Thursday, March 11, 2010

Product Encounter - Review - Resin Roundup

This isn't a tutorial so much as an informational roundup for people who are interested in paper tile jewelry or any kind of craft that involves making paper shiny, sealed, and glossy. I am not paid in any way by any manufacturer mentioned - it's just one person's experience and research into products. Your own experiences may be different, and I welcome comments to the contrary of anything I've posted, or in agreement with things I've posted - equally. We're all here to gather information.

I've been working with paper and jewelry in a variety of ways - one of my preferred methods remains setting an image under a glass or plastic lens into a brass or sterling bezel by using a bezel roller or a light hammering - in other words a "no resin" solution. I've made heaps of pretty japanese paper pendants this way, directly into antiqued brass bezels.

However, the flexibility of a resin pour is a wonderful thing! Which led me to try a number of products. I haven't tried everything on the market, but of the 4 products I've used, I've found advantages and disadvantages to each. This is not a paid endorsement.

There are several different types of material on the market. Let's look at them:

The water based glazes.

Diamond glaze and DG3 by Judikins, 3-D crystal lacquer by sakuracraft, Ranger Glossy Accents - these glazes are acrylic media that are water based. Others are on the market, including some nice propriatary products by etsy sellers Annie Howes and Sun and Moon kits - I have not used these but they get good reviews regularly.

The advantages - absolutey minimal toxicity. Ease of use - no mixing and fairly simple drying process.

The disadvantages - long-term softeness is sometimes possible (marring with fingernail pressure) they are not water tight nor even perfectly water resistant - bubbling is hard to control on some products.

Something to remember with the water media especially- your results may vary widely. One of the major issues I've run into in discussing resin over paper jewelry with others is that climate and geography matter. Let me repeat - climate MATTERS! I live in Minnesota. The climate here is variable - being bone dry in winter and humid and hot in summer. It's possible to see 102F and -50F in the same calendar year.

This isn't just a Garrison Keillor moment on my part - my point is that when you are using a water based glaze product, your results will vary accordingly. I can get a 2 hour dry on a layer of Diamond Glaze in January. That's practically unheard of by my Atlanta counterparts.

So what's the verdict on the water based glazes?

I like Diamond Glaze and 3-D crystal lacquer for various reasons. I haven't yet tried DG-3 mostly because I'm very pleased with 3-D lacquer and it seems like it might function similarly.

Judikins Diamond Glaze - Advantages:

Dries VERY quickly in a dry environment, probably comparitivevely quickly in a less dry environment. Very low toxicity - if I were doing a kid's class, party, or mom and kid craft time, this is the item I'd probably pick to use, or if I was crafting with kids or roving advernturing pets in my space. Of course this isn't an endorsement to eat the stuff, it just seems very low-risk compared to other options. This stuff is super in a thin application - so if you are putting a picture directly into a very shallow bezel or onto a pendant plate with a shallow scoop-out I'd reach for this in a heartbeat. Super in papercraft applications, for collaging, glossing up and finishing artwork in various ways. Other advantages - no mixing, no major respiratory hazards for people with normal respiration, no vile odors.

Wet. Must seal inkjet images - It's possible to use it if you seal your inkjet images with microglaze (another Judikins product, basically a wax) but sometimes I've had poor adhesion between those sealed images and the glass tile in glass tile jewelry - I'd save the inkjet images for scrabble tiles or an application where the glaze is on top. Not a strong performer in deep bezel really thick doming applications - I marvel at people who can get this to work well filling up a patera bezel - there are cloudiness issues with this application, in my experience. Bubbles frequently and bubbles are hard to get rid of. I've never had luck with the wire or toothpick method, I find that scraping off the glaze with a fingernail and reapplying it during the open working time is the better bubble remover. If course the queen of the complaints about Diamond Glaze is that when you're all done, it's not waterproof. A very moist fingerprint will sometimes
remain on dried work. It will cloud over if soaked. I've dented finished pieces with a nail by accident - tres embarrasing in front of a customer.

Verdict: Highly recommended for personal work, home crafters, crafters with young kids and pets - less so for professional production work. Great for first-timers make and takes and classes because of relatively fast dry time. Great for thin topcoat applications. Not so great for thick applications and sealing between inkjet image and glass. Need to seal inkjet images. Nice as a papercrafting medium if you like shine.

3-D crystal lacquer: - Advantages :

Also water based and very low toxicity. Thick consistency and few bubbles - bubbling works itself out wonderfully. This is much better for doming and deep applications than Diamond Glaze. I have had very good results using this with inkjet printed images - a thin swipe of mod podge or micro glaze protects without foiling adhesion - even bare naked inkjet images seem to remain fairly intact under 3-D crystal lacquer. Very impressive, that.


Sticky-icky! The only reason that I prefer Diamond Glaze for the kids-and-pets set is that 3-D Crystal lacquer has a much longer open/tacky time - I've had scrabble tiles snag onto a sleeve and worn them around for a while! Also it takes longer to dry - if you don't want your make and take folks to have to wait, Diamond Glaze is a safer bet, and better for little attention spans. The long dry-time and long sticky open time also makes this a product I don't really incorporate into collaging and papercraft as much. Also not waterproof or watertight, being a waterbased product.

Verdict: very good performer for jewelry applications, longer open time is the only major disadvantage, versatile, clearer finish, thicker gloss. Works well with scrabble tile as well as glass tile applications. Also not waterproof - I personally avoid using this in professional applications and production craft, unless I'm doing something like a magnet which isn't handled as much or worn around, but that's my personal preference. Not as useful in collage applications with longer
open time, but again that's a personal preference.

So there are water based glazes - how else can glosses cure? Water based gloss dries - UV curing resin and resins cure though chemical reaction.

UV curing resins require the sun or a UV lamp to cure to a clear dry and waterproof (aha!) finish. I personally have not chosen these products at this time after researching them, however.

The craft-labeled offerings are very expensive - either because the product itself is expensive or the UV light marketed to the crafter to cure the product is very expensive. Add onto that the fact that I find these products redundant with ICE resin, inconvenient in a sun-scarce four seasons environment (going outdoors to work or needing a special curing light just sounds like a pain, and have you ever been out on a clear MN winter day?) - they're just not viable in my particular environment. I will say that I'm intrigued by Solarez - which is a UV curing, low VOC resin marketed to surfers to repair their boards - it seems to be priced right and work fairly well in direct sunlight. Maybe I'll try some in the summer - but overall if you don't live somewhere where surf, sun, warmth and heat are part of your life, it might not be the way to go.

The reviews on these products are very mixed, and led me to pass them over.

That said - some crafters absolutely swear by Lisa Pavelka's Magic Glos - and I imagine that they have a setup and a process that works well for them, and they've taken the time to use the product correctly. Her customer service has been praised very highly. It's possible that a lot of the problems people have with UV resin involve a higher learning curve than the waterbased glosses and the relative expense of the medium discouraging them from experimentation till getting it just so.

For me, the availability of other products and the need for a lamp just didn't make the return-on-investment grade.

Lastly there are the good ol' resin resins. These are the chemically curing, notoriously stinky and poisonous, waterproof and serious professional's choice. But are they always stinky and always poisonous?

Rio Grande Colores, Envirotex, ICE resin - These are epoxy resins. Unlike polyesther resin, the highly toxic esthers are not present - there's still some debate as to toxicity, and many people choose to use respirators, masks, venitlation. I have used ICE and Envirotex, and prefer ICE, which is supopsedly remarkably similar if not identical to the Rio Grande available Colores.

Envirotex has a slightly thinner consitency, a slightly more noxious smell and an ingredient labeled toxic on its MSDS sheets. The price of Envirotex is considerably less than either ICE or Colores. I can't find any other advantage. To me, it's just not worth having something like that in my space to save a buck.

ICE as well as Colores shows one borderline toxic, but still non-toxic ingredient on its MSDS sheets, and is labeled respiratory safe, unless heated up significantly. As for smell or outgassing, both ICE and Colores have a slightly chocolately sweet scent at most - if you smell it you are probably breathing too close. Many frequent resin users use respirators and gloves with these products and this is a good idea. Like many products some people will develop an intolerance sometimes and if there are extant breathing or chemical sensitivity issues ICE resin or Colores or Envirotex may not be for you.

Threre's no real reason to heat ICE up past 90 degrees anyway - air curing is best and the trick of using a heat gun on bubbles and to speed the process is pointless as the heat gun is too hot for this product. I exhale gently through a staw to address bubbles which also tend to work themselves out if the resin is cured correctly. ICE and Colores can be cast, sanded, colored (Colores with its own coloring agents, ICE with a little bit of oil paint). ICE performs well in doming and deep applications and some fans claim it does so better than Colores - though I imagine there's little difference.

Verdict: ICE and Colores are preferable - paying a little more to avoid toxicity as much as possible seems a good trade off. Gloves ventilation and/or a respirator are good ideas, but the overall character of these resins is nontoxic. For versatilty and convenience I find the ICE resin to be the best option. If I had issues of pet and child access I'd avoid these resins, or chemical sensitivities. Mixing is necessary, but at 1:1 it's not that hard if you are thorough.

Remember - this isn't an endorsement of just one product - the best product for a particular purpose depends a great deal on what you are after. If I am making scrabble tile magnets - a product that doesn't get handled heavily and a product that I want to keep costs down on - I would reach for my 3-D crystal lacquer. If I wanted to shape and sand a piece I would use ICE resin. If I wanted a rich opaque color, I would use Colores. If I wanted to use resin with polymer clay, I'd invest in the Lisa Pavelka Magic-glos. There is no one size fits all tool.

Enjoy, stay safe, and happy crafting!


  1. Thanks for visiting my blog earlier and for your comment you left.
    I am actually planning to head to Bead Monkey in Edina tonight to pick up the UV light and the resin that goes with that. It's a belated birthday gift for me. :) With 30% off sale everything in their store tonight from 8-12, I decided to take the plunge and give it a try. I love the ice resin, but sometimes I just don't have the 3 day drying time to wait for it to cure, so decided to have another option in my studio.
    Where about are you from in Minnesota? Really enjoyed your blog post about the resin products and found it a fun read.

  2. I'm a stone's throw from the Bead Monkey - they're a great shop. Without your reminder I'd have forgotten altogether about the sale.

    Thanks for weighing in on what's clearly the major advantage to the UV products that I'd overlooked - you're right you would kind of get the best of both worlds if you use that in terms of drying time and durability.

    Maybe I'll bump into you there!

    I work the ICE resin after a day and have had no issues with it but my applications might be thinner than some.

    I'll keep tabs on your blog and shop - nice items!

  3. This is a super useful article. Thanks so much!