Make Photo Necklaces, Earrings, Magnets and More Using Shrinkable Plastic

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Seems like everything keeps getting smaller these days: computers, dogs, headphones

And now even photographs are joining in the smallness, thanks to the magic of biaxially oriented thermoplastic polystyrene (that’s Shrinky Dinks to you).

You can print photos on plastic using your inkjet printer, and shrink them down small enough to make into necklaces, fridge magnets, earrings, or practically anything you can think of.

See? Just like that, the world is your bivalve mollusc of the family Ostreidae! *

Photo credits: city: Christopher & AmyCate, giraffe: milkfat, tree: left-hand, bird: lucianvenutian

What You’ll Need


  • Inkjet-printable shrink plastic (clear or white)– Michael’s and Pearl usually have it
  • Oven or toaster oven
  • Cookie sheet
  • Parchment paper — check the grocery store next to the plastic wrap and tinfoil
  • Scissors and/or X-acto knife
  • Hole punch (optional)

Choose Your Photos

Your pictures will shrink significantly, so choose ones that will be easily recognizable at a very small size.

Since the plastic may not shrink proportionately, cut the photos into shapes that can stand a little wobbliness. Ovals and circles are pretty forgiving; squares and rectangles will come out off-kilter and drive you up the wall. Crop them into the shape you want in the computer, or do it by hand after they print out.

Print on Plastic

print-smResize your chosen images in Photoshop/ GIMP/ whatever. Make them 2-3 times larger than you want the final pieces to be.

Arrange the images so they will print on letter-sized piece of paper. You can fit several images on a sheet so you don’t waste materials.

Since the colors will darken and saturate as the plastic shrinks, adjust the output on your printer to nearly the minimum color intensity. All other printer settings should be the same as printing on plain paper.

Print the images on a sheet of shrink plastic and let it dry for a minute or two before handling it.

Don’t Make Me Cut You

cut-sm2Cut the images out using scissors or X-acto knife. You can cut the pieces into generic shapes like ovals, or cut out the silhouette of an object.

If you need to have holes in the final piece (for attaching to keyrings, chains, etc.) punch holes in the piece before baking it. A standard hole punch works fine, but if the final hole needs to be really large, you should cut it out with a knife.

Preheat the Oven

bake-smPreheat the oven to 300º F — toaster ovens work just as well as big ones for this.

Put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and arrange the plastic pieces on it so they’re not touching each other. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top.

Don’t bake the plastic on bare metal — it’ll stick. If you don’t have a cookie sheet, a piece of cardboard will work instead (just don’t forget about it and burn your apartment down).

Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot

Bake the wee plastic-y beasties for approximately 2-5 minutes. It’s best to turn on the oven light and watch to see when they’re done (also it’s kinda neat to watch). The plastic will curl up, then flatten out.

Don’t remove the baking sheet until the pieces have flattened (and don’t forget to use an oven mitt). If they’re still a tiny bit curled when you take them out, you can flatten them with a spatula if you work quick.

Use gloves if you handle the plastic pieces before they’re cool.

How to make magnets

magnets3-smFridge magnets are probably the easiest thing to make out of little plastic photos.

Make a few round or oblong-shaped photos, bake them as described above, and glue magnets to the back of them. Totally easy, but totally useful.

How to make a zipper pull

zipper3-smFabulous sweatshirt, boring zipper: the age-old dilemma. Fix it by making yourself a clever new zipper pull!

Choose a tall, narrow photograph and crop to make it even longer and thinner. Resize the photo (a 2-inch long zipper pull will have to be printed at least 4 inches tall) and print it out. Cut it out and punch a hole near the top of the picture.

When baked and shrunken and done, attach the piece to your zipper using a metal jump ring (or bend a paper clip and use that). Voila! One-of-a-kind sweatshirt, all for you.

How to make earrings

earring-smEarrings: holy freaking moley are they easy to make. Make two round photos and punch a hole in the top of each one.

When they’re done, slip them onto a pair of hoops and you’re finished. Try big hoops with tiny little discs or wee little hoops with big ol’ plastic discs: they’ll all look good.

How to make a necklace

model-smTo make a horizontal necklace, make a wide oblong photo and punch holes in each side.

Once it’s baked and finished, thread a fine chain through the holes, or attach jump rings to the holes and thread the chain through those.

To make a vertical necklace, make a tall, narrow photo and punch a hole in the top. Attach a jump ring and slide it onto a chain. Done!

More Ideas

  • Make a keychain by cutting an extra-large hole in a piece before baking it, then attach a keyring to it when it’s done.
  • Bend long thin pieces into custom-fit rings as soon as they come out of the oven!
  • Let us know about the clever stuff you come up with!

Photo credits: owl: brendan.lally, bird: lucianvenutian, giraffe: milkfat, tree: left-hand, city: Christopher & AmyCate, Vespa: jorge.correa, partial tree: sudhamshu, Mt. Fuji: skyseeker, “Cash” graffiti: Franco Folini, “What?” graffiti: fabbio, soldier graffiti: anarchosyn, girl graffiti: unusualimage, road: newtype2011