Introduction: Doodle Earrings (Jewelry Charms) by Recycling #6 Plastic (Make Your Own Shrinky Dinks!)

Picture of Doodle Earrings (Jewelry Charms) by Recycling #6 Plastic (Make Your Own Shrinky Dinks!)

Here's a quick fun project! You don't need to be able to draw more than a doodle, and you end up with pretty & interesting jewelry!
These charms can be used for earrings, necklaces, or whatever you'd like. They are made out of plastic recycled from a to-go container (#6 plastic). The directions below are for 2 matching ones, which could be earrings. Because plastics & pens vary, you might start out with a test piece so see how much your plastic will shrink, and how your colors come out. Or just jump right in! It's only trash.
If you want more ideas and info, I did a whole bunch of experiments on my blog:
EDIT: and I did a Christmas ornament tutorial here: Santa Shrinky Ornaments:

This was the first project I tried, and I've updated the instructions based on what I learned on the best techniques.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Plastic: It needs to be marked #6. Many to-go containers seem to work. Look for the number inside the recycling triangle. I used salad to-go boxes from my local pizza place.
Sharpie Markers in a variety of light colors, plus black.
Hole punch
Toaster (or regular) oven, preheated to around 250 degrees F
Polyurethane for sealing (optional)

Step 2: Cut It Out!

Picture of Cut It Out!

(Note, the directions below are for a pair of earrings, hence 'cut two pieces'. Obviously, if you only want 1, cut one!)

Cut out two pieces of the flat parts of the plastic container in the size/shape you want. Mine was about 3 inches x 2 inches. You could also do circles or other shapes, but you need to round off any corners because corners will get sharp when shrunk. (note: all plastic doesn't melt the same and keep the same proportions, so cut both pieces running the same way. e.g. if you're doing 2 rectangles, cut out one large rectangle and cut it in half to ensure your pieces run the same way. If you're doing circles, be sure to mark the top and put your holes in the same place.)

If there is any impressions on the plastic (like the #6 symbol, or words) you can just color over it and it will go away in the shrinking process. But be aware it may be a pain to color or draw lines over.

On each one, use a hole punch to make a hole in the top center.

Step 3: Draw Your Doodle, and Color It!

Picture of Draw Your Doodle, and Color It!

Draw your doodle design on each one with the black sharpie. The designs don't need to be the same, and be creative. Just a series of shapes and doodles. If you're nervous about drawing it, practice on a spare piece. And you can always draw something on paper and trace it on to the plastic. Remember, shrinking hides a multitude of sins!

Randomly color in the design using a variety of light colors. Colors get way more intense when shrunk. The black will smear if you touch another color to it, so be careful. Again, shrinking will hide most issues.

Alternately, draw your design on the front, and turn over the plastic. Color it on the back! You won't have to worry about smearing your black design. However, make sure you don't leave any gaps between your colors (ie, color over all the black lines!) Otherwise you'll have gaps in the color when shrunk. You could also color the whole back in one color if you want to go simple.

Step 4: Time to Cook!

Picture of Time to Cook!

Place your colored piece on a square of parchment paper, on a tray in your toaster oven (preheated to about 250 degrees). Watch the magic happen! Don't worry... it will curl up. and curl up again. then finally settle down to the smallest size.

If your oven is already hot, this will happen almost immediately and take maybe 30 seconds to complete the process. Keep watching!

Sometimes, if you have a long skinny piece, it may turn on it's side and curl up. That's fine, just flatten it out when it's done.

Step 5: Remove From Oven

Picture of Remove From Oven

Caution! It will be hot!!

If it's not quite flat at the end, you can press it down flat immediately. Note, depending on your plastic, it may not be quite the same proportions as you started with.

Step 6: Sealing - Optional

Picture of Sealing - Optional

The ink will scratch off of the shrinky plastic, so if you want to seal the charms, I've had the best success with dipping in polyurethane and letting dry overnight. However, I have also had some hairline cracks appear by the hole when i've tried this with tear drop shaped charms. So your mileage may vary.

You can also try painting with clear fingernail polish, several of my readers on Dabbled have said that worked for them!

Unless you want the colors to lighten considerably, don't seal with any sort of spray acrylic that contains acetone. Although, it may give you an interesting effect! (I have a whole section on that in my experiments)

Step 7: Enjoy Your Cool Stuff!

Picture of Enjoy Your Cool Stuff!

String on a chain, add earring hooks, stick on a key chain whatever!


StellaC12 (author)2016-04-06

me encantó la idea, muy original. quisiera saber si pueden usarse otros productos para pintar que no sean marcadores. Gracias

PatriciaS179 (author)StellaC122017-04-14

debes, no Debentures. El autocorrect habla engles!

PatriciaS179 (author)StellaC122017-04-14

Debentures usar Marcadores Permanentes, como los "Sharpies", pero otros marcas de Marcadores trabajará. Lo siento por mi pobre Español y él autocorrect.

jewelry river (author)2015-06-06

What a great idea. Thanks

Battlespeed (author)2013-12-21

Tried this with a deli container labeled #1 and it worked exactly the way #6 is said to work. Oven at 350, took about 5 seconds for the plastic to curl up and another 5 to flatten back down. Shrinkage was about 50%, and coloring with a Sharpie prior to heating the item worked like a charm too.

Battlespeed (author)Battlespeed2013-12-21

Adding a bit. In your grocery store, you see these large clear disposable plastic containers with lids, containing fruit like watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, strawberry, etc that's been cut up into small pieces for immediate serving. That's the kind of container this was.

I should mention that pieces cut from the side of the "bowl" shrank in an odd way (a rectangular piece comes out more "rainbow" shape) - but it's still predictable, based on the orientation of the piece that you cut. Pieces cut in the same direction will deform the same way.

Pieces cut from the flat bottom of the bowl and lid maintained their proportions and retained their shape.

LadyHawk2006 (author)2013-05-09

Have you tried puzzle glue? I think you can brush it over the front of the puzzle, so I don't think it should yellow. I've never used it for anything so I'm just guessing, but it seems that it might dry clear and I don't think that it would have acetone.

Skyespirit86 (author)2013-02-10

I have a product here called 'Diamond Glaze' which is a clear drying glue/varnish and I got it to use on the backs of clear glass tile pendants. Here in UK the only polyurethane varnish I can get hold of is horrible stuff which dries with a yellow tinge.

mkke (author)2012-10-13

hmmm... I was wondering if anyone had tried resin/ glass??

paperdoodles (author)2012-06-19

This is a great tutorial and you are a patient individual!

KwartzKitten (author)2012-05-13

Have you ever tried using crazy glue? It's far from perfect and a good whiff while concentrating on your piece will make your eyes water, but I've gotten good results from merely one coat.

that's an excellent idea. will have to try it!

Kerushii (author)2012-03-23

what a wonderful way to recycle!

Tiktaky (author)2011-12-06

My country doesn't have anything with #6 due to is carcenogenc nature. Do any other grades of plastic work.
(I tried importing some shrinky dink plastic, but it was seized at customs)

We also don't have those little lables, Our plastic container are bare. Maybe I just need to put this on my to-do list when I travel overseas.

Adrastia217 (author)2011-10-29

thin CD jewel cases are a #6 plastic...i think the clear cover on them would be good for this kind of project...only thing is it might be hard to cut to shape...i was cutting a piece & it kind of splintered...but i was using these wire/sheet metal cutters...which i don't think was the right thing to cut it w/...but w/'s ok...i was melting it w/ a heat gun as abstract art...i just thought i'd mention it just as an idea to someone who may want to try that plastic...i'd love to see someone attempt it

Wynd (author)2011-08-15

Love love love love love love love!!

ajitha sam neon (author)2011-07-21

with what should we draw please can u say?(who made it)

Draw anything you want! in this case I just made a bunch of swirls with black marker, then colored in the spaces between the black with different colors. If you have issues with the colors running together, try drawing the black on one side, then the colors on the other.

mjones25 (author)2011-07-10

how do you get the hole without using a drill

DotatDabbled (author)mjones252011-07-11

You use a hole punch (like the kind you use for paper) before you shrink it.

chosenangelx (author)2011-07-09

How large would you say the finished product of a 3x2 inch piece of plastic would be?


htonks (author)2011-07-07

You stamp the hole before shrinkage to protect it, right?

htonks (author)2011-07-07

Could you use clear nail polish over these instead of polyurethane?

DotatDabbled (author)htonks2011-07-07

Yes, in fact, several people have recommended that.

inazoo (author)2009-09-02

do you have to use sharpies or can it just be markers?

DotatDabbled (author)inazoo2011-07-05

Any permanent marker should work.

DotatDabbled (author)inazoo2009-09-02

any brand of permanent marker that will write on plastic...

inazoo (author)DotatDabbled2009-09-05

thank you

christine ang (author)2009-09-13

Hmmmm, I posted a question and it didn't come up on your page :( I'm going to try again. When in the oven the plastic seemed to bubble in places and wouldn't lay flat. I even tried to flatten while still hot. No luck :( The container is #6...maybe it's just that particular container?? I did use an opaque cup. That worked GREAT! Do you think that I'm doing something wrong with the to go container? TY! Christine

Try a different sample - not all #6 will work, but most will.

jmurray7 (author)2011-07-05

Does melting the plastic not release poisonous toxins into the air? I see that it's a low temperature but I'm still a little concerned since you are technically changing the molecular structure of the plastic by heating it.

DotatDabbled (author)jmurray72011-07-05

As with any project like this where you are melting things, I would suggest doing this in a well ventilated area or outside if you are concerned about fumes. If you're doing a large number of these, I think we've discussed in the comments getting a cheap toaster oven for this purpose and doing it outside.

Jiji (author)2011-05-09

I have had good luck with spray varnish....I hold the spray nozzle about a foot away and spray very lightly. Works like a charm.

If you spray too heavy or too close, or yes, it could get interesting.

It's nice too, because it's dry in about 10 minutes.

k-k-b (author)2010-02-18

Is it 250 degrees Fahrenheit or 250 degrees Celsius?

DotatDabbled (author)k-k-b2010-02-18

Farenheit..  So a very low oven.

jvarberg (author)DotatDabbled2011-05-08

I know I'm probably becoming annoying with this, but ehow says 350 works fine.


Leeden (author)2010-03-31

Um, I tried this but 30 seconds didn't do anything what-so-ever. :c

I had to use a normal oven but it took minutes until they did anything at all. Such a long time made me weary to keep them in too much longer after they fell the first time.

jvarberg (author)Leeden2011-05-08

Again, according to, it can take from 1-5 minutes to shrink and flatten back out.

DotatDabbled (author)Leeden2010-04-01

As with any time that you're working with 'unknown' materials (ie recycled from trash!) sometime you might get a dud.  I tried this with some cool black plastic labeled #6 one time, but it didnt work. 

I would guess your plastic was too thick or just manufactured in a different way.

Try again with another sample.  (and always do a test piece with scrap prior to spending a ton of time on making something cool, to find out your material doesn't perform as expected.)

rachelmaryb (author)2011-01-27

How can you flatten it if it's hot...? o.O

jvarberg (author)rachelmaryb2011-05-08

It should flatten on it's own. If it doesn't, it's not #6 plastic (according to

broberts3 (author)2011-04-11

Can i just point out that plastic with the number 6 on it is not safe when heated and is a human carcinogen. Is there anyhting else i could do the designs on? I think its a brilliant idea though. =)

DotatDabbled (author)broberts32011-04-11


That's why I recommend doing this in a ventilated area, or even outside with a toaster oven you don't care about. To me the risk of doing this very occasionally is acceptable. But of course everyone should use their own judgement.

If you don't want to use #6, you could use actual purchased Shrink Plastic (aka "shrinky dinks") to the same effect..

jvarberg (author)DotatDabbled2011-05-08

FYI - according to Ehow (, Shrinky Dink plastic IS #6 plastic and that's the only type of plastic that will work without sticking to itself, melting too much or staying balled up.

Just thought I'd let ya know! :-)

day-veed (author)2011-04-08

I didn't have many permanent markers around so i used a 240 and a 400 grit sandpaper to roughen it up a little. The result was a opaque (sort of like 'sea-glass') plastic that could be coloured with colour pencils.

blauschmetterling (author)2011-02-11

Do you have to use clear plastic, or would white work? I know it won't have the same effect, but it might still be fun.

Opaque white/colored plastic like in Solo cups works for this, but I tried some black from the bottom of a sushi container and that never shrunk... so just try it, it might work!

rachelmaryb (author)2011-01-31

Well, i couldn't flatten them out fast enough, but got some cool results anyways!

inazoo (author)2009-09-05

would tin foil work beause i dont have any parchment paper

oio_flurry (author)inazoo2011-01-27

I use tinfoil it works great. In fact I have had a lot of luck scrunching up the sides of the tin foil to form a pan and just leaving the pan out all together. Because the tinfoil "pan" is so thin, the heat gets to the plastic right away so you can watch it shrink after only a few seconds in a preheated oven.

About This Instructable




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