Making Nightlights

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Today I got to make a craft I've been meaning to try - nightlights. Well, the nightlight is already made (!) - what I wanted to try was to make was a picture for the light to shine through. I got the idea of printing pictures of mine on Shrinky Dinks, and it came out really, really well!

What you'll need:
nightlights with the bulb and clamp included (you can find them on eBay here)
Shrinky Dink inkjet paper
computer, software like Photoshop, printer
oven preheated to 300*
cookie sheet
paper sack cut to fit cookie sheet
a heavy book to insurance-smush the shrinky-dinks flat
hot glue gun, glue

If you know Photoshop, do this: make the image the size you want, then go to levels and wash it out - between 50%-75% of how it started.

If you're not as familiar with Photoshop, follow these directions:
First, I'll show what I did with the image in Photoshop. I opened the image, then went to "image", then "image size". Here, under "document size" I entered how big I wanted the pic to print. For instance, I wanted the height to be 8" which made the width 10.667". I like to print pictures at the highest resolution, within reason, that I can - so at 192 pixels/inch, the pixel dimensions "met" at 9.00M (see, at the top), which was just fine. You want to make sure that you don't print a pic with new pixel dimensions BIGGER than they were to begin with. In other words, if it says at the top "pixel dimensions: 9.45M (was 8.85M)" you want to change the picture resolution to be smaller so that you meet, or are just below, the 8.85M.

If you're brand-new to Photoshop, you can email me (ginger AT deepfriedkudzu DOT com) and I can try to explain it better (hahaha!).

Next, I went to "image", "adjustments", "levels" and got the screen below. See underneath, where it says "output levels" and then there is a bar that can be adjusted? Move the black arrow that is all the way to the left to *at least* halfway across. It's important that the image appear very washed out, because the colors concentrate on the paper when it shrinks in the oven. There were certain pictures that I moved the bar about 75% of the way to the right. With a little practice, you can begin to tell how far washed-out the image will need to be to look good in the end. The darker the pic is to begin with, the more washed-out you will want to start it as.

Next, I saved the file, then printed it. When you print it, select that you want to print in color on the best setting, on transparency film (even though you are using the Shrinky Dink inkjet paper). Depending on the dimensions of your image, you may need to change the setting to print landscape so that the image isn't cut off. Print the image on the scratchy side of the SD paper. In my printer, I put the paper in shiny-side up because it prints on the underneath when it goes through the rollers.

Here's my first experiment going in the oven. The oven is preheated at 300* and I've cut out the image and put it on a baking sheet with a paper-bag cut out to be the liner:

And here's what went wrong - terribly wrong! Lesson learned: when Shrinky-Dink paper gets hot and starts shrinking, the edges will curl. This is normal and okay. The only time to step in is when you have a big piece that you're starting with and the edges curl so much that it curls in and sticks to itself. If that goes unchecked you'll end with this:

(blush.) Okay, that was bad! hahaha! But what I figured out is to open the oven when that happens, a potholder in one hand and a spatula in the other, and to 'beat' the offending edge until it starts to straighten out again. Regular curling is okay. Sticking to itself is definitely not okay.

So...I printed out another picture and started over. This time it turned out a lot better, and I also found out that the SD will shrink faster if the cookie sheet (with the paper sack liner) is preheated in the oven. Here it is, pre-oven:

Here it is, in the oven, with the scary curling going on - but I didn't have to do anything to this one - it just uncurled on its own (total shrink time is about two minutes at 300*. You can go longer than that if you need to.). Resist the need to step in unless you're sure it's going to stick to itself. This one is just fine:

When it's "cooked" longer, it will uncurl itself. I took it out of the oven and my handy assistant, Av, took a book and smushed it. This was our insurance that it would cool completely flat.

Here are two more that I did. These started at about 4"x6" and ended at about...2-1/2"x3-1/2". The magnolia, especially, had this really neat luminous look to it. The camellia turned out great, too!

Next, I started assembling the nightlights. Here's one from the batch I bought on eBay:

Here's one thing to check before you hot-glue the SD onto the clamp. Where you want to put the night light - they are polarized plugs (one of the legs is smaller than the other) - you want to figure out if you're going to be plugging the night light in up or down. This is important if you have an image that is obviously one way up (like...if you did a SD of a house, you want to make sure the outlet you plug it into is going to show it right-way up). In my home, some of the outlets have the little leg on the left side and some have the little leg on the right side. Anyway, just to be sure, take your nightlight to where you're going to use it and see how it is going to plug in.

Here, I've taken my hot-glue gun and made a bead of glue on the clamp, then pressed the SD onto it:

...and here it is!

Here's the magnolia one, all ready, too!:

I think they look really nice. I've got a little work to do to make them look even neater, but that will come with some more practice. I'm really happy with them!

Later I'll show what I did with some of the other shrinky-dinks I made!

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