Resin art has fast become one of the most popular art forms to work with in recent years.
It’s shiny, glossy finish attracts artists and designers to incorporate the versatile medium into their work. Whilst resin can be used as a clear top coat, it can also have colours mixed in or objects cast into it.
In a nutshell, the kind of resin that artists generally work with (epoxy resin) is a synthetic material that starts off as a 2 part (VERY sticky) liquid. Part A is the resin, Part B is the hardener. It generally takes around 24 hours to set, and a further few days to fully cure (go ‘rock solid’, basically). If the resin isn’t measured or mixed properly then this chemical reaction won’t occur - the resin may dry soft or be tacky, or it may not set at all. Once the resin is mixed, depending on the brand you are using, you’ve generally got around 30-60 minutes to work with it.
At the time of writing this blog post in 2020 I’ve been working with resin for around 3-4 years. I get lots of messages from other artists asking for advice when starting out on their resin art journey, so I thought I would make this blog post to share the top tips that I’ve learnt over the years!
First things first - working with resin is an expensive hobby. I buy around 8 litres of resin at a time (4 litres of hardener and 4 litres of resin), and it generally costs around £200. Depending on how many pigments you want to use, they can rack up a lot of costs as well. And then the extra bits and bobs - the safety gear - adds up too.
So, the safety gear. This is the most important section of this article so don’t scroll past.
The first time I worked with resin I thought ‘nahhh I won’t need to wear gloves I’ll be fine’. This turned out to be one of the stupidest decisions of my career as an artist. It literally took me around 4 days to get all of the resin off my hands.
When resin goes on your skin, it can cause an allergic reaction. I’ve always been okay with this - my skin might go a little bit pink, but that’s it. But I know it can really affect some other artists, so please be cautious.
The basics of what you will need when working with resin:
- Gloves! For the love of God, wear gloves. Have a box of them so you can put new ones on if your current ones get too messy/rip
- Anti bacterial/baby wipes - these are great for cleaning up any spilled resin, whether it’s on the table or on your skin (try to wipe any resin off your skin immediately if you can, to prevent reactions from happening). If resin spills on a smooth surface, you’ll be able to wipe it off while it’s still wet. But if it spills on your clothes/carpet…well, you can say goodbye to that piece of fabric.
- An apron, old clothes and old shoes. Girls (and guys) if you’ve got long hair - tie it back. I’ve had to cut chunks of my hair out before because resin has dried in it. Not a fact I like to brag about really.
- Something to cover your floor to protect from resin drips (a plastic dust sheet would work well)
- A blow torch. This is to get rid of any air bubbles that will form in the resin. Some people use a heat gun, some people use a hair dryer. I’ve personally always used a blow torch and found it’s worked well
- Plastic cups - this is for if you’re going to use several different colours of resin in your work
- Lollypop sticks - again, this is for mixing different colours into your resin
- Ideally, a dust tent or a box or somewhere where you can put your finished piece of resin art under to dry and avoid any dust particles falling onto it. I know you might think ‘pah! My house isn’t that dusty love!’ but trust me - those dust particles always find a way of landing on your resin art and ruining that crystal clear smooth glossy finish. Don’t worry too much about this step though if you’re just starting out and wanting to experiment. It took me a few years to make my dust tent. Your resin pieces will still turn out beautiful.
- A face mask - depending on the resin that you’re using (if it has toxic fumes) and the environment you’re working in (if it is not well ventilated) then you will need to wear respiratory protection. Please do your own research into the resin brand that you are using and properly assess your workspace.
- Eye goggles - I personally don’t wear goggles, but I know an artist whose eyes always go red/itchy when working with resin. I’m not sure what brand of resin they use, so again, please look at the safety information recommended by the resin brand that you’re using and make the decision that is best for yourself.
When you’re about to start working with the resin make sure that everything you’ll need is within reach - you’ll only have a limited amount of working time remember, so you don’t want to be wasting 5 minutes looking for something.
Decide on which colours you’re going to be using, and have the corresponding amount of plastic cups and lollypop sticks already set out so you can mix the colours separately.
Make sure that the piece you’re working on is level - resin will continue to move/drip until it is set.
Be careful when using your blow torch on the piece - hold it a few inches away from the resin and quickly/constantly move it across the piece (like you would if you were ironing clothes). If you hold it too close or keep it positioned on one area for too long then that area might catch fire (it’s happened to me several times and, naturally, it always gives me a bit of a fright).
Leave your resin artwork overnight to dry, and the next day you can check out your finished piece! Be careful not to put anything on top of the resin (e.g. if you’ve made a few coasters, don’t stack them all on top of each other). The resin won’t be fully cured by this point and it might mark easily.
I hope this brief article has helped with the start of your resin journey! Like I said at the start, it’s an expensive hobby and it takes a lot of practice to build up the skills and techniques to create the effects that you want. There’s lots of video tutorials on YouTube and Instagram, definitely check them out to see what advice different artists have to give!
I will be posting more resin art articles soon with troubleshooting guides and tips for working with wood.
Thank you so much for reading this post,
Until next time,