coil Earwires Tutorial.
My blue earrings have the shortest size of earwires from my Make Long Earwires Tutorial.
Should You Seal Your
Alcohol-Inked Shrink Plastic?
Although I have not sealed my finished shrink plastic pieces after inking, many people do.
Here’s the official recommendation from the maker of these inks:
“Alcohol inks must be sealed with a water based sealer. We recommend Ranger’s Gloss Multi-Medium.” (Source: http://rangerink.com/faq.)
Important – Test Your
Shrink Plastic and Ink First:
Before you begin, I highly recommend that you cut out, ink, hole-punch, and bake a test piece of your shrink plastic according to the package instructions.
This is the key to knowing the tricks of making your final pieces turn out excellently with your particular oven and shrink plastic.
Your test will help you find out:
- how much your particular plastic shrinks
- how much your alcohol ink colors darken during shrinking
- how close to the top edge of your earring 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.
(For example, my shrink plastic package recommends 250 degrees F, for 3 to 5 minutes. But what worked best in my oven was 300 degrees F, for 8 to 9 minutes.)
Draw and Cut Out Your Earrings:
We’ll start by using a Sharpie marker to draw around your template on the shrink plastic.
(I’m using marker colors that match the alcohol ink colors I’ll use on the earrings.)
Draw a pair of your shape on the shrink plastic, to make a pair of earrings.
Sheets of shrink plastic often shrink more in one direction than in the other.
So it’s a good idea to make sure both of your earrings are drawn in the same direction on your sheet of shrink plastic.
Otherwise you might wind up with one longer & thinner rectangle earring, and one shorter & wider rectangle earring.
Here I’m drawing around the 15-oz food can to make my round earrings:
And here I’m drawing around the cardboard back of a package of Artistic Wire, to make my rectangular earrings:
After drawing your pair of earrings on the shrink plastic, cut them out using ordinary household scissors.
Now we’ll mark and punch the hole at the top of your earrings.
If you’re making round earrings, use your Sharpie to mark where you’ll punch the hole in each earring. Be very careful not to mark it too close to the top edge of the earring:
If you’re making rectangular or square earrings, use a ruler to measure the exact center of each earring, so the earring will hang straight when it’s worn.
And again, be very careful not to mark it too close to the top edge of the earring:
Use your hole punch to punch out the holes you marked on your earrings. Make sure you don’t punch through the top edge of the earring:
Now it’s time to use the alcohol ink to make our ombre design on the earrings.
Working with Alcohol Ink:
Alcohol ink can be messy, so wear clothes that can be stained, and cover your work surface with something to protect it.
When I use alcohol ink, I do the whole procedure inside a standard plastic jewelry tray, lined with paper towels.
It contains the mess nicely – and cleanup is as simple as throwing away the inky paper towels and wiping out the tray with a damp cloth.
How to Create the Ombre Design
with Alcohol Ink:
A single layer of alcohol ink makes a fairly light color.
But as you put more layers of ink over the first layer, the color becomes deeper.
So we’ll apply a total of six layers of ink to our earrings.
The first layer of ink will cover the entire earring, from the bottom to the top.
The second layer will cover a slightly smaller area – from the bottom to a short distance from the top.
The third layer will cover an even smaller area – from the bottom to a short distance from the second layer’s end.
And so on.
Here’s a picture showing how far each layer of ink should go:
You can see how this makes the ombre effect – the lightest color at the top (with just one layer of ink), and the deepest color at the bottom (with six layers of ink) – with graduated colors (and graduated layers of ink) in between.
Also Important to Know:
The ink will darken a lot when your earrings shrink and condense in the oven.
Here you can see my earrings before and after shrinking:
So for this project, it’s better to lean toward making your first two ink layers lighter rather than heavier – in order to get the ombre effect.
Apply Alcohol Ink
to Your Earrings:
Set out everything you’ll need for inking your shrink plastic – the ink, Q-tips, and paper towels:
Lay one of your shrink plastic earrings on a paper towel inside the tray.
Your Q-tips will be your paintbrushes, so drip three drops of alcohol ink onto one of your Q-tips:
Starting at the bottom of your earring, spread the ink back and forth across the earring in a thin layer:
Keep going till you reach the top of the earring.
Now the entire earring should have one light coat of alcohol ink:
Let the ink dry for a minute or two.
Now drip three more drops of ink onto your Q-tip.
Spread the ink back and forth across the earring in a thin layer, stopping a short way from the top of the earring:
Continue painting each layer of ink in the same way:
Dry each layer of ink for a minute or two, then add three drops of ink to the Q-tip, and paint from the bottom of the earring – stopping a short way from the previous layer.
The sixth layer of ink is the final layer.
It goes across only the bottom of the earring:
When you finish inking the first earring, color the second one in the same way.
Here are my inked rectangular earrings:
And here are my inked round earrings:
Shrink Your Earrings
in The Oven:
When the ink on your earrings is completely try, it’s time to shrink them in the oven.
Children should be supervised by an adult during the baking.
Preheat your oven, following the baking instructions on your package of shrink plastic, and make any adjustments in oven heat that you discovered during your test run.
Place a piece of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet.
Then place your inked, dry earrings on the foil – ink side up:
When your oven reaches the desired temperature, put the cookie sheet in the oven, shut the oven door, and turn on the oven light so you can watch the earrings shrink and transform.
In my oven, the shrinkies curled up completely within a minute, and then took 7 to 8 minutes to relax and flatten out in their shrunken size.
When your earrings have shrunken and flattened out again, take them out of the oven.
Then quickly use your pancake spatula to flatten the shrunken plastic while it’s still hot and pliable.
My red spatula flattening my red earrings:
When your earrings are cool, it’s time to add the earwires.
Finish Your Earrings:
(Optional: You can add a jump ring or two between the earring and earwire if you like.)
Use chain nose pliers to twist open the loop of your earwires:
Thread the opened loops through the holes you punched in your earrings.
Use chain nose pliers to twist the loops of your earwires shut:
Your finished transparent ombre earrings may look something like this: