While we’re walking around, doing our daily earthling activities, the space shuttle Atlantis is rocketing through space on NASA’s final space mission, accompanied by creations made by Etsy artists. Join us in commemorating the vast, awe-inspiring solar system by making planet plates with the aid of Extreme Craft guru Garth Johnson. This project — along with many other nerd-friendly craft tutorials — is excerpted from World of Geekcraft, edited by Susan Beal.
Garth Johnson is an artist, educator, and writer who lives in Eureka, California, and teaches at the College of the Redwoods. Garth brings his own brand of geeky ferocity to his website, Extreme Craft, and his first book, 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse. Look for his Extreme Craft Roadshow at a venue near you.
Susan Beal runs the blog West Coast Crafty. She’s also a writer for Craft Zine and Stitch and has authored and contributed to many other craft books as well. She teaches crafts at Pacific Northwest College of Art and Maker Faire. Her all-time favorite arcade game is Ms. Pac-Man, and, as a kid, she named her guinea pigs Inky and Blinky.
Modern technology means that we no longer have to rely on the Franklin Mint to release collector plates of our favorite bands or television shows. Anyone with a photocopier or inkjet printer and access to a thrift store can take matters into their own hands and create one-of-a-kind collector’s plates — a perfect addition to any office or child’s room. This recipe yields a fantastic set of space-inspired planet plates, but you can celebrate any geeky favorites in this majestic medium.
Supplies you’ll need:
• Rubbing alcohol
• Computer with photo-editing software
• Clear acrylic spray paint such as Krylon (not shellac-based)
• Soaking pan (large enough to accommodate all of your decals)
• Warm water
• Sponge or paper towel
• Cutting knife (optional)
• Permanent marker
• A set of old plates
• Images to use in your designs
• Decal paper and materials (see notes below)
• Plate hangers (optional)
Note: There are two easy options for creating the decals; both use a kind of paper called “water slide.” The first is a product called Lazertran, specially made to create decals using an inkjet printer.
You can purchase the decal paper directly from the company at Lazertran.com.
The second product is called Bel-Decal, which is basically just paper coated with a gum that dissolves in water, allowing you to transfer your image. This is the paper that nearly all decals are printed on; you can purchase it inexpensively from Bel-Decal. You’ll have to use a color laser printer or high-end color photocopier to print your images on the decal sheets. I always put my images on a thumb drive or disc and take them, along with the decal paper, to my local copy shop. You might have to convince them that the paper won’t jam their machine (it won’t).
1. Clean your chosen plates well with rubbing alcohol so that the decals will set nicely.
2. Collect the planet images you want to use and get them into your computer — scan images from books and/or magazines, or find ones online. One great source for royalty-free images of planets is NASA’s image gallery. Look for high-resolution images that can be enlarged without becoming fuzzy or jagged. Use Photoshop or other photo-editing software to size your images to the right diameter to fit on your plates.
3. Next, make the decals to decorate your plate. (If you’ve ever put together a model car, these decals
function in exactly the same way.) If using Lazertran, follow the manufacturer’s directions to print on an inkjet printer. If using Bel-Decal, use a color laser printer or high-end color photocopier to print your images on the decal sheets.
4. Now that you have your images printed on the decal paper, it’s time to apply a cover coat that will allow you to transfer the images to your plates. In a well-ventilated area, spray a very light coat of the clear acrylic spray paint onto your decals. Be careful— a heavy coat will smear the ink. After the decals have dried for 5 to 10 minutes, spray them with another, slightly thicker coat of paint and let dry for 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with 1 or 2 more coats until you have an even, glossy coat. Let the decals dry for at least 2 or up to 12 hours before applying them to the plates.
5. Cut out the decals. Fill the soaking pan with warm water and place the decals in the warm pan to soak, arranging them in a single layer. If your decals crack, then you need to apply another coat of acrylic and start over. The decals should release fully from the paper in about 30 seconds. Working with one decal and one plate at a time, take the paper and decal out of the water together and carefully slide the decal onto a plate, acrylic side up.
6. Use the sponge or paper towel to work any air bubbles out of the decal, starting from the middle of the plate and working the bubbles outward. Depending on how concave your plate is, you’ll inevitably have some waves and creases on the edge of your decal. You can minimize these by carefully cutting them with an X-acto knife. They will also shrink as they dry.
7. After the plates have dried completely, you may want to apply a final coat of acrylic to the fronts. Once they are dry, don’t forget to sign and number the backs with a permanent marker.
8. Find a place to display your work! To hang the plates, attach plate hangers on the back; you can find these at nearly any dollar or hardware store. Alternatively, prop them on easels or picture shelves, or use them to decorate a desk, coffee table, dresser, etc.
Makes as many commemorative planets as you have plates!