Resin Art Tools For Beginners

Posted on 11 Jun 08:14

When it comes to working safely and efficiently with epoxy resin, the old saying "use the right tools for the job" is true. Each resin tool is used for a specific purpose, so it's important to use the correct tools and to use them correctly to save you valuable time, effort and money. If you're new to working with resin, however, you might not know where to begin:

What resin supplies should a beginner get?
Which resin tools are need-to-haves vs nice-to-haves?
Where do I buy resin tools?
Do I need to spend a lot of money on resin supplies?

The good news is that basic resin art supplies are easily found at your local hardware store or online. In fact, you may already have some of them around the house. Here are the essentials you need to get started with epoxy resin:

1. ArtResin
2. Disposable Gloves 
3. Apron/Old Clothes
4. Plastic Drop Sheet
5. Masking Tape
6. Plastic Stands
7. Level
8. Plastic Container For Water Bath
9. Plastic Measuring Cup
10. Plastic Stir Stick
11. Plastic Spreader
12. Butane Torch
13. Toothpicks
14. Dust Cover
15. Alcohol and Paper Towel
16. Hand Cleaner


The importance of plastic resin tools:

From stir sticks to spreaders to plastic drop sheets, we recommend plastic tools when working with resin for good reason: epoxy resin doesn't adhere to plastic which makes clean up a breeze (and who doesn't like easy clean up?) You have two choices when it comes to cleaning off plastic resin tools:

  • Spritz your wet tools with isopropyl alcohol and wipe dry with paper towel. Repeat this step as often as necessary to remove all traces of resin. When there is no more resin residue left, wash your tools in hot soapy water and allow to dry thoroughly before using them again.
  • Lay the wet tools on a plastic surface overnight and allow the resin to cure. The next day, the resin will peel right off.

Either way you clean them, you can use plastic tools over and over again making them a smart choice when working with resin.


The importance of clean & dry resin tools:

Having the right tools for the job is essential, but equally important is that your resin tools must be both clean and dry: 

  • dirty tools will contaminate your resin with dust, bits of cured resin from previous projects and, if solvents or oily substances are introduced into the mixture, can even prevent the resin from curing properly.
  • water can cause a cloudy cure in your resin so ensure that all tools, measuring containers, your work surface and the object you are resining are thoroughly dry.


Need To Haves: Resin Art Tool Essentials

When you're starting out with epoxy resin, you may want to get the feel of it with something simple, like applying a coat of resin to a piece of artwork. There are a handful of basic (but necessary) tools when working with epoxy resin. Let's take a closer look at each of the supplies you need to use when applying epoxy resin as a surface coating:

1. ArtResin Epoxy Resin
ArtResin is available in multiple sizes from 8 oz to 10 gallons, depending on the size of your project. ArtResin was designed to be poured in thin applications, but you can get a thicker coat by pouring in layers. Read more about pouring thick layers here.
💡TIP: Not sure how much you need? Simply enter your dimensions into ArtResin's Resin Calculator and it will tell you exactly how much resin you need and which kit to buy.

2. Gloves 
Protect your hands with disposable gloves.
 In its liquid form, ArtResin is sticky and a pair of gloves protects your hands from a mess as well as possible skin irritation. Ensure you have several pairs of gloves on hand when working with resin. We like to use nitrile gloves - they are similar to latex but a lot stronger and with none of the allergenic compounds commonly associated with latex. You can find nitrile gloves in the paint department of your local hardware store.

3. Apron/Old Clothes

Protect your clothing from resin drips by wearing an apron, a smock, or old clothes while you work. Resin is very difficult to remove if you happen to drip any on your clothing. If you have long hair, throw it up in a ponytail to keep the resin out of your hair and your hair out of your resin.

4. Plastic Drop Sheet:
Protect your work surface from resin drips or spills with a plastic drop sheet. A clear, smooth vinyl shower curtain makes an inexpensive, sturdy liner that can be re-used again and again: resin drips can either be wiped clean with paper towel and isopropyl alcohol or, if allowed to dry, can be peeled off the next day.  For smaller projects, kitchen parchment paper works very nicely.

5. Masking Tape
Tape off the bottom of your artwork to catch drips:
 if you want to resin the sides of your piece, tape off the bottom of your piece with good quality painter's tape. As gravity pulls the resin down the sides, drips will start to accumulate along the bottom. The tape will catch these drips and once the resin is dry to the touch, pull the tape off and the drips right along with it. If you plan to allow the ArtResin to dome (that is, sit on top of your artwork without going over the sides) you can tape off the bottom for a little extra insurance in case the resin spills over the edges. Learn more about doming in our blog What Is Doming Resin? 

6. Stands

Propping your piece up on plastic stands allows excess resin to pool on the plastic lined work surface. We like using painter's pyramid stands here at ArtResin - you can find these in the paint section of any hardware store or you can buy them as part of our Accessory Kit.  Plastic shot glasses or large pieces of Lego also work well - both can be found at the dollar store.

7. Level 
Ensure your work is perfectly horizontal by checking it with a traditional level or with ArtResin's mobile phone level: Since epoxy resin self-levels, it will run off the sides at the lowest point if your piece is slanted. 

8. Plastic Container For Water Bath
If your resin is cold, a warm water bath will bring it up to room temperature making the resin easier to work with. Choose a narrow container with tall sides to prevent the bottles from tipping over. Fill it halfway with warm water, about as warm as you’d use for a baby’s bath, and let the capped bottles sit for about 10-15 minutes. Dry your bottles off thoroughly before you open them and you’re ready to measure and mix.

9. Stir Stick
The best stir stick for resin is one with a flat side:
 under mixed resin will not cure properly so it's important to scrape the sides and bottom of the container as you stir so that every last bit of resin and hardener are combined. A stir stick with a flat side can scrape the container much more effectively than something rounded, like a spoon. You can use wood craft sticks/tongue depressors but these must be disposed of after each use. Our favourite re-usable, plastic stir stick, pictured below, is available in our Accessory Kit

10. Mixing Container
Measure and mix your resin in a plastic, graduated measuring jug: inaccurately measured resin and hardener will not cure so it's important to use a cup with well marked lines to avoid guesstimating. It doesn't matter if you measure the resin first or the hardener, as long as both parts are precisely equal amounts. Ensure the cup is large enough and high enough to accommodate the amount of resin you're mixing: if your container is too small, the resin can splash out as you stir. Choose a mixing cup made of plastic - when you're finished, place your cup upside down on a plastic lined surface, and let the resin pool. The next day, when the resin is cured, peel it off and you can use your cup again. 

11. Spreader
Use a plastic spreader with a flat edge to guide the resin: epoxy resin will naturally self-level after you pour it, but a flat plastic spreader distributes it evenly over your piece. ArtResin's spreader, available in our Accessory Kit, has three different jagged edges to allow you to control the volume of resin you're spreading.

If you only wish to apply ArtResin to a specific area of your piece, you can use a popsicle stick, a toothpick or an old paintbrush to place it where you want it.

If you'd like to let the resin sit neatly in a dome on top of your artwork without going over the sides, a small spatula or a plastic take out knife works very nicely to nudge the resin right to the edge without spilling over.

If you'd like to apply resin to the sides of your piece, you can use your gloved hands or a foam brush. 

12. Torch
A flame
 torch is the best way to achieve a flawless, bubble free, finish:  mixing resin creates a lot of bubbles and these need to be removed or they will cure right into your piece. Blowing them out through a straw or poking them with a toothpick are not effective. Hairdryers don't get hot enough, will blow your resin around and will introduce dust. A heat gun is a good option when working with silicone molds but for most resin work, nothing beats a flame torch to get rid of bubbles. A small butane torch like our Artist's Torch works nicely for most projects. For larger pieces, a propane torch can't be beat! Butane and propane tanks can be found at any hardware store.
💡TIP:  If you're nervous to use a flame torch, please don't be. Once you've used one, you'll wonder how you ever did without it!  You can read more about the benefits of using torches in our blog Why Use A Torch To Get Rid Of Bubbles?

13. Toothpicks
Toothpicks are indispensable when resining: 
after you've torched your piece, look at your resin art at eye level under a light source, using your toothpick to pop stray bubbles or to fish out bits of dust or hair. They are handy if you want to nudge small amounts of resin around or to place inclusions like gold flake or gems exactly where you want them.

14. Dust Cover

Have a dust cover ready before you start to resin: you never want to leave your freshly resined art exposed while you look for a cardboard box or plastic tote. Ensure the cover is wiped down to remove any dust that can drop down into your wet piece.  We prefer plastic totes because they're easy to wipe out. You can use a cardboard box as long as you remove the flaps - you don't want to find the next day that a flap has dropped and cured into your resin ... true story!

15. Alcohol and paper towel
Paper towel and isopropyl alcohol are essential for spills and clean up:
 wearing gloves, wipe as much wet resin off with paper towel first, and then spritz your tools with a spray bottle of alcohol to remove any remaining residue. Wipe dry with more paper towel and repeat this process until there is no residue left. Wash tools with hot, soapy water and allow to dry thoroughly before using them again.

⚠️TIP: Because alcohol breaks down resin, never use it to wipe resin from your hands, or your skin may end up absorbing it.  Read more about safety precautions when working with resin here.

16. Hand Cleaner

Clean sticky hands with an exfoliant hand cleaner:  if you happen to get ArtResin on your skin, wash it off promptly to prevent possible skin irritation. An exfoliant hand cleaner from the hardware store works very nicely. In a pinch, you can dry rub your hands with a small amount of poppyseeds or salt and some liquid soap to remove the resin, then rinse well with water.

Nice To Haves: Experimenting With Resin

Here's where you can let your creativity flow!  Once you've got the basics down, you'll be ready to experiment with some new resin projects. Here a few ideas to get started with:

  • use silicone molds to make coasters and other small castings
  • drop alcohol ink into resin to make petri dish art
  • pour different shades of tinted resin to create flow art
  • layer shades of blue and white tinted resin to create ocean art

In order to make these projects, you'll need to add a few things to your resin toolbox:

Silicone Molds
Silicone molds are perfect for casting small resin art projects: unlike a plastic mold which could rip or warp, a silicone mold is flexible and allows you to peel it back from the resin cast. It pops back into shape and you can use them over and over again. You can find molds in just about any shape and size but an easy project to get started with is making resin coasters in a mold like this one:  you can add inclusions like beer caps, shells, decorative stones, gems, crystals and so much more. You can even make your own custom molds with Mold Making Material, a 2-part silicone product.

Alcohol Ink
You can also use a silicone mold to create petri dish resin art. Just squeeze alcohol ink drops into mixed ArtResin in a silicone mold, followed with Ink Sinker to push the colors down through the resin, creating tendrils, squiggles and other cool effects! The results are so impressive, but it’s fun and easy to do.

⚠️ While liquid ArtResin is non-flammable on its own, this is not the case once alcohol ink is added to the mix. Alcohol is flammable and for that reason, a torch should not be used on resin that contains alcohol ink.

Epoxy resin looks beautiful when it’s tinted: for best results, always choose a colorant designed specifically for use with resin, like our ResinTint liquid colorant. Stir the colorant into the mixture until the resin is one consistent color. Regardless of the colorant, be aware that a little goes a long way: don't add more than 6% of the total volume of mixed resin and hardener or your resin may not cure properly.

Plastic cups and stir sticks
Mix tinted resin using clear plastic drinking glasses and popsicle sticks:  if your resin art project uses tinted resin, you're going to follow a multi-step process:

  • Mix one big batch of resin in the amount your entire project requires.
  • Then portion out the resin into individual cups, according to how much you need per color. Use a separate cup for each color. 
  • Drop your tint of choice into the resin and mix thoroughly until the resin is one consistent hue. Start with less color than you think you need: you can always add more.
  • Test the depth of color by pulling a little tinted resin up the side of the plastic cup - add a little more tint if necessary.  

Wood Panels & Metal Trays
Strong, sturdy substrates best support the weight of resin: epoxy resin is heavy so wood panels are a great choice when working with resin. You can mount prints, photos, or even paint directly onto the panel and coat with resin for a modern looking finish. Cradled wood panels contain a lip to contain the resin and work very nicely when pouring tinted resin for flow art or ocean art. Metal serving trays also work very well for this purpose.
💡TIP: you can resin a stretched canvas, but the back needs to be reinforced with cardboard to prevent the fabric from sagging, which can cause the resin to pool in the centre as it cures.

Heat Gun & Hair Dryer
Use a heat gun on silicone molds and a hair dryer for flow art:  
though we almost always recommend using a flame torch, there are two exceptions: when working with silicone molds and for creating cells and lacing in flow art. The intensity of a flame can risk damaging silicone, so a heat gun is a good alternative when working with molds. For flow art or ocean art, use a heat gun or a hair dyer on low to gently push the layers of tinted resin around, creating fun effects like lacing and cells. You can finish it off with a quick pass of a flame torch to pop any bubbles. 

Add gold leaf, crystals, decorative stones, charms, glitter to your work: 
inclusions is just a fancy way of describing all the fun little embellishments you can add to your resin work to create shine, interest, and texture. You can suspend flakes of gold leaf, you can add crushed glass or crystals to replicate geodes, you can add sparkle and depth with some glitter, you can create coasters with beer caps, shells, or dried flowers.  There are about a million different things at the craft store you can add to resin: always make sure your inclusions are thoroughly dry and we advise testing first to make sure you get the result you're looking for.

From time to time, you may find your resin has cured with a bubble or a bit of dust or hair in it. Not to worry: this is easily fixed by pouring a fresh coat of resin.  Before you do that, however, you’ll need to sand down the first coat, roughing it up so that the fresh resin has something to adhere to. Whether you use a piece of sandpaper, a sanding block or an electric sander, use a coarse sandpaper like 80 grit over the entire surface, paying particular attention to sand out the problem area. It’s going to look like a mess, but don’t worry. Once you wipe away all of the sanding dust and pour your fresh coat, it’ll look good as new.

We hope you found this helpful! The bottom line is, that when it comes to working with resin, having the right tools helps you to get a better result.
If you have questions or comments on any resin supplies, please leave them below - we're happy to answer!

Ready to grab your supplies and get started?

We'll teach you everything your need to know in our ArtResin 101 video!
And if you're ready to branch out and try something new, here are a few great projects to get started with:

ArtResin:  Made For Artists, By Artists