Art Supplies, Art Techniques, Useful Information

Straws and inks

imageI love working with alcohol inks simply because they are so unpredictable and because you can get so many effects. One of the things I like to do is create abstract florals using just a straw, inks and a piece of Yupo. This is the same technique I use for creating flowers on coasters. It’s such a simple process yet you get the most amazing effects.

imageI start from the outside and work in towards the center. In this painting I decided to use a couple of different shades of green dropped ink near the edge and blew through the straw spreading the ink to the edges.

imageOnce I’ve worked around the entire edge I’ll move on and add coloured inks, sometimes layering a couple of colors

If you want you can also use canned air, the sort you buy for a couple of dollars, to clean keyboards. Just make sure you have a few practice blasts first and watch those curtains😱

imageI will continue in a circular path until I reach the center and voila you have a beautiful abstract flower. Easy peasy !!!



Art Supplies, Art Techniques

What are Alcohol Inks?

I’ve always loved working in acrylics but recently rediscovered alcohol inks as a painting medium. Alcohol inks are highly pigmented inks that are available in a variety of colours.  Traditionally used by crafters and artists to enhance their works they are now coming into their own as a marvelous painting medium. They are acid-free and fast drying and when applied to a non-porous substrate like Yupo paper, photograph paper or even glass and ceramics they produced the most amazing abstract effects and vibrantly coloured paintings. If you do a search on an social media site for “alcohol ink art” you will find gallery upon gallery of beautiful art.

11377220_1583978641872662_5965598502153123453_n They are an amazing medium which you can use to create some quite spectacular and colourful art with. Just by dropping, pouring, stamping, moving the inks around with paint brushes. cotton swabs, blowing them through a straw or just allowing them to flow into each other by lifting and turning the surface you are working on to direct the flow of the ink, you can create beautiful effects which are art in their own right or to use as a basis for more detailed paintings. If you look at the painting here which is part of my Peacock Painting – The Prince you can see the almost marbled effects you can achieve. The tail feathers on The Prince were created by firstly masking out the feather shapes using a masking fluid then I dropped small amounts of inks into each individual area. The inks move magically and blend creating new colours. Any areas which remained white I simply used a paintbrush dipped in 91% rubbing alcohol and dropped either alcohol or more ink into those spaces which allowed the inks to move further and create more effects. Once the inks were dry I simply rubbed off the masking fluid to reveal the shapes of the feathers.

imageThe best thing about alcohol ink is the fun you can have in creating wonderful art. If it all goes wrong and you have an accident or “inkcident” you can always wipe back the inks and start again especially if you are using tiles or glass. Ceramic tiles are available for just a few pennies in hardware stores and always a good surface to play around on and have fun with. Some of my favourite paintings have emerged out of happy little inkcidents. Why don’t you give it a try?

Art Supplies

Alcohol InksAlcohol Inks can be purchased in packs of three for around $10 and you will get a lot of use out of them. A little ink goes a long way. You can purchase Adirondack inks directly from Hobby Lobby stores in the craft section or online. Often there are coupons and sales which will discount your purchase even further. For more information click here.

Yupo Paper 11 by 14

Yupo Paper.

Yupo 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. Yupo’s ultra white color and super smooth finish makes all of the colors of the rainbow sing when applied to this revolutionary surface. Colors are brilliant and they lift off completely. 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. Colors retain their true clarity and brilliance. Yupo requires no soaking stretching or taping flat. Best of all it allows you to wipe off unwanted sections of your painting and start again with a fresh surface. Neutral PH hot press 74lb. 10 sheet pads- 100% Polypropylene.

Art Supplies, Art Techniques

Alcohol Inks – My new obsession

I’ve always painted in acrylics and dabbled in mixed media but I attended a class to learn about Alcohol Inks primarily to meet up with other artists in the area and discovered a medium that I have become quite addicted to. Traditionally Alcohol Inks (AI) have been used by crafters for enhancing projects but now more and more artists are using them to create wonderful works of art full of movement and vibrant colours. You can create fabulous abstract pieces by just moving the inks around on yupo paper, ceramic tiles, photo paper or basically any substrate that allows the inks to move freely and blend to create some quite amazing effects.

Alchemy Blog This painting was started by simply allowing the inks to move around the paper and the colours ran into each other. “Alchemy” then had ink dropped onto the base colours with metalics added in to to create this abstract work.

I use mostly store bought alcohol inks although I have been known to make my own. I’ve found the home made ones not to be as vibrant but great for backgrounds even if you can get incredibly messy making them. My favourite shop brands are Jacquard Pinata and Tim Holtz Adirondack inks. I find the colours are equally amazing though there is more movement with Adirondacks and I find it easier to paint with the Pinata ones. Both suppliers sell blending solutions but I mostly use regular 91% rubbing alcohol and get good results with just that.

Art Supplies – Alcohol Inks

Alcohol InksThese Dye based, multi-surface inks are acid free, permanent, quick drying, and transparent. Creates a vibrant, polished effect on non-porous surfaces such as glossy paper, dominoes, metal, foil, shrink plastic, glass, and others. Formulated to create a vibrant, polished stone look. Package contains three 1/2 fluid ounce plastic bottles. Conforms to ASTM D 4236. Warning: Contents flammable. A precision tip is included for each bottle.

To purchase click on the photo or here

Art Supplies, Art Techniques, Useful Information

Art Supplies for alcohol ink painting

Tequila Sunset
Tequila Sunset

To work with alcohol inks all you need is some alcohol ink and any surface. Really! Thats it! You can create some great art by just applying the ink to the surface for example Yupo paper and moving them around by tipping the paper or allow the inks to simply flow together to create great effects.

Even if you want to be more adventurous or take more control of the inks you really don’t have to spend a lot on supplies. Here are some of the things I find useful when I’m creating art whether it’s allowing the inks to do the hard work for me or trying to gain a little more control and painting a little more realistically.

Photo by Lauren Tindall
  1. Alcohol inks (obviously 😜) I find Adirondack has a great range of colors but the different packs can vary in the amount of alcohol they contain and therefore the amount of movement you get with them. Piñata seem to be thicker and can be controlled much better. The colors in this range are fantastic and not only are they available in the small bottles but you can get them in 4oz  sized bottles which are far more cost effective if you are counting the pennies. Always work in a well ventilated area and remember they are highly flammable.
  2. 91% Rubbing alcohol: I use this to dilute the alcohol inks for paler colours, in the spray misters , on the cotton buds and on the stampers to create a multitude of effects. Alcohol wipes can also be used to clean surfaces and hands.
  3. Straws: to move the inks; I use this technique most often when creating abstract flowers and landscapes.
  4. Palette: when I’m painting with the inks I put small amounts of the ink into the palette and paint using those. If I want more control and the inks to move less I allow the alcohol to evaporate off for a while. If they dry out just add of drop of alcohol and you are ready to go again. You can use kitchen foil to wrap your pallet in then discard after painting and voila your palette is clean!
  5. Kitchen paper: useful for putting on your work surface to catch inks.
  6. Paint brushes: I use inexpensive fine brushes to paint with the alcohol ink. They can also be used for painting masking fluid on but remember to dip them in some dish soap first to avoid them being ruined.
  7. Small jar/dropper: I use these to clean brushes and also if I want to drop the alcohol onto my painting I can be a bit more accurate than with the spray.
  8. Gift cards: you can create straight lines and other effects by dragging the card across the inks. (Visit ‘Alcohol ink effects’ for more tips and techniques)
  9. Felt/stamper: I use this for creating additional effects on my paintings by stamping with just alcohol or adding the inks to the felt and creating different colors and textures. I also bought a regular square of felt and cut it into squares as a cheaper alternative for the replacement pads.
  10. Spray mister: available from craft stores you can add alcohol inks or just rubbing alcohol to spray or mist your paintings.
  11. Alcohol based pens e.g Copic, Sharpie: I use these mostly to add details and then the Copic blender pen is amazing for lifting inks or blending them.
  12. Oil based pens/gel pens e.g Sharpies for when I want to add details that I don’t want to reactivate the inks. You can use regular marker pens like the Alcohol based Sharpies but they can  reactivate the inks so be aware of that if you are using them.
  13. Micron pens: I sometimes outline or draw over my paintings and these are my favourite go to pen for doing this.
  14. Gloves: to keep hands clean but I never use them. If you don’t your hands and nails will stain and the ink really does not come off easily
  15. Cotton buds: to clean up areas where you don’t want ink, or to lift ink to a paler color.
  16. Masking fluid: if you want parts of your painting to stay white then masking fluid is the best way to go. My favourite is the Fineline masking fluid which comes out superfine. I would always recommend the inks drying really well before you remove the masking fluid.

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Art Supplies, Art Techniques, Useful Information

Alcohol Ink Coasters Step by Step

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 want to make just a few then I recommend going shopping in Macys lol. Seriously though you can create some wonderfully unique art and gifts. And it’s fun❤️

After mostly trial and 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 and I have found mixing it and using it extremely easy.

image1. Wipe the tiles clean. I use alcohol or glass cleaning wipes to ensure I get rid of any grease or fingerprints.

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.😢 image

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!

image5. 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 also 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.

image9. 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.

Update 2016. As of 2016 I use a new resin developed by artists for artists and have updated the post to show this.  ArtResin is available in a starter kit which is quite expensive compared to buying in larger quantities but if you like it as much as I do and you are going to do lots of resin art then it’s worth the cost.

Here’s the link to the ArtResin website where they have lots of other projects you can try.


More coaster projects

Stencil and Scrap Book Coasters 2012

Photo Coasters with cork backing 2011