I have always liked fish tanks. They’re so relaxing to watch, and so pretty. I currently have a tank of fantail goldfish and I really enjoy my little guys. When I’m working, I like to stop and watch them from time to time. They help me relax.
Having recently learned to make things with epoxy resin, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos for inspiration and came across a Youtuber who goes by the name “resinAce.” Imagine my delight when I watched him using these sets of stickers that, when applied on top of each other with thin layers of resin between them, create a 3D effect of a fish. Here’s his video:
For this project, I’m using ArtResin coating resin. ArtResin was designed to be poured over canvas artworks to preserve and enhance them, which is a little different than a casting resin that is poured into a mold. You can, of course, use ArtResin for casting, but it really does best when poured over flat surfaces to cover them.
Here are some interesting facts about ArtResin:
ArtResin was developed by a husband-and-wife team of artists in Texas. They needed a coating epoxy for preserving their artwork that would not yellow over time, and thus devalue their art. When they couldn’t find one that met their standards, they teamed up with chemists and developed their own. ArtResin is made right here in the USA, has no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and is food safe after curing (although I don’t plan on using mine for food-contact projects).
When I ran into trouble with excessive bubbles on a small trial project, I reached out to ArtResin and a customer service agent responded the next day, which is the best I could have expected since I’d messaged them after their office hours. I learned that ArtResin (and any resin, really) should be used in a place where the ambient temperature is around 75 degrees. Given that it’s still chilly here in Alaska, I needed to run warm water over my resin and hardener bottles to bring them up to temperature. Not only did that solve the majority of my bubble issues, I can now highly recommend ArtResin to you, knowing that there is help available should you happen to run into any issues. I was very impressed with ArtResin’s customer service, and their YouTube channel is a plentiful source of information and inspiration.
Now, on to the project!
- a small wooden salad bowl,
- a half cup of white aquarium sand,
- two seashells,
- 3D fish stickers,
- nitrile gloves,
- a butane lighter,
- and of course my ArtResin.
If you are using a different brand of resin than I’m using, your measuring and mixing instructions might be different from mine. Therefore I’m not going to tell you how I mixed mine, because you might forget to read your brand’s instructions and potentially make a mistake. Please read and follow the instructions for your brand, and of course always wear safety gear. Nitrile gloves are a must (other types are not as chemically resistant). A well-ventilated area or a respirator is highly, highly suggested, even if your resin does claim to be low-odor or low VOC. Resin is not a craft to do when children or pets are nearby. Always cover your work surface with plastic in case of spills. If you get resin on your bare skin, never use alcohol, acetone or vinegar to remove it. These do dissolve the resin but hasten absorption into your skin and bloodstream – and you do not want that!. Wash with soap and water and follow up with no-alcohol baby wipes if needed. For more safety tips, please be sure to read my article – 7 Safety Tips For Working With Epoxy Resin – before you begin your project.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started! Step 1:
I poured my aquarium sand into the bottom of my bowl and positioned the seashells where I liked them, keeping in mind the size and shape of the fish I would be applying later. I mixed up the amount of resin I needed to make a roughly 1/8″ layer over the bottom of the bowl. I filled the seashells with the resin and then replaced them where I wanted them. Filling them with the resin helped eliminate air bubbles and reduce the chance that they would float out of place before the resin cured. I poured the rest of the resin first over the top of the seashells, letting it flow down over them onto the sand, and then poured the rest of the resin over the rest of the sand. I carefully used my stirring stick to nudge the resin along the sides of the bowl and smoothed the top, making sure there were no gaps. Next, I used a butane torch to pop the bubbles that formed in the resin (be careful while doing that – your container might melt or burn, which would be bad, so be cautious and use the torch sparingly, moving it from side to side without lingering in one place). Then I left it to cure for 24 hours.
I was so excited to begin using my stickers! These cool little stickers are numbered for the sequence in which to apply them, so there’s no guesswork there, but if you buy a different set and the stickers are not numbered, as a general rule, start with the sticker that has the tummy fins and work your way across the sticker sheet in order. Since I like to do things the hardest way first, I started with the more complex blue fish from the sticker set. The placement for the stickers wasn’t readily obvious as this blue fish has very flowy fins, and I do admit it was confusing to understand where the first two stickers should be in relation to the fish’s body. (The other fish in the set are much, much simpler!) I referred back to the seller’s Amazon listing for a photo and guidance, as no instructions come with the stickers.
Looking very closely, you can see areas of the design duplicated on different layers, and that helps you know where to place the stickers properly in relation to one another.
The stickers peel off the backing paper with a narrow clear border around them, and I decided I didn’t want to risk that clear border potentially making a “ghost” outline around my fish, so I trimmed it away with small scissors. You don’t have to do that but I think it’s a good idea.
Using the largest sticker in the set as a guide to aid in placement, I determined where I wanted my first sticker to go. I mixed up the amount of resin I needed for another layer a bit less than 1/8″ thick. You’ll need just enough resin to be able to cover the entire surface by tilting the fish bowl a bit. No more than that! You don’t want a thick layer or you’ll be able to see between the layers of stickers, and spoil the 3D effect. Pour a little bit of resin in the spot where the first sticker will go. This allows you to slide and position the sticker exactly where you want it to be (as I had seen resinAce do on his video). You could stick the sticker directly on the previous, cured layer, but be sure you have it in the right place if you do, and rub it down thoroughly to prevent any bubbles being trapped beneath it. I highly recommend you use the puddle method though, as I’ll explain later. Once the sticker is in place, pour the resin over the entire layer, using your mixing stick to help the resin level out. Use your torch to pop any bubbles, and allow the layer to cure for 24 hours.
Steps 3 – 6:
Again using the largest sticker as a guide, I positioned the sticker labeled #2 as I had done with sticker #1. Once it was in place, I poured the layer of resin on top, leveled the resin, and popped the bubbles with a torch. I left the project to cure for 24 hours, and the next day did the same thing with sticker #3. Repeat the process until all of the stickers have been applied. If you would like to add any of the plant/greenery stickers that come with the sets, add them beneath the top layer of resin as many aquatic plants float on or near the top of the water. Sure, it’s taking a while to complete this project but it’s only a few minutes each day so that’s not bad at all.
Interesting side note: When I applied the final, top sticker, instead of positioning it in a puddle of resin as I’d done the other layers, I stuck it directly to the layer of resin that had cured the previous day. That layer is the only layer with any kind of “ghosting” outline visible around it, even though I had trimmed away the excess clear sticker material. So learn from my mistake! Puddle the resin, add the sticker to the puddle, position the sticker properly and then pour the layer. It’s the best way to do it.
I poured an additional two layers of resin over my completed fish over the following two days, because I wanted more depth to my fish bowl. That’s entirely optional of course, but I liked how it turned out.
This was really a fun project and I plan on doing another one as a gift. If you like fish but don’t want to take care of a real one, you might make a fish bowl like this one for yourself. Give it a try, and when you finish yours, post a photo in the comments so everyone can see it!
As an Affiliate and Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not affect your purchase price in any way.