Apart from Yupo my favourite substrate to work on is tiles but I’ve tended to avoid working on them because although the alcohol inks work beautifully on them they can still be smudged after drying for weeks and so often they are a pain to seal. Once sealed they look great but if you’re hoping to use them functionally then a spray of varnish will not do.
I create tile coasters to sell so want something guaranteed not only to protect the alcohol inks but durable. Called Art Resin, you can check out their website here and they also give you a few ideas for projects. I’m going to test some other sealants and resins too but here are three ways of sealing your works of art.
Avoid anything with ketones, acetones, alcohol etc as they WILL react with the inks and ruin your art work. I’ve learned that the hard way. Another thing I would suggest doing is test spraying to ensure you are getting a clear product. Occasional lids in products will get switched and it’s great fun to spray a nice blue or white across your work when you are expecting clear!!
I would definitely recommend working somewhere with lots of ventilation, wearing a mask and gloves. I usually work outside when it’s not too humid and windy. I put them on a level surface inside a large box (I got mine when I ordered a canvas), spray then close the lid to avoid bugs, dust etc sticking to the tiles.
Here are my top ways of sealing tiles. Use 3 if you want to use your tiles as coasters, trivets or art projects that require a little more handling or heat resistance.
- UV-Resistant Clear Acrylic Coating or Krylon Clear Glaze will protect your alcohol ink art on whichever substrate you use. If you are looking for a glossier finish then dry well between each spray but I’ve found its more of a lustre than mirror shine. The key to a smooth finish is shake shake and shake the can then apply with smooth sweeping sprays.
- Engine enamel. I’ve found this is least likely to react with the inks. I recommend Rustoleum Crystal Clear and Dupli-Color’s Engine Enamel Gloss Clear. I still spray first with the Clear glaze allowing that layer to dry before applying the Enamel. Again shake, shake, shake it baby!
- Art Resin. There are other epoxy resins on the market which I know people use but this is guaranteed not to yellow and is super easy to use. This is my current favourite way of sealing tiles. Visit their website here for more tips and projects. Pour onto the tile making sure it goes to the edges and leave to set for at least 48 hours. ArtResin say it is completely cured after 72 hours.
Step by Step using Resin
When I started making decorative tile art I used to just seal them with a gloss spray but when I wanted them to be a little more functional I looked into resins. It’s definitely one of those projects where “you can buy these in the store for $35 or make them yourself with $100 of art supplies”. Now I have the supplies like the sander and the heat gun the cost is not quite so bad but if you just want to make just a few then I recommend going shopping in Macys lol
After mostly trial by error these are the steps I follow for creating alcohol ink coasters. Ensure you wear gloves and work in a well ventilated dust free area. I use ArtResin as the epoxy resin when I seal my tiles and it is pretty much odorless but you still don’t want to be breathing it in. There are plenty of other resins out there but I like ArtResin because it’s guaranteed not to yellow.
2. Time to be creative. Create your patterns on your tiles with alcohol inks. I’ve found that if I use 4oz of the resin with 4oz of the hardener I can easily cover 16 tiles so I make 16 at a time and that’s just about the right number that you can easily work with without going crazy. You get about 45 minutes to work with the resin. I usually allow the inks to dry for at least 24 hours. If I use red inks I leave for up to 72 hours as I’ve had problems with red inks still being tacky days after I thought they were dry.
3. Seal your artwork. Once the inks are dry I seal my tiles with engine enamel or Krylon’s Crystal Clear to ensure that when I pour the resin over it doesn’t react with the inks. I leave the sealant to dry for 24 hours.
4. Tape off the underside. I’ve made tiles and then had to spend too much time sanding off the resin that drips and hardens on the underside of the tile. Tip: Use decorators tape to cover the underside edges of the tiles then when the resin has hardened you can just take that off and saves all that sanding!
5. Make up enough resin. Once the sealant is dry I mix the resin. As I said I usually work with 16 tiles at a time but if I have a commission for a set of four then 1 oz of each of the resin and hardener is more than enough. ArtResin recommend you stir the mixture for three minutes. I usually stir very slowly to minimize introducing bubbles into the resin. I allow it to stand a couple of minutes to allow bubbles to rise to the top.
6. Apply the resin. Once I’m ready to apply the resin I place the tiles onto something like a votive, small tin or even small flowerpots to keep the tiles off the surface they are standing on. I usually put them in a box which I can then close when I’ve finished working the resin to ensure a dust free environment while the resin cures. I pour the resin into the middle of the tile then spread to the edgess using a sponge making sure there are no parts that are not resined. image
7. Burst those bubbles. I use a small heat gun to skim just above the surface of the resin which helps burst any tiny bubbles.
8. Cure cure cure. I cover the box and leave the resin to cure for at least 24 hrs before I pull off the masking tape and then leave the tiles to cure for a further 48 hours.
9. Add the cork. Once cured I spray the underside with spray adhesive and apply cork that I’ve cut into whichever shape tile I’m using. The cork sticks pretty well if you do it this way. If you don’t want to use Contact you can buy cork tiles to cut up or even 4 squares of cork cut perfectly to fit 4.25 inch tiles from places like Joann’s.