How To Seal Alcohol Ink Art
by Stephen Hans
We all love making art with alcohol ink for its vibrancy, beauty, and ease of use. However, the question often comes up about how to protect your finished alcohol ink art to prevent them from scratches, damage, and from fading with time.
How To Seal And Protect Alcohol Ink?
Whether you are sealing alcohol ink on paper, sealing alcohol ink on tumblers, sealing it on metal, glass, ceramic, and most other substrates, the process looks the same:
The ink must be FULLY DRY for 24-48 hours before beginning this process. Then the ink should be initially coated correctly to prevent it from interacting with the other varnishes (Step 1). The ink also needs to be protected from UV rays or else it will fade with time (Step 2). And lastly, the art needs to be protected from scratching and damage (Step 3).
Please remember: you CANNOT skip or re-order steps. If you skip Step 1 then Step 2 and Step 3 may blur, mar, or alter the ink. If you skip Step 2 then your ink will fade faster. If you skip Step 3 then your art may be easily damaged or not have the finish you desire. There are no shortcuts here, trust us... we've tried.
So without further ado, here is how we seal our alcohol ink artworks:
Step 1: Krylon Kamar Varnish (3-5 layers). This is essential to provide a layer of protection between your alcohol inks and whatever coatings you put on afterward. Apply this first as directed on the bottle in thin even coats by holding the bottle 12-18 inches away from the piece, allowing it to dry fully between coats. Do not skip this step.
Step 2: Krylon Gallery Series UV Archival Varnish Matte or Glossy (3 thin layers). All alcohol ink will fade with time, it will fade faster with exposure to UV rays from sunlight. To slow this process down enormously your art must have UV protection. Krylon makes an archival varnish in both Matte and Glossy finish that will help make your art last longer.
Step 3: Krylon Acrylic Crystal Spray (3-5 thin layers). This is a non-yellowing clear coat that will protect your art from scratches and physical damage. As with the other coats remember: multiple thin layers and allow it to dry fully according to the instructions between each coat. After this, your alcohol ink is fully sealed and ready for display!
Other Sealants For Step 3
Steps 1 and 2 are required no matter what. Step 3 has a few different options. You could use the Krylon Acrylic Crystal Spray, or for a more deep glossy look that has depth and dimension to it you can use Krylon Triple Thick Clear Coat (we recommend around 5 thin layers) instead of the Crystal Spray.
Rustoleum Engine Enamel has been reported to provide a very nice protective finish that is safe up to 500 degrees of heat... if your artwork requires such protection.
Dishwasher Safe Mod-Podge is another favorite final sealant to use for Step 3. However please note... this is NOT rated as food-safe, so it is not to be used on anything that will touch food.
Sealing Alcohol Ink With Resin
Again, Steps 1 and 2 are absolutely required no matter what. For an even deeper glossy look you can seal your alcohol ink with resin for Step 3. This is by far and away the best choice for lasting protection. We like and regularly use Pro Marine Supplies Pro Art Epoxy Resin which offers additional UV protection as well for preserving your artworks even longer, it is also food-safe once fully cured! It is very likely the best resin on the market for sealing alcohol inks. However, this deserves its own article since working with resin has a learning curve all its own.
Note: A food-safe resin is the only way to make your artwork safe to be used on implements that will touch food like a wine glass, mugs, dishes, etc.
Tips For Protecting Alcohol Ink Art:
Do Not Skip Steps. Regardless of which Step 3 you choose, you MUST start with Krylon Kamar Varnish, and cover that with the UV protective spray.
Patience Is A Virtue! Ensure your ink is fully dry by allowing 24-48 hours to pass before beginning this process. And then ensure every thin layer of coating you apply dries completely according to the directions before starting the next coat. Remember, you are making artwork to last years, don't ruin it by rushing the process.
Many Thin Coats. Multiple thin coats allowed to dry correctly are better than 1 or 2 thick coats that can chip off or muddy your inks.
Protect Your Lungs. Ensure you are in a well-ventilated area and appropriate breathing protection is taken for all of this as many of these sprays are quite potent and dangerous to inhale.
Test Test Test. All of these resins and varnishes and protective coats may react differently to your inks depending on a number of factors from the kind of ink you use to your substrate to the humidity and temperature at the time it was applied, etc... So be sure to test everything first! Your results may vary.
The Final Word On Sealing Alcohol Ink
Making alcohol ink art is a wonderful experience. Protecting it correctly is an important and essential step if you want your art to last. It's not too complicated, just be sure you follow the 3-step process! How do you seal your inks? What lessons have you learned? Let us know in the comments!