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Creating Northern Lights Resin Art (step by step)

Updated: Apr 2

There is a YouTube video on this creation as well. For those who prefer to read & have written directions, here is a guide for you.


Get your supplies ready, your substrate ready, your workspace area ready, and you ready first. 😉 Before starting any resin project, always have everything ready first, and keep it handy by your work area.


1. ArtWorks Resin - Suggested total amount for an 8x8” wood panel is 2 oz (1 oz of hardener with 1 oz of resin). I often suggest when learning a new technique to use a bit more so that as a beginner you get proper coverage. In the YouTube video I did, I used a 12x16" panel, and made 10 oz of resin (if just top coating, I would only make roughly 7 oz. But I made extra in case I needed it, & the leftover resin was poured in to coaster moulds). If you’re using a different size panel, see the Resin Calculator page to determine total amount of resin needed. In the 10 oz I made, I also used more colours on this piece, then most will. I used 4 colours on the base, and had 8 more cups of colours for the northern lights section (mostly to showcase how these colours work as well). So if you're not using very many colours, you may be fine with just recommended amount of resin from calculator.


2. Clear plastic or silicone measuring cup for mixing ArtWorks Resin (get a larger cup than volume amount needed. Measuring cups available at ArtWorks.


3. Support & Colour Mixing Cups – need 4 cups to supoort panel under wood panel/canvas while working, plus more cups to mix individual colourants with ArtWorks Resin in. Plastic solo cups for support under the panel can be reused over and over for other projects. For colourants, you can use small plastic cups, paper cups (they are economical & can be squeezed easily for pouring strips) or silicone cups. You will need one cup per colour being used on this artwork layer. We have one size of Silicone cup available at Artworks (for convenience) on Accessories tab. The dollar store & Walmart often carry the small paper cups.


4. Long sticks for stirring and spreading resin (can use popsicle sticks or even better, use plastic or silicone stir sticks suited for size of project). ArtWorks has some plastic stir sticks often in stock.


5. Disposable NITRILE gloves (latex, vinyl & rubber are not suitable since they’re not chemical resistant. Nitrile gloves available at many places including grocery stores, Costco, hardware stores, pharmacies, Walmart & many paint stores).


6. Paper towels & wet wipes are handy too.


7. Some type of cleaner to help remove resin off items if needed. Clorox Wipes work great (if you can find them), or Isopropyl alcohol or Windex sprayed on paper towels. Baby wipes or Kirkland make-up wipes.


8. Propane torch, or butane chefs torch. (propane torches available at hardware stores & butane chefs torch available at kitchen shops & both might be available at Canadian Tire stores). For large pieces I prefer the propane torch with a wide angle flame attachment.


9. Optional: Heat gun &/or blow dryer is often used to create effects in resin art. If an extensions cord is needed have it plugged in & ready to use before you begin. On this piece I used a heat gun to manipulate resin on this Northern Lights piece.


10. Birch wood or hardwood panel, 8” x 8” size is a good beginner size to start with (I used a 12x16". Wood panels are available at many artist supply stores in their canvas sections, or available online. When working with resin art, we do not typically recommend canvas, as it can sag in the middle from the weight of the resin, plus there is often issues with resin pulling and not covering nicely along the edges. Some people do still use canvas, and if you choose to, you need to do extra steps to reinforce it on the underside so it will not sag & pull to the middle. Some people resin the back side and once cured it is more stable (but resin is kind of expensive to use on the backside). Some people place a box or foam to fit the back and support it, so it is perfectly flat. There can be no ridges or bumps from the support underneath, or it will transfer to an uneven piece.


11. Primer/sealer for wood (minimum one day prior to resin work). You can prime with one coat of an artist grade primer sealer if you have it. If you don’t have that, many people also use Kilz2 Primer/Sealer or Zinsser Bin Primer/Sealer or Krylon (or whatever options are available at your closest hardware/paint store), plus one coat of a semi-gloss paint, or some people just do two coats of primer/sealer. Lightly sand, then clean between coats. Recommend that you do NOT use Rustoleum products (whites or clears) for any parts of priming or sealing with resin related projects (as they have been known to cause yellowing in projects). Some people use polycrylic (I have not used this myself). Some people like to paint their base coat colours as part of their priming process. Again, just be sure it's cured cusing resin on top.


12. Blue painters’ tape or Green Frog Tape, (available at hardware stores & paint stores, (dollar store tape doesn’t work great with resin art). Pre-tape your panel/canvas along bottom edge of birch wood panel to catch drips. Then tape along the sides, right up to top edge of the panel as well. Be sure to burnish tape (press it into the substrate by rubbing over top of it with the back of a spoon or popsicle stick) so it’s attached thoroughly to panel (to prevent any leakage).

You have a choice for your artwork sides. You can either tape off the sides of your birch panel (to leave what is referred to as a clean edge, and you can paint or stain the sides later with a complimentary colour), or you can let resin drip over the sides of the panel. For beginners, it is less stressful to have to worry about covering sides fully while trying to work within time constraints of resin, so ideally, plan to tape the sides, then you only have to focus on coverage of the surface area. If you choose to carry the resin over the sides, plan to keep checking that your colours have fully covered the sides.


13. Colourants. You can use a huge variety of colourants in resin art. Some colourants will produce better results than others. You can use resin pigment pastes, resin tints, pigment powders, mica powders, acrylic paint (higher pigmented ones work better), acrylic inks, india inks & more. ArtWorks has a selection of over 400 colourants for resin art.


For this project with abstract Northern Lights scene, I used all Colour Passions pigment colours (I will add names & links at the bottom).

- I used two blacks for the illusion of hills on the ground area.

- A navy for the upper section of sky area and a dark purple for the lower section of the sky (area above the ground) .

- For the Northern Lights, you can choose just green, or a few colours. I used green, blue, violet & red (all listed below).


14. Plastic sheet to protect work surface area. Put all items on top of plastic sheet. I like to cover the whole table surface in the plastic, and the floor near me. Then I also add parchment paper over that in the area where I'm working, and mixing (resin peels off once cured). (Heavy Duty plastic sheets work best for Resin jobs. Cured resin will peel off it easily. Available at ArtWorks (one type of heavy duty sheet is often in stock in our store for convenience), hardware stores, paint stores, dollar stores, etc).


15. Tweezers & toothpicks. Needed to remove dust, hair, flies & other items that love to land in your ArtWorks Resin. Wipe resin off tweezers with alcohol sprayed paper towels or wipes (like Clorox or Baby wipes) between each use.


16. Level – Always use a level to check that your substrate (wood panel/canvas) is level prior to pouring resin.


17. Optional –

Disposable paint coveralls (I reuse them until the zipper quits working or they’re ripped). I have ruined many of my clothes from resin. Resin cannot be removed from your clothes. Regardless, my main reason for wearing painter coveralls, is to help prevent items from your clothing (such as hair, yours or pets, or fuzz, & dust), from falling off your clothes into your project. It really helps!!! (for convenience we occasionally have some disposable painter coveralls available at ArtWorks plus anywhere house paint is sold).


18. Optional - Infrared temperature guage/thermometer. This is very handy to take the guess work out of knowing if your room is the correct temperature for best resin cure. Also to aim at the resin bottles to see if they are cold. Cold resin will create extra bubbles.


19. Wear a cap/hat to keep your hair away from your resin work, and if your hair is long, tie it back. (many of us learned this the hard way & had to cut resin covered hair off).


*If working in a non-ventilated area, or using epoxy resins at home, organic vapour respirators are suggested for regular usage with any resin (artists discretion much like spray paint, alcohol inks and numerous other mediums). More info on this available on website.




Directions:

Ensure your substrate (panel/canvas) is free of any oils from hands or other items that may have touched it, as resin repels from oil, and it will create fisheyes or other issues if there is oil or other contaminants on your substrate.

Prior to mixing ArtWorks Resin: Set up your workstation. Have all your supplies ready, and at hand in your work area. Once part a & part b are poured in to the same cup , you only have roughly 30-40 minutes work time (pot life) left, to create your masterpiece. So, it’s best to not have to go look for anything once ArtWorks Resin is mixed. Keep anything like cell phones, beverages, & other items away from work area. Have your colours you want to use already in their mixing cups. Use very little colour. Start with a tiny amount of colour 3-5% ratio to resin, and only add more if required in small amounts at a time, up to a maximum ratio of 10% colourant to ArtWorks Resin (more info on website). Resin in general works best in warm rooms, with a temperature between 72-78 F (more info about temps on website).


Directions for ArtWorks Resin.

Pour equal amounts of product (from each bottle part A and part B of the kit) into the clear plastic measuring cup. NOTE: it is important that they are equal amounts (1 to 1 ratio by volume, not by weight with this resin).

Pour the hardener (part b) in mix cup first, then add the resin (part a), and mix for 4 minutes scraping the sides & bottom occasionally as you stir, to ensure all ArtWorks Resin is mixed well. Stir thoroughly, but not vigorously. Stirring too quickly can create more air causing additional bubbles in the product. If cold, resin will appear cloudy with bubbles. If you see striations behind your stirring, (looks like strings following your stirring in the resin), keep stirring until the striations disappear. If resin is cold, website has more info on how to safely warm Part A.

Be prepared to know when creating resin art, a Second coat/layer may or may not be required – up to the individual artist, and how first layer cures.


Once your 2 parts (ArtWorks Resin & hardener) are mixed for 4 minutes (or you no longer see striations), you can start adding the mixed ArtWorks Resin, into the smaller cups with colourant added in them. Note: once the 2 parts of resin have been poured together in to first mix cup, your pot life has begun. Please do not leave mixed resin to sit in mix cups. (more information on website about that under ArtWorks instruction tab).

I poured a little more resin in to the colours being used as a base (the navy, purple & blacks). For the Northern Lights colours had less (but I also used 8 colours).


Start at top of your substrate (wood panel), use your darkest sky colour (navy), & pour within the area you plan to cover, then pour the next sky colour (purple which was closer to the ground area), within the area you plan to cover.

Leave the ground colours, until after you're done making your Northern Lights (in case you need to cover a bit on the lower section after manipulating.


Then using your stir stick/popsicle stick, or gloved fingers, start to move Resin side to side to fully cover substrate. As resin drips over sides (if you’re wanting to cover sides), smooth the resin on sides with coloured Resin using gloved fingers. Once there is full coverage up to the sides, slowly manipulate the navy & purple together a bit & over each other a bit where they join up.


For Northern Lights:

Carefully add lines of each of the colours you have chosen, in the rough shapes you have decided on for your creation. I added green resin lights, then blue, then violet, then red. Depending on how dark you want your piece, you may want to add a wee bit more of the northern lights colours, as it cured a bit darker than shows in video.

Try to do these in varying lengths & spread apart enough that you can manipulate them afterwards. Try not to pour too thick of lines, or it may not look as natural & it may take right over. You can always add more afterwards. Keep it a nice gentle flow. Once your northern lights colours are put on the sky, you will need to manipulate them to try to get the desired look you've chosen. There are several different methods people do to achieve this. It is not as easy as it looks, and it does take some people many many tries, and a lot of practise so don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t occur the first time.


I always tell people not to get too attached to how you've placed your resin on the panel, because resin has a mind of it's own, and like most art forms, it can take some practice. It takes time to get it do do what you want consistantly.


A good thick viscosity resin helps when trying to create designs & shapes & have them remain somewhat where you've placed or manipulated them. A thicker resin like ArtWorks Resin helps hold the design better than if it’s too thin a viscosity of resin (such as Liquid Diamonds, although it can be done).


For manipulating the northern lights you can choose from many methods, (also depending on the tools you have). In the YouTube video I show using a heat gun. There are other methods, but will explain these:


- Option 1 - I used a heat gun to manipulate & push the colours where I wanted them to be. Be careful with this method however, as you can make your resin too fluid, (or singe & burn it), and loose control of it or overwork it. If you push it too much, it will cause the colour & design to disappear (and FYI once it’s been overworked, it doesn’t come back. You can pour a new line if required & there's time. If it's been overheated or singed, you'll need to leave that area alone, it would have to be fixed on a new layer. You can put your heat gun on a slight angle, and slowly and carefully blow a bit of the colour towards the direction you've chosen your lights to go. Try to manipulate the lights in pleasing angles.


- Option 2 – You can lightly torch the resin & coloured lines to get it warm enough to move easier, then put low setting on a hair dryer with directional tip, blow the northern lights carefully in to the sky in desired choice of pleasing angle, and slowly move a long the skyline until you’ve got your northern lights where you want them. Then do a light torch again.


- Option 3 – You can lightly torch the resin & coloured lines to get it warm, then take a manipulating tool, such as a silicone knife, spatula, spoon, or even small strips of parchment paper, and very very carefully guide, push, pull the northern lights lines on a gentle slight angle. Then repeat in small sections at a time along the skyline. Once done, do a light torch. This particular option may be a bit too time consuming for a beginner, so if you choose this option, please keep an eye on your resin pot life (work time).



Do not leave the heat gun or torch in one spot, or you can singe your resin. If that occurs, you’ll need to do a 2nd layer after the first cures (more info on that elsewhere on website).


Once you’ve manipulated the sky & lights, pour the two blacks on to the lower ground area. Try not to mix them too much, just blend over the surface in patches, and try to manipulate carefully in to the formation or illusion of hills. Some higher in distance & a bit lower ones in the front. the two colours I picked work well for the illusion of a ground surface at night.


Often times cells form on their own (when using epoxy pastes) after you torch or manipulate it and leave it. Sometimes this is desired like when doing ocean waves, but sometimes it's not desired. The less you manipulate one resin colour over the other, the less cells will appear. You are just trying to spread the colours out in pleasing forms.


Embellishments:

I was thinking it might be fun to add the Colour Passion Fluorescent Sparkles (instead of the their Colour Change Sparkles I used), on the Northern Lights scene. But that option I can do another time. I don't have a black light right now to show the effects of how that would look, glowing in the dark, but I will buy one so I can show that too. But if you have a black light, their Green Fluro Sparkles might be a fun addition in to that sky. ;)



Torching:

Once you have resin spread evenly & everything design element in place, use a torch to pop any bubbles, keep moving torch slowly over substrate roughly 6-8” above, for just a few seconds. This will draw up any submersed bubbles in the ArtWorks Resin. The curing process started once the two parts are mixed, but adding heat can speed up the curing process, so just use enough heat to pop the bubbles.

If you see any dust, hair or other items that have fallen into your project, use tweezers to get them out, and you may need to lightly torch the area where you picked out something, to help resin self level there agian.


After first torch it will help your resin soften a bit, and if you're not happy with your design, you can tilt your substrate a bit to add to the effects, or you can manipulate them with your popsicle stick or other tools. But be careful because you might also loose affects you already had there in doing this. Or worse, you could completely loose all the work you did.


Babysit the piece for a bit (keep an eye for dust, hairs, flies etc., that need to be removed before cure). It may require 2 – 3 light torchings, roughly 10 minutes apart, to remove any bubbles that might rise up.

When you are torching, try to ensure the flame doesn’t touch the resin, or you can accidentally singe the resin, which can cause fisheyes/dimples & premature yellowing in your art. Please be aware that overheating resin in any part of the process can cause premature yellowing.



Resin is a magnet for anything floating or flying in the air, so it’s best to cover your work with some type of container/box, to prevent air particles from landing in your cured work. Or close the door to the area, so there is not air movement from anyone walking past.


If you don't cover your piece, you may prefer to clean the area up after the piece is cured, so as not to stir up air causing things to land on your curing piece.


Use paper towel and alcohol or Windex (or Clorox alcohol wipes) to clean up reusable stir sticks and any drips right away (or spray Windex or isopropyl alcohol on paper towel and wipe any contaminated areas or tools). Never spray anything near your your masterpiece. Toss all non-reusable cups/gloves/paper towel, etc. Note: resin is difficult to remove from skin and impossible to remove from clothes …. wear disposable gloves and old clothes, or disposable coveralls. Never wash resin items in a sink, it will ruin your drains.


If you do get resin on your skin, ArtWorks has an amazing ArtWorks epoxy scrub that works beautifully to gently remove epoxy and even softens your skin afterwards. If you do not have a gentle scrub, you can use paper towel to wipe the bulk off, then wash with an automotive type of pumice hand cleaner degreaser like Gojo, or make a coconut oil/sugar, salt or coffee ground/dishsoap scrub to remove the resin from skin. The other gentle item that I found removes resin from skin well is Kirkland make-up wipes. Do not use alcohol or vinegar to remove resin from your skin as alcohol open up the pores, and you don’t want the resin getting into your pores.


If you have resin left over in cups, and they’ve become hot, take them outside & leave to cool. Once cured you can dispose of them. If they have not become hot, you can use leftover resin in silicone moulds, or have other pieces (panels or cheese boards or small items) taped & ready to add left over resin on. Rather than wasting, it can be a base layer on a different piece. Or if you have nothing else to use it on, turn cup sideways or upside down on parchment paper, and leave it to cure, then you can dispose of resin, the next day, and if it’s a reusable cup, just pull resin out.


Some people like to keep a log of what they did on a project, so they keep track of & know what & how much they used on each project, and then they use it as a learning tool for the next time they do the project.


ArtWorks Resin cures in 8-12 hours.

However please note epoxy resins continue to harden for up to 3-4 weeks, at which point it will reach its full hardness & also reach its full heat tolerance rating.


After a full day cured, you can turn your piece over on to a smooth surface (a towel or cotton cloth is good), and use a heat gun, along the edge of the tape where there are resin drips (from dripping over the sides), and slowly pull the tape off after the heat gun has loosened the adhesive on the tape. If there are any sections of resin hanging over the bottom backside edge, they can be very carefully sliced off using a utility knife.



Optional Layer 2


Before you remove tape from bottom & sides, if you want to do a layered piece, or have areas you need to change, or fix, or just for more depth, you can leave the tape on until you are done all your layers.


If you need to do a second coat, (don’t be discouraged, this is not uncommon when doing resin art versus just top coating with resin). If needed, gently sand out any hair, dust, etc. If there is nothing to sand out, sanding won’t be necessary, you can just proceed to your 2nd layer if using ArtWorks Resin. Resin can be finicky to work with, and there is a learning curve that comes with practice, so best to start small. Clean off all dust from entire piece using isopropyl alcohol on soft cloth. Dry thoroughly before applying 2nd coat.



Recommended hanging hardware is d-rings and picture wire, placed roughly ¼ the way down the picture on the back. These can be purchased at hardware stores, Michaels, and various picture framing stores as well as online.


Hopefully this information helps creating your Northern Lights resin art masterpiece. Have fun creating.



There is a Care of Resin art Blog with tips for caring for your resin pieces.