What kind of resin should I use? – Choosing a resin

what kind of resin should i useOriginally published March 2013.  Updated May 2020.

If you are asking yourself ‘What kind of resin should I use?’, you have come to the right place.

This is one of the most common questions I get asked about art, jewelry and crafts.  There is no ‘one size fits all’ resin, and there are MANY things to consider.  I will walk you through how I look at the process, whether I am creating for myself or helping another artist choose a resin.

Let’s imagine you have walked into your favorite butcher shop.  You tell the meat cutter at the counter that you want a steak and ask what kind you should buy.  One of the responses you’re likely to get is a question asking “What do you want to make?”.  Choosing a resin is really no different than this situation.  To be more specific, I would frame my response into “What are you hoping the end result to be?”

If you’re a beginner, I cannot stress here enough that you need to start with an epoxy resin.  Why?  Relatively speaking, epoxy is the ‘easiest’ to work with.  It generally doesn’t require wearing a respirator mask and tends to be the most forgiving of environmental factors, such as humidity.  Epoxy resin also has the longest shelf life.  I also like that it generally has the longest pot time (approximately 20 to 40 minutes to work with it), so it’s great for beginners that are still fumbling and getting used to working with resin.

So you may be asking yourself, “What kind of epoxy resin should I use?”  Once again, it depends on what you want your final casting to look like.  Here are a few other things to consider when choosing a specific epoxy.

Clarity:

If you want your final project to be clear, you want to make sure to start with a clear resin.  Also realize that clear doesn’t necessarily mean ‘color free’.  Some clear resins will cure with a yellow tint, depending on the brand.  If you’re unsure about how clear the resin is when cast, check with the retailer or manufacturer before making a purchase.  Know that the clearer and more color free the resin, the more it will cost.

Fill a space or coat a surface?

Are you trying to cast the resin into something, or are you wanting to put it on as a coating?  If you want to place the resin on something without sides, you want to be sure you are using a doming resin.  This kind of resin is a bit thicker and has the extra surface tension to make sure it doesn’t run over the sides.  Know too though, that this resin being a bit thicker, is also more difficult to remove bubbles from.  If you want to fill a mold or space with sides, you want to use a casting resin.

Of course, each has its own specific advantages and disadvantages, so if you’re a beginner, read this article about the differences between these two types.

So if epoxy is so great, why would I use anything else?

Unfortunately, epoxy resin can’t do everything.  Relatively speaking, it can cure soft.  You may have noticed that when you cast epoxy, you can sometimes dent your fingernail in the finished casting if you try hard enough.  Polyester and polyurethane resins both cure very hard.  When fully cured, they can have the hardness and clearness of glass.  In fact, both can be polished to a high gloss with a polishing wheel and the appropriate compound.  Many epoxies cannot withstand the heat produced by a polishing wheel and will turn cloudy on the surface.

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I know what you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I need!  I hate having to do all that extra stuff to epoxy to get it glossy!”  Sit down, I have a few downsides to share with you.  First polyester and some polyurethanes may require that you wear a respirator mask with them.  In my opinion, polyester resin will literally take your breath away the smell is so bad.  I would NEVER cast this resin in my house or a space that I needed to occupy in the next 12 hours.  When I do resin polyester in my studio, I save it for the last thing in the day.  I cast, then leave for the day or I will even cast it outside, weather permitting.

Polyesters do have an advantage over epoxy in that is it generally cheaper and is great for casting deep molds.  However, polyester resin has a short pot time (generally 8 to 10 minutes) and the surface exposed to air during the curing will remain tacky.  You can either sand this side down or coat with resin gloss sealer spray once cured.  If you think you might want to cast polyester resin, here are five things you should know about using polyester resin.

Polyurethanes, on the other hand, generally have fewer curing issues and there is a lot of options when choosing one, but you should know that they are VERY moisture sensitive.  If you’re going to venture into casting polyurethanes, you need to make sure to use colorants specifically designed for them.

So here’s my breakdown of how I use resin:

I use epoxy for everything unless I am trying to cast something larger that I want to have a shiny gloss finish.  In that case, I use polyester because I can polish it on my buffing wheel instead of using the gloss sealer spray or coating with another layer of resin.  I like polyurethanes when I need a casting quickly that doesn’t need to be clear or transparent.

Want more help?  Read our RESIN BUYING GUIDE for a complete breakdown explaining what kind of resin should i use.

 

Unpublished Blog Posts of Resin Obsession, LLC © 2020 Resin Obsession, LLC

571 thoughts on “What kind of resin should I use? – Choosing a resin

    1. In case anyone else is a painter and is interested in what I use to coat paintings – I use Environtex lite and it comes out beautiful every time. I have coated small paintings as well as large 3’x4′ ones. Not a great idea to do on a wrapped canvas as pooling occurs.

      1. What is the difference between Environtex lite and Clear Polyester Casting Resin by Castin’ Craft? I am a painter and I am looking into what’s best to coat my canvas paintings. Something that will give it a “glass topping” look. Thanks!

        1. The Envirotex Lite is an epoxy whereas the Clear polyester casting resin is a polyester. You can use the Envirotex Lite, although it cures with a slight amber tint. It isn’t my first choice for artwork coating. You definitely won’t want to use the polyester resin as the surface that is exposed to air can remain tacky after curing. I would suggest the TotalCast resin. https://shop.resinobsession.com/collections/resin?page=2 We only have the small size of it currently, but expect more of the larger sizes next week.

          1. Hi Katherine!

            I’m looking for something to coat on already finished jewellery pieces, sterling silver and titanium steel rings with cubic zirconia stones to prevent the stones from falling out.

            I would like this coating to dry crystal clear so as not to affect the shine of the metak or stones.

            Do you know o any coating that would do this?

            Thanks!

          2. You want the resin to go over top of the stones? I ask because that will make them less ‘sparkly’ because the light will refract differently doing through a coat of resin first.

          3. Loved the details u gave so minutely about resin n its types Katherine. Thanx for sharing all this info. Do u know the answers to these Qs?

            1- Hw to get UV protection in resin? Any method?
            2- Details about silicone resin and acrylic resin? Pot time, cure time, sensitivity, temperature, etc?
            3- Hw to clean the pot n brush used to mix n apply resin? Can the same pot n brush be used again for resin mixing n application?
            4- If ease release spray is not available then what can be used?
            5- If we apply resin on half side of surface n then after drying apply on the other half side, would there be a seperating line formed between both sides after drying or curing of both sides?
            6- For the 2nd coat, only waiting for drying is enough or should wait for 7 days until entire curing of 1st coat is done?

          4. I’m happy to help! Here are answers with numbers that correspond to your questions:
            1. To get UV protection in resin, you need to buy it that way. That notation should be included in the product listing. If you don’t see it, ask the manufacturer.
            2. Every resin is different in terms of pot time, cure time, etc. You will need to get the specifics from the manufacturer of the resin you want to use.
            3. We have a video on our youtube channel showing how to clean resin:

            https://youtu.be/17Ixaa0Lw6o

            4. Vaseline can work as a release, but it may leave marks on your casting.
            5. Yes.
            6. Waiting until the second coat is dry, not fully cured, is sufficient for applying a second coat.

          5. The big differences between epoxy and polyester rein is the expansion and contraction under temperatures changes. Polyester is more brittle and is more sensitive to temperatures change, meaning will crack easiy. Epoxy has more options and types.

          6. Hi Tracy, unfortunately all resins are going to yellow with UV light exposure. While that video shows experimental conditions, it cannot account for every experience resin may face when used in a practical setting. While I think the results can be used as a guide, users need to understand and test the resin they are using to see if it’s going to work for their specific needs.

        2. bubbles…some of the clear brands are bad for bubbling…so you have to get out the alcohol burner..pressure pot or whatever way to fight the bubble war. Then again some products don’t bubble as bad.

      2. I just wanted to point out that you should still be using a respirator/mask of some sort at least (I’m not an expert so maybe stick with a respirator) when working with epoxy resin. It can still irritate your lungs, especially if you react to it! Check out Epoxy is Not My Friend on Facebook.

    2. Hi, I wanted to make dried flower jewelry resin. One that is super clear, minimal bubbles, and one that doesn’t take out the color out of the flowers. Do you know which would be best? Thanks!

      1. Hi Katherine! You seem to be somewhat of an expert in all things resin. I have only ever used epoxy resin, but I am now making jewelry that are around 1/8 inch thick at most. My epoxy resin seems to only cure soft at that thickness. What resin type would you suggest I use to make something near that thick but be around as hard as glass? Please help.

        1. Hi Derik, are you making jewelry in molds or bezels? That will best help me with a resin recommendation.

          1. I appreciate the specific link you sent, but I was asking the type that would work best for this. Epoxy seems to be too soft for thin projects like this.

          2. Hello Katherine! Thank you for all the info on the topic. I want to make personalized phone cases, the idea is to paint a clear plastic phone case with acrylic paint and then coat it with resin. What resin do you think would suit this work the best? I’m sorry if my english is not the best, i’m not a native speaker

    3. I want to put an old dried out rose on display in a sort of beauty and the beast type thing but in a tall square exposy/resin cast and very clear as a gift, I keep reading different articles because this is my first project ever using any resin and I would love some tips and help if you have any? I was wondering what type you would recommend to use?

    4. Hi i have a question. I use Amazing clear cast. I make trays and coaster and cups. I have a problem where on my trays some of the resin gets on the back after I have painted it…how do I prevent this and how do I get it off. Also I normally have so much left over I do i measure it correctly

    5. I need help! I’m still confused.
      I am a first time resin user, I want to do an art project with resin but I still do not know which one to use. What I had in mind, is that I want to make a cube. I’m thinking of starting small like a cube with all sides being 7.5cm long. I want the resin to be crystal clear. Which kind of resin would be best for me?

  1. Can you use different resins in multiple coats. ie. start with Poly resin let cure and than coat over the top with epoxy resin?

    I am trying to get a hard plastic like rigid shiny finish on real dried orchids?

  2. @Rich, I have layered with different brands of epoxy, but have never put epoxy over polyester for example. If you want to try, I would suggest experimenting with a couple of practice pieces first.

        1. Does anyone kow of any reactions between uv resin and metal (copper in particular) and where to find the info. As when using them together recently the resin hasn’t been curing like normal and ends up rather sticky and still liquid inside???