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  • Writer's picturePat and Alexis Kenrick

What is Alcohol Ink and How Does Pat use it?

Pat has been using watercolor since he was a kid, but alcohol ink is a newer medium he picked up.

So what is alcohol ink anyway? Alcohol inks are fast-drying, highly pigmented, alcohol-based inks that are great to use on any hard, non-porous surface including glass, metal, plastic, ceramic, stone, leather and polymer clay. Once the ink is applied, the alcohol evaporates, leaving the dye behind. Once alcohol ink dries, it can be re-wet with rubbing alcohol (91% Isopropyl Alcohol), allowing for unique and versatile effects that cannot be achieved with water-based products like acrylic paint. Alcohol ink is waterproof, adding to its durable properties.

These dye-based inks are transparent and extremely vibrant. Because of the transparent properties, you can play around with layering the inks. Once the first layer dries, you can add on additional layers to create depth and overlapping colors. The transparency lets you add tints of color and texture without muddying or concealing the original pattern or surface of an object. However, white alcohol ink is opaque, and can mix with the other colors to create tints and pastels.

The inks can be used straight, but you can add an extender/blending solution which increases the ink’s ability to spread. It also maintains the ink’s glossiness, increases the transparency of the ink, and extends the drying time. Adding drops to dry alcohol ink creates beautiful bubble-like rings that resemble the appearance of stone or marble. Rubbing alcohol can also be used to spread the inks, but mixing the inks with rubbing alcohol dilutes the pigment and removes its natural shine, creating a matte finish.

The inks can be dropped onto the surface, but can also be applied using an applicator. It’s all about experimentation with this unique medium. Once the ink is dropped on the surface, you can use air to blow the ink around. These inks are easily manipulated. There are so many different tools that can be used to create different textures in the ink such as a palette knife, a paint brush, a hair dryer, a felt pad applicator, blowing air through a straw to spread the ink, flicking paint off on a brush, or rolling a straw in the ink to create ripples.

Pat uses glossy photo paper to paint his alcohol ink onto. He uses many of the techniques above to develop his abstract paintings that all of his work starts as.


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