Updated: Nov 24, 2020
I get so many questions about alcohol inks, materials, techniques, etc., on Instagram that I thought of compiling all the frequently asked questions at one place. Hope this will help the beginners to learn a little bit more about this medium. Alcohol inks are relatively new and every day new information is coming up; I am writing based on my knowledge. If you have some more insights, please feel free to share them with me. I also urge you to please experiment with the inks - you might find something exciting.
Here are the most frequently asked questions:
What surfaces can be used with alcohol inks?
Alcohol inks work best on non-porous surfaces like Yupo paper, synthetic paper (Nara papers) ceramics, glass, porcelain, metals, vinyl, laminate, plastics, acrylics, melamine, craft plastic, etc. They can also be used on primed canvas and primed wood as well.
What can I use to prime the canvas or wooden surface for inks?
The primer everyone talks about online is not available in India. To make a canvas non-porous the best primer would be a latex white paint, Nippon Latex Interior Primer, Dulux Golden Ultra Interior Primer, Asian Paints Ultima Protek. Gesso can also be used. Apply these with a very soft brush so as to avoid the brush marks.
What’s the difference between Yupo and Synthetic Paper?
Yupo is a patented paper from Mitsubishi. It comes in two thicknesses. 300 microns is an artist-grade paper and 150 micron is ideal for practicing and trials. Yupo is eco-friendly and can be burnt to ash without any toxins. Synthetic paper is plastic-based paper with less staining. It can we wiped clean to some extent with alcohol. For some effects, synthetic paper works better.
Should I use blending solution or isopropyl alcohol?
Blending solution producers say that it retains the shine and avoids pigment break to a greater extent compared to alcohol. Both the mediums give slightly different results, so you have to choose based on the effect you are going for. I personally use 99% pure Iso Propyl alcohol for all my work.
How can I make my own shades of ink?
In an empty dropper bottle, add a few drops of inks you want to mix, add a few drops of alcohol or blending solution, and voila, you have created a new shade. I use this method to create lighter versions of all the inks. You can also do the same process in a small plastic cup and use them with a pipette dropper.
How to use metallic inks?
Metallic inks are pigment based so you need to shake them well before using. After that:
Put metallic inks on top of blending solution, alcohol or ink, not directly on paper.
Dilute the metallic inks with alcohol before using (optional).
Go easy, use just a few drops.
Blow from one direction to get clusters or lines of gold instead of a scattered effect.
Do alcohol inks fade?
Unfortunately yes, alcohol inks are dye-based and not very light-fast, so the art will fade away and get dull over time even after sealing with sprays and resin. I do not have very old pieces with me so I don't know the exact rate at which they get faded. But as I've read in communities, inks do fade, some colors more than the others. All the top alcohol ink manufactures are trying to make them more lightfast. They are innovating and hopefully, soon we'll have a better quality of inks. For now, try to use renowned brands that are trying to improve their product.
How long will it take for alcohol ink art to fade?
The medium is so new that nobody has the perfect answer for this. The oldest ones I have are about one year old. Some have faded a bit even after spraying, and some have not faded at all. The lightest transparencies seem to fade faster. If you are selling original art, please inform your customer about fading.
So what's the best way to keep your alcohol ink paintings safe?
Always keep your art away from direct sunlight or bright light. After doing a lot of research online, asking the ink companies, and reading what experts have to say, the best way is to scan or photograph your art in high resolution and then get archival prints of the art. Unfortunately, the gold color doesn't get printed.