Alcohol Ink Art – How to use Alcohol Inks

green and white leafed plantsWith this Alcohol Ink Art tutorial I want to familiarize you with the basics of the Alcohol Ink technique. I will show you how to create your first pictures with Alcohol Ink and what you should pay attention to. I also explain the most important terms, show you which supplies you need for the alcohol ink technique and where alcohol inks are available. All the basics for a successful start in working with Alcohol Inks can be found in the following article.

What is Alcohol Ink?

Alcohol Ink is a fluid painting technique and also the name for colors based on alcohol. This term refers to various techniques that have to do with working with paint in a liquid medium.

You will probably already be familiar with acrylic casting; if you would like to work with a new medium, until you are just right with Alcohol Inks. The highly pigmented alcohol-based inks can be gradually integrated into the work, in contrast to the acrylic paints that are usually applied at the same time. The alcohol also evaporates much faster, which means that the paints dry within a few minutes. Unlike acrylic paints, however, alcohol inks can be “revived”. This means that when dried ink comes into contact with fresh ink or pure alcohol, it reacts and can be further processed. In this way, different techniques are possible.

Which Supplies do I need for the Alcohol Ink Art?

Which Alcohol Inks?

The Tim Holtz Ranger Alcohol Inks are most commonly used. They are available in over 60 colors and additional metallic tones. Other inks are Pinata by Jacquard (you get very cheap sets for the first time) or the refill bottles for Copic Markers. These inks are all based on alcohol. Sharpie markers are also suitable for painting more precisely defined shapes. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland you don’t get Alcohol Inks in every art need. That’s why it’s best to order the inks online.

Blending Solution

In order to have even more technical possibilities (and also to be able to use the ink sparingly), you should also use the so-called blending solution in addition to the ink. This solution consists of a mixture of isopropyl alcohol and glycerine to lighten and mix the colors. Alternatively, you can get pure isopropyl alcohol with 99.9% alcohol content in 1000ml bottles on amazon at a very reasonable price. These amounts are worthwhile – you can imagine alcohol like water when painting with a watercolor – isopropyl forms the basis for working with ink next to the substrate. It is important that you use isopropyl over 90%, because too much water or oil can have a negative effect on the pictures.

Yupo Paper and other Painting Grounds

Unlike acrylic, oil or water-based paints, alcohol ink is not used to paint on normal paper because it is too porous and the paint would sink directly into the sheet like a fountain pen. In order to be able to swivel, blow and mix the colors in alcohol, this must happen on as smooth a surface as possible. Glass, metal, ceramic tiles or Yupo paper are suitable for this. But what is yupo paper? Yupo is a synthetic paper made of polypropylene and is tear and water resistant. It gets creased relatively easily and should be touched as little as possible with the fingers (rubber gloves recommended) because of the repulsive effect of oil. Frisk produces sheets with 85 g/m2 and 110 g/m2, whereby 85 g/m2 is usually sufficient for the beginning. Hahnemühle offers the Lanavanguard Universal Painting Primer.Lanavanguard Universalmalgrund.

Alcohol Ink Supplies

Alcohol Ink Tutorial for your first Artwork

So if you have the ink, alcohol or blending solution, and a painting surface, you can start experimenting. But how to use alcohol ink? If you buy DIN A4 sheets, it may be worthwhile to halve them first. If you are not satisfied with the result, you can also use the back; this leaves enough room for experiments. You can now put the ink directly on the sheet and observe how the colors behave; you will see that a single drop spreads out in a circle. If you now add a drop of another color to the first circle, you will see how the new color spreads quickly and the first color displaces. If you drip next to a color, growing circles push into each other again and again. If you add a drop of alcohol to the colors, a colorless circle spreads out that also displaces the other colors. With this technique dark, partly shiny edges can be created, which provide beautiful contrasts. In this way, your first works of art are already created.

left: Single drops spread in a circle: Individual drops spread in a circle. middle: New colors displace the first drops. right: In the middle blue pigment spots can be seen. Some colors consist of different pigments, which can then separate and settle.

Alcohol Ink Art: Create Color Gradients

If you cover the fresh painting ground with alcohol and then drip on paint, you can swivel the surface or create new color gradients with a straw. The disadvantage of the straw is that moisture collects in it, which may drip onto the picture. To avoid this, the purchase of a borehole blower is worthwhile later. This corresponds to a tube with a pump balloon. In this way you can also avoid hyperventilating after an hour because you are so enthusiastic about your work. A hair dryer is also a good choice. However, it must be set to the coldest level, as highly flammable alcohol is involved and the plastic paper will otherwise get waves that cannot be removed. You should also set a low air flow and slowly move the hairdryer from a distance (approx. one arm’s length) onto the sheet to avoid splashes and to avoid blowing all the alcohol off the sheet.

left: Alcohol displaces all colors and also spreads in a circle: Alcohol displaces all colors and also spreads out in a circle.

right: More alcohol is added to the colors and the colors are spread with the hairdryer.

Further creative Possibilities in the Alcohol Ink Art

The manufacturer Tim Holtz has stamps on offer, on whose surface a piece of felt can be attached. If you apply different colors and a little blending solution to the piece of felt, you can use it to stamp backgrounds, e.g. for cards. With a brush moistened with alcohol you can work in decorations.

Some artists paint beautiful, realistic pictures or landscapes with Alcohol Ink art – so there are no limits to your imagination. The best thing to do is to start experimenting curiously to get to know the properties of the different colors. You will notice that some colors spread faster than others, that there are similar colors in different brightness gradations, that they react differently to each other, that you can let the darker ones run out with the light tones, etc. This is exactly how you should experiment with tools: different brushes, cotton pads, wooden sticks, mixing in a palette, blowing with a straw or hairdryer, painting and decorating with markers, describing…

left: With the brush dipped in alcohol, decorations can be worked in.

right: Glossy edges appear, where colors meet with alcohol

Video: Alcohol Ink Tutorial

The creation of the upper picture I have additionally recorded for you in a video:

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Protection of your alcohol ink artwort

Since the pigments in alcohol inks are light-sensitive, you should not wait too long to seal them. UV protection for spraying is suitable for this purpose. We can recommend either Solo Goya Painting Varnish or Schmincke Universal Varnish.

Health advice

If you don’t have the possibility to work in a well ventilated room, a respiratory protection is recommended when working with alcohol ink art.

The detailed material list with many great recommendations for painting with Alcohol Ink supplies can be found in a separate article.

Creative Inspirations with Alcohol Ink

Here you can find more inspiration for artwork with alcohol inks – get inspired!

Alcohol Inks on Porcelain

Besides tiles you can also decorate dishes with Alcohol Inks – from plates, cups to vases everything is possible. The procedure here is the same as on Yupo paper, but the challenge lies in the mostly round shapes – here the colors sometimes run unexpectedly. Another possibility is the application of alcohol inks with an airbrush gun. This way a very specific application is possible and realistic pictures can be sprayed with it.

To make the Alcohol Inks stick better, you can place the painted porcelain in the oven at 150 degrees Celsius for about half an hour. The colors will burn into the surface, the paint application will be more resistant. A dishwasher will damage the paint even after the paint has burned in, so hand washing is recommended.

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Coloring epoxy resin – Resin Petri Dishes

Alcohol can be used to color epoxy resin – for example for resin art. You can get a visually bombastic impression by filling silicone moulds with crystal clear resin and then dripping Alcohol Ink colors directly into the resin. The chemical reaction creates so-called “petrified rainbows”, i.e. petri dish effects. So you can spice up your resin artwork with fascinating color effects.

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Alcohol Ink with Zentangle

You can achieve an equally ingenious effect by combining a classic alcohol ink image with the Zentangle technique. Create a beautiful image with color transitions. After drying, you can apply your Zentangle patterns with waterproof markers. You can apply simple or complex patterns, depending on your mood.

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Questions and answers

We answer the most common questions about Alcohol Inks.

❓ Can Epoxy Resin be colored with Alcohol Ink?

Yes, this is possible without any problems. After mixing resin and hardener you can add a few drops of Alcohol Ink. Alcohol Inks are even very well suited for coloring epoxy resin, because due to the transparency of the ink, you can see through the color.

❓ Can you make Alcohol Ink yourself?

Alcohol inks can be made by mixing printer ink with isopropanol. The mixing ratio is 2 parts printer ink with 1 part isopropanol. In this way you can make your own alcohol inks very cheaply.

❓ Which varnish for Alcohol Ink?

Alcohol inks are relatively light sensitive. Therefore you should always seal your finished works. The easiest way to do this is with a spray varnish, which protects your pictures from UV light and mechanical effects. For this purpose a UV-protection is suitable for spraying. We can recommend either the Solo Goya painting varnish or Schmincke Universal varnish.

❓ How does Alcohol Ink Art work?

Add some Blending Solution or Isopropanol to the Yupo paper. Now carefully drip the first few drops of Alcohol Ink on the paper. These drops will spread out in a circle. If you put another drop of another color in the first blob, it will spread and displace the first color in the middle. If you add another drop of paint next to the one already on the painting ground, you will displace the already applied paint.

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