Casting butterfly wings in resin

how to cast butterfly wings in resin

Casting butterfly wings in resin

by Zell Lee

casting butterfly wings in resin

Casting butterfly wings in resin is an easy way to make beautiful jewelry.  Butterfly wings are fragile and need to be protected in some way for your jewelry to last. Glue and moisture will turn iridescent butterfly wings black permanently. Non iridescent wings can withstand glue better but will still darken or be altered slightly from direct contact with the glue. Some crafters will protect wings between glass and solder the edges but if it is not fully sealed and moisture gets inside, it will still damage the wing.

A great way to protect butterfly wings is by laminating them. Most office stores have lamination machines but only a few of them have them out for public use. Call around locally to find an office store where you can physically laminate the butterfly wings using their machine and you just pay for the lamination pouch. I used to go to Office Max and the FedEx Office stores. If you do enough butterfly jewelry it would be in your interest to purchase a thermal lamination machine and pouches to do this at home. Machines in the $50-100 range would suffice and are sold at office stores.

trimming butterfly wings

Lamination seals the wing inside and is faster than working with glass. Since wings aren’t perfectly flat sometimes you need to laminate the wing several times or cut it out and laminate again to make sure the lamination is fully sealed. Lamination machines also have temperature settings that might need to be adjusted. I usually keep my temperature setting right in the middle range. Cut out around the sealed wings and make sure to leave around a 1/8” border so the wings are still protected inside the lamination.

Using a paper punch on a butterfly wing

There are several ways to cut unique shapes out of the butterfly wings before laminating. You can use craft punches, leather steel punches with a hammer, or hand cutting. Craft punches and hand cutting are best accomplished when the wing is between two pieces of paper. Regular white copy paper works just fine. Outline where the wing is inside the paper with a marker. Pinch the papers with the wing inside and make your punch.

Using a metal punch on a butterfly wing

Using a metal punch on a butterfly wing

Sometimes craft punches are limited in specific sizes so you may find the right size with a steel leather punch. You hammer the leather punch on the desired part of the wing on top of a non-wood surface (wood will dull the steel punches quickly).

Sometimes you need to result to hand cutting. Place the wing between paper and draw the wing and desired shape on the top paper while pinching everything in place. Carefully cut out the shape while continuing to hold the paper and butterfly wing inside in the same position.

using paper as a template for trimming a butterfly wing

trimming paper around butterfly wings

Trimmed butterfly wings

butterfly wing triangles

casting butterfly wings in resin

Once you have the desired shape you need to protect the wing such as with lamination and cut out the shape again leaving a small lamination border. Once the wing is protected it’s ready for resin or to be glued into a metal finding and secured with resin.

You’re not limited to just jewelry, butterfly wings are great in home décor items as well such as door knobs, magnets, bookmarks, and ornaments! Who knows what you will come up with!

Like this post? You may be interested in  Mason jar coasters DIY

No butterflies were harmed for the purposes of this tutorial.  These real butterfly wings were acquired after the butterfly’s natural passing from butterfly preservation farms worldwide.

Butterfly wing knob pulls

butterfly wing bottle caps

Butterfly wing Christmas tree ornament

Butterfly bookmark

53 Comments

Renate

Exactly how are you harvesting butterfly wings? There is a serious shortage of butterfly species around the world and I am concerned. I am asking since you are encouraging people to use butterfly wings in this blog and there are people who are going to think its OK to just catch and kill butterflies to get their wings. I think you need to emphasize that it is not OK to go out and kill butterflies just for their wings.

Reply
Katherine Swift

Thank you for bringing this concern to my attention. Zell collects her butterfly wings from butterfly preservation farms worldwide after the butterfly’s natural passing. I have updated the tutorial to include this information.

Reply
Ashley

“No butterflies are harmed?”
No doubt that is what you were told but I’m afraid you’ve probably been misled by your suppliers.

Are the wings perfect, with no marks and chips or tears around the margins? If so, it is almost certain that the butterflies were killed as soon as they emerged from the pupae and their wings had dried. Usually, they are put into glassine or paper ‘triangles’ and then stored in the freezer. For cold-blooded creatures like insects, this is a relatively humane death but I don’t think you can consider it “natural”.

Butterfly farms and ranches are mainly in the business of supplying pupae to living butterfly displays like ‘butterfly houses’ and zoos. Supply and demand cannot be perfectly synchronized, so a proportion of the pupae hatch before they can be shipped. These butterflies are sold as specimens and the demand from collectors, artists, etc. is very much for perfect examples – so the butterflies have to be killed before they have a chance to get damaged through the normal wear-and-tear of natural living. In fact, a few businesses only breed/ranch butterflies in order to supply specimens – the logistics of supplying living pupae is much harder.

Now, it is possible to obtain wings from butterflies that really have naturally expired, but almost without exception these wings will show obvious signs of damage, especially around the margins. They will not be suitable for jewellery pieces featuring whole, intact wings as are so commonly seen for sale, but they can be cut down to yield useful and attractive smaller pieces. Butterfly houses can be a good source – I know of several that pick up the dead ones before opening each morning and now keep them for local art students instead of just throwing them away.

In summary, then, if the wings are intact and in almost perfect condition you can be almost certain that the butterflies were bred and then killed for sale. A butterfly that dies naturally in near-perfect condition is quite rare and this occurs far too infrequently to support the commercial supply of specimens or wings to artists, jewellery makers, etc.

Reply
Kathleen

Totally agree with you, Ashley. A perfect butterfly would be a rare thing if let to live out its days naturally. You only have to look closely at the butterflies in the garden to notice damaged, tatty wings. Although, not unheard of, you don’t find many dead butterflies just laying around, either, so I, too, would be a little concerned about the rather too perfect wings used in projects like these. A butterfly’s life is short enough without ending it deliberately.
Unfortunately, I think some people won’t realise and will attempt to kill them in which case they’ll most likely crush the wings, anyway.
To summerise, Ashley, I’m in total agreement with you….I was waffling on a bit then, sorry!! ?

Reply
Douglas

Just to put your mind at ease…perfect wings tells you they are not wild caught, but farm raised. Yes some are euthanized to ensure a perfect specimen, but these breeding farms also release many times more and have boosted them populations of many species significantly. It also helps preserve habitat because these farms need to be able to feed the catipilars from their natural host plant. This also protects the plants as the resource is too valuable for these farms to let it become endangered. Butterfly farms have prevented many acres of wilderness from being bulldozed for development or exploited for timber or minerals. It is one of the most environmentally beneficial industries on the planet actually.

Jenna

Thank you for this response. It was very well put! I sell jewelry made using one of these farms. Would you be alright with me using the response you provided to help put my customers minds at ease?

Amy

We get our butterflies from our greenhouse. They somehow find their way inside, and I suppose the heat kills them. My 12 year old daughter just collected 15 of them in perfect condition and I had the idea that we could use them for casting in resin, which is a hobby we do together. She was going to keep them in a Tupperware bowl until they (probably) disintegrated. I think preserving them is a great option for anyone else who finds dead butterflies in their greenhouse.

Reply
david settle

I cast spiders. There is no shortage of them here, however I obtain the vast majority from arachnids being stung by the wasps that are prevalent here. Once in a great while I harvest a specimen that appears in my garage, or patio, but the natural selection does help. These spiders are then preserved for further examination.

Linda

I raise and release butterflies of several species… there is a disease called OE in which it effects the butterflies ability to fly… also sometimes their proboscis doesn’t form right and the butterfly can not eat…and die…. Not to mention the predators that butterflies have that will attack it’s soft body and leave their wings perfectly intact…

Reply
Linda

I have many butterfly wings because my grandchildren and I decided to raise butterflies to help replenish the supplies of butterflies, especially the Monarch. We built a butterfly tent with a wonderful environment for them all. They would mate and soon after mating would die a natural death. But they would lay their eggs on plants we provided and we kept the caterpillars well fed. They then spun their crysallis and when they hatched we released them. It helped the population but we ended up with a ton of butterfly wings. We kept some of them and I still have them. There are ways to get good wings if you help the butterflies at the same time. It also help the children appreciate the butterflies and their plight. We also built a butterfly garden. If anyone is interested, you can check with “Monarch Watch” which tracks the monarch migration down to Mexico each fall. If they are coming your way, put out slices of watermelon and keep the watermelon damp with sprays of water. This gives the butterflies energy to make their journey.

Reply
Nadine Girouard

Just wondering, how do the rest of us get wings from preservation farms around the world? I don’t have enough $ to travel And pay for wings so, where in US?

Reply
Nadine Girouard

P.S. I had wings from in my yard once. Couldn’t figure it out and it got destroyed by dust. Gotta be real careful with them too. Just touching takes beautiful color off the wings. Very tender anatomical parts 🙂

Reply
Zell Lee

These butterfly wings come from preservation farms worldwide which requires a U.S. Fish and Wildlife license, international CITES license, and an exporting and importing process. We have legally imported these butterflies into the United States with the appropriate licenses so you don’t have to. Resin Obsession provides you with butterfly wing options for your craft projects.

Reply
Haeley

I got mine from Etsy, there are sites just for insects too. Just do a Google Search and be sure you include farm or preserve in the terms. There is also an indoor preserve near my home, there might be one closer to you than you think so try a search for that too.

Reply
Haeley

Can you give a more specific idea about the temperature used? Does something happen if it is too hot or too cold in our experience?

Reply
Zell Lee

I have found success with any lamination thickness type ranging from 3 mil – 10 mil. Thicker and bigger wings will require the lamination machine to be slightly hotter. If the wings didn’t seem to laminate fully the first time just send it through the machine again.

Reply
Erika Rivera

Thank you for posting this very helpful tutorial. I was thinking of creating a mosaic using butterfly wings. What’s the best glue to use that will guarantee no fading of the colors, and to help preserve the wings?

Reply
Zell

Erika, I laminate everything first to protect the wing. In my experience MOST butterfly wings will turn black with glue applied directly to it. I would start with water based glues though and it doesn’t seem to affect Monarch butterfly wings. If you can think of some way of protecting the wing (with lamination or a spray of some sorts) before applying the glue that would be your best bet.

Reply
Tarrah

Thank you for the tutorial! I am a big admirer of your work. I have been making butterfly wing jewelry for a little while now, and had a hard time cutting shapes. The leather punch should be a great help. I was wondering if you have advice for drilling holes in the finished piece? I use a 1/16″ drill bit, but have a problem with getting though the laminated wing in the middle. When the drill hits it, it spins the laminated layer slightly and it separates inside the resin, sometimes breaking the resin layers off completely. Do you punch a hole in the laminated wing before applying resin? Or a hole in the wing before laminating? I hope I have described my issue well enough, and thank you!

Reply
Zell

Yes Tarrah,
I apply holes before applying resin because I had similar results as you where the resin would separate if I tried to do it after the fact.

Reply
Rhonda J. Hunter

Just in case: Paint edge of lamination with clear sealant after trimming. Clear fingernail polish works well but may cause the pouch to crinkle. Super glue may frost or otherwise damage the laminating pouch. Modpodge works as long as there are no gaps in the laminate. Quick setting clear, 2-part epoxy probably would be best, if you’re a fast worker, which I’m not:(
Thanks for the info about putting holes in laminate before resining. I was just going to use a glue-on bail, because I was afraid of this possibility.

Reply
Ellice

I have a beautiful blue luna moth that died a natural death. I wanted to cast it in resin. Can this be done? How exactly can I do it and still preserve the color of the wings? I don’t want to remove the wings from the body. I want to preserve the entire insect. Thank you for any help!

Reply
Angela Peairson

I have dried whole bees and hornets found in my garden area using silica gel crystals. The can filled with very fine, almost a soft light sand consistency and sold mainly for drying flowers. I start with a Tupperware container large enough to hold my critter with at least 1/2 inch space left all the way around. Pour some crystals in the container, gently lay your little guy down in the bed and use a small spoon to GENTLY add more crystals until its fully covered at least 1/2 inch on all 6 sides. I will fluff up some under the wings by pushing it in from the sided so I don’t rub or break them. Put your lid on and set it somewhere warm and dry for at least a week. When I take mine out, I use a fork by sticking the tines as close to the side wall as I can so I don’t hurt the insect or flower buried inside. I slowly scoop under then up, lifting my item out slowly, letting the silica crystals just fall off. Be super careful from here on out, because they tend to be on the fragile side (much like a dried late autumn leaf). I spray mine with an aerosol can of clear gloss to not only seal, but it also gives the item a bit of protection from breakage.

Reply
Zell

I don’t know how to preserve the body. I’ve always developed my methods around laminating the butterfly first to preserve the wings and natural color. That would mean removing it from the body. Good luck in your quest.

Reply
Michelle Hemmelgarn

Thank you for your post. I was wondering if this would work for dried flowers. White ones turn brown once they hit the resin so I am going to try and laminate. Interesting to try.

Reply
Pearl

Fascinating. I didn’t realize that butterfly wings have to be laminated and then resin added (or sandwiched between glass). Will share and link back!!

Reply
Cat

Thanks for your tutorial! But is it illegal to kill normal butterflies/kill pearl oysters just for pearls in your area? The comments confuses me..sorry if I get it wrong.

Reply
Katherine Swift

Hi Cat, I don’t know what the laws are regarding this issue, but I certainly support people using butterflies who have died of natural causes for jewelry making purposes.

Reply
jack cutler

Hi do you sell silicone to make my own butterfly wing jewelry thanks jack

Reply
LittleToast

Hey, nice tutorial! I’d like to know more about the temperature of the laminating machine. I read that if it’s too hot the wing will turn black/be damaged and since I only have one butterfly I can’t risk myself to lose it. Also, do you have any tips for using the laminating machine? Where I live this machines are kinda rare (they got useless since ppl here liked to laminate documents but they can’t be laminated anymore) so if I have the oportunity to use it, I can’t make a mistake! Thank you in advance!

Reply
Katherine Swift

A medium setting on the lamination machine is what Zell (tutorial author) recommends for laminating butterfly wings.

Reply
Katherine Swift

You can either put the wings into a finding (like shown above) or you can dome resin onto the surface if you don’t want to have it within a finding.

Reply
Jacqui

Great thanks! Where do you buy resin for crafting such as this, a craft store? And do you recommend a brand?

Reply
David W Anderson

Don’t anyone kid yourselves about the source of most butterflies. They are farmed & must be euthanized immediately upon setting their wings to produce an A1 specimen. A few morphos are net caught wild, which the seller will indicate. But most Papilio & Morphos are farmed. Consider this, no forest, no butterflies. Collecting & farming does not extinguish butterfly species, habitat destruction does. A commodity harvested from the forest gives financial incentive to the indigenous persons to conserve the tropical forest intact. Caterpillars at farms need lots of host plants, those come from the forest. Farming butterflies helps to conserve butterflies. All humans have a vocation for sustenance. If a person earns money from a protected forest through butterflies, that is a protected forest that won’t be clear cut. Yes, farmed butterflies are euthanized without experiencing a full life. But the forest that supports farmed butterflies also supports butterflies that fly naturally free.

Reply
Kala

Hello! I am trying to cast full wings and butterflies, but I haven’t found a good technique yet. I of course laminate, but getting smooth edges is a challenge. I just tried one last night on wax paper and the wax paper killed the shine on one side. I’m going to try dipping and hanging it next, but if you have something better, that would be great.

Reply
Katherine Swift

Why don’t you dome the resin on one side, let it cure, then do the other side?

Reply
Douglas

For the people saying this harms butterfly populations: No disrespect but you are not understanding modern butterfly collecting at all. Its the best thing that has happened to butterfly populations. All around the world there are butterfly farms. These farms breed butterflies, many of which are no longer endangered because of it. None of the online stores are selling wild caught butterflies unless they are from an historical collection, can’t say the same for ETSY and EBAY across the board, but they are extremely inexpensive from the farm raised suppliers so I can’t see why they would go to the trouble when wild caught are nearly never pristine. These farms release many times more butterflies than they sell as specimens, and most of those breed before being collected. Selling specimens supports the breeding programs. Its a win win. I agree butterflies are beautiful in the wild. Nobody would care if these were centipedes. But the truth is these farms boost populations significantly and provide income in many economically challenged communities. No I don’t own a butterfly farm.

Reply
Douglas

BTW a natural death for a butterfly is quite a horrifying death. It entails a slow death by starvation because some don’t actually have mouth parts and only live long enough to breed, or because their wings are too damaged for flight, or they freeze to death. That is all if they are not eaten first. So euthanizing pristine specimens to support breeding programs that boost populations and preserve habitat is not a bad thing. Also, I know they are pretty, but nobody complains when the exterminator comes to kill the roaches or a spider gets flushed down the toilet, or you kill the bugs eating your tomatoes. And yes it is the same because these farms do nothing to reduce natural populations and in fact help so saying roaches are not endangered has no weight in the arguement.

Reply
Bee

That’s all you have to do as I do and when your driving around in the summer months look on the sides of the roads and pick up the ones that have been hit by cars . Sometimes they are still alive and can’t fly. I bring them home and place them on a house plant and let them pass in peace .

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *