Updated: Aug 17, 2021
All resins are not the same.
There are various limitations with any resin, and they each have their pros and cons, which is why some resin artists have different brands they use for different projects. Becoming more knowledgeable of a resins pros & cons, helps an artist learn best ways to work with them, or work around them. Resin art has a big learning curve and like any medium, they each take time and practice to master, but once you do, you can achieve the most incredibly rewarding and beautiful results. Every resin has it's unique properties, and when used correctly can create spectacular pieces (please view the specific information we have for each of our resins, and our blog on resin tips).
Resin is in the family of polymer substances, epoxy is one of the many derivatives of polymers. An easy way to look at this is that epoxy is to resin, what acrylic is to paint.
There are a large variety of types of resins made to use in many different applications. Each resin has its unique features, pros & cons depending on what it is being used for. Some people like to use several different resins for different applications.
Resins are usually viscous, and convert into rigid polymers through a curing process. Resins can be naturally occuring, but are now often made synthetically. Some synthetic resins have similar properties & makeups to natural plant resins. Some are manufactured by the esterification of organic compounds. And some are more of a thermosetting plastic which the term "resin", is loosely applied to the reactant or product, or both.
There are numerous two-part epoxy resins. Some are designed for art, some designed for casting (craft type for more shallow moulds, and there's also more industrial type for deeper pours), some are more so designed for construction/industrial applications such as kitchen countertops (often with higher heat tolerance), flooring, concrete, boats, & more. Every brand has different viscosities, cure rates, heat resistance ratings, work time, & more. Even in each category of epoxy resin, there are many types. There are deep pour casting resins made for projects like river tables, many need to be poured in layers (typically 2" depths, some go up to 3-4"), depending on volume required, if there's inclusions such as organics. People often may need to experiment with a few. For best results, use a resin that is designed for your specific types of projects.
There is also a resin product called UV Resin (it is a 1 part resin, and not an epoxy resin. UV resin is not the same thing as a UV rated (2 part) epoxy resin. Some people get confused between them. A UV Resin is cured by using light (like the UV nail polish coatings). UV resin only cures under UV irradiation. It's maximum layer thickness is about 1mm, and is typically best suited for smaller areas. The two part epoxy resins with a UV rating, is not cured with light, it just means that it has UV inhibitors added to reduce yellowing and surface degradation from UV exposure. Some have more than others, but know that those additives may affect the resin in another area, including price.
There is also polyester & polyurethane resins. These resins both cure very hard like glass, and can be polished to a high gloss, but unfortunately these types of resins are quite a bit more toxic & fumey, and you absolutely must wear a respirator when working with these resins. They are not advised for use in homes.
Polyester resin is commonly used in construction of molded reinforced fiber and composite products. It is a viscous liquid (like honey) requiring addition of catalysts and accelerators to complete the cure process, & it has a very short work time. These tend to be lower cost resin then other types. It's emission during use in open molds is considered carcinogenic and it has a high and unpredictable shrinkage rate. Polyester resin has excellent resistance to heat, chemicals and flame. Often used for construction, laminate, auto-repair of fillers, skis, fishing rods, plan and ship components, coatings, decorative accessories and bottles.
Polyurethane resin is very sensitive to moisture and humidity, which makes it difficult to add any other elements such as pigments, dyes or other inclusions (unless they're specifically formulated for that brand). Its properties can be changed from a soft pliable rubber to a very hard and rigid plastic. It is often produced in a liquid form, and can be poured in to moulds. Polyurethane resin is used in a wide range of production products from rubbers, medicines, inks and plastics, insulation, elastomers, adhesives and foam liners in clothing.
Other resin types or terminology you might hear of are:
Phenolic resin, often used for resin impregnation, brake linings, electrical components, laminate, adhesives for cement, bonded adhesives and moulds.
Alkyd resin, often used for electrical insulation, electronic components, putty fillers and paints.
Polycarbonate resin, often used for metal replacements, safety helmets, lenses, electrical components, photography film, and insulators.
Polyamide resin, often used for nonlubricated bearings, givers, gears, sutures, tires, watchbrands, packaging and bottles.
Silicone resin, often used for rubber, laminates, encapsulated resins, defoamers, and water-resistant applications.
Polyethylene resin, often used for packaging for laminates & films, containers, cable insulation, coatings, toys, moulds, linings, pipes and tubes. This is the most common type of resin, with over 100 million tons produced annually.
Acrylic resin, often used for structural and decorative panels, adhesives, elastomers, coatings, signs and translucent tiles.
Polystyrene resin, often used for insulation, pipes, foams, cooling towers, rubber, automotive instruments and dashboards.
Polypropylene resin, often used for toys, electronic components, pipe and production of tubing, fibers, filaments and coatings. This resin does not contain BPA, and can be sterilized so it is often used for medical equipment.
Always review the safety data sheets for any type of resin you may choose to use. There is often helpful information & tips (as well as the safety information provided on websites).
Epoxy Resins available from ArtWorks Resin Canada Inc.
Epoxy resins consist of a base (bottle of resin) and a curing agent (bottle of hardener). The two components are mixed in a certain ratio (ArtWorks Resin is a 1:1 ratio measured by volume (not weight), and Liquid Diamonds is a 2:1 ratio that can be measured by weight or volume . A chemical reaction occurs between the two parts generating heat (exothermic reaction) and hardening the mixture into an inert, hard plastic. Epoxy coatings are used because of their outstanding chemical resistance, durability, low porosity and strong bond strength. ALL resins will yellow over a period of time, however, ArtWorks Resin has been formulated to resist yellowing for a much longer period of time. Liquid Diamonds also has added UV inhibitors. It is not possible to determine how long it will take any cured resin brand to start becoming discoloured, as there are too many variables. Some of those variables are additives or substrates or items painted over substrate, overheating during work time, and where the art is being displayed. Resin art, much like most original art, should not be displayed in direct sunlight.
ArtWorks Resin is a high-quality epoxy resin formulated specifically for use in artwork. It has been formulated with extra UV protection and HALS for more added UV Resistance. It is also used widely on tumblers, tabletops, bar tops, counter surfaces, & trays and is excellent for doming. It cures in 8-12 hours. It has no VOC's, does not have a foul odour, it is scratch resistant, and cures very rigid and rock hard (does not remain in a pliable state after curing, or go soft in hot climate. It is a medium viscosity (thick like syrup) resin. ArtWorks Resin cures crystal clear like glass. It is FDA 21CFR175.300 compliant.
Liquid Diamonds Casting Resin is an amazing high-quality casting resin. It is crystal clear and cures within 24 hours in correct room temperature. Liquid Diamonds was designed for the crafting industry. Many customers state it is the best casting, embedding & jewelry resin. Ideal applications are for castings, moulds, jewelry making, pen turning, and a variety of other areas. Because this product has such a low viscosity, it allows for micro-bubbles to dissipate more easily. It has no harsh chemicals such as solvents or alcohols and is VOC free. Safe to use on foams and delicate pieces. This resin can be used for coating or encapsulating as well. Excellent for silicone moulds, woods, concrete, pebble floors, tiles and rock. It is FDA 21CFR175.300 compliant.