Painting With Alcohol Ink On Canvas: Tips, Techniques & Advice

by Stephen Hans

painting alcohol ink on canvas

Photo Credit: @JennicoCalligraphy


So far in our alcohol ink substrate series, we have covered painting alcohol ink on glass, and what kind of paper to use with alcohol ink. Both of these substrates work fantastically with the medium.


Glass is a blast to paint on, but you are often limited in size to what you can reasonably get out of a picture frame. Yupo paper is by far the nicest surface to paint alcohol ink on. However, it is thin and needs to be mounted to something stiff for display purposes, or attached in a picture frame with a matte board, etc...


If you are running into these issues, you may appreciate painting your alcohol inks on a canvas! Not only can you get canvases in many different sizes, but you can also get them in different depths too! Additionally, they are easily hung on walls for displaying your beautiful works of art.


Painting alcohol ink on canvas has many advantages, but a little more prep is needed than other surfaces. Read on for some tips, techniques, and advice for creating alcohol ink art on canvas.


How Do You Paint Alcohol Ink On Canvas?


priming canvas for alcohol ink

Step 1: Apply Killz2 Latex Primer. Before you can begin your masterpiece you need to prime the canvas to make it non-porous or else the ink will just bleed through which most of us don't like. The internet is a big fan of Kilz2 Latex Primer for canvas prepping. It is fast-drying, water-based, multi-purpose, readily found, relatively inexpensive, and it seals the surface of most canvases beautifully so that they will not absorb the ink or allow it to seep through.


Step 2: Wait. Apply a good single coat to the top and sides of the canvas, making sure you don't see any of the little holes or cotton weave texture any longer. Then allow around 45 minutes for it to fully dry before you begin applying inks. Usually, only one coat is needed, but do use your good judgment here. You want to ensure it is completely dry before applying any alcohol inks or you could end up bleeding through the canvas.


Step 3: Paint! Painting on canvas with alcohol inks is a different experience than painting on other surfaces. Canvas allows for more control and finer details in your artworks since the inks flow around a bit less, and you can create some absolutely beautiful artworks on this classic substrate!


Tips for Painting Alcohol Ink On Canvas


alcohol ink painting on canvas

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Karlson @elizabethkarlsonart


Foam Brushes > Paintbrushes: When applying the primer, your goal is to coat the top and sides with as smooth a layer as you can. To avoid the appearance of brush strokes many like to use a large foam brush instead of a paintbrush. These disposable foam brushes are readily available at most art supply and hardware stores as well as online in bulk and are surprisingly handy to have around!


Sand It: Sometimes even foam brushes leave ridges and brush strokes which may or may not be desirable as most of us prefer a perfectly smooth surface. For an even smoother surface you can always lightly sand the primer with a very fine grit sand paper. However, be sure you clean off all the dust or it will muddy your inks, and don't sand too hard or you will take the primer right off the canvas and be back to square one!


Black & White: Killz2 Primer comes in white AND clear. Clear primer is perfect for priming black canvases which are a lot of fun to work on and make your ink art REALLY pop!


Keep It Elevated: Placing the canvas on risers while priming and painting is very helpful. It allows any excess alcohol ink to drip off the canvas rather than pooling underneath and staining the backside, potentially bleeding back up into your painting.


Level The Surface: Leveling your canvas is also very beneficial for maintaining control of the inks, or else they will just flow to one side and drip off. You can always use a few paper towels or other thin material to prop up the side that is low.


Double Up: Even though Killz2 and other primers seal the surface of the canvas, it still absorbs more ink than say glass or Yupo paper. So plan on working quickly and doubling up the amount of ink and fluids you plan on using. You will appreciate having them readily on hand rather than having to hunt them down when the crunch is on.


What If I Don't Have Killz2... : If you don't have Kill2 latex primer available where you live, there are other options. Many have had good success with other latex-based house paint primers. Gel mediums or gesso may also work as they too coat the surface to make it non-porous. But be sure to test test test before beginning a serious piece as every brand is different and some might react or lift when you apply the ink.


Do you have any other tips for painting alcohol ink on canvas? What do you use to seal your canvases? Let us know in the comments!