Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Alcohol Ink

To say I am obsessed with this new medium is an understatement.

I'm kinda kicking myself since I saw these on Pinterest over a year a go and never got around to exploring them. Now they're all the rage.
In any case, I'm transfixed with them. One Friday during winter break, Sean and I were at Home Depot and I picked up 12 tiles to experiment on with my newly purchased inks. I got the first set at MICHAEL'S.
By Sunday, I went back to Home Depot and bought a case of 100 16 cents, it's a cheap thrill ride.

As luck would have it, I was browsing Craig's List and found a woman GIVING AWAY 4x4 ceramic tile in pink and yellow. I drove out post haste. I took perhaps 1/8 of what she had and I'm happy to say it is probably a lifetime supply of tile for me.

Don't know what I'm going to do with them, but for now I don't particularly care! They are just that fun.

OK: Here's how ya do it.


Alcohol inks in a variety of colors. I bought Adirondack brand, but I hear Pinata is a better brand.

Rubbing alcohol in 91% and 70-72%. I didn't even KNOW there were different solutions! Perhaps that's why I got a D- in Chemistry (Thank you Mr. Hague).

Flat, non-porous surface to paint on---Like the 16 cent white tiles at Home Depot!

Slender paintbrushes. One about 1/4 inch and the other one should be a tiny one.

Little glass cups to pour 1/8 c of the 2 different types of alcohol in, Q-tips, paper towels, newspaper, drinking straws. Optional- a hair dryer.

Work Area

Give yourself a large area to work. Cover surface with newspapers---the ink stains everything. A well ventilated area is also good, the fumes from the alcohol will make you think you're at the flu shot clinic.

1. Clean off tile with alcohol, either kind.
My Alcohol is "dirty" with pink ink. It matters not. You can wipe the alcohol off or leave little puddles.

2. Put a few drops and squiggles of 2-3 colors on the tile.

 3. You can get the ink moving in a few different ways. You can guide it around with a paintbrush. You can tip and tilt the tile. You can blow the ink around the surface of the tile with a straw (surprisingly effective), you can roll the straw on the ink like a rolling pin (good for making well blended color areas) or you can simply wait and watch it run together.

4. Adding more ink will "push" the existing ink (wet or dry) out. (see second photo)

5. Adding "dots" of alcohol will create white spots. The 91% will REALLY get things moving. The 72% is a little less dramatic. I'm using the hairdryer to control the size of the white spots. By touching the wet brush to the ink and then drying it quickly, I was able to make smaller dots. Later, I learned to just use a little less alcohol. Using a Q-tip damp with alcohol to make the dots is interesting too as the Q-tip will absorb some ink AND deposit alcohol. Makes for a bigger dot that doesn't move as fast.

6. Tips:
*If you start a tile and hate it---just wipe the ink off with more alcohol and start over.

*They sell a Blending Solution which is alcohol and ether. I bought some. It didn't really seem to do anything different than the rubbing alcohol so I wouldn't buy it again.

*If you are just going to display this as an art piece, I would leave it as is. The ink dries SUPER SHINY and looks amazing. It will not however, take kindly to being wiped clean or scraped. Also, If the ink is diluted with too much alcohol, it loses it's shine (NOT A BAD THING), but you'll want to spray them.
If you were to use these as coasters, you'll need to seal them.
Let me tell you right now: this is my only stumbling block.

When you spray them with Krylon or Rustoleum clear gloss, the ink will re-hydrate and continue to run. NOT OK. So I painted them with water-based Varathane and they ran a teeny bit. Then I sprayed them with Krylon. Still had some run. OK I said and set those aside.
 Next batch: I sprayed this group with water based Varathane. Many, many thin coats. Then many, many thin coats of the Krylon gloss. "Many thin coats" does NOT suit my personality as I want to glob it on all at once, but this was the only way I could get it to work. It still isn't the perfect sealing solution, but for now it is OK.

This was made by swiping a damp (72%) brush through the blue ink and then dabbing lightly on the "stripes" once they were dry. The color of the dots is a result of a dirty brush and the color of the ink under the dot.

The, uh, first 60...

So. Fun easy and even a novice can do it. It's REALLY absorbing too---just watching the ink flow and blend. Kinda like being stoned without being stoned...or maybe it WAS those fumes?

When you do a Pinterest or Google image search, there are LOADS of images of these psychedelic dot dot dot tiles. It seems to be there are two camps: the clear, bright colors OR the muddled, subtle, multi-layered colors. I like the clear. There are also  many "Fantasy Moon/Dreamscapes". So many, that I quickly abandoned that possibility. I have been playing with traditional landscapes and I very much like these two:


  1. really the landscapes.

  2. Very cool!i made coasters a few months back but didn't seal them :-(. I'll have to check your blog for updates on sealing! I'm at

  3. I love the blue fern! Lovely. Thanks for sharing! Gotta go get my alcohol inks out!

  4. Hi there I must have tried about every sealer, mostly I battled because of Un availability,the one u should try is called grumbacher acrilic painting Varnish gloss it must say all these things on the spray can just spray lightly twice just not suitableas coasters but shines beautiful

    1. Good to know thank you Betsy :) I don't use my tiles for coasters but I still want them sealed. I'm going to hunt this down, where did you purchase the grumbacher....?

  5. Try Krylon Triple Thick spray for sealing. I have seen no running of inks, and just a couple coats gives a nice, high gloss finish.

  6. Great post! I've read using liquitex glossies works great. I use polyurethane spray, just a light coat. After it dries, you can use virtually any other dealer you want, as the poly protects it. You can even Modge Podge over it. ☺️

    1. does the coaster after its modge podged smear or scratch off if a cold or hot cup is set on it? I read and heard in some tutorials that it is not a very good sealant

  7. I have had good luck with the Mod Podge spray sealer. :)

  8. I have had good luck with the Mod Podge spray sealer. :)

  9. How about sealing it with epoxy resin?