The Basics of Alcohol Ink

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Learn how to create amazing artwork with Alcohol Ink in this easy-to-follow tutorial. You will grow familiar with Alcohol Ink as a medium, essential terms that help you understand the process, and techniques that will bring your ideas to life. This article also covers the necessary supplies to work easily with this unique ink type and where to source the product from. Explore the demonstrations of how to create pictures too. Everything you need to get started with Alcohol Ink artwork is included below.

Alcohol Inks – A Unique Art Option

Although the term alcohol ink refers to the alcohol-based colors used to create this type of art, it is also used for the painting technique that uses this medium. In fact, multiple different techniques are often applied when creating alcohol inks art.

To understand both the product and the process, it helps to have some foundational knowledge about other types of painting and creation. For example, you may already feel comfortable with acrylic casting or oil painting. If you are looking for something different and unique, alcohol inks may be the best choice for your next creative adventure.

Working with this medium differs from acrylic or oil painting considerably. The highly saturated colors of alcohol-based inks are added to your canvas incrementally rather than all at once with more traditional paint methods. This allows for a more gradual build of the finished product as you include new layers of pigment and thus create a unique look you cannot get with other options.

The rapid evaporation of the alcohol leaves dry color on the canvas almost immediately after application. While this may seem like it gives you no time to correct mistakes or change your vision, you can revive these inks by putting more alcohol on top or using fresh ink to make changes. This is much different than acrylic paint, which are therefore ever once laid down. This opens the door to many new options of creation and re-creation until you are satisfied with the final art project.

Supplies Needed for Alcohol Ink Artwork

Getting started with alcohol inks does not have to be difficult or expensive. The list of supplies necessary to create unique artwork is quite short. It does help to invest in high-quality alcohol inks. You also need yupo paper or another type of non-porous art paper and a prepaid blending solution. This is something you make yourself at home from common ingredients.

Blending Solution Instructions

First of all, it is important understand that the blending solution gives you more possibilities when it comes to creating alcohol ink art. It also helps to extend the ink so you use less to get an exceptional finished project. Making it yourself at home is quite simple.

Mix isopropyl alcohol and glycerin together and store it in a bottle with a slow flow top. You can also pour it into a small bowl or paint palette for easy use while working on a piece of artwork. Another option is to use 99.9% isopropyl alcohol on its own. You can buy this directly from Amazon, other online retailers, or your local store. Do not use any alcohol with a concentration lower than 90% because the excess water will not allow the alcohol ink to dry properly.

Yupo or Other Non-Porous Surface Types

Most painters use porous paper or canvases for their creations. However, alcohol ink works best on non-porous paper or other surfaces. You do not want the ink to soak into the paper because you will not be able to lay out lines and shapes where you want them or make changes and intensify the colors in the same way. Any non-porous surface works well with alcohol ink. This includes things like metal, glass, ceramic, or specialty art papers.

One popular option is yupo paper. This synthetic product is created from polypropylene, will not tear, is quite flexible, and is 100% water resistant. It lets you paint lightweight pictures and hang them in a similar way as you would with other types of artwork.

Experiment with your creativity by applying alcohol ink two different surfaces. Use a brush, dropper, sponge, or other applicator on all sorts of papers and hard surfaces to see how the alcohol ink reacts.

Only your imagination limits the type of art you can create with alcohol inks. Try them out for background design, and then use other media on top for a unique look. This is a popular option for greeting cards and similar small-scale projects. Of course, you can plan and execute larger images, too. Yupo paper comes in small pieces and large sheets up to thirty-six inches wide.

Many Options for Alcohol Ink Painting

Now that you know the basics of this unique art medium and have gathered all necessary materials together, it is time to start creating. Even if you are familiar with other painting techniques, you may feel confused with these new options. Start with small pieces of paper to get a feel for the process before moving on to a larger project.

Start out by experimenting. Put the ink on your yupo paper to see how things act and react to each other. A small drop spreads out quickly. Add a different color, and it will displace the first. Drips form a unique pattern of ink that can create some truly unique designs.

Next, drop pure alcohol or your blending solution into the mix to see what happens. You get a colorless circle that pushes the ink into new positions. This is how you create colored edges, lines, and patterns. Take some time to experiment and see what designs you can create.

Different colors act in different ways. Some spread more quickly. Others react more dramatically with the shade next to them. Dark tones and light tones lend depending on which one you apply first and in which direction. You also get a wide variety of results with different tools like paintbrushes, craft sticks, cotton pads, sponges, and more.

Color Gradients with Alcohol Ink

You may not always want solid color spots or lines on your paper. You can also create gradients with alcohol ink. This requires an extra step of preparation before using the ink itself. Cover the surface with a thin layer of alcohol first and then drip the alcohol inks on top. You can then use a straw to blow the colors into new combinations. Also experiment with brushes or toothpicks to manipulate the ink manually. Beware of moisture buildup in the straw. You do not want it to drip onto your paper and ruin your design.

A product called a borehole blower will alleviate this problem. It consists of is simple tube and a balloon hand pump. Use this to manipulate the alcohol inks on the surface without losing your breath. Another option for large-scale projects is to use a hairdryer on low heat settings. This, of course, provides a lot of force, so it is important to stand back a couple of feet and test things out before turning the blower on your artwork.

Unique Options for Alcohol Inks Art

There are simply things you can do with the basic instructions provided above and quality alcohol ink materials. However, other products on the market can expand the possibilities considerably. For example, manufacturer Tim Holtz offers special stamps with felt surfaces that can absorb alcohol ink and then transfer it to yupo paper or another surface. An alcohol-dipped brush can help you create feathered designs and more unique shapes.

Although colorful backgrounds are some of the first things artists create with this unique medium, more advanced users paint full landscapes or realistic portraits and still life pieces. The sky is the limit when it comes to mixing alcohol inks with your creativity.

Zentangle Designs with Alcohol Ink

The popular Zentangle form of artwork is a perfect opportunity to try something new with these inks. Used as a combination of creative outlet and meditation, Zentangle designs look great on a variegated alcohol ink backdrop. Use waterproof markers to create the intricate shapes and patterns during this zen experience.

How to Create Alcohol Inks Art

Alcohol Ink Mixing Process

Unlike acrylic paint that uses water for mixing, alcohol inks require rubbing alcohol or the prepared blending solution. As mentioned above, only use alcohol above 90% for best results. You can also find prepared blending liquids on sale at art shops, craft stores, and online.

Alcohol Ink Artwork Protection and Preservation

After completing your art piece, it is important to seal it quickly to maintain the light-sensitive pigments exactly how you want them. The easiest method is to use a UV protection spray varnish like Solo Goya or Schmincke Universal varnish. Many other brand names are available. Make sure to test the protectant on an art scrap first before applying to your completed picture.

Safe Alcohol Inks Use Tips

Only use alcohol inks in a well-ventilated room. If this is not possible, invest in professional respiratory protection to avoid damage to your lungs over time. This apparatus should have a tight seal that fits your face without gaps. Most include a cotton or other safe material filter that can be reused or replaced over time.

Isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol is considered a volatile organic compound (VOC). This means it carries some health risks if used improperly. These can include headaches, eye irritation, and respiratory issues. This is why proper ventilation or protection is necessary.

Specific Techniques for Alcohol Inks Art

Alcohol inks offer an amazing range of versatility. They come in a full rainbow of different colors from the brightest and most vivid to gentle and subtle shades. You can use these inks on any non-porous surface you can imagine. This includes glass, plastic, metal, ceramic, and unique flexible options like yupo paper. In fact, this product is one of the most popular options when it comes to creating alcohol ink artwork. It is completely waterproof, smooth, affordable, and easy to work with. It is one of the best options for beginners who may make some mistakes or have creative experiments go wrong before perfecting their methods.

You now understand the basics of making alcohol ink art. Read on to explore specific techniques that deliver a wide range of finished styles and designs.

Ink Drop Technique

You can make interesting art by tripping alcohol ink from its bottle onto the paper or other canvas material. Arrange multiple colors within reach so you can access them quickly as inspiration hits. Drop a few ink spots and then tilt the paper to blend the colors. You can also use a straw and blow them around in it different directions. Pay attention to how quickly you put the ink on the paper. Large alcohol ink drops dry rather slowly. It can take up to twenty-four hours to finish depending on the humidity and temperature in the room. However, the edges of the drops may try quickly so you can add another drop next to it much sooner.

Follow these simple steps for the ink drop artwork style:

  • Choose three or more alcohol ink colors
  • Wet the yupo paper or other nonporous surface with alcohol or the blending solution
  • Drop spots of ink color where you want them on the paper
  • Tilt the paper, blow the ink with a straw, or use a tool to move the ink
  • Carefully remove excess alcohol ink with a paper towel or by tipping it off the edge
  • When happy with the results, allow the artwork to try up to 24 hours

Paintbrushes and Alcohol Ink

You can get very different effects depending on the size and shape of paintbrush you choose to use with alcohol inks. You can create broad strokes with streaks and texture or fine lines of even color. Many of the choices match what you would do for watercolor painting. Be aware that brush strokes will show up if the alcohol ink dries during the process. Move quickly to prevent this. However, these textures and effects can make great additions to your overall art style.

Cotton Buds and Alcohol Ink

Cotton buds or swabs are another useful application tool for alcohol ink artwork. For more control, put the ink into a plastic palette or similar container first. Use a separate bud for each color and work quickly to apply it to your chosen surface. This is a great way to create gradients or special blended designs.

Special Instructions for Metal Surfaces

The versatility of alcohol inks lends its use to any non-porous surface. Metals of all kinds are unique and interesting options. However, you do need to take a few extra steps to prepare this material before dropping, brushing, or dabbing the ink onto it.

Clean the metal surface completely before use. Make sure there is no dust, grime, or oils of any kind. Even if fingerprint can disrupt your ability to lay down alcohol ink smoothly. Wash it with warm water and a gentle detergent or dish soap. Another option is to scrub it with baking soda and water before rinsing well. Make sure the metal is completely dry before you create art.

Different metals react differently to alcohol inks application. Test on the back piece or a scrap before starting your planned art piece. This also helps you know how the different shades will look on the colored metal. Then, follow these simple steps.

  • Apply one drop of alcohol ink at a time as it will spread quickly on the smooth surface
  • Add new colors slowly to control the artistic effect
  • Use cotton buds or other tools to spread ink or create different shapes and designs
  • Tip, tilt, and blow on the inked surface to create stripes and striations
  • Allow the alcohol ink artwork to dry for 24 hours before moving or display

Painting with alcohol ink on metal is not only possible, but it also gives you many new possibilities to explore. Start with an affordable aluminum canvas or go straight to stainless steel, copper, or brass. You can even use items found at the hardware store like hinges, washers, and metal plates. These are popular options for creating jewelry pieces like charms and pendants. Other metal art options include decorating thermoses, metal wind chimes, mailboxes, holiday ornaments, and keychains.

Creative Inspirations with Alcohol Ink

Applying Alcohol Ink to Porcelain or Ceramics

There are so many different types of ceramic, porcelain, or clay items you can use alcohol ink techniques on. However, it is important to choose those that are already sealed so the ink is not simply soak into the material immediately. Tiles, statues, vases, flowerpots, and kitchenware for display purposes only make great foundations for this type of artwork. Anyone would love to get a piece for a gift for their birthday or a holiday.

alcohol ink on ceramics

Follow the same procedure as outlined above to apply alcohol inks to these surfaces. This is quite simple for flat objects like tiles or coasters. Dishes, flowerpots, and other three-dimensional items require extra care. The ink can quickly run around the side or on to a new part of the object where you did not want it to go. Use smaller drops, a paint brush, cotton buds, or even a spritz bottle or airbrush gun to get the desired results. These things allow you to focus your application with a higher degree of precision.

If you want to create alcohol ink artwork on a plate, bowl, or cup you intend to use as more than decoration, you must do an extra step to fix it to the piece. Set the painted porcelain or ceramic into your oven at 150 degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes. After it cools, the design will stand up to use and handwashing for quite a long time. Do not put these items in the dishwasher.

Using Alcohol Inks with Epoxy Resin

Makes a small amount of alcohol ink into a resin before making three-dimensional art. You can also create unique designs by using clear resin in a mold and then dropping or swirling the ink into it. Instead of simple stripes and dots of color, it will create a type of "petrified rainbow" effect that you cannot get with other pigments.

alcohol ink with epoxy resin

Glass Art with Alcohol Inks

Glass is another highly accessible, affordable, and nonporous surface to try with alcohol inks. This art medium flows smoothly and blends easily on glass sheets and objects. It gives a stained-glass effect that looks absolutely beautiful when hung in a sunny window. For best results, you need to seal the ink on the glass surface after it is dry. Consider using a heat gun to burn the alcohol off the surface more quickly. Also, spray a purchased glass fixative or clear glaze over the artwork.

alcohol ink on glass art

Creative Fabric Projects with Alcohol Ink

Although most alcohol ink artwork focuses on nonporous surfaces, it is possible to use this unique medium with materials that soak up the liquid quickly. Most types of fabric will work. The end results include your choice of vibrant or pastel color, highly detailed or watercolor wash effects, or a unique combination of everything with on-trend tie-dye designs. Consider using stencils and spray bottles, a paint brush loaded with multiple colors, or droppers of ink to create abstract splashes. Scarves, canvas shoes, pillowcases, and T-shirts are all popular options for this art style.

alcohol ink on fabric painting

Where else can you use alcohol inks? Although non-porous surfaces work better, you can make a variety of creative artwork pieces by using this medium on wood, stone, and untreated clay. Also consider using your creativity to decorate mirrors or even beads to use in jewelry crafting. The more you get into alcohol ink artwork, the more you will want to try.

FAQ About Alcohol Inks

Is it safe to use alcohol inks?

Yes. If you properly ventilate the room, alcohol inks are very safe to use. The isopropyl alcohol is a VOC, which means it can irritate eyes and the respiratory tract. Since this is used to dilute the inks for this type of artwork, it does carry some risk if you do not take precautions. For safety's sake, keep the windows open, wear a respirator mask, and use gloves for maximum protection. This is also important for varnishing the finished pieces at the end.

Can I use alcohol ink on canvas?

Yes. While nonporous surfaces are recommended for alcohol inks, you can get unique results on traditional canvas. In order to do so, prime the canvas first to reduce absorbency.

Is alcohol ink suitable for coloring epoxy resin?

Yes. If you work with resin for three-dimensional art projects, mix it with the appropriate hardener and several drops of prepared alcohol ink. These give the resin a wonderful transparent color. You can even use multiple shades to get a unique swirled effect.

Can I make alcohol inks myself?

Yes. You can mix two parts printer ink and one part isopropanol. This is an inexpensive way to get multiple colors of alcohol ink.

Does alcohol ink art need sealing?

Yes. This medium is susceptible to fading when exposed to UV light. Therefore, applying sealant is recommended. Do not use commercial UV protectant directly as this can reactivate the ink and destroy your artwork. When the ink is 100% dry, seal it first.

What is the best type of varnish for alcohol ink artwork?

Cover all alcohol ink art with UV-protection varnish once the project is dry. Spray varnish is the best option as it gives you a thin yet continuous coating. Popular brands include Schmincke Universal and Solo Goya varnishes.

Alcohol inks provide imaginative people with new opportunities to create unique artwork. With multiple colors of ink, isopropyl alcohol or blending solution, and yupo paper or another nonporous surface, you can experiment with many different designs and image options. By simply dropping, brushing, or blowing ink across your canvas, you can create an unending array of beautiful pieces suitable for greeting cards, wall art, decor items, and so much more.

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