A Beginner’s Guide to Alcohol Ink Art, The Basics

by Stephen Hans

You may have seen this fascinating art form pop up in your peripherals on Instagram lately. It is attention-grabbing with its wildly beautiful splotches of color against stark white backgrounds. It may look like the exclusive magic of a talented artist but we assure you that it is fully attainable by anyone who puts their mind to learning the basics of alcohol ink art. Let’s start with what exactly alcohol ink is. 

What is Alcohol Ink?

Almost any artistic means of creating color involves pigments. You get the different kinds of mediums by how you suspend that pigment. Oil paint, for example, suspends pigments in an oil medium and acrylic paint in a water-based medium. Alcohol ink is made by suspending richly colored pigments into an alcohol solution. The neat thing about alcohol inks is that they are waterproof once they hit the page and dry. This is how permanent markers are made. 

Alcohol evaporates quickly leaving just the pigment on the page, or item you use it on. It can be rewetted using a clear blending solution (included with our starter pack). While they are in a fluid state you can move them around to create a uniquely flowy interplay between colors.  Because it is made with alcohol, it can get a bit fumey, so take caution to keep the area well ventilated and wear the appropriate equipment to guard against breathing in too many fumes. There is a reason your elementary teacher always told you not to sniff the markers.

Etsy’s ArtSoulCheek’s work is a great example of Alcohol Ink Art on Yupo Paper

What Can I Use Alcohol Inks On?

Ideally, any non-porous surface. Waterproof paper, like Yupo, is definitely a favorite medium people like to use. A more affordable option we like to use is by TerraSlate. Their alcohol ink paper is significantly cheaper than Yupo and just as good. The cool thing about this kind of medium is that it has a gentle gloss finish to it so the overall piece when finished has a luxuriant shine to it. Sticking with traditional art forms, another way to get a “canvas” for painting with alcohol inks is clayboard panels. It absorbs the inks well and is already mounted to a panel making it ready to hang.

For alternatives to the traditional paper/panel substrates, you can use alcohol inks on all kinds of 3D objects like tile, leather, metal, stone, ceramic, polymer clay, and glass. It is truly versatile to work with. Many people like to get ceramic mugs or tumblers to artistically personalize their items with. The alcohol ink applies beautifully to it although it can be a bit hard to control because it is not flat.  Here is a good tutorial on working with a rounded surface like a mug.

alcohol ink tumbler mug

Stay tuned to the blog for our next article on alcohol ink techniques. In this article we will point you in the direction of some of the best alcohol ink artists and their methods.