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Inkspiration: Substrates for Alcohol inks

I love alcohol inks as you know but the effects you get can vary by what you are painting on. I have found that the best alcohol ink substrates (the surfaces on which you work) are glossy and non-porous with Yupo paper being the substrate I use most often.

imageYupo is a unique alternative to traditional papers. It’s an incredibly durable stain-resistant non-absorbent synthetic paper that holds ink and watercolor with razor sharp precision. This extraordinary surface also resists tearing and buckling and it remains perfectly flat. Colors are brilliant and with most mediums such as watercolors they lift off completely if you want to start over. It is an extremely forgiving sheet! This synthetic paper made of 100% polypropylene offers a unique alternative to traditional art papers. As a watercolor paper it has the advantage of being non-absorbent so colors lie on top of its surface producing brilliant vibrant effects. When it comes to inks however usually you will not go back to the original whiteness of the paper but you will be able to start over if you’re not happy with what you have created. If you need to retain the white of the Yupo it’s a good idea to mask out those areas before applying the inks.

Once the inks have dried they can still be activated so if you want to create additional effects by spraying alcohol, more inks or lifting the inks with a paintbrush/sponge/cotton bud you can still do so. However this also means that your painting will be affected by things like cleaning sprays, glass cleaner and artist finishing sprays containing ketones or acetones. Heat will warp the paper and even humidity can activate the inks. Paintings may be sealed with something like Krylon Crystal Clear or a clear glossy enamel spray available from auto places like O’Reillys although I only seal substrates like glass or tile. Always allow the painting to dry thoroughly before applying sprays. I usually let them sit a couple of days before spraying but tend to frame the paintings behind glass and hang out of direct sunlight.

imageCeramic tiles are my favourite surface to work on but are far more fragile when finished. Not only will they break if you drop them but the ink takes much much longer to “set” and you can easily wipe off your painting by accident if you are not careful. If you seal them using spray glosses they are NOT heat resistant so should never be used as coasters or trivets. If you want to use them functionally rather than hang them as art then it’s best to use something like epoxy resin. I’ve had so much trouble sealing and framing tiles that much of the time I stick with Yupo.

imagePhoto paper (the glossy side) can also be used but the inks do not flow as well and do not lift off the surface so easily. Some artists use the glossy side others use the non-glossy reverse side. There are some that work better than others and using photo paper can work out considerably cheaper than Yupo. I’m currently working on a few different types of photo paper so will post the review and recommendation here when I’m done.

imageCanvas: You can use canvases bare but I’ve had most success when I gesso them or coat them with a gloss medium. You’ll need to use plenty of alcohol or blending solution to keep the inks moving but they really do not flow as well on this type of surface. However I’ve seen some amazing effects created on canvas and beautiful art.

Glass, aluminum, galvanized steel or plastic is good to work on and you can create lovely effects on objects like glass vases, clear Christmas ornaments, plates and even dominoes for jewellery. As with tiles it’s always good to seal them well. If you work on glasses, mugs or plates I would definitely recommend that they are for display only.

imageCandles: I’ve created some pretty good patterns on candles too and once the inks have dried the alcohol has evaporated and they burn like regular plain wax candles.

Remember also that no matter what surface you work on any additional alcohol or ink will react with any layer you’ve already put down even if it’s dry! So if you create a blue background then add red over the top you’ll get red plus purple tinges, if you use yellow as a background blues will turn greener, reds more orange. Experiment so you get the best effects! No “inkcident” (Alcohol ink accident) is EVER wasted!

Once you’ve finished your painting you can always go back and create further effects by spraying, dropping or painting with additional alcohol or inks or add acrylic paint or non-alcohol based pens (e.g Micron). You can also use gel pens or alcohol based pens such as Copic to further define or enhance your paintings.

My advice? Play with all the different surfaces and just have fun creating lots of stunning art.

Return to Alcohol Ink: Tips & Techniques

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