Published on September 23rd, 2015 | by Melissa Tees
Everything You Need to Know to Get Started with InstaMorph
What is InstaMorph?
InstaMorph is a lightweight polyester thermoplastic which becomes moldable at 150ºF. In other words, once you heat it up, it acts similar to modeling clay. When it cools, you are left with solid, hard plastic. The great thing about InstaMorph is that it can be reshaped over and over again. If you don’t like what you have made, you can just heat it back up and start fresh.
For more information, you can check out InstaMorph’s website at https://www.instamorph.com/.
Uses for InstaMorph
Although InstaMorph can be shaped to form almost everything, I use it in prop or jewelry making. Because it can be formed like clay, it is a great option for specialty items.
Chibi Moon Hair Clips
Oberyn Martell Spear Head and Attachments
Where to Buy InstaMorph
There are a couple options of places to buy InstaMorph.
- Directly from the manufacturer (http://www.instamorph.com/shop)
- Online Cosplay/Crafting Supply Stores
I personally prefer purchasing off Amazon. It is usually a couple bucks cheaper than buying from InstaMorph directly.
InstaMorph is not the only moldable plastic out on the market. Friendly Plastic and ShapeLock are two other similar products that can be found. Friendly Plastic is sold at Michael’s Craft Stores; however, I would go ahead and give your Michael’s a call before you head over because some do not carry Friendly Plastic on a regular basis.
How to Use InstaMorph
Working with InstaMorph is fairly easy. The basic process can be summed up as : Heat, Mold, Cool.
- Heat your pellets up to 150ºF
You can use a variety of methods for heating up your pellets.
- Heat oven to 150ºF. Place your pellets on a non-stick sheet and place sheet in the oven. Leave pellets in oven until the become clear.
- Heat Gun
- Place heat pellets on a non-stick sheet. Use heat gun to warm pellets until they are clear.
- Boiling Water
- My preferred method is boiling water so I will take you through that process with photos.
I start by gathering my materials and boiling my water. Once the water has heated up, I drop the pellets in. When they turn clear, I use my tongs to pull it out of the water. When you use boiling water, the pellets will trap water between themselves.To avoid burns, I shake the water out while I have the InstaMorph in the tongs. After about 30 seconds, the InstaMorph is cool enough to mold.
Remember, the InstaMorph will be hot, so use caution when dealing with it. Burns are no fun at all, and you don’t want to singe your fingers. You can use a variety of tools and molds to shape your InstaMorph. However, I would avoid plastic implements because they tend to stick to the InstaMorph which can cause all sorts of problems. I have found that metal tools work best, and they can be heated which produces a more defined and smooth details.
If you item begins to harden before you finish molding, you can reheat the item. For the boiling water method, you can use tongs to dip the item in the water to soften it. During my projects, I tend to keep the water heated so I can quickly go back when needed.
- Let it Cool
Once the InstaMorph cools, it will go back to its original white color. For quick cooling, pop it in the freezer for ice water.
Coloring and Painting InstaMorph
InstaMorph can be colored with alcohol inks, epoxy dyes and paint powders. Pigment Packs are sold by the manufacturer that are specifically designed to color InstaMorph. I have never used colorings like inks and dyes because I prefer to paint my items, but I won’t leave you hanging.
Links for Coloring Instructions
- Dyes: https://www.instamorph.com/techniques/coloring-with-dyes-2
- Epoxy Gels: http://www.instamorph.com/techniques/coloring-with-epoxy-gels
- Paint Powders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po8BaYD9Wks
- Pigment Packs: https://www.instamorph.com/instamorph-pigment-pack
When painting InstaMorph, you can use any paint that can be used on plastic. Check the label of your paint to make sure that it adheres to plastic. Spray paint is especially effective for covering items. A quick tip for painting, especially with spray paint: You can use a makeup sponge to even out coverage. Use a blotting motion to pick up extra paint and smooth out the paint. This works wonders with drips.
Tips for Using InstaMorph
Although InstaMorph can be molded like clay, don’t expect the same experience as clay when using it. It can be temperamental and stick to random things that you would rather it not. Because of this, I have included some tips based on my adventures so that you don’t have to have the “Oh God, oh God, why me?” issues that can pop up.
- Work Space Requirements
InstaMorph likes to stick to things. That’s just how it is. I learned the hard way when I dropped a glob on my couch, and it took the top layer of the leather off with it. When working on a table, I would advise you to lay out some wax paper in order to keep the InstaMorph from sticking to your table. It will take the varnish off of wood tables so it is best to protect any surfaces that you don’t want to get damaged.
- Rolling It Out
InstaMorph can be rolled out quite simply if you know what you are doing. Using a regular rolling pin or trying to squish it flat is not the answer. For your best bet, use a glass jar or bottle filled with hot water. I took a cleaned out spaghetti sauce jar with its label removed for my rolling instrument. By adding the hot water, the InstaMorph remained soft enough that it didn’t try to stick to the jar. You will need to reheat the water periodically to keep it warm.
- Smoothing Surfaces
When I first started playing around with InstaMorph, I thought that the best way to smooth surfaces would be to sand the InstaMorph once it had cooled. While that is a viable option, it is extremely tedious and you are left with a lot of plastic dust everywhere. In my experience, the best way to smooth a surface is with a hot knife. To smooth the surface using this method, you need to make sure that the InstaMorph is still pretty soft. Heat up you knife and then glide it down the InstaMorph while applying slight pressure. Do not push down to hard or you will smoosh the InstaMorph and it will lose its shape. You can also press the knife against the item to get the lumps out instead of dragging it along the surface.
- Planned Replication
If you are making a set of the exact same item. I would suggest measuring out the InstaMorph pellets so that you use the same about for each piece. This makes it easier to control the amount of InstaMorph being used.
If you have questions or would like to know more tips, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.