Instructions For Working With Resin On A Small Scale
Resin is a very versatile plastic material which you can color to create a shade you like, or it can be transparent to display any embedded objects you choose to bury within it. Just get creative!
It's a perfect material for crafts as you can mold solid plastic into any shape you like with small set-up costs. It is perfect for making models and jewelry especially, but a whole range of items are possible, including bookends, paperweights and other home décor.
Below you will find beginner's lessons and tips for working with resin plus easy craft tutorials to get you started in this fun hobby. I hope you find plenty to inspire you :)
Casting Resin Lamps
These cool faceted lamps are made by creating a hand-scored plastic sheet mould, then pouring a casting resin into the mould (whilst rolling it to coat the insides.)
A Brief Intro To Resin
Resin is a liquid plastic which can be crystal clear, white, or coloured with pigments. Clear resin is what you will require if you plan on embedding small objects - such as plastic toys, printed paper images or rainbow sprinkles - inside.
The types of resin used in the projects below, and those most used for small scale craft in general, are polyester resins and epoxy resins. They both require two liquids to be mixed together in accurate proportions in order to start off the hardening of the resin.
- Epoxy resins are mainly pouring/coating resins (such as 'Envirotex Lite') and are designed to be used in thin layers; to coat images, fill shallow bezels, or fill shallow molds. However, there are also casting epoxy resins, such as 'EasyCast' resins, which can be used in deeper molds.
Epoxy resins are more expensive than polyester resins, but they smell much less and are less toxic.
- Polyester resins are used when the molds are deeper than around 0.5", and with this type of resin, the casts can be poured all in one go rather than in layers. The most common brand of polyester resin is Clear Polyester Casting Resin, which is good to use if you are embedding objects to be displayed within your casting.
A small amount of a 'catalyst' is mixed in with the polyester resin to start off the hardening reaction before the resin is poured into the mold. Make sure you follow the resin instructions and add exactly the right amount of catalyst, as the wrong amount can cause problems later. Mix the components in disposable, unwaxed plastic cups, using wood popsicle/lollipop sticks.
Whilst you're waiting for resin to harden, cover the open mold with plastic wrap if you like, to stop dust and debris getting inside. Try to keep your workspace clean, to make sure your resin is untainted.
Pouring/coating resins can be poured directly onto a surface to cover it, however most of the time resins will be poured into molds. Molds are basically containers which limit the flow of the resin, and the resin will therefore set in the shape of the mold i.e. if you pour resin in a rectangular mold, you will produce a resin rectangle.
At craft stores you can buy molds specifically made for using with resin, OR you can choose to make your own custom mold in any shape you like. For instance if you wanted to replicate a plastic toy tank in resin then you would use the toy tank to create the mold by building up the mold-making material around it, leaving it to set, and then removing the tank to leave behind a cavity which will be the container for the resin. If you aren't replicating a pre-existing object, you will have to build the shape from scratch using a solid material such as clay or wood.
More complicated 3D shapes like the tank will require a 2-part mold, where the mold has 2 parts that fit together perfectly before the resin is poured inside, and then when the resin has hardened the mold parts can be pulled apart again to release the resin shape. The molds are reusable.
Only 1-part molds should be used by beginners, so that simple techniques can be practised first before progressing to more advanced designs. 1-part molds are used when the shapes you are making in resin have a flat side (such as jewelry charms) and don't have too complicated a shape.
A few possible materials you can use to create your own custom mold are:
Silicone rubber (a popular option), re-meltable PVC (Gelflex or Vinamould), or polyurethane resin/rubber. These are all flexible so can accommodate undercuts on the shape you want to cast. Wood and plaster are solid mold materials which can be used - although they must be sealed with primer sealer, and a release agent must be used so the resin doesn't stick to it.
For coloring resin, opaque and transparent resin pigments are available. It is possible to experiment with different coloring methods such as using oil paints, acrylic paints, fabric dyes, tempura powder, pastels, micro glitter, and even eye shadow, although these could affect curing (solidifying) time. You just have to use trial and error really!
Working with resin: Resin can be drilled and burred. It may be better to use dental burr bits rather than drill bits in order to reduce the risk of chipping. Resin gets hot when drilled so must be cooled regularly.
It's best to leave resin to cure completely before finishing it by sanding and polishing. A file (e.g. coarse toothed file) is usually used to take off any rough areas and sharp edges. Then wet and dry sandpapers are used with water, starting with coarse grades (p320) and finishing with fine grades (p1200) of paper.
The resin can then be hand or machine polished. Hand polish with liquid metal polish like Brasso, or use a cotton/wool mop on a polishing machine with a specialised polishing compound. A hand-held Dremel could also be used.
Casting Resin Figures
Hand Cast Knitting Needles
Beginner's Guides to Resin Casting
- Brilliant Tutorial Collection
Click on the photos for clear starter tips.
- Resin Casting Basics
Another guide to tools and materials for beginners.
- Resin Casting Tutorial
Step-by-step creation of a resin tank.
- Clear Polyester Resin
All about using polyester casting resin.
- Hand Polishing Resin
How resin is polished by hand with car polish and a cloth.
- Polishing Bangles
Click on the link at the bottom for a handy download.
- Tips and Techniques
Background info for resin casting, plus a couple of videos.
- Using Clear Polyester Resin
Advice about making beautiful paperweights in deep molds.
- Resin Video Series
A 4-part video collection on making resin charms.
- 1-Part Mold
Photo instructions on how to make a simple mold.
- 2-Part Mold
2-part molds are needed for detailed shapes.
- Resin Doming Technique
How to get resin to have a slightly domed surface in a bezel.
Glitter Heart Earrings
Videos Showing the Casting of Models
! Safety Tips !
- Make sure you are working in a well-ventilated area, or outdoors if it is practical. Do not have any heat sources near the resin.
- Wear disposable gloves, and a vapors mask, especially when dealing with polyester resin. It is recommended to wear eye goggles/safety glasses as well, especially when sanding/drilling the resin.
- Any molds, cups, dishes etc. that come into contact with the resin must not be used for any other purpose.
- Put wax paper or newspaper down on your workspace in case of spillages and be sure to work on a level surface. Don't mix the resin quickly or pour from much of a height, as this will introduce bubbles.
- Always follow the instructions on the resin you use, taking special care in mixing accurate amounts of resin and catalyst/hardener together.
- For specific safety info, refer to the instructions on your resin packaging.
Resin-Coated Mosaic Backsplash
Jewelry Making & Other Projects
- Resin Bracelet
Fun video showing you how to embed pictures into resin.
- Simple Jewelry Charms & Pendants
Lovely examples of charms made with clear EasyCast resin.
- Embedding Objects
A few interesting ideas of what to embed in resin.
- Rainbow Sprinkle Shapes
Polyester resin shapes you can turn into fridge magnets or jewelry.
- Christmas Ornaments
A tutorial on making star shapes packed with glitter.
Includes instructions on how to encapsulate insects in resin.
- Cut Out And Keep
A list of user-generated ideas using resin.
- Advanced Bezel Wire Pendant
Learn how to make a wearable piece of art with this 4-part tutorial.
- Butterfly Wing Necklace
Preserve something pretty and delicate inside a pendant.
- How to Make a Bangle Mold
A video lesson showing you how to replicate an existing bangle.
License Plate Tabletop
More Casting Resin Ideas
- Bottle Cap Tray
Make a funky base for a serving tray.
- Cutlery Kitchen Backsplash
One of my favourite ever projects. Perfect for an ambitious DIYer.
- Cast Knitting Needles
An ingenious use for drinking straws!
- Dollar Store Crafts
Including a coffee bean embedded storage jar
- Flickr Photo Gallery
Loads of photos of resin creations to get your imagination going.
- Bottle Cap Coasters
An easy and practical project to use up your saved bottletops.
- Oyster Card Ring
A brilliant idea even if it is illegal!
Jewelry Casting Videos
Embedded Shells & FIMO Clay
Gold Foil Ring
Non-Casting Resin Creations
These tutorials show you ways of using pouring/coating epoxy resin for adding a glossy coating to flat surfaces, usually artwork, photos, decoupage or other papers. It seals and preserves/protects and is not for casting (i.e. creating shapes with). An example of this type of resin is Envirotex.
- Butterfly Window
Very pretty decorative art made by recycling a window.
- Steampunk Charm
Fill a bezel with small amounts of resin, plus mini cogs.
- Using Envirotex Lite
Including glazing leaves and filling shells with resin.
- Glitter Bottlecaps
Embed letter beads in bottlecaps, with a glitter resin base.
- Tile Pendant Coating
How to get the resin finish on this popular style of necklace pendant.
- DIY Decoupage Saucers
Which you can use as candle holders or coasters.
- Coin Tabletop
I think this surface decorating idea looks amazing.
- Stencilled Lazy Susan
Paint a design on top of the lazy susan and cover with a shiny resin coating.
- Sticker Post Earrings
Cover stickers with resin to make them into jewelry components.
Cut-Out Resin Letters
Cute Resin Characters
Some Ideas On What To Make
A few ideas on what to embed in your clear resin:
Gems, jewels, foil (gold/silver), beads, crystals, pearls, springs/wire, confetti, dead insects, souvenirs, hardware, printed images, photos, mirror discs, sequins, paper/quilling, pressed flowers, dried foliage, leaves, shells, fossils, found objects, bones, shark teeth, charms, metal shapes, sprinkles, candy, feathers, computer chips/resistors/circuit board, fabric lace, coffee beans, glitter, pebbles, buttons, cogs, watch parts, polymer clay slices, mosaic pieces, embroidery/cross stitch/needlepoint, found objects, coins, plastic toys, collections, stamps, letters, wall art, cotton threads, art yarns, rhinestones, metal spikes, nails, silk flowers....to name but a few!
If you want to embed paper, fabric or photos, you'll need to seal them first to protect and preserve them. Coat them with a vinyl resin glue/sealer and let that dry before adding resin.
Items which you can make from resin include:
Paperweights, jewelry, sculpture/decorative objects, chandelier crystals, replicas of most solid objects (e.g. figurines/models/toys/dolls/candlesticks/lollipops/(shark) teeth/fossils/garden gnomes), coasters, kitchen backsplash, decorative tiles, counter/table top, photo frame, wall art, puppet, Christmas ornaments, fridge magnets, alphabet letters, pen holder etc. You could also coat artwork and photos in epoxy resin before displaying them.
Resin casting is often used to produce collectible and customized toys and figures too, as well as ball-jointed dolls and scale models of individual components or transport like trains, planes and ships.
Embedded Coin Flooring
Helpful Resin Casting Videos
Please Leave a Comment!
Helen Stuart from Deep in the Heart of Texas on October 11, 2015:
Oh man, I was supposed to buy some mold making stuff for a rather large mold this month but I ran out of cash. (It's my daughter's birthday.) I have been making the prototypes for some small indoor sculptures, mostly odd little animals, and I am now creating the first of my lawn ornaments. I am working with a Portland Cement Combination called Polyadam because it is supposed to yield better detailing. Much harder than it looks. When I get the perfect prototype finished I should be able to mold it, but something about the whole process goes right over my head like e=mc2. HOW WILL THEY CLONE THEMSELVES AND WHICH ONES WILL BE THE ONES WITH SOULS???
Diana Abrahamson on April 24, 2015:
This is an amazing art ..love the bangle..must really try this at home. Thanks for all your instructions!
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 08, 2015:
Clever and crafty ideas. I never used resin casting before. But I love what you can do and make out of it. Voted up for interesting!
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on January 16, 2015:
Hi! If you're going to embed objects, then you will need a casting resin. Thanks for visiting :)
KitF on January 15, 2015:
Hi, my mother-in-law passed away and left me all sorts of jewelries. Regardless of the price of these jewelries, I'd like to put them in a couple of wooden trays for both my girls. I'd like to leave them memories of their grandma by arranging these jewelry pieces (could be broken, cheap, new, old, plastic, metal, real stones, gold, silver, old or real gems) on a tray that they can have. Any advise for me, especially, I'm going to need lots of resin to pour to make the surface flat. What kind of resin should I use? Please help me preserve and pass on these memories to my girls. Thanks!
GrammieOlivia on June 08, 2014:
These ideas are so nice, I think I'm in love with a new hobby. Or at least I want to try! Great Tutorial, thanks for this!
Mary Collings from Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland on April 16, 2013:
I'm so glad I found this. I've wanted to try crafting with resin for some time now. This could be just the kick start I need.
And I just have to say...how long did that coin embedded floor take to make - good grief!!!!
Sher Ritchie on April 03, 2012:
I LOVE YOUR LENS! These resin projects (and results) are amazing. I've just featured your lens on mine (http://www.squidoo.com/millefiori-glass-paperweigh... - because resin is ideal for making personalised paperweights and your lens shows how to do it. Thanks for sharing!