With this Alcohol Ink 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 materials you need for this technique and where they are available. All the basics for a successful start in working with Alcohol Inks can be found in the following article.
- 1 What is Alcohol Ink?
- 2 Which supplies do I need for the alcohol ink technique?
- 3 Alcohol Ink supplies
- 4 Alcohol Ink Tutorial for your first artwork
- 5 Create color gradients
- 6 Further creative possibilities
- 7 Video: Alcohol Ink Tutorial
- 8 You should also note the following
What is Alcohol Ink?
The term “Fluid Art” is used in English. 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 technique?
The Tim Holtz Ranger Alcohol Inks are most commonly used. They are available in over 60 colours and additional metallic tones. Other inks are Piñata 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 / Isopropylalkohol
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 watercolour – 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 colours in alcohol, this must happen on as smooth a surface as possible. Glass, metal, ceramic tiles or Yupo paper are suitable for this. 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
- Jacquard Alcohol Ink Grundfarben Set
- Jacquard Pinata Alcohol Ink Set mit 9 Farben
- Tim Holtz Ranger Alcohol Ink Metallic Set
- Sharpie Permanentmarker
- Blending Solution
- Isopropylalkohol 99,9%
- Yupo-Papier für Alcohol Ink, A4
- Yupo-Papier für Alcohol Ink, A3
- Lanavanguard Universalmalgrund
- Tim Holtz Ranger Alkohol Tinte Applikator
- Universal Firnis
Alcohol Ink Tutorial for your first artwork
So if you have the ink, alcohol or blending solution, and a background, you can start experimenting. 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 colours 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 colours displace the first drops. right: In the middle blue pigment spots can be seen. Some colours consist of different pigments, which can then separate and settle.
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 colour 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 colours and also spreads in a circle: Alcohol displaces all colours and also spreads out in a circle.
right: More alcohol is added to the colours and the colours are spread with the hairdryer.
Further creative possibilities
The manufacturer Tim Holtz has stamps on offer, on whose surface a piece of felt can be attached. If you apply different colours 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 – 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 colours. 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 colours meet with alcohol
Video: Alcohol Ink Tutorial
The creation of the upper picture I have additionally recorded for you in a video:
You should also note the following
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.
If you don’t have the possibility to work in a well ventilated room, a respiratory protection is recommended when working with alcohol ink.
The detailed material list with many great recommendations for painting with Alcohol Ink can be found in a separate article.
Jennifer A. Pace
As a musicologist, art is part of Jennifer Pace’s daily life; creative work has always been part of it. Whether through photography, sketching, writing and calligraphy, or expression through abstract art. Fluid Art is currently her favourite form of expression. What applies in photography to the principles of image composition and the interplay of colors can also be transferred to abstract art – with the loss of control – and that is what makes it special. Instagram captures the passion for visual art in a casual way. Time-lapse videos of Alcohol Ink and Acrylic Pours can be found on YouTube.