Sunday, February 16, 2014

Shrinky Dink Book Cover charms – a craft project

This month I want to talk about a project I did last year for the RT Booklovers convention, specifically for the Intergalactic Bar and Grille. This is a special party put on by a group of science fiction romance authors led by the amazing Linnea Sinclair where we have all sorts of give-aways and prizes. 

Originally I made batches of these to be wine charms but these little ½ x ¾ inch plastic charms can be used for earrings and necklaces as well. They are lightweight, durable, and colorful enough to attract attention, perfect for book signings.

To start you need an ink-jet printer, a paper hole punch, scissors or a paper cutter, and a computer program that will allow you to manipulate images including size, brightness, and contrast. I use Adobe Fireworks, and Microsoft Word to make the printable template, but equivalent programs abound.

Finally you need the Shrinky Dink printable plastic. Sometimes you can find this at your local craft stores but I bought mine directly from the company’s online store: Here is a direct link to the kind of plastic you need. This is “Shrinky Dinks for Ink Jet Printers”.

Each package has six sheets and using my template I can make 18 charms per sheet, so unless you are doing 250 for a conference give-away one package will should be sufficient. You will probably waste at least one sheet in trying to get everything perfect.

First step is to size, rotate, and fade out the book cover image. Since the plastic shrinks to 1/9 it’s original size, fading the image will make it look normal once shrunk. I prefer to use at least a 300 DPI resolution cover to start. The first thing I do is size the cover to 1.5 inches wide, leaving the height proportional. Covers can have slightly different dimensions but this gives a height between 2.25 and 2.5 inches depending on the cover. I then turn the cover 90 degrees clockwise so it is lying on its side, top to the right.

I then adjust the brightness and up the contrast. In Fireworks this is under Filters, Adjust Brightness/Contrast. I up the brightness to 72%, and contrast 11%, then save the modified cover image.
Original cover

Cover rotated and faded

I created a template of cells with three columns of six rows using the label tool in Word. In each cell goes one cover. I use the same template to create a backside for the charms. It could be the same cover, making two sided cover charms, but it is difficult to get the charms lined up exactly right, so I recommend using a logo of some sort instead, possibly with your website URL on it. Then if the back and front aren’t perfectly lined up it won’t be quite as obvious.

Now we print the images, first on paper to make sure everything looks great and that when you staple the back sheet to the front sheet you don’t have too much in the way of borders and when cut they will match up. You want a fairly wide space at the top of the cover to punch the ¼ inch hole.

Now print the front page of the plastic. Make sure your printer has plenty of ink since this does take a fair amount of ink (a hidden cost for this project) and you don’t want to run short on a color and ruin a page of the plastic.

Let the plastic cool before turning it over and printing the backside. That will allow the ink to completely dry without smearing. Also make sure to turn the plastic page so that the tops of the backside images line up with the tops of the cover images. Practice on paper first.

Once the plastic is cool, cut apart the charms. I used a paper cutter but if you are careful scissors will work. Make sure to leave as much space as possible at the top of each charm so you can punch the ¼ inch hole. This has to be done before shrinking.

Now we get to the best part, the shrinking of the plastic. The plastic comes with instructions that include using a piece of brown paper (like from a shopping bag) to cover the bottom of the pan, and baking until completely flat (about 3-5 minutes). Just make sure there aren’t any wrinkles in the paper as they can transfer to the melted plastic. Parchment paper works even better. I set my toaster oven for about 325 degrees and did six at a time. You want space between them so they don’t fall onto each other during the twisting and turning. I put a video of this process on Youtube

Once the plastic has cooled they are ready for use. For wine charms we used 1 inch silver earring hoops and small link rings.
Let me know what you think!
Janet Miller/Cricket Starr


Angela said...

This is really cool. I've never tried it. But, I like it.

Janet/Cricket said...

I guess my point here is that I've seen people spend many dollars having someone make charms out of their book covers and this is a pretty simple and low-cost alternative. We got a quote of $2 a wine charm which would have made it cost $500 for 250 charms. By doing it myself I reduced the cost to less than $100 dollars. Plus I had full control over what they looked like and how many of each I made. That alone made this project worth it.

Ana Morgan said...

This is very creative and very crafty, Janet.
Thanks for sharing!

Terry Spear said...

This is really cute. I'm sharing. :)

Dawn Marie Hamilron said...

Very nice, Janet. Thanks for sharing.

Ann Mayburn said...

Thanks for this! Like you I wasn't going to pay a huge amount of money for what I was pretty sure I could do on my own. Your tutorial was super helpful and I'll be adding these to the book thongs I'm making for Author's After Dark. :D