Guide Resin Casting / Molding Buttons

Discussion in 'Guide Submissions' started by Madmorda, Aug 20, 2018.

  1. Madmorda Painting Queen Staff Member . . . .

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    Making your own buttons has a particular appeal to those of us in the portablizing community because it allows for more versatility when deciding on a color scheme. Why settle for colors Nintendo made when you can create your very own?

    Things you'll need:
    Oomoo 30 Silicone - $25-30
    Art 'N Glow epoxy resin - $25
    (Recommended) Lighter or small torch - $5
    (Optional) Mann Ease Release 200 - $25
    (Optional) Plastalina clay - $10
    Clear plastic cups
    Toothpicks or plastic cutlery for mixing
    Painters tape
    Double sided tape
    Cheap acrylic paint or food coloring
    Buttons you want to make a mold of

    This guide will be going over epoxy resin rather than polyurethane type resin. It is nontoxic and approved for home use, whereas polyurethane resins can cause serious health issues and require a special ventilation setup. It is still recommended that you do this in an area with airflow that you aren't in, like your garage. You should also wear goggles AND rubber gloves while working. The fumes can cause eye irritation, and it's very hard to get off your hands. If you do get some on your hands, wash them in a bucket or outside with a hose as there will be problems if you wash uncured resin down your sink.

    I have used two epoxy resins with varying results. I am a huge fan of Art 'N Glow brand resin ($25 for 16oz). It is easy to use, easy to remove bubbles from, takes all kinds of dye and pigments, and most importantly, dries relatively hard. Easycast brand ($25 for 32oz) is similar, but the bubbles are harder to deal with and it cures noticeably softer. I definitely recommend Art 'N Glow over Easycast, but you can get decent results with either. Neither of these epoxy resins will cure as hard as the urethane type resins, but they are safer (and cheaper) to work with.

    Step 1. Preparing your workspace
    20180820_105941.jpg

    I strongly recommend putting something down as a sort of "placemat" to work on. In this picture I used painters tape, but the best thing I've found is plastic bubble mailers from USPS. They're free, a good size, and bendy so the resin just peels right off. You will need a fair bit of space to do everything, and epoxy is messy. You should have a stack of plastic cups, stirrers, paints and dyes, as well as a roll of paper towels and a trash bag nearby for spills and droplets. I also made a small separate mat for my bottles of resin and silicone because they can get sticky.

    Step 2: Making a Mold
    Just about any kind of button we might use can be made with either a one or two-part mold.
    A one part mold is a single piece of silicone that you pour resin into. To use a one part mold, one side of your button must be flat, such as a 3ds A button.
    A two part mold consists of two pieces of silicone that come together to form a more complex shape, such as a 3ds dpad.

    Note: See bottom of guide for a list of what type of mold your buttons will need.

    20180820_110104.jpg
    Here is an example of a one part and a two part mold next to eachother. On the left is a set of gameboy micro buttons, and on the right is a set of joy con buttons. Since the joycon buttons have one side entirely flat, they can be used in a one part mold. The gameboy micro buttons have intentations under them and the dpad has a post that sticks out, so you need a two part mold for them.

    If you plan to use a two part mold, you will need some Mann Ease Release 200 and some Plastalina clay. This clay acts like playdough, except it will never dry. The Ease Release spray is necessary to make a two part mold. You cannot make a two part mold with a general mold release spray.

    20180819_195543.jpg
    To make a one part mold, you will need a small container (I used one of my mixing cups) and some double sided tape. You put the tape in the bottom of the container and place your buttons flat side down on the tape. Then you just pour the silicone over it, easy as that. To avoid bubbles, let the silicone sit for about 30 seconds after mixing, then pour very slowly from high up above the cup. Don't pour directly onto your object, pour it slowly in a corner and let the silicone ooze over the buttons. This is what it should look like.
    20180820_110116.jpg


    20180819_195446.jpg
    To make a two part mold, put a layer of Plastalina in the bottom of your cup, and press your button into it. Imagine that the part that sticks up is going to one half of the mold, and the part in the clay is the other part of the mold, with the place where they meet being a seam. You don't want the seam somewhere obvious, so try to put it somewhere not visible. Once you pour your silicone over the part and let it dry, remove it and take the clay off. Leaving the button inside the mold, spray your release spray all over the silicone. Put it back in the cup and pour a layer of silicone over the other side of your button. Once it is fully dry, you can gently pry apart the two pieces of silicone and remove your button. You now have a successful two part mold!

    For two part molds, sometimes there are "towers" of silicons that went deep down into the button that aren't necessary. You can cut those off if it helps get the resin down in there, just make sure they aren't the part you need.

    Step 3: Casting your buttons
    Now that you have a succcessful mold, it's time to start casting.
    20180820_110655.jpg
    Before getting in to your resin, be sure to set out all of the molds you will be using as well as a few extras. Since it's better to make too much resin than not enough, it's a good idea to pour any extra resin into other molds. Free buttons! Also make sure you have lined up the colors you plan on using. I have found that I can do up to five colors in one setting before the resin starts to become gooey, but it's better to start with one or two so you get a good feel of how long you have to work with it.

    20180820_111237.jpg
    Start by measuring equal parts of resin and hardener into two cups, and then pour them into a third cup and mix thoroughly. You know it's mixed well when the resin is no longer cloudy at all but completely clear. Don't worry about creating bubbles, they come out easily. A lighter or torch like the one shown lit near the surface of the resin pops all the bubbles on the top (don't try to burn the resin, just heat it).

    20180820_111521.jpg
    Next you can put in your coloring. While they do sell special pigments online for resin, I have found that the brands listed above can take both food coloring and cheap acrylic paint as pigments. Food coloring creates beautiful clear colors that look like candy, while acrylic paint creates either translucent or solid colors, depending how much you mix in. No matter which you're using, use it sparingly. A little goes a very long way and you can't take it back if you add too much. I do one drop at a time, mix well, and then decide if I need more. For reference, this cup of red resin had one single drop of acrylic paint mixed in, and it will create a bright solid red color. Adding way too much acrylic will make your cast soft so don't go crazy with it.

    To minimize bubbles, the best thing to do is let the resin sit for a minute or so after mixing. The bubbles will almost all rise to the top and pop. For the ones that are left, I angle the cup like in the picture of the red resin and use the torch to remove the bubbles from the thin layer of resin closest to me a couple times (be careful not to burn the cup). Then I take my stirrer and pick up a few drops at a time from that same place and put them into my mold. Pouring makes a mess unless you are doing large buttons like n64, so I just drop individual drops in until the mold is full.

    20180819_162424.jpg
    After about 12 hours, you can safely remove your cast from the mold. If all went well, you have a perfect button in the color of your choice. If you are having problems with bubbles, I recommend learning with food coloring so you can see the bubbles on the inside of the cast. That will let you get the hang of getting rid of them before moving on to solid colored resin. With clear colors like the one shown above, I have found that a layer of silver aluminum tape under the button really helps show off the color. Silver paint would probably achieve the same result, but it might wear down.

    Adding other things:
    I have been able to successfully add LEDs inside of the resin buttons on single part mold casts. I have also added glitter (don't put a lot, as it all sinks to the bottom), but there are other things you can add. You could add pictures and graphics or small objects, anything you can think of. If you make something really cool with resin please post it here for others to see!


    Buttons that can be cast in single part molds:
    3ds ABXY and power buttons
    Nintendo switch joycon ABXY and dpad buttons
    Gamecube ABXY and start buttons (either don't fill the mold full or shorten the button before making the mold) Please note that the Gamecube controller and Wavebird have different start buttons.

    Buttons that need two part molds:
    N64 (all)
    Virtual boy (all)
    Gameboy Micro (all)
    3ds dpad
    Gamecube dpad
    DS Lite (all)
    Gameboy advance (all)
    Gameboy Advance SP (All)

    Thanks for reading!
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2019
    MrPresident, fibbef, MRKane and 13 others like this.
  2. link270 .

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    Awesome guide!

    So I got the stuff and have been messing around with it. I made a few molds pretty successfully, so I went to try my first set of buttons, waiting 24 hours, they look nice but are pretty sticky and not very hard (I can imprint them if I push hard enough with my fingernail.) what may have caused this? I was thinking either my resin measurements weren’t very equal, or maybe the paint messed it up. I only did one drop of paint, but it was a pretty small amount of resin.
     
  3. Madmorda Painting Queen Staff Member . . . .

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    What brand resin are you using? If it's art n glow, give it maybe three days until it's 100% hard. Too much paint could make it soft or mixing slightly wrong. You could probably scratch it with your nail if you really tried, but it shouldn't be easy to do
     
  4. link270 .

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    Yeah it’s art n glow. At the moment they just feel a little sticky. Like they will stick to my finger if I press on them. It’s only been one day though so maybe they will harden up and dry out a little after a few more days?
     
  5. Madmorda Painting Queen Staff Member . . . .

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    If it's been 24 hours, they shouldn't feel sticky. My guess is that you didn't mix them perfectly evenly :) it takes quite a bit of experimenting until you get it just right so keep trying. I recommend doing some clear buttons until you get the perfect ones, and then try with a little color. That way you know whether it's the resin or the colorants causing the problem. If you want to do less than a drop, you can put a speck of paint on your stirrer and then mix it in.
     
  6. link270 .

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    Yeah, I bet that’s it. I’ll try another batch without any colors just to see how they go. Another question, how important is it to get the amount poured into each mold right? If I overfill it would it be pretty simple to sand them down flat? Or should I try to get them flat from the start?
     
  7. Madmorda Painting Queen Staff Member . . . .

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    Definitely try to get them flat on the first go. You could sand them down, but it's WAY easier to just look at the reflection of the light on the surface to see if it's even. What buttons are you molding out of curiosity?
     
  8. link270 .

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    I’ve made a mold of both the 3ds and joycon ABXY buttons so far. It’s going to take a few attempts to get them right for sure. Qi like the idea of the two part molds too, but i wanna wait till I’m comfortable with one before trying anything else.
     
  9. Sundaybrawl .

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    Hi there, I just came across this lovely guide and have a few questions (sorry if it's quite long)

    Your buttons and molds look phenomenal, and I'm curious how you get them to have next to no bubbles or defects. Mine have quite a few bubbles and defects (First time so I didn't expect them to be perfect but still) and wonder what you do differently. I myself use Oomoo 25, and once I pour my molds, I tap the container a bit (the buttons are held down by clay or glue usually) to try and get the bubbles out, but you let it sit instead. Do you tap or anything to degas the mixture before you pour at all?

    As for resin, I've used several different types, Allumilite Clear, Amazing Clear Cast, Amazing Casting Resin (not clear, cures white), and ArtResin to name my clear ones. Similar issues as before, the buttons usually turn out quite well, except for whatever defect is in the mold. How does the torch you use exactly degas the resin mixture? Do you use other methods or know of any?

    For your one piece molds, you say that Gamecube ABXY buttons can be one piece, I thought the bottoms of the buttoms would affect how they contact the rubber pads inside? Does the one piece work that well? How do you deal with two piece molds with more complex buttons (mainly shoulder buttons)? Do you make channels for air pockets to flow to reduce poor casts or does your degassing method with the resin mixture work well enough that that doesn't happen?

    Apologies for the long post, I've been scouring the internet for anything related to this and this is by far the most detailed I have found in the past 1 1/2 years I've been researching this.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  10. Madmorda Painting Queen Staff Member . . . .

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    Hi :) I'll do my best to answer your questions.
    I use Oomoo 30 and just haven't had any problems with bubbles. Maybe oomoo 25 is different? As for my process, this is really all I do for bubbles.
    I just hover the torch over the resin for a second and it pops the bubbles on the top. I still get bubbles, but I can get rid of most of them so that it's only visible on very clear buttons. I highly recommend Art N Glow resin, it's amazing stuff.
    The bottoms of the GameCube buttons are just plastic that press a separate piece of rubber. As long as it's the right height, it will work. The trick is getting them the right height, so it's just easier to use a two part mold to guarantee the right height.
    I do not use air tunnels for buttons, I just put resin on both parts of the mold and squish them together. It can create air pockets on some buttons, but if they're solid or opaque then it doesn't really matter. I was able to cast a complex jukebox part with the squish method though and it worked fine (no holes in it).

    This guide isn't comprehensive or professional, it's just based on my experience :) I am kind of making it up as I go along and am constantly learning new tricks, I just thought I'd compile what I had learned so far.
     
  11. Ping .

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    Hello,

    That was a fascinating read! The results of your moulds are phenomenal.
    I keep wondering about the two-parts mould though, how exactly do you know how much resin you're supposed to pour into them? The quantities are so small, it feels like it would be easy to over or underfill them, thus creating imperfect buttons.
    For one part moulds only it seems obvious enough, just fill them until the moulds are full.

    Thank you for your answer~
     
  12. Madmorda Painting Queen Staff Member . . . .

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    Well if you underfill a two part mold, you get a big bubble in your button where the air was. But if you overfill it, nothing happens lol. You just waste a little resin, but it's better to overfill than underfill.
     
  13. Ping .

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    I guess the big bubbles would make it artistically interesting, lol. Ok, I had a hard time imagining what would happen if you'd overfill. Like where does the extra resin go. It seems that my mind is making this overly complicated. Thank you so much for your answer!
     
  14. Madmorda Painting Queen Staff Member . . . .

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    It just oozes out the sides of the mold :) I try to overfill mine a little bit just to make sure I don't get any artistic bubbles haha
     
    Ping likes this.
  15. Ping .

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    Thank you for taking your time to clear that up. I guess the oozing overfilling is better than the artistic bubbles in the end, yes!
     
  16. Cara .

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    So happy to have this information. I have looked for a long time for help with this. I find you and tons of information.... thank you for that. This is probably a silly question but how do you attach shanks to these for buttons
     
  17. Madmorda Painting Queen Staff Member . . . .

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    I'm not sure I follow :)
     

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