Tuesday, July 01, 2014

DIY fridge magnets out of a child's artwork

Like every parents, we were incredibly proud when our daughter started drawing pictures of people that actually looked like people, instead of just scribbles.  She was a little over three and she'd just bought herself a sketch book and a big packet of felt pens with her birthday money.  As soon as we got home she started drawing images of everyone in the family.  I really wanted to preserve those first drawings and so I scanned them all in and printed them onto inkjet shrink plastic to turn them into fridge magnets.  However I didn't seal the inkjet ink and so over the last 3 years the magnets have become a little shabby looking...

The main reason for their current state is that the inkjet ink isn't waterproof and so 3 years of typical family use and the occasional drenching with water has left them in this sorry state.

Thankfully I've still got the images saved on my computer and so I thought I'd redo them, but seal and protect them properly this time.

Here's how to make your own child's artwork magnets -

Scan in your images and reduce them down to between 8 and 11cm tall. Using your favourite drawing software, create an oval or circle around the images. Paste the ovals onto a light coloured background so that you can see where to cut.  You may need to shuffle and re-size them to squeeze them all onto a sheet of A4 or US letter paper.

Print them onto inkjet shrink plastic and then leave them for half an hour. Cut them out and then shrink them in the oven -

Put all of your cut out pieces on a baking tray, lay a sheet of paper over the top of them all (to prevent them from completely curling up and sticking to themselves) and then put them in the oven for 2 minutes at 170° Centigrade or 340° Fahrenheit.

After 2 minutes they should be beginning to shrink down into little bowls.  Take off the piece of paper and then watch intently as they start to flatten out.  When they're pretty much flat, take them out and flatten them down with the base of a glass.  If some of them are resisting flattening down, put them back in for another minute and they should flatten down beautifully.

Instructions for shrink plastic differ wildly depending on the manufacturer.  Some say that it will shrink to between 5 to 7 times its original size, while others say that it will shrink by at least half.  This particular shrink plastic said the latter.  It is true that the height and width shrink by over half, but the actual area of the final shrink plastic piece is actually 6 times smaller than before I put it in the oven.

If you want a better idea of how much your shrink plastic will shrink by, this test is a good starting point.

You should now have a pretty set of white flat discs. To protect the ink from drips and finger marks and to prevent the images from deteriorating like my originals you now need to seal them somehow.

I've never sealed inkjet shrink plastic before, so I tried a few techniques... I tried a few coats of clear nail varnish which worked OK, but wasn't particularly impressive.  I had some spray on sealing spray which worked very well.  It gave a nice matte finish which would have been great for a more modern design, but as my images were mainly white I felt that my magnets needed a little more shine and depth.  I put a layer of Diamond Glaze straight onto the plastic, but as it's water based, the inks started to bleed quite significantly.  Finally I settled on two methods which worked pretty well.

Method 1 - Embossing powder

If you want to add a little more dimension, clear or holographic embossing powders work well in both sealing the inks and adding a glaze.

To heat emboss the shrink plastic pieces you need a Versamark watermark stamp pad, clear or holographic embossing powder and a heat gun.  I'm sure these would look great using UTEE in a meltpot, but I don't have either of those.

In the end I actually melted 3 layers of holographic embossing powder onto my shrink plastic discs as I wanted quite  a thick glaze.

Method 2 - Acrylic sealing spray and Diamond Glaze

The second method is to spray the shrink plastic with acrylic sealing spray and then apply a layer of Diamond Glaze .

Without shaking the Diamond Glaze, squeeze out a small amount onto some kitchen roll to remove any bubbles in the tip and then slowly squeeze the diamond glaze onto the shrink plastic piece whilst continually moving the tip, spreading the glaze evenly in a gentle motion so that the piece is completely covered.  The Diamond Glaze will look milky while it is wet, but it dries to give a clear shiny glaze.

The sealing spray sealed the ink and then the Diamond Glaze added a thick clear coating.  I must confess to being ever so slightly impatient.  I should have left my sealing spray to harden for 24 hours, but in reality I only waited 6 hours before putting on my Diamond Glaze.  

This may be why my image has a very slight 'coloured halo' around it, but it's much preferred to the bleeding effect I would have got if I hadn't sealed it at all.  After my first layer of Diamond Glaze had hardened over night I then added a second layer for a thick glazed finish.

Turning them into fridge magnets

Finally you just need to add the magnets to the back.  I used a couple of these 10mm x 1mm extra strong* neodymium magnets as 2 slim magnets are strong enough to hold up both the shrink plastic image and 6 or 7 pieces of A4 paper. Stick them to the back of your shrink plastic discs with a good strong glue like E6000 , super glue or a two part epoxy resin glue.  The E6000 would need leaving for a day or two before you start using the magnets, but the epoxy resin glue or super glue could be used much sooner.

*I should probably warn you that these magnets are strong, but quite brittle.  You need to take care to space your magnets several centimetres apart while you are working, otherwise they can fly together and break each other.

And there you have a set of unique fridge magnets that should hopefully last many years.

Having tried both methods of sealing the inkjet ink I can see the merits of both -

The Versamark watermark stamp pad and embossing powders was definitely the quicker method and my daughter loves the glittery finish that the holographic embossing powder gave them, however after three coats I was beginning to lose the clean white look of the shrink plastic as the embossing powders gave a slightly creamy/yellowy hue to the original white. The other reason I stopped at 3 coats was that the heat from melting the embossing powders was starting to make the plastic curve again, which I didn't want.

Personally I prefer the look of the sealing spray followed by Diamond Glaze.  It gives a much cleaner, whiter finish with a very thick glaze, however this method took 3 days for the magnets to be usable, as opposed to overnight with the embossing powders.

You could always just keep the minimal look with a couple of coats of acrylic sealing spray.

It does make me want to try coating them with resin next...  Something else I've never tried!

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