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




About: Dabbler in All Things Creative...

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.

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Step 1: 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!

(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!

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!

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

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

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!

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

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    133 Discussions


    3 years ago

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

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

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


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    1 reply

    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.


    6 years ago on Step 6

    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.


    6 years ago on Step 6

    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.


    6 years ago on Step 6

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


    7 years ago on Step 6

    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.

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Step 5

    what a wonderful way to recycle!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Love love love love love love love!!

    DotatDabbledajitha sam neon

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 3

    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.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 5

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