Acrylic Inks vs. Alcohol Inks... What's The Difference?!?
by Stephen Hans
Image credit: Stephanie Guy Fine Art
We all love alcohol ink for its beautiful and vibrant colors, but what about acrylic inks? They look almost the same in some cases... but are they the same as alcohol ink? For that matter... What is Acrylic Ink? How does it compare to Alcohol Ink? Can you use Acrylic Ink together with Alcohol Ink? Find out this and more below!
What is Acrylic Ink?
Acrylic Inks are essentially an extremely fluid version of acrylic paint. A Brightly colored, highly expressive, lightfast, and very flowy. Acrylic pigments combine with a liquid acrylic resin emulsion to suspend the pigments and make them flow more fluidly. These pigments bond to the surface of the paper permanently when dried and cannot be reworked, so you have to work fast. Generally, the Acrylic Ink is more resistant to fading because of the pigments contained within.
How Is Acrylic Ink Different Than Alcohol Ink?
Acrylic Ink is pigment-based, while Alcohol Ink is dye-based. When Acrylic Ink dries, the pigments bond to the substrate permanently and cannot be reworked. When the alcohol in Alcohol Ink evaporates, it leaves a thin film on top of the substrate that is resoluble and reworkable if more alcohol is added (like with a clear blender).
Can You Mix Acrylic Ink And Alcohol Ink?
In short, no. JustPaint.org has done extensive testing in this regard (see image above). Generally, you cannot mix acrylic ink and alcohol ink together or even on the same art piece. The pigmented acrylic suspension fluid does not play nicely with the alcohol-based dyes. When wet one can smear and muddy the other. Layering alcohol ink over acrylic ink can lead to problems and cracking. In general, it is best to keep these two mediums separate. Some artists have found success starting with alcohol ink, letting it thoroughly dry, and layering acrylic ink lines over the top as a final layer (see image below). However, be sure to test this before attempting on a final art piece as it depends on the inks used, the substrate, etc...
Can You Use Acrylic Ink In Resin?
Yes, but... it behaves differently. Test first, as always. Whereas the alcohol in Alcohol Ink evaporates and leaves behind the color in more defined areas, Acrylic Ink is very watery and tends to disperse more in resin. It is hard to get the defined "petri dish" effect with Acrylic Ink and it works best as a resin tinter in our experience. A little does go a long way though, so be sure to keep at least a 10:1 ratio, any lower than that can actually throw off the epoxy resin ratios and cause problems during curing. Be sure to test extensively before attempting on a final piece.
When Should You Use Acrylic Ink?
We are (of course) very partial to Alcohol Ink in our art. However, Acrylic Ink is good for many things and can be used to create some similar effects to Alcohol Ink in some cases. Additionally, Alcohol ink can fade with time if left in direct sunlight. Acrylic Ink, on the other hand, uses pigments that do not fade. Therefore, it is lightfast and resistant to fading from UV rays.
So, if you are creating art or decorating pieces that will be used outside or have a lot of direct sunlight, you should consider using Acrylic Ink for the project instead of Alcohol Ink.
However, if you are working with resin and want to create controlled effects with your colors, or you want to be able to take your time and work on a piece over multiple sessions, blending and reworking colors and sections, and want to create that gorgeous glossy film look, you are better off using Alcohol Inks.
The Final Word
These two liquid art mediums can create beautifully vibrant works of art. However, they are not the same. The main takeaway here is that Acrylic Ink is extremely fluid paint. It is pigment based, lightfast, and permanent once dry (it cannot be reactivated like Alcohol Ink). Acrylic Ink does not mix with Alcohol Ink, nor do we recommend using them together on a mixed media piece without plenty of testing first.
Have you used Acrylic Inks? How do you use them in your art? Let us know in the comments!