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With this tutorial I want to introduce you to the Resin Epoxy Art. Before you can get started, you will learn what resin is and what you should pay attention to when working with epoxy resin. I will show you where you can get the materials you need and give you a step-by-step guide on how to create your first resin work. All the basics for a successful start in the casting resin technique are given in the following article.
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What is Resin?
The term resin comes from the English language area and means resin. Epoxy resins are a two-component system consisting of resin and hardener. By mixing the two components, a chemical reaction takes place so that the liquid resin gradually hardens to a solid plastic. The result is a high-gloss, clear surface. For the sake of simplicity, I will usually use the term “resin” instead of “epoxy resin”. Resin is not only used in industry and boat building, but also in art. Thus, besides kitchen counters, floors, tables, pictures, jewellry or sculptures can also be cast.
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Application of Resin in Art
The trend to use resin in art comes from the USA, Canada and Australia. In Europe, the technology is still little known. With resin you can create works of art that enchant with their clarity, luminosity, brilliance and depth. Color pigments or other additives are added to the resin. Different effects can be created by choosing the painting ground, the type of casting, the colors and the additives. Even experienced resin artists have never finished learning. If you like experimenting, you will love working with resin. Resin can also be used to finish drawings, photos and pictures (made of oil, acrylic, alcohol ink, watercolor, ink, mixed media, etc.) with a shine that can be created and also to protect them from UV light and mechanical influences.
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Properties and Applications of different Resin Products
For my resin paintings I mainly use the two resin varieties MasterCast 1-2-1 from Eli-Chem Resins and ArtResin from the company of the same name. They are both available in Europe, high quality and certified as non-toxic. They contain no solvents, do not give off vapours and are odourless and non-flammable. They protect your artwork from UV rays. In addition to MasterCast, Eli-Chem also offers other resin types with different viscosities. For certain applications UltraCast and TotalCast Resin are better suited than MasterCast. TotalCast Resin is slightly more liquid and ideally suited for clear coatings or embedding and pouring liquids and has a short drying time (approx. three to four hours). MasterCast on the other hand is better suited for coloring resin with color pigments and for fluid panting and has a longer drying time of about six to eight hours. MasterCast therefore also offers a slightly longer working time (service life of approx. 25 to 40 minutes). The time until the image is completely hardened is about three days with MasterCast. The UltraCast resin is characterised by its very long processing time of up to 1.5 hours or drying time of 24 hours and is therefore particularly recommended for large-area work. However, it takes seven to ten days to achieve maximum curing properties and temperature resistance.
Which Painting Grounds are suitable for Resin Epoxy Art?
Suitable for resin art are painting surfaces made of wood, glass, metal, plexiglass, concrete and much more. Porous, absorbent surfaces are unsuitable. Canvases are not suitable because they would sag due to the weight of the resin and the resin would then converge in the centre of the depression. Furniture, floors and kitchen covers can be covered with the appropriate resin/epoxy resin.
Which Colours and Additives are suitable for Resin Art?
There are now many suppliers of highly pigmented paints whose products are particularly suitable for use in resin. You can use color pigments in powder form, ResiTint colors (very color intensive, a few drops are enough), ink, alcohol ink, liquid acrylic paints and spray paints. There are no limits to your imagination. You should not add water to your paints, because water makes the resin milky and it no longer hardens completely.
Depending on the type of pigments used, you will get different results. There are also colour pigments in powder form that are not suitable for resin. It is best to experiment with your colours on small painting surfaces before you dare to take on large pictures. Some manufacturers keep lists of pigments that are suitable for coloring resin, such as Kremer. It is important that you stir the colour into the resin thoroughly (but gently).
Calculation of the Required Amount of Resin
How much resin you need for a picture depends on the size of your painting surface and also on whether you want to cover the edges with resin or if you cover them with paint tape. Art Resin has a “Calculator” on its website, with which you can calculate the required amount. I always round up the calculated amount a bit. If I have resin over, I will always use it. To calculate the amount of resin you need, I recommend the following formula by Stefanie:
How do you get Cells in your Resin Epoxy Art?
Cells can be produced by casting techniques like Dirty Pour, Air Swipe etc.. This is done by adding some isopropanol alcohol or a few drops of Resi-Blast. Alternatively, you can drop the Resi-Blast into your freshly poured resin. If you wait too long, the Resi-Blast will have no effect.
By adding glitter or decoration stones and crystals to your Resin Epoxy Art you can set beautiful accents. For example, you can cast the currently very trendy geodes. (By the way, there will be a blog post about geodes soon).
How do you prevent Resin from “boiling”?
Mix only as much resin as you really need. Use for resin, which you do not need immediately wide vessels. Especially metallic colours develop a lot of heat together with resin. The warmer the room temperature, the faster the resin starts to “boil”. If you notice that your resin is hard and very hot in the cup, you should pour it onto a foil. Because you can’t process it anyway and it can cool down again. On hot days I recommend that you do resin work in the morning or move it to the cool cellar.
What to do against Air Bubbles?
The formation of air bubbles in the resin cannot be avoided. If you stir your cast resin slowly and heat up the cast resin briefly in between, the bubbles should not be a problem. Heat will cause the bubbles to rise to the surface and burst. Heat the resin on a painting surface regularly with a hot-air dryer or better still with a Bunsen burner. Keep the heat source about 10 cm away from your picture and move the burner in fast movements over the picture. Otherwise the resin will start to boil and it will clump. If the resin is coloured white, this can be seen by the fact that it turns yellow. If this happens to you, you have to remove the clumped resin from the surface and pour it again.
Resin processing Time
The drying time depends on the room temperature and the type of resin used. When using MasterCast 1-2-1 at a room temperature of 22° Celcius you have about 25 to 40 minutes working time until the drying starts. With TotalCast from the same supplier this is 15 to 30 minutes, with UltraCast about 1.5 hours. ArtResin behaves similar to MasterCast 1-2-1.
As with every picture, you should think about the composition of the picture beforehand. This is especially true for Resin Epoxy Art – once you have mixed the resin with the hardener, you only have a limited time to finish the picture.
Instructions for creating your first Resin Painting
Once you are clear about the image design and color selection, you are ready to go:
- Ensure a clean, dust-free workplace in a well-ventilated room. Lay foils to protect your workplace and the floor. The material you need should be within easy reach.
- Stick your painting ground on the reverse side with strong paint tape, so that resin drops on the underside of the picture can easily be removed the next day together with the tape. Some artists also stick the sides of the painting ground. Taping pages or not – this is of course a matter of taste, everyone should do it the way they like.
- Place your painting base raised on your tabletop, e.g. on cups. If your painting base is directly on the tabletop, the reverse side will stick to the tabletop due to the resin flowing down
- Use the spirit level to make sure that your painting surface is horizontal on the worktop. Otherwise the resin will melt and your beautiful motif will be invisible after a short time.
- Use disposable nitrile gloves (no vinil or latex) and wear long-sleeved clothing.
- Mix the required amount of resin and hardener in the correct ratio for 3 minutes. Both MasterCast 1-2-1 and ArtResin are mixed at a ratio of 1:1 based on volume (not weight). Use a plastic spatula for stirring. If the two components are mixed insufficiently, the mass remains sticky and does not harden completely.
- Now the fun begins: Colour the resin in disposable cups with different colours. Be sparing with color, a few drops or a hint of pigments are usually enough. You can pour the resin cups individually on your painting ground or use one of the well-known pouring techniques. For example: Puddle Pour, Dirty Pour, Flip Cup, Swirl, Air Swipe etc.
- You can also add some silicone oil or even better Resi-Blast to the color mixtures. Resi-Blast was specially developed for the Resin Epoxy Art of cell formation.
You can influence the course of the resin on your painting surface with a spatula, knife, foam roller, brush, silicone brush etc. as well as by tilting the painting surface.
- Avoid air bubbles in the picture. If there are any, you can remove them by (very briefly!) using a Bunsen burner or a hot air blow-dryer.
- If the casting resin starts to dry after a certain time (different from resin to resin, see above), the picture should not be changed. The resin then becomes very viscous and begins to pull threads like chewing gum. It then loses its most important property of self-levelling. Heating can delay the process, but only to a limited extent.
- In order to avoid annoying foreign particles (dust, hair, mosquitoes) on the picture, you should remove these if necessary with tweezers.
- When the image is finished and free of air bubbles and foreign particles, you should cover it to protect it from dust. For this you can use a cardboard plate, which you place on four bottles, for example. A resin image is hard after about 24 hours, but still sensitive. Only after three days is it fully cured. The resin image should not be exposed to large temperature fluctuations during the drying time.
- If necessary, you can apply further resin layers as soon as the picture has dried (after approx. 5 hours).
How do you clean your Casting Tools?
With the finished picture your work is not done yet. Now it’s time to clean your painting equipment. If you still have resin left, you can use it either for small decoration objects such as Resin Coasters / Petri Dishes or for experiments. Place the empty resin cups on a plastic foil with the opening facing down. Excess resin runs out of the cups and can easily be separated from the cup the next day. Wipe your spatula with vinegar or a cloth soaked in isopropanol. You should also wipe off the remaining sticky utensils such as hot-air dryers, Bunsen burners, tweezers etc. with an alcohol cloth. Attention, disconnect electrical appliances from the power supply before use! Brushes and foam rollers, if you have used them, must unfortunately be disposed of. Do not leave wooden sticks in the resin, otherwise you will hardly be able to remove them from the surface the next day.
How do you clean Sticky Hands?
You should clean sticky hands with vinegar and then clean them with soap and water. There are hand wash pastes with rubbing agents in the DIY store, which are very helpful. With alcohol you should clean your hands only if necessary, since this dries out the skin. However, it is best anyway if your hands do not become sticky in the first place when wearing gloves. If possible, resin should not get on the skin as it can cause irritations.
What to do if your Painting shows damaged Areas?
If your resin image has holes or dents after drying, you may not have used enough resin or too much resin may have run off the image. Dents may also form when using silicone oil or Resi-Blast. In this case you have no choice but to carefully sand the picture with a fine grain and apply a new layer of resin. If you have used Resi-Blast or silicone oil in your picture, clean the picture thoroughly with alcohol.
Casting further Resin Layers
About five hours after applying resin (if the resin is already a little hard but still sticks), you can apply another layer of resin. Several layers of resin on top of each other give the picture an exciting depth.
Alternatively, you can wait with another layer of resin until your picture is fully cured (at least 24 hours, rather longer). Then, however, you should carefully roughen the picture with sandpaper so that the new resin can adhere well. Please use only fine grains. After sanding, clean the picture thoroughly with water and possibly an alcohol cloth. Grinding should not be done in the same room as resin, otherwise there is a lot of dust in the air which can settle on the freshly cast picture.
Difficulties with Resin Epoxy Art
In addition to the many beautiful sides, Resin Epoxy Art also has some disadvantages compared to other techniques: If you dare to use epoxy resin, you must not have a penchant for cleanliness – because working with resin is a sticky business. This technique is also rather expensive. High-quality resin has its price. A resin picture is particularly exciting when several layers are cast on top of each other, so that the resin costs per picture are quite significant. In addition, for the sake of health, safety measures should be observed. The technique is not easy – but this increases the appeal of designing. If you have the technique under control, you will be rewarded with satisfaction and beautiful works.
Safety measures when working with Resin
Resin is a viscous, sticky substance that hardens completely at room temperature in a given time. Therefore, you should take care to protect your furniture and clothing from resin stains. On the other hand, precautions must also be taken to protect your health. Even if you use a resin that has been certified as non-toxic and harmless, resin can cause skin irritation if it comes into contact with the skin. It is therefore important to wear disposable nitrile gloves and long-sleeved clothing. In addition, you should refrain from eating and drinking in the immediate vicinity of resin. Smoking should also be avoided, as synthetic resin is partly flammable. In addition, a respiratory protective mask is recommended when heating paint / synthetic resin, as this is not completely harmless.
As you can see, the production of a resin picture is quite time-consuming and requires a lot of preparation. But if you hold a successful resin picture in your hands, you will see: It was more than worth it!
For beginners, I can definitely recommend attending a resin course. There you will learn to understand the technique from the ground up – with all its peculiarities and precautions. You will be accompanied step by step through the individual phases: From preparation and design to cleaning and post-processing.
Have fun experimenting with resin!
The detailed material list with many great recommendations for Resin Epoxy Art can be found in a separate article.