There are so many resins out there – How do I choose?
Some of the very first things you need to look for when choosing a resin are the work time, the minimum and maximum pour depths, and whether or not it’s actually suitable for your project.
Work time means just that – the total amount of time you have to work with your resin before it starts to cure after your resin has been properly mixed. The work time of resin will vary from brand to brand,
as well as from resin type to resin type. Finding a resin with a realistic work time for a beginner will make all the difference and is less likely to leave you feeling defeated after you finish your project.
Your 1:1 ratio resins are typically used for artwork, table tops, and light casting; however, moving into your 2:1 and higher are usually used for things like deep casting or larger mold pouring projects. Reading the minimum and maximum pour depth for your resin is VERY important! Failure to follow these
guidelines, along with the working condition recommendations, may leave your resin sticky/tacky, or only partially cured.
What do we mean by working conditions? Simple! Your resin will advise the optimal room temperature, and often humidity level, needed to achieve that hard cure and shiny surface we’re all looking for. The average room temperature requirement for resin is between 70F-75F (21C-24C), so running a room cooler or warmer than the requirement on your label will either slow down or speed up the curing process. Having a work area that is too cool can cause ripples on the surface of your resin; but having an area that is too warm can cause the resin to go through an Exothermic Reaction.
An exothermic reaction is what happens when the resin cures too quickly from heat, often turning yellow, but also turning hard. We suggest taking a quick search on YouTube for “Resin Exothermic Reaction“ if you’d like to see various examples.
“This epoxy was exactly what I needed! After working with one specific brand for a year I was very hesitant to try out a different Epoxy. This one was recommended to me by another artist so I gave it a shot and I absolutely love it.”
What do I need for Personal Protection Equipment? (PPE)
Personal Protection Equipment is essential for working with resin, as is a well ventilated area. A full or
partial Face Respirator is suggested, making sure to use Organic Vapor Cartridges. Resin fumes are
considered to have organic components to them, so your average wood working cartridges are not
sufficient to properly filter the fumes. Working in a well ventilated area with windows or a large open
space is ideal, but if necessary having the ability to close off and seal a room can also be done. If you’re
unable to work in a well ventilated area, please consider purchasing a respirator before continuing your
resin journey. Safety is very important and the long term health effects of improper resin use are
absolutely something you should be researching. If you have children working with resin, respirators
should be considered mandatory for them as their lungs are not fully developed and are more
susceptible to the health issues that can be associated with resin. Please continue to do additional
research on these topics if children are involved.
Resin should also not come into contact with your skin, so using Nitrile Gloves is advised. You can wipe a
glove clean, but doing so with your bare skin doesn’t work as well with resin for obvious reasons. In the
event you do get resin on your skin, immediately wash it off. The resin will be sticky, so using something
oil based like a coconut oil sugar scrub works WONDERS! Mixing a small amount of oil (coconut,
vegetable, and etcetera) with coarse sugar will not only help to exfoliate your skin, but it will make sure
to clean off any of the residue left behind. Alternatively you can use 91-99% isopropyl alcohol on a
cloth/paper towel, or on a baby wipe.
GVS Elipse Integra Gas Mask
Please also keep in mind that if you’re unable to purchase a full face respirator, safety glasses are also
recommended to be used with your half mask. Resin does release fumes, and your eyes are just as
important as the rest of you! Protecting them with a barrier of any kind is still better than no barrier at
Small housekeeping items like tying any long hair back, wearing shorter sleeves, and not wearing nice
clothing are also things you want to be mindful of. Designating a few items of clothing for resin work will
help save your wardrobe!
Alright! I’ve got my PPE, and my resin, how do I set up my work space?
This is a combination of personal preference and appropriate supplies! Depending on your resin, it is likely self-leveling. What does this mean exactly? Over time and before the curing process is finished, the resin will spread out and level itself on the surface you’ve poured it into. Having a level work space is absolutely necessary if you want to avoid having an uneven finish on your project.Tables with adjustable feet are VERY helpful with this, but even getting creative with some cardboard and a hand level to adjust where needed is more than fine. At the end of the day do what you need to do to make sure your surface is level!
Click Images to view our selection of HDPE Makers Reusable Molds.
Resin adheres to a lot of different surface types; so covering your work space with a thick shower curtain, silicone mats, or even garbage bags will make for easy clean up. If you’re looking to invest in a really solid work surface, attaching table legs to a large sheet of HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) is another fantastic option. Resin will peel up or pop off of the surfaces mentioned, leaving you with scrap pieces that can be turned into small things like bookmarks, jewelry, or even sculpture projects. If you’re trying to be environmentally aware, silicone tools are a great investment! Silicone mats, mixing cups, and mixing utensils are completely reusable since you can just peel or pop the resin off. Although they might cost a little more than wooden popsicle sticks, you’ll go through fewer and some resins actually blend better with the use of a silicone tool. Ventilation is another important part of working with resin. If at all possible, setting up your work space in a room with windows or outdoor access that can be easily opened is definitely best. Alternatively there are exhaust setups that you can look into that will pull the air out of the room; but please do the necessary research if this is the option you choose.
Choosing a work space that you can control the temperature and humidity is another thing to watch for. If you live in an area where the heat can be variable, purchasing a small space heater to maintain temperature is recommended. Making sure that your resin is curing at a consistent temperature will help to avoid additional issues down the road. We’ll touch on that next. If a space heater is the route that you’re taking, being mindful of anything that will circulate air (push air around), is necessary. There is absolutely nothing worse than finding dust or a stray hair in your piece because your heat source blew it around after you left the room!
The last thing that you should be mindful of when setting up your work area is that resin is not safe for children (who are unable to wear a respirator) or pets of any kind. Please do your absolute best not to let either into your work space while you are pouring, or while resin is curing.
What are some basic items I need for this art form?
- RESIN COLORANTS – Give your project some color!
Mica Powder will typically give you a pearlescent finish and can be highly pigmented
depending on the brand. Additionally, color shift pigments will be found as a mica powder.
Please be wary of poor quality mica as it tends to contain less pigment, meaning you will go
through product faster. Investing in a quality mica powder will go a long way.
Glitter is a fun and sparkly way to add a pop to your resin art! Polyester glitter is
recommended as it blends/floats with the resin, whereas plastic basic craft glitter is heavy
and will sink to the bottom. There is nothing wrong with using either glitter type; you just
need to be mindful of the sinking and adjust accordingly.
Pigment Pastes are highly pigmented and can create both metallic and flat colors. Pigment
Pastes are highly recommended to achieve looks such as the ocean waves/cells as they hold
together in a stronger fashion. Because these pastes are so pigmented, playing around with
the different concentration levels while mixing into your resin is a lot of fun! It is possible to
achieve a fully opaque look with this colorant. These are typically a better value for money
since they go such a long way.
Resin Tints are just that – tints. These tend to be a simpler way to achieve a translucent look
as they don’t contain as much pigment. You can pour half a bottle into your resin, but you
will still be able to see light through it to some extent. These can be very helpful when
wanting to do layered artwork or achieve the look of water.
*Please note that companies like Mixol USA call their product a ‘tint’ because they are not exclusively used in resin – they do act like a pigment paste*
Alcohol Inks are fun to play with in resin, but are still not very light fast; more so in direct
sunlight. This means that they will absolutely fade over time, usually a lot quicker than the
above mentioned colorants.
Acrylic Ink can also be used to color resin and are available in several colors formats.
Please be mindful that the recommended mixing ratio for colorant to resin is no more
than 7-10%. Any increased amounts used may impact the curing process of the resin,
leaving you with an imperfect project.
- HEAT TOOLS – be prepared for the blemishes!
Butane Torches are typically used to achieve the glass-like finish we see on cured resin by
removing air bubbles. They are typically the tool of choice for this task since they don’t push
the resin; it’s more of a concentrated, localized heat. Whether you are using a small kitchen
torch, or a larger torch attachment on a canister of butane, both should remove surface air
bubbles without issue. Because of the heat concentration, you won’t always be able to use
the same techniques you would with a heat gun while using your torch. Keeping your torch
moving and not in one area is the key to not burning your resin.
Heat Guns push hot air out, usually at variable speeds and temperatures, helping you to
move the resin or achieve different looks. Although a heat gun can be used to pop air
bubbles on your piece, you also run the risk of moving the resin during this process, or
creating additional air bubbles. You can use this tool to achieve a number of affects, such as
the ocean lacing that you often see. Using a heat gun with adjustable heat and air flow
settings will allow you to experiment and find the best process for yourself.
- MIXING TOOLS – keep your mess to a minimum!
Reusable Mixing Sticks are both an environmentally friendly and easy-to-clean solution to a lot of
your mixing needs. With the option to obtain these tools in shapes like spatulas, toothpicks,
paint brushes, and popsicle sticks they are incredibly versatile. Certain resins will actually
advise whether or not there is a preferred mixing tool for their product, and if so, it is
Wood Tools such as popsicle sticks and toothpicks serve their purpose, but can usually only
be used a handful of times before needing to throw them away. Whether mixing or pulling
fibers off the surface areas of your completed pieces, they will get the job done for you.
Graduated Mixing Cups make measuring your resin by volume straight forward and simple.
With 1:1 lines marked for you, it takes away the guessing game of eyeballing your ratios and
allows you to achieve a proper cure time after time again.
Plastic, Paper or Silicone Cups can be used when mixing colorants into your resin. Although
not all of these options are environmentally friendly, they can often still be used more than
- SUBSTRATES – the right surface can make a huge difference!
Substrates are your work surfaces like wood panels, charcuterie/cutting boards, clock faces,
and really anything that you can pour resin on or into! The possibilities are (just about)
endless so experimenting is the best way to experience it all.
Bear Woods carries a variety of substrates such as Sculpted Panels, Clock Kits, Pre-Cut
Rounds, and Molds so you’re sure to find something to work on!
We hope that this information helps you feel more prepared to start working with resin and encourages
you to start experimenting for yourself. Stay tuned for some Beginner Projects Tips & Tricks!