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How to Make Plastic Cup Shrinky Dinks

Our fancy-schmancy new magnet!

Our fancy-schmancy new magnet!

Plastic Cup Shrink Ornaments

These crafts are a super-easy idea using easily found materials like disposable plastic party cups and Sharpie Markers. Just be sure the cups are marked with the #6 in the recycle triangle on the bottom; this is the same type of plastic that Shrinky Dinks use. You can use clear or colored cups. The plastic doesn't necessarily shrink in perfect circles, so these may not be heirloom quality works of art, but it is fun, cheap, and easy! Glue a magnet to the back to make a cute refrigerator magnet, or you can use a hole punch before shrinking to make a spot to thread a cord through to make a Christmas ornament.

Photo credit: All photos are our own property.

We drew Disney designs on our cups

We drew Disney designs on our cups

Plastic Cup Shrinky Craft Supplies

  • Solo brand or other plastic party cups made of #6 plastic
  • Sharpie Markers
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Parchment paper or a brown paper sack (both work equally well)
  • Scissors
  • Hole Punch
Toy Story-inspired design

Toy Story-inspired design

Instructions for Your Shrink Plastic Project

Step 1: Cut a piece of parchment paper or brown paper grocery sack to the approximate size of your cookie sheet.

Step 2: Place the cookie sheet on the rack in the oven and set the oven to preheat to 350 degrees. You don't have to put parchment paper or brown paper on the cookie sheet just yet.

Step 3: Use scissors to cut the rolled round plastic edge from the cup & discard. If you'll want to hang your project, use a paper hole punch to make a hole a little ways in from the edge of the cup.

Step 4: Use Sharpie Markers to create designs on your cup.

Step 5: Place parchment paper/brown paper bag on your preheated cookie sheet and set the decorated cups on top.

Plastic cups going into the oven to shrink

Plastic cups going into the oven to shrink

Step 6: Return the cookie sheet to the oven and close the door. If your oven has a window and a light, watch to see when the cups appear flat and well-shrunken. If not, check in about 30 seconds, though more time may be required. The cup will crinkle and then start to lay down flat, though you may give some ripples or curves.

Step 7: When projects are shrunken, remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Quickly use a knife to help unfold any curled area. A flat-bottomed glass or pan can be pressed over the project to help flatten it.

Step 8: Allow the project to cool before gluing magnets, adding string loops, or otherwise embellishing the project.

Plastic cups that have been decorated for shrinking

Plastic cups that have been decorated for shrinking

Tips and Tricks for Expert Cup Shrinking

We're still perfecting this art, but we've picked up a few things along the way!

  • Preheating the cookie sheet really seemed to help the cups shrink more consistently and reduced the bake time.
  • The parchment paper or brown paper sack kept the plastic from catching on little cuts and knicks in the cookie sheet, which contributed to the curling problem.
  • You don't have to remove the rolled plastic edge, but we felt the cups were smoother at the end when we did.
  • We had fun trying red party cups, and those worked well, too–I think they even shrank into a more even circle. (Photo below)
  • Colors intensify with shrinking, so don't go too dark. Also, shapes stretched as the plastic flattened. We got better Mickey Mouse heads when we made them a little taller, rather than wider.
Using a red solo cup for the craft made the final product look a little different

Using a red solo cup for the craft made the final product look a little different

More Tips

  • Some of our holes almost closed up while shrinking, so we used a pencil or the tip of a paring knife to re-open them while the plastic was still hot.
  • We tried removing the project from the cookie sheet with a spatula and transferring it to a plate, but had problems with the plastic folding and sticking to itself. Also, keeping the projects on the hot cookie sheet gave us a little more time to uncurl and flatten any problem area.
  • You can try returning the project to the oven to soften and flatten if the plastic becomes rigid before you are able to uncurl any problem area.
  • Some cups will have a large number on the bottom, but that number may indicate the number of ounces the cup holds, not the type of plastic. Look for the number inside the recycle triangle.
  • For our Toy Story-inspired shrinky craft, we cut the bottom out of the cup and punched holes just inside the rim before coloring the cup. After shrinking, we laced yellow cotton yarn through the holes to give it a western-looking edge.

Give This Craft a Try!

The supplies are cheap and readily available, and you don't have to be an artist to try this craft. So what do you think?

We're still perfecting this art form and would love to hear how your shrink cup crafts come out. Share tips and tales of disaster...we want to hear it all!

Some More Fun Stuff...

We'd love to hear from you!

fathomblueEG on April 24, 2014:

Very cool idea and economical too. Nice lens!

Rhonda Lytle from Deep in the heart of Dixie on August 10, 2013:

That looks like fun! I love the recycle component and well, who didn't adore shrinky dinks?