Im always seeing creators on social media use epoxy resin to create beautiful high gloss finishes on their artwork. This is great, but as usual, the internet makes it look too easy. Here’s some of my main tips for avoiding epoxy rage.
TIPS for using epoxy resin:
- ALWAYS experiment first before you coat something you care about, there’s lots of variables involved
- STUDY UP: always read directions, epoxy resins are not created equal. Research the brand you’re going to use and make sure its made for your type of project. For example, a lot of resins cannot withstand extended exposure to UV light. Ive finished some pieces I really loved with resin, just to find them yellow and dingy after a few weeks of being displayed.
- PREP YOUR PIECE: If you’d like to epoxy something that has mediums with the potential to migrate/drift (glitter, POSCA pens, that shiny Rustoleum stuff, sand, etc.) I recommend sealing the piece with a couple light coats of clear coat spray first. Don’t forget to let the spray cure first, otherwise the gasses released from the spray will cause micro bubbles and cloudiness in your resin. Same rules apply to epoxying a spray painted piece, let the mediums cure first. Clean your piece thoroughly before applying epoxy. A lot of people like to line the back of their piece with painters tape to easily remove cured epoxy droplets. Sometimes this doesn’t do the trick. If not, follow the “PROTECTION” line below, and maybe invest in a orbital sander.
- LIGHTING: Get some good lighting set up and if possible, lights pointing from different directions. This will increase the likelihood of you noticing debris in your epoxy resin before it’s too late.
- TEMPERATURE: optimal work area temperature is 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold will slow down your cure dramatically.
- CLEAN YOUR WORKSPACE: Clean before you set up your work space. Vacuums kick a lot of dust up in the air, so save yourself the hassle. After dusting and vacuuming, you can even mist the ground with a spray bottle to help keep down debris.
- PROTECT YOUR WORKSPACE: sometimes cardboard used for covering your work space or your artwork can shed and create more debris, consider investing in a roll of painters plastic to cover your workspace with, then secure it with painters tape
- BE ORGANIZED: “Mise en place” before you start, get everything together. It might seem extra, but making a checklist before starting will save you a lot of stress and panic down the line.
- PROTECTION: In addition to wearing a mask/respirator, cover your face/hair, wear clean clothes you don’t care about, and have lots of clean disposable gloves handy. ALWAYS clean yourself, your piece, and your work area as thoroughly as possible.
- ELEVATION: Elevate your piece so that you don’t stick it to your work surface. Also, make sure your supports are under the piece and not sticking out. (one time I accidentally glued my finished commission piece to 4 old 2x4’s, i was HOT)
- HOT WATER BATH: You can let the bottles of hardener and epoxy warm up in a hot water bath for like 20-30 min, this lowers the viscosity of the mixture so you can do thinner coats/avoid micro bubbles and it also increases the cure speed (experiment with this, it can be inconsistent among products)
- TIMING: Set timers. As soon as I initially combine epoxy with hardener, a countdown starts. Every epoxy has a different work time, usually about 30 minutes (work time = time you can manipulate the mixture before the reaction begins) (hot water baths usually increase reaction time)
- BUBBLE CONTROL: Mix for a minimum of 5 minutes, always scraping sides and bottom of container to fully mix. Make sure there’s no striations left, as this will give you a tacky, cloudy end product. After mixing, you can let the mixture stand for 5 minutes covered. This will generate some heat and help dissipate bubbles before pouring.I like a heat gun for popping bubbles once epoxy is poured, but some people like torches, and some people like denatured alcohol. It’s a preference thing, just know that focusing heat on the epoxy resin in one spot too long will scorch it. Keep your heat source moving, its better to do multiple quick passes instead of one slow pass.
- PROPER TOOLS=MINIMAL WASTE: I like to buy the silicone spatulas from the dollar store to mix the parts together. These combined with the proper cups allows you to scrape the edges and make sure your A+B ratio is perfect. Also, invest in some epoxy mixing cups, you can find them on amazon. They even have silicone ones. If you let the epoxy on the silicone tools cure, you can peel it off and reuse them.
- COVER UP YOUR WORK: If you have a really clean work space you might not need to, but I work in a dusty environment where covering up my work immediately after applying epoxy is crucial. Usually epoxy resin isn’t usually hard to the touch until about 10-12 hours in.
- BE PATIENT: Don’t move your piece til its cured, if you move or twist your piece too early you can cause fisheyes and other disruptions in the surface.
- ADDITIONAL LAYERS: If you need to double coat (I always do at least two coats for depth) make sure you lightly sand cured epoxy with 220 grit sandpaper (and wear a mask). Clean your piece well after sanding and before applying more epoxy. This process gives the cured layer “tooth” which allows the new epoxy resin layer to form a mechanical bond to the previous coating. If no bond is created, you risk layers delaminating. Don’t risk it.
- MAINTAINING FINISHED PIECE: Alcohol breaks down cured resin. Personally, I clean my finished pieces with windex and a clean microfiber towel.
- Read directions on container
- Clean floors
- Clean workspace
- Protect/cover workspace
- Plan for covering artwork
- Painters tape
- Plenty of gloves
- Clean tweezers (for hairs and stuff)
- Heat gun (plugged in with extension cord!!!)
- Silicone spatulas
- Mixing cups
- Clean lid for mixing cup
- Clean brush/towel for dusting off piece
- Adequate amount of epoxy and hardener
- Scale and/or accurate measuring cups
I’m sure I forgot some things, so ill try to add to this list as time goes on. Hopefully this will save y’all from some of the pain and heartache of ruining projects and wasting money.