Alcohol Inks...Creating Beautiful Colorful Effects (Wanna see?...Good!...Lots of Pictures) August 03 2015, 0 Comments


I never realized how much fun alcohol inks were until I started playing with a few bottles of them. Various techniques leave different kinds of patterns, like in the above swatch sample board I made. They work best on any non-porous surface, such as metal, photo paper, domino's, tiles and glass. Gesso covered paper and canvas surfaces work well too. This blog will show you many different looks on photo paper and I'll give you pointers along the way if you want to learn how to do this yourself.  I'll also share pics of domino jewelry made with alcohol inks with rubber stamping over it. 

Most of the information I learned on alcohol inks I found in different YouTube tutorial videos. There's a ton of them out there. So after watching enough and ready to try it on my own, I went to the craft store to purchase some of my favorite colors and a felt applicator/tool. Plus I borrowed a few inks from my mom. (Thanks mom!)  I started using the blending solution as recommended by most artists and after realizing it's awesome results and the quantity I wanted to use, I moved on to the 70% ethyl rubbing alcohol I had in my bathroom cabinet. It worked just as well and is a fraction of the cost.

One of the first things I tried was making blotches by dropping the alcohol ink directly onto my surface and blowing into a straw onto the wet droplet. It leaves an explosion of color on your surface and dries extremely quickly.  The more air you blow into the straw, the more the droplet spreads. Here's some samples of my explosive droplets...or splotches, if you will.


You can also forget about the straw and drop inks onto the surface, holding it upright so that the inks drip down and run to where you want them to stop. Let them run completely off the surface if you'd like. Just make sure that you are careful with the ink run-off. Wouldn't want to stain anything. 

Although the splotches were fun to make, there's still a whole bunch more to tell you about and of course I will save my favorite for last. I found that by mopping up alcohol inks off my work surface, it created a tie-die look and where the ink didn't touch the paper, I could go back over the area and mop up some more ink.  To do this just drop some random patterns of inks (with or without blending solution) on your work surface and take photo paper, placing the shiny side down, mop up the ink by sweeping the paper over it. I ended up with these:


The last pic shows the tear off section of the 4"x6"  glossy photo paper. The good thing about picking this kind of paper is that you can hold onto it and not get your fingers in the ink. See how the bottom right corner is completely white? That was where I was holding it.

Another technique is to rub, stamp or spray the alcohol ink through a stencil.  I rubbed green and yellow through a leaf stencil I had and it came out really pretty.

Spraying a mist of alcohol ink by putting some into a spray bottle will give you a dotted look like the samples below. The trick is to learn how your sprayer shoots the ink out of the nozzle and at what pressure to push it at.  It's always a good idea to spray a practice "shot" onto something other than your project. The lighter the push, the more the tiny dots scatter around the page (like a mist). Pushing hard on a spray bottle with alcohol ink will result in a more darker and blotchier look.


Since alcohol inks mix together (blend) with each other, I tried for colors that would not result in "mud" at the end. For the above two samples, I used orange and blue. The first shot is more of a lighter push on the sprayer and the second shot resulted in more of a full push.  

I personally had the most fun with the felt pad applicator, blending solution and the inks. This is where I felt more in control on the ink. But I also realized it blends together so quickly that it's unstoppable once it starts. Look at the pic below. It has a very large amount of open white spaces. That's actually where a lot of blending solution/alcohol landed on the page and it spread out bleeding into the next color of blue. 

So onto my favorite technique. This will require a felt applicator/tool in addition to the inks. Wait till you see all the things you can do. I picked three different color inks then applied droplets to the felt pad on the applicator/tool. I randomly started to stamp the ink onto the photo paper. I use the word stamp to describe what to me is like "date stamping" something. Very quickly moving to cover your whole surface. The inks will start to bleed together and spread like they do into one another, forming all kinds of patterns.  The further away the stamping is to one another, the less it will bleed together and the more of your white background will show. Take the following pics for example, some have the white background while others have more of an agate or granite/stone look to them.




Did you like how I threw that one brilliant red one in there? If you couldn't have guessed it, I'm impartial to the blues, purples and greens. Notice the lines in the pic above and how you can see where the edge of the rectangle felt pad left straight lines? How about on the left side where the pad streaked up the page leaving lines?  And what if you deliberately wanted lines? Those are easy to do!  Simply drag the freshly inked felt applicator/tool across the paper. Go up, go down, go sideways, make some waves or even swirls.  But remember, when and IF the inks touch, they'll run together.  Trick here is to NOT go over the same area twice.


Above, you are looking at four swipes up the photo paper page. There is a small dark green blemish in the upper center of the page. That is where the swipes upward didn't touch one another and a little white part of the paper was showing. To touch it up, I carefully touched the corner of the inked felt pad to the paper and swiped in the missing ink spot. 

I quickly learned I could swirl the lines and tried not to touch them as best as possible. Here's some swirls:



I accidentally dropped some droplets of alcohol/blending solution onto this photo paper above. It resulted in three white dots. This was a learning experience. Then I realized that I could USE this and make a different kind of look. So after the first application dries, which is extremely quickly you can mist the alcohol/blending solution on or you can drop it on, shake it on or apply it with a felt padded tool. I liked it best when I used a paintbrush and made flower outlines on the green agate looking background. I plan to make plenty more with designs made by brush strokes. Like this:  

Here's just dropping large droplets of the blending solution. Where it dropped is where the whiter shades are:


I left them flat to dry but you can always put a lot of solution on and let it run off the surface too. Below is what results in applying the solution directly to the felt pad and stamping over the surface again.  It makes a really blended look. But do it too much and it can turn to a muddy brown.


So now you ask...what am I gonna do with all of these? I'm an artist that uses so many different types of papers in my projects that they won't go to waste. I might give my mom and sister some to make with their greeting cards or I'll simply continue to finish them by rubber stamping over them.  Here are a couple that I've completed already:


Below are some more samples I made while experimenting, for you to peek at...they consist of some of the techniques I explained earlier in this blog. Maybe as I finish each one I'll post it as a before and after pic so you can see the difference.

The mopping technique:


More dropping of the alcohol solution and felt applicator/tool to blend:


More lines.


So that's it for my alcohol ink venture on photo paper. Can't wait to see what else I create using what I've learned here. Better yet, I'll learn something new about the inks' application process and go onto the next step. There are plenty of other areas in our online gift shop for you to see alcohol ink art.  You can search "alcohol ink" and a couple of pages of domino jewelry and ceramic tiles comes up. The tiles are made using alcohol ink pens but the domino jewelry, uses these same techniques. 


Thank you for looking at all these pics. I know there were a lot. Hope I inspired you in some way.