I started fluid art in 2018 and have slowly stepped into resin art and casting. It’s been a learning curve, but the process has definitely been a rewarding one! When i started out, I came with my knowledge of fluid acrylic painting. It certainly helped with color theory and composition, but my experiences with fluid acrylic painting also held me back in some ways. So, I put together a guide for anyone else moving for the first time from traditional media, including fluid acrylic art, to resin casting.
What Will You Make?
This may feel like an obvious question, but you should first decide what you want to do with resin. If you plan to coat a painting, your needs will be rather different than resin casting, and those needs narrow considerably once you decide what exactly you want to make. I like to think of resin casting as creating functional art, and I’ve made a wide range of items from jewelry to notebooks to candle holders. But in each case, you should decide what you want to create.
Once you settle on your project, you need a mold. I’ve used many, and though some of the molds on Amazon, Wish, or AliExpress are tempting, you’re better off purchasing from a person who made their own mold. These people typically have storefronts on Instagram, Facebook, or Etsy, and there are molds for every need. You’ll want to spend some time looking for resin casting molds and finding a crafter who with something you thing will suit best.
I say this because cheaper, thinner silicone molds sometimes hold onto common resin additives like glitter and foil too easily, and can be hard to clean. They also, in my experience, scratch and warp easily. Look for a thick silicone mold in a bold color — this shows the mold maker’s personality and also helps you know they take just as much pride in their craftsmanship as you do in yours.
Choosing a Resin
Now that you’ve decided the basics, you need to prepare to pour. This means choosing a resin for your needs. A thick sculpture may need a casting epoxy, while a thinner geode coaster set or tray can get away with a regular epoxy. Read the descriptions before you buy.
Once you get your resin, experiment with the viscosity. Every resin is different, but resin is entirely different from acrylic or other traditional media. As I learned the hard way, resin travels where resin has been, but it will also seek the lowest point since resin is typically self-leveling. It’s important to ensure your surface is level at the edges but also in the center. This means use caution when pouring on canvas or other pliant medium since the resin will cause the canvas to dip, leaving an uneven finish. Unbalanced surfaces can also mean the resin slides off.
Safety is important with resin. Some resins have a scent that can be damaging. If you are using a resin like this, wear protective breathing equipment and work in a ventilated areas — this means oil painters may be at an advantage. But resin is also tricky: it takes a long time to fully dry and then longer to cure. If it gets on anything that’s not silicone, it can take time to wear off. Non-silicone objects cannot be fully cleaned of resin. Wear gloves and invest in a surface that is resin safe. This may mean using a plastic trash bag or acquiring silicone crafting mats. Use whichever fits into your budget, though the silicone mat is clearly going to provide a more reliable (and easily reusable) surface.
Prepping for a Pour
Ensure your surface is level. Make sure you are pouring in a well-ventilated area with adequate lighting. Having a voice activated timer nearby helps too since you won’t be able to easily use your hands once you begin. Make sure you have easy access to a trash can and latex or silicone gloves. Resin is terrible for your skin, so avoid contact.
Mix your resin slowly and deliberately, following the ratio on your resin’s packaging. Most resin requires a 1:1 ration, but always check your instructions. Be exact with your measurements for best results — adding too much or too little of one part can leave your resin sticky. It won’t cure and just wastes product.
As you stir, remember that you’re not beating eggs or whipping cream: you’re combining two parts of a chemical reaction. Be deliberate, slow, and safe. The thickness of your resin may make bubbles as you work, and that’s okay. Slowly incorporate the two components, scraping the bottom and sides of the cup until the resin is clear.
Thinner resin forms fewer bubbles, but you may still encounter micro bubbles. Either way, air bubbles cause air pockets that interfere with the clarity and smoothness of your resin. Heat makes the bubbles rise to the top and pops them. You’re best off using a combination of a torch (I use a long necked grill lighter) and a heat gun. Don’t hold the heat in one place too long though since the resin can burn.
If you want add-ins like flowers or color, you’ll want to prep those in advance. I usually prep my add-ins after mixing the resin so it can rest. Mica pigments are a great place to start. Add a small amount of powder to a small cup of resin and mix well.
You’ll likely want to pour the resin into a silicone mold. Pour slowly and deliberately, being careful not to overfill. If you’re adding flowers or other porous materials, add a layer of resin, then the flower, then the rest of the resin — apply the heat at each stage to pop potential air bubbles. If you use a flame, take care not to hold the heat in one area too long — you can actually set the resin on fire.