I got a surprise commission today, but it gave me a chance to do some serious experimenting. I'd worked a couple times with inkjet shrink plastic but not in any depth really so I won't claim I know the stuff beyond avoiding it because it is insanely expensive. But anyhow, an old friend had seen my buttons and asked if I could do some custom buttons, he wanted some for an SCA event, and I said “sure no problem”. Well, some rough starts later, including some miscommunication on the image he wanted used, I finally thought I had the images in the right place for being punched out with my Fiskars 2” punch. And yes, I did. I did a test run on some plain paper with grey scale (I hate wasting color ink) and the test turned out great. I knew however that I really didn't want to do these on clear shrink plastic, which was all I had left. So when he asked, I told him that translucent or white shrink plastic would be best. Now, normally, I'd have hopped up onto Lucky Squirrel and ordered a big pack of white. But, he was in a rush (he wants these by Thursday) so I sent him to Hobby Lobby. I figured he'd just get a pack of white, he only needs 30 buttons after all. But when he arrived, he'd bought 2 packages of white, and 2 packages of the inkjet shrink. To my delight, he said to keep them and just see what I could do with them. I actually really wanted him to take back the 3 packages leaving me just one of the inkjet, but he's that kind of guy. So thank you Terry. I owe you. So, my biggest drawback to the inkjet shrink plastic so far? Cost. Because it has a special coating of some kind, at Hobby Lobby, it is $12.99 for 6 sheets. That means each sheet costs a little over $2 each. Owie. (and 6 sheets at Hobby Lobby of Bright White is around $5 compared to my $13.99 for 24 sheets at LS) break this down a bit further, and it's around 18 cents per button. Which isn't terrible, and sometimes I can get more than 12 buttons off a sheet, but 12 is about average. So is it worth that? Well, yes and no. The idea of paying $13 for 6 sheets of plastic causes me to cringe. I admit it. I'd have never bought those sheets, much less 2 packs. Theory says one package will give me at least 72 buttons. And yes, you just keep breaking this down. I sell sets of 6 buttons for $8–$12 per set, depending. Now how about the printing right? I have to admit. Wow. Just, wow. Now, as I've said before, you can print using a printer on regular shrink. You need to sand the hell out of it. On this stuff, nope. And part of the issue here is white versus clear, so keep that in mind too. The biggest advantage I see is that when I touch a button or pendant, it's not smearing halfway to hell when I touch it out of the printer. The inkjet can be touched instantly. That saves me time in a lot of ways. So that feature, yes, makes the cost worth it. Now, lets have some comparison pictures shall we?
This is translucent and clear in the Russian buttons, and one of my “mistake” buttons for my friend. The “mistake” button is clear shrink with some glazing on it to create dimension.
See what I mean? First, the white really makes the colors pop. Big time. And the lines are far more crisp. Amazing. The second picture shows the glazing added, I'll be hitting the sides with an emery board to remove the doming material, along with drilling into the holes to free those up again. In real life the button is a more ivory color. Now, while I think the clear domed buttons look great, the white looks amazing. Here's another good example. Both are Russian Button, the 4 done on translucent, the second set done on white inkjet.
Now, don't get me wrong, my friend Bunny does some sick photography, but the fact is, these look amazing on white shrink. I can't wait to dome these and really make them just explode with vibrancy. I really am looking forward to trying some pendants and some rings with both the white and the inkjet. So my end opinion? Is the inkjet stuff worth it? I'm torn. I really am. I think in the logical part of my head, I accept that the cost isn't that bad when you break it down, I can get several pendants, rings, buttons or what have you on one sheet, which means at $2 a sheet, each piece costs pennies to make. (not including ink from the printer and adding things like chains or other things) but then there's this part of me (thank you Scotch grandparents) that flinches at the idea of paying $13 for 6 sheets of plastic. I think in the end I'll be buying the inkjet stuff occasionally and using the white 99% of the time for things like the buttons no matter if its inkjet or just plain white shrink from LS.