Go With The Flow — My Love Affair With Alcohol Inks

Let me start this post with a warning: If you have never used of Alcohol Inks in art and are interested in trying them out, think carefully before you start. They can be very addicting. This is an art material that is very welcoming to beginners as it is possible to create something beautiful easily and almost right away. And once you begin, you may not be able to stop!

Still interested? OK, that means you’ve chosen to go down the rabbit hole so here we go….

First of all, what are Alcohol Inks?

Alcohol Inks are a dye-based liquid inks that are incredibly vibrant in colour. They are acid-free, fast drying and waterproof once dry. Believe it or not, these inks are “erasable” and you can reactivate dried ink and continue working with it even after leaving it for hours or days on end. (I don’t know of any other art supply does has this quality. If you have info about another, please share!)

The liquid comes in bottles and can be dripped, dropped or squeezed directly out of the container, or you can choose to use brushes and other tools to dip into the inks to apply them to a surface. You may also use moving air (like that of a blow dryer) to manipulate the inks.

Alcohol Inks are most easily used on non-porous (non-absorbent) surfaces like glass, metal and plastics, but can also be used to colour other materials such as resin, fabric and ceramics. In short, this material is super versatile and can be used in many applications to create many looks and effects.

Why do I love them?

As an artist, the inks used in conjunction and combined with acrylics, resin and plastics help my mixed media paintings come to life. But I have also used the ink to decorate ceramic bowls, stain plastic Christmas ornaments, dye scarves, paint lamps, and colour plexiglass to create stained glass window effects.

Aside from the fact they are versatile, the inks have a beautiful flowing quality. Because of this flowing quality and being a non-viscous liquid, they are not easy to tame, moving in ways that often surprise you. Even if I was often very pleased with the outcome and beauty of the pieces I created as a beginner with the inks, the fact they did not do as I expected frustrated me.

I am an A-type personality. I am a bit of a perfectionist. I seek to control things and if I can’t, well, I get uncomfortable. When I first started making art, my paintings were very much mapped out. I started with an image in my head, then I drew a plan. I listed all the paint colours and supplies I needed and wrote down my schedule. I knew every step I was going to take with my artwork and I followed through. Then I realized, I was not having fun anymore. I took all the play out of my work. Then I discovered Alcohol Inks.

Instead of doing what I wanted, the inks had a mind of their own. They flowed and spread in ways I did not anticipate. They mixed unpredictably. Eventually, I learned to work with them. Slowly coaxing them into the forms and shapes I wanted. Finding ways to layer them and have them work with other materials. But still, even now that I have been using this material for years, many times they do what they want. I now find this quality as part of their appeal. They injected a sense of play and experimentation into my art practice. And they have greatly influenced the way I work. Due to their unpredictable qualities I am able to make art more freely because I have learned to go with the flow. I can paint without a plan, without a goal. I remember now that art should be enjoyable and freeing. And I can create for the sake of creating.

Want to explore and learn more about Alcohol Ink Art? There are many samples online but perhaps you’d like to start with my Instagram or Facebook accounts. I also have online classes and workshops that run a few times a year that teach you all about this material and how to use it.

Visual Artist and Art Instructor