How to Embed Computer Printed Images in
How to paint plastic. How to put inkjet or
laser printer images in plastic resin castings.
Game tokens made by embedding inkjet
images in plastic resin
you can print on a laser printer or inkjet printer can
be embedded in the surface of plastic. The embedded
image actually becomes part of the plastic. The image is
much more permanent and durable than if you simply
painted the image onto plastic.
are many variables involved in this technique that can
affect the results you get. Among them are the brand of
printer and type of ink it uses, the type of paper you
print on, and the type and brand of plastic resin that
ink (either laser or inkjet) printed on good quality,
smooth surface paper gives the most reliable results.
you want color images and use exactly the equipment and
materials we mention below, you should be able to
duplicate our results. Just be aware that if you use
different equipment or materials, you may need to do
some experimenting to determine what works best. Some
types of plastic don't pick up color very well. Some
types of paper don't release the color image very well.
Some papers have plastic coatings that stick to the
plastic resin permanently. Some colors fade out, or only
one component of the color is picked up by the plastic
resin. (For instance, in a brown color that is actually
made of tiny yellow and red dots, only the red gets
picked up by the plastic).
have not tested this technique with color laser prints,
color copier prints, or dye-sublimation prints. If you
have access to this equipment, test it out!
Here are the equipment and materials
we used to make the game tokens:
Hewlett Packard 890C inkjet printer with HP
HP "Premium Inkjet Paper". (Note that this is NOT photo
The "best quality" and "premium inkjet paper" settings
in the printer setup dialog.
"Jam'n Jeff's 5 minute Quick Cure Epoxy"
("Devcon 30 minute epoxy" also works).
Other materials tested, and the
plain copy paper - works, but the image is not
as good, harder to get the paper off the plastic.
Glossy Inkjet Photo Paper - Epoxy resin does not pick up
the image well.
Overhead transparency film for inkjet printers - the
image sticks to the film too strongly, the plastic resin
does not pick up the image.
Here is how to do the technique:
the image you want to use into a computer graphics
format such as a bitmap image (.bmp, .tif, .gif, .jpg,
etc.). The format you use depends on the computer
graphics program you are going to use to manipulate
the image. Most programs can accept images in the
A scanner can take any hand drawn image or photograph
and make a computer graphics file in one of the above
formats. If you don't have a scanner, many copy shops
and print shops can do this for you. Most current
computer graphics programs are suitable for this
project, including, "PhotoShop", "Corel Draw",
"Illustrator", and so on. On Windows computers, you
can use the free paint program that is included with
Windows, called "Paint". A trialware program called
"Paint Shop Pro" is available (do an online search for
it) that can do most any kind of image manipulation
that you need.
A graphic created in a computer
you have your image in a graphics program, use the
features of the program to adjust color, size,
effects, and so on until it looks exactly like you
want the embedded image to look.
Colors added to the image
the graphics program to reverse the image, so that it
looks "backwards". This function might be called
"reverse", "reflect", "mirror", or "flip". At this
point, you can also add a graphic that is the shape
and size you want the plastic around your image to be.
For instance, if you want your finished object to be
in the shape of a heart, add a heart-shaped graphic
around the image. You will use this graphic to build a
clay wall in that shape, to contain the liquid plastic
you pour over the image. Most graphics programs can
add simple shapes such as circles and squares in the
size you want. You can also use clipart designs or
even fonts that have designs like hearts. Just import
the clipart or use the font, and then resize the image
so that it surrounds your main image.
The reversed image
the image to an inkjet printer, using special
smooth-surface inkjet paper such as the HP "Premium
Inkjet Paper". (Note that this is NOT "inkjet photo
paper"). If your image is just black and white, you
can use either an inkjet or laser printer.
this point you are done with the computer. Next you
need to prepare to cast the epoxy. Build a clay wall
around the image on the paper in exactly the shape and
size you want the finished casting to be. For
instance, if you want the image to come out in the
center of a heart-shaped piece of plastic, build your
clay wall so it is in the shape of a heart and the
image is in the center of the heart. If you printed
out a shape to use as a guideline, just build your
clay wall on top of the shape. You can also use many
types of throwaway plastic containers to surround your
image, as shown below.
your epoxy. White resin gives a good background for
most images. You can make the epoxy resin white by
adding a small amount of titanium dioxide or white
"tints all". Pour the liquid epoxy over your image.
The epoxy will absorb the image into the top layer of
plastic as it sets.
A throwaway plastic measuring
cup was used to contain the liquid plastic
resin. A hole was drilled in the bottom so
the liquid plastic could be poured in. The
edge is sealed to the paper with some
the plastic is hard, remove it from the clay or the
container. Peel off as much of the paper as you can,
without digging or scraping your casting.
the casting into some soapy water (5 drops of dish
detergent to a cup of water) and let the casting soak
for an hour. After the soak, you should be able to rub
the paper with your fingers and get the paper to come
image you use is not reusable. Each plastic casting will
use up one image, but of course you can print as many
images as you want on a single piece of paper.
you will be making many castings in the same shape and
size, you can make yourself a permanent rubber "wall" to
contain the liquid plastic, instead of building a clay
wall each time you make a new casting. Do this by making
a rubber mold of a clay wall that is exactly the shape
and size you want. Then use a release agent and make a
rubber casting in the mold. The rubber casting will be a
duplicate of the clay wall. The Castcraft
Moldmaking and Casting Guides have more
information on making molds and using moldmaking
Special Procedure for Polyurethane Plastic
Polyurethane plastic will work for this technique, but
it is very difficult to remove the paper from the
plastic after the plastic cures. Here is how to get
better results when using polyurethane plastic:
all the steps given above until you have a color image
printed on premium inkjet paper, but before pouring
plastic resin over the image.
the printed image and soak it in MINERAL OIL until the
paper is saturated. Then “blot” the excess mineral oil
off the paper. Do not “wipe” the excess oil off, or you
may smear the image.
the polyurethane plastic resin over the image, then
follow the rest of the steps given. The paper will come
off the plastic easier after the plastic has cured, and
the colors will be more vivid. No other type of oil we
tested gives the same results as mineral oil - use
mineral oil only. Mineral oil is available at any
a PDF source list
Includes 26 suppliers of all mold making and
casting materials mentioned in ALL the demonstrations on
this web site, including silicone rubber, polyurethane
rubber, latex rubber, polyurethane plastic, epoxy resin,
polyester resin, molding clay, foam board, release
agents, pottery plaster, Hydrocal, metal powders, other
plastic resin fillers, and gelatin molding compound.
With company names, addresses, phone numbers, and web
sites. Downloads to your computer as a PDF file.