What is Alcohol Ink Blending Solution? Is it different than Isopropyl Alcohol?

by Stephen Hans

When working with alcohol inks, a clear blender is an absolute must-have tool. Its mysterious ability to blend colors and dilute them is unmatched and unrivaled. Let’s take a look at what makes it special and how an alcohol ink blending solution (also called a clear blender) is different from isopropyl alcohol.

What is an Alcohol Ink Blending Solution?

Also called a clear blender, alcohol ink blending solution typically has alcohol as its base as well as a proprietary blend of other chemicals that thicken it and create a fluid transport system that is perfectly matched to alcohol inks’ intense pigmentation. Just a drop will go a long way. For a thoroughly dilute effect, put just a drop of two of colored alcohol inks in an ounce of blending solution. This lets you create your own custom blended colors. But that is not what a clear blender is primarily used for. Its main use is to help you move around your inks on the page or medium you are using, getting them where you want, as diluted as you want before the inks dry. Alcohol ink blending solutions can be used to rewet old ink on waterproof paper. Don’t like a part of the painting from yesterday? Guide a little clear blender into the area and watch it open up and become malleable.

Why Not Just Use Isopropyl Alcohol Instead?

Well, it certainly is cheaper! A huge bottle of the shelf at the grocery store is only a couple of dollars. Isopropyl definitely does have advantages. Here are some pros and cons to consider.

PROS: It is cheap! Isopropyl alcohol evaporates very very quickly. This can be a pro or a con because sometimes it evaporates way too fast and other times, it’s just perfect.

CONS: Isopropyl Alcohol is not as smooth as a clear Alcohol Blending Solution. The additives in the clear blender give it a silky body that is less harsh as it moves around than isopropyl alcohol is. With the blender, almost effortlessly you can get soft transition lines, whereas with isopropyl alcohol you will have to race the clock against harder lines of evaporation. However it is considerably more expensive than isopropyl alcohol. Isopropyl is also extremely fumey compared to the clear blender.

Use Isopropyl Alcohol for this:

For projects that need quick evaporation or dilution, like fabric dying. For example, getting a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol, putting a few drops of ink in it, and spraying a throw pillowcase from one end will get you a quick evaporating ombre effect to the fabric. (Always use in a well ventilated safe space with appropriate breathing apparatus). Nice crisp open circles/lines in a painting. Flick a few drops onto a painting of alcohol inks and the spots where the drops land will clear out and leave nice crisp circles. Once the alcohol evaporates this will still work. You can even try it on a dried alcohol ink painting as a finishing effect or with a small paintbrush dipped in the clear alcohol.

Use a Clear Blender (AKA Alcohol Clear Blending Solution) for this:

  • Paintings you want to take your time with or achieve a soft billowy effect on.
  • Dispersing colors over a larger surface.
  • Creating custom colors you can bottle and set aside.
  • Creating open “channels” for controlled lines in alcohol ink that is already on the page. This dries in similar time to the inks whereas the isopropyl alcohol dries faster, creating a rushing effect of the remaining inks it had previously dissipated. The Blender won’t do that nearly as much.
  • Rewetting your work.

What about the Clear Blending Solution DIYs?

There have been some brave souls who have gotten technical with making their own solutions. The glycerin approach (add a few drops glycerin to alcohol) has been acceptable for some while others feel it has proven to result in a globby texture, but it is passable for some depending on what you are doing. Others have gotten more technical and scientific about it even mixing in industrial chemicals. We like to keep things safe and unintimidating so we recommend against that unless you are qualified and have appropriate health and safety working areas and equipment. In the meantime, hopefully, this article will help you make judicious use of the clear blender vs isopropyl alcohol. We have included one in our starter pack and have plans for larger bottles soon.

*Video Transcript:

“Hi, I’m Tiffani from T-Rex Inks. I’m the T in the T-Rex and I’m here today to talk about what the difference is between a clear blender and isopropyl alcohol. This you can get at a drugstore for, like, a dollar and get it and varying percentages. What am I to show today is how it works with our inks versus the clear blender.

One of these comes in every starter pack. So you might want to know, you know, since you only get one of those, how best to use it. We’re going to be trying here soon to come out with a large pack of it and white, that’ll be nice for everybody. But in the meantime, we’re going to kind of show in real life and actuality what happens when you use those two things.

So I made a little painting here. I’m going to tilt the camera down so you can see the painting so you can get a feel for how they work. So again, we are looking at here a difference between isopropyl alcohol and clear blending solution. That comes in every T-Rex pack. One of the things that the alcohol ink is good for that. I like to use it for, I’m going to put a little bit up here to show you.

I like to just clean out my brushes with it. So I was using pink last on this. I get some in there and I can.. it evaporates real fast and I can kind of clean it out and then brush it out on a paper towel and then just very quickly. I have a clean brush.

So we’ll go ahead and do clear blender on this one. And we’ll do a isopropyl alcohol on this one so we can kind of get a feel for what happens here. So you’re going to be using droppers typically, so we’ll start with droppers instead of paintbrushes and you can kind of see on this one some open spaces here. So I’m going to going to drip it here so you can see what happens. There…so just wait a minute and see how it develops. You can see it’s very distinct with the clear blender. Very strong really opens it up. the alcohol provides a little bit more of a softer blending affect also the colors right there by blending very nicely with that. So this dried real fast. Somebody’s my paintbrush real quick to manipulate it so you can see what happens and kind of get rid of some of those lines there from the circles, but see how right there. You can’t really get rid of that line. It is stuck. Cuz the alcohol is so harsh, but that can work to your advantage. You can really open up things. You can draw things. Like for example, we can kind of go ahead and make a
setting sun right here. If we wanted, make it real big, give that little bit of time to open up but now let’s go ahead and over here and see what happens with the paintbrush with this. So that stays wet a little bit longer.and…you can see…We still have those lines there. So that’s the effect of it. now if you work very quickly with it you will get a whole another look.

Let’s try and get some clouds in here. You work around it makes that kind of opened effect work for you. There you go…Got kind of a dappled look there…And that works for us. Now see over here…That’s what the alcohol did it spread it out got real soft lines.

So let’s see with a huge drop what happens? With this stuff, the clear blender, same thing…It’s spreading out. You can kind of see these lines forming as it spreads out. We can make the alcohol work to our advantage by brushing it a little bit. The only problem is these lines get real stuck with the alcohol.

I’m using Terraslate paper, by the way, an equivalent to Yupo.Nara is also a very similar waterproof paper.Okay.Here we go…So that’s kind of what we got there, and you can kind of see through the remnants there. They’re still holding on to that paper.

So you have to use a little bit more to kind of get rid of that and hope it doesn’t eat it too much. It’s really saying that the initial lay down spot is really staying on the paper. See with the clear blender. If that spot staying. Yep, here we go. definitely more lifted.

So once you play around and get a feel for these things you can kind of make a lot of this work to your advantage and what you’re trying to do in the painting. You’ll see a lot of the pros, they just know how to work this. So it’s worth playing with.

So the clear blender, it has a rewetting effect and it makes the stuff you’re working with pliable again. So the alcohol inks also have a re-wetting effect, but they dry the alcohol evaporates so quickly that you have less of a window, but you’ll get a very soft diffuse look there so you can get that with the clear blender as well. See open that up a little bit more watch it spread out. So it has a lot less ink to work with here. So the spreading out effect is going to be more dramatic.another drop here. This one’s already so strong that it spread out really well. I’ll go ahead and work in the waters a little bit now that this is all dry.

I’ll go ahead and show you what it is like when you just drip it on horizontally. These are painted about 2 minutes before the video. So, I could show you and another video what it looks like on a very old painting. It still works! Impressively! So as you can see here have I’ve been layering alcohol ink, this is what the isopropyl alcohol has done here a soft diffuse look for getting nice lines there. And now this one, the clear blender, You can kind of see this beautiful gradient on the edges. Very very nice that’s because of that. It has a little bit softer just a touch more gel-like of an effect to it. To the consistency. So it’s also just very very soft and kind of see right there. Merging the three colors and then it rippled out here. Really neat effect!

They’re both beautiful. So as you get to play with them, you’ll kind of get a feel for what
works for what project you’re doing. You’ll be able to make good choices on that. I definitely recommend keeping both handy.o this is needs to dry a little bit. And as it dries. We’re going to turn it sideways. I think this one’s already dry already ready to work with. That’s the beauty of it, that it’s real fast, and then you can put more on and rewet it. I really like that about it. So, we are going to turn it sideways now. We’re going to do a little bit of a drip test here. Tilt it down to see what kind of an effect you can expect with just raw drips on an older painting. Watch it kind of open up. Work its way down. That’s raw drips we’re getting there. turn it this way to get some drips from what was collected Let that dry.

Let’s try the isopropyl alcohol in the same manner So as you can see, We’re getting a lot less opening up once the ink is really set. It does open it up a little bit.I’m going to turn it this way. But it’s much less diffuse. They all have their place.
what works, what kind of effect you’re looking for. Okay. I’ll put the first one back Okay, these are the differences. This is the isopropyl and this is the clear blender, very similar effects.

I’d recommend using this isopropyl to clean your brushes to clean stuff off your hands, to clean edges, be very careful with it because it really does open up the paintings like very very much. So for example, you’re going to see like this… you go that really opened it up in it. A little more down and you get lines lots and lots of lines so it can work in your favor. But you gotta know what you’re dealing with.

Now this one you get more of the classic alcohol ink look if you can kind of see. right there you get those lines where it pushes the gradient into the next line and get those beautiful artistic impressionist Styles is very nice. Whereas this gives you more of a Watercolor look, I’d say, which is great for some projects. Like I keep saying you just got to know what you want. And this will take a little while to dry. So you can also try and get the remaining lines in it. It’s a softer more watercolor look. Then again with the clear blender if there’s something I don’t like or want to add like I’d like to make a little more orange right here. I can add that and then I can add my orange. And it’s white again. It’s malleable again, becomes part of the painting. It’s not going to sit on top of it. It’s going to use its elbows to push its way in. Can get some blending going on there if you wanted. See how we’re getting a little opening up there going to add some right here too. Let that really open up. Here we go and can squeeze an orange in there. Watch it disperse, mixed with the colors dispersed. That’s a pretty good demonstration of clear blender versus isopropyl alcohol. I wrote an article about the specifics of that but I thought a in real life demonstration might be nicer too. So there you have it! So hopefully that video kind of helps with understanding. The effects of a lot of that are going to be you using it and figuring out what works for you but in recap isopropyl alcohol good for
cleaning your brushes clean stuff off your hands. The clear blender is good to use for the art alone because it is more valuable.

I like to keep the alcohol and hand to clean up mess ups or sort of wipe down a painting if I want to start over again on the waterproof paper, but the end result is pretty clear.
I think you can get a good feel for. You’re the kind of more waterproof lines here. you have more of that beautiful impressionist alcohol ink that we that look that we all love.
There you have it. I hope that helps.”