What is Alcohol Ink and What can it be used for?

What is Alcohol Ink?
Alcohol inks are vibrant, fast-drying inks that can be used to make stunning paintings on a variety of non-porous surfaces. These concentrated inks are alcohol-based and waterproof.

They're semi-transparent which means they can be layered and combined together to create gorgeous effects.
It’s a fluid medium that can be used in many different ways.
How to use Alcohol Inks?
To put it briefly, you use drops of alcohol ink, isopropyl alcohol, and an air source to move the inks around a nonporous surface. The alcohol evaporates and so the inks dry very rapidly. This lets you get unique effects that aren't possible with other mediums.
What supplies do I need to work with Alcohol Ink?
Working with alcohol inks is really easy because you don’t need many supplies to start with. You only need high-quality alcohol inks, a non-porous surface, and a blending solution.
Blending Solutions:
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 colours. Alternatively, you can get pure isopropyl alcohol with 99.9% alcohol content in various sizes here. These amounts are worthwhile – you can imagine alcohol like water when painting with 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.
What surfaces can I use Alcohol Ink on?
Normal paper absorbs the ink right away without giving it time to move around and mix. So a non-porous surface works best, as it gives the inks time to flow and to create unique effects. Here are a few options that work well.
  • Specific Alcohol Ink paper (Coming soon)
  • Glass
  • Metal
  • Ceramic tiles can be wiped clean and painted on again and again. Make sure to get glazed, white tiles for the best results. They’re normally cheap and can be found at many hardware stores.
  • Art Boards
  • Ceramic mugs, bowls etc
  • Plastic acrylic blanks - Can be wiped clean.

Moving the Alcohol Inks around:

Something to move the inks (an air source)

You can start out just letting the inks air dry, but a lot of the fun starts when you move the inks with a tool like a hairdryer. I don’t recommend using straws due to the fumes of the inks. If you decide to try it, make sure to inhale far away from your painting, and make sure you’re in a well ventilated area, and don’t do it for too long. Also, moisture can gather in the straw from your breath and it may have unintentional effects on the painting.

So I recommend one of the options below:

  • Hairdryer -  Choose a weak, low wattage hairdryer for better control.
  • Airbrush 
  • Air blower/dust bulb - The first image is an ink blower made for pushing inks around the page instead of using a straw. The second image is what I personally use - a sauce squeeze bottle. 

Blending Tools:

You can use different tools for blending and creating effects, patterns, and designs.

You definitely don’t need all these supplies to get started, but you might have some around the house already!
  • Cotton Swabs are good for details, adding small dots of ink or wiping small areas away.
  • Alcohol Ink Applicator and small pieces of felt. Add inks and a little isopropyl, and stamp on your page to create colourful backgrounds for cardmaking, etc.
  • Paper towels to blot and remove areas of ink.
  • Paintbrushes for moving the inks, and adding details.
  • Gloves so you can use your hands to move the inks.
Safety Precautions while using Alcohol Ink:
  1. Store materials out of reach of pets and children.

  2. Work in a well ventilated area and follow all safety instructions for the materials you use.

  3. Alcohol inks and Isopropyl Alcohol/Blending Solution are flammable so keep away from fire or heat.

  4. Do not use isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle as it should not be airborne.

  5. Read the safety data sheets for your materials.

  6. Wear a respirator mask!

When I started I just wanted to test alcohol inks out, and for a few months I didn’t use any safety gear. I was reluctant to wear a respirator as I occasionally used my breath to move the inks, but then I started getting headaches. I did some research and got a respirator - and the headaches went away! So now I (nearly) always wear mine, and I love it... I prefer to consume alcohol in a wine glass rather than inhale it into my lungs.

What if you can’t afford a respirator yet, or just want to try out alcohol inks?
Personally, I feel okay working without a respirator for short periods of time, in a very well ventilated area. I'm sharing this for informational purposes only, this is not medical advice or anything - Please do your own research and make your own choices! The main thing is that you know the risks and take precautions.