Alcohol ink blooms and blends in fascinating ways, like the swirling bands of a galaxy or an explosion of multi-colored smoke. But while painting with alcohol ink looks complex, it’s actually very beginner-friendly.

With just a few supplies, you can learn how to manipulate ink into an organic, fluid work of art.  

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What Is Alcohol Ink? 

Flowy and transparent, alcohol ink is a highly pigmented, fast-drying, alcohol-based medium that can be layered and manipulated to create unique, abstract designs.

While alcohol inks can technically be used on any surface, they produce the most interesting effects on nonporous surfaces, like ceramic, glass, and metal, where they can move around freely. 

Many artists enjoy working with alcohol inks because they are unpredictable and behave unlike any other traditional art medium—so as a result, no two pieces are ever the same.

Alcohol ink is a forgiving and flexible medium; if you want to make changes to a dry piece, you can reactivate dried ink with alcohol. Just make sure to seal your piece when it is complete!

On a cream background, rose pink, light blue, and gold ink splotches form a swirling abstract form across the upper part of the image.
Alcohol inks produce unpredictable, abstract designs.

How to Use Alcohol Ink 

There are many different ways to use alcohol ink to produce beautiful pieces of art. Below, we share the basics of how to work with alcohol ink, followed by a few alcohol ink techniques you can use to move the fluid around your work surface. 

Step 1: Set Up Your Space

Before beginning any alcohol ink project, it’s important to understand how to safely work with the medium. Alcohol—and alcohol fumes—are highly flammable, so make sure no open flames (like candles) are near your workspace. Work outside or near an open window if possible, but if not, wear a respirator mask.

Alcohol ink can also stain, so lay a tarp underneath your work and wear gloves and clothes that you don’t mind getting messy. 

You will also need a nonporous surface for the ink. You can use Yupo paper (which is made with polypropylene), ceramic tile, glass, or metal.  

3 bottles of ink, purple, teal and pink on the left. And a finished alcohol ink with these colors on the right
Alcohol inks come in small squeeze bottles, which you can drop directly onto your work surface.

Step 2: Drop Alcohol Ink Onto Your Surface 

Gently squeeze your bottle of alcohol ink to drop a small amount of fluid onto your surface. Some inks will immediately begin to spread out, while others (generally, those that contain less alcohol) may stay in a more uniform dot.

As you blend and spread the ink—using the techniques explained below—you may need to add more fluid. Always start with a little and add more as you need it. 

Step 3: Add Blending Solution or Alcohol 

To encourage the alcohol ink to spread, it’s helpful to have blending solution or isopropyl alcohol on hand. When you drop the alcohol near the ink, it will displace the color that’s already on your surface, creating a marbling effect.

Use the following alcohol ink techniques to manipulate the medium. 

Technique 1: Flooding

If you want to fill your entire surface with color, flooding is a great technique. Simply use your alcohol ink and blending solution to coat the entire surface with color. Then, tilt your surface back and forth to allow the colors to mix, applying more drops of ink as needed. 

Technique 2: Air Manipulation 

Using air to move your ink around can create light, airy effects referred to as wisps or feathering. Blowing through a straw will generally give you the most control, although you could also use a hair dryer or can of compressed air. 

Technique 3: Paint Brush 

For a more controlled application of the ink, use a paint brush. The ink will generally still spread and blend, but you will have much more control to guide the ink to exactly where you want it to go. This is especially helpful for adding accents like metallic ink. 

You can achieve similar control with alcohol markers, which contain alcohol ink but spread far less. 

Technique 4: Toothbrush Flick 

Rather than adding blending solution or isopropyl alcohol to your surface in large drops, try flicking it onto your work with a toothbrush.

Simply dip a toothbrush into the solution, aim the bristles at your work, and use your finger to flick the bristles so the solution sprays onto the surface. This will create a unique, organic pattern of bubbles. 

Alcohol Ink Art: What Can You Create? 

What can you make with alcohol ink? From straightforward paintings to mixed media pieces, you can use alcohol ink to create a range of different projects. 

Make Unique Alcohol Ink Art

Alcohol Ink and Resin DIY Projects: Drink Coasters and Knobs!

Alcohol Ink Paintings

One of the most fundamental things you can create is, of course, a painting. You can create alcohol ink paintings on a range of different surfaces, including metal and Yupo paper.

And if abstract painting isn’t your thing, don’t worry—some artists create unbelievably realistic images by specializing in painting alcohol ink flowers, animals or landscapes. 

Alcohol Ink on Glass

You can certainly paint with alcohol ink on a flat pane of glass, but why limit yourself? You can just as easily use alcohol ink on glass pieces like vases and drinking glasses.

Rounded surfaces like these are perfect to highlight the ink’s abstract nature, and you can easily seal the alcohol ink with resin to ensure it lasts for years. 

Dried purple and gold paint in two wine glasses sitting on a table in front of a couch.
Paint with alcohol ink even on non-flat surfaces, like wine glasses. 

Alcohol Ink on Canvas

Because canvas is so porous, it’s not usually the best option for alcohol ink. It simply absorbs the ink too quickly, so the fluid can’t blend and marble like it otherwise would. But if you properly prime the canvas, you can use it to create beautiful alcohol ink artwork.

Choose a latex primer, and make sure the coat of primer is completely dry before adding alcohol ink on canvas. 

Alcohol Ink in Resin 

There are many things you can incorporate into resin projects, from flowers to clay, but using can add fun, abstract elements of color. To use alcohol ink in resin, it’s generally best to choose inks specifically designed to tint resin. Standard alcohol ink, on the other hand, may lose its vibrancy or affect the resin’s ability to set and cure.

As long as you use the right type of alcohol ink with resin, you can produce beautiful projects like alcohol ink and resin coasters and jewelry, with vibrant pops of color. 

Purple, green, and gold ink splotches suspended in a resin circle.
With the right supplies, you can use alcohol ink with resin to create unique and colorful projects, like these coasters.

Alcohol Ink Art Ideas

Alcohol Ink Coasters

By pairing alcohol ink with resin, you can create colorful, abstract coasters that are perfect to give as a gift or keep for your own home. 

Jewelry

Metal is a great medium for alcohol ink, so try adding alcohol ink to aluminum or stainless steel earrings or pendants—you’ll create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry!

3 necklaces on ribbons on the top left, 5 necklaces on chains on the right, medallion broken apart on bottom left. Each medallion has different color ink swirls in it and some have little simple images etched in them such as a sail boat or a tree.
Create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry with alcohol ink. 

Handmade Cards 

Handmade cards are a great way to express well wishes for a range of holidays and occasions, and with alcohol ink, you can enhance those cards with eye-catching abstract backgrounds. Just make sure to select a cardstock that’s designed for alcohol ink!

Geodes

You can create a simple and beautiful geode with alcohol ink and resin. By using gold alcohol ink, along with small gems, rocks, and glitter, you can produce a realistic rock slice. 

Teal and gold geode made of ink on a black background in a white square frame on a cream wall.
Create a realistic geode with metallic gold alcohol ink and resin.

Experiment With Alcohol Ink

Unlike other mediums that require precision, alcohol inks are forgiving and flexible—and, not to mention, mesmerizing to watch spread across your work surface.

There’s no such thing as a mistake when it comes to alcohol inks, so don’t be afraid to dive in and see what kind of abstract blooms of color you can create.  

Alcohol inks produce unpredictable, abstract designs.

Get Step-by-Step Instructions

The Basics of Alcohol Ink: Learning How to Create an Abstract Painting

Written by:

Katie Wolf