Guest Blog Post by Design Team Member Pat Mathes
Comments in Italics by Deb
My final journey with the Design Team is working with alcohol inks. I love the bold look of the finished process, and am learning to refine those colors into soothing looks. It is all in the process. I am by no means an expert in this – I am just the opposite, a novice but willing to learn. I will warn you right now that you need to wear gloves with this media. I didn’t at first and ended up with yellow and green fingers. And this is a very permanent ink. The craft scrubbie is a must for any mixed media artist, and it did take off a bit, but not much. So WEAR GLOVES! Protect your clothing and your workspace. I used my Ranger nonstick craft sheet, also available at Blue Twig Studio, to protect my table. (I do protect my table, but rarely wear gloves myself. I kind of like the ink on my hands – makes me feel like I actually did something creative!)
Alcohol inks are an acid-free, highly-pigmented, and fast drying medium to be used on non-porous surfaces. You work with drops from the bottle, not a paint brush (although I do teach using the paintbrush in my Exploring Alcohol Inks Class – which will probably be on the schedule sometime in the summer, so watch for it.). There is a wide variety of colors. The two most popular brands are Adirondack and Pinata. The major difference between the two is the color palette. The Adirondack line of colors is very earthy and rich. The Pinata inks are rich, but basically primary colors. And bright. The Adirondacks are a bit more fluid, also. The Adirondack inks are softer, and the Pinata quickly overpowers with its color. Vivid primary colors. If you mix the two on a project, and they are mixable, the Pinata will be the dominant colors because of the intensity. Both brands of ink are very fast drying.
As I work through these examples, you will note I talk about the ink moving. This is one of the great ways this ink works. If you pick up the paper and tilt it, the ink moves on top of the paper. If you put blending solution on it, the inks move. So when I say the ink is moving, it is doing just that. It sits on top of whatever surface you are using.
Tools needed: (1) Surface: Alcohol inks do not work well on paper. The drops just sink into the paper. I did some experimenting with a piece of gesso painted wood and got a different effect – you don’t get the bloom on the drops as much and you don’t get the flow. The inks work great on any other surface – plastic, metal, glass, and on Yupo, my favorite, which is a plastic paper that you can purchase at Blue Twig Studio either already cut or in a large sheet you can cut to the size you want. The Yupo has a surface that really works well with the alcohol inks. (2) Blending Tool (available at Blue Twig Studio). You drop drops of the different colors on it and pounce with it, and you will get different effects. On the pieces in this article, I will tell you when I used the blending tool.
(3) Alcohol Blending Solution – an awesome product. If you put some on the blending tool and daub it on a finished piece, it dilutes and lightens the effect of the alcohol ink. The solution will also clean the alcohol ink off of surfaces, hands and tools. You can also use 91% rubbing alcohol. I have a water pen and a spray bottle filled with the rubbing alcohol. Please note that you need 91% rubbing alcohol, not the everyday kind you probably have in your cabinet. There are a couple of examples below where I used the pen or the spray.
First, I am going to show you some comparison studies I did with the alcohol inks, using Yupo paper and glossy photo paper.
***I have put 3 different colors on the blending tool, dropping them around randomly. You don’t totally cover the pad on the tool – you will get the feel of how many drops to use. (See the tool below in picture 12 of the domino) On the Yupo paper, using the blending tool, it has a much softer appearance and a slight bloom. On the glossy paper, it is more intense and the inks don’t move. You can pounce the tool over and over. On the Yupo paper, the ink sits on top of the under colors and blooms a little more, not darkening. On the glossy paper the ink just sits on top of what you already did and darkens more, not moving any.
*** I put blending solution on the blending tool and swiped it through the first sample below. You will note that with the Yupo paper, it smeared and spread the inks. The effect on the glossy photo paper was that it didn’t do much to what was already down, it just smeared it a bit. These were both dry when I used the blending solution.
**When you put a drop of another color on top of a color on the Yupo paper (below left), it blooms and you get that neat ring around it – on the glossy paper, it doesn’t show a lot of effect. It doesn’t move the bottom color at all and in fact overpowers it.
****The next sample is another one of layering the colors. And then I took the water pen filled with alcohol and swiped through them to see what effect I would get. You can see with the Yupo paper, it removes the ink. On the glossy paper, it doesn’t hardly have any effect.
On the Yupo paper, you can keep layering colors, and even drop the alcohol solution in it, and each drop will bloom on top of the others. Here are some examples of this. In picture 1 I layered 3 colors. You can see how they bloom on top of each other, creating those rings of intensity. In picture 2, I dropped a drop of alcohol blending solution. See how it lessened the intensity of the color? In picture 3 I dropped a drop of white on top and then spritzed with rubbing alcohol. It creates “droplets” on top.
***Next, I wanted to try some marbling. I put a thick layer of shaving foam on a paper plate and dropped some drops of alcohol ink on top. I then took a pallet knife and cut through it, kind of swirling the inks. After you place the paper into the foam and pick it up, you just take a palette knife or paper towel and wipe off the foam to reveal the colors and lay it aside to dry. The picture on the left was done using card stock and the picture on the right is the same process using Yupo paper (the three lighter ones) and on the far right are the glossy paper. You can see that the colors are more intense on the card stock and glossy paper than on the Yupo paper. So it would depend on the appearance you wanted. These are now ready for embellishing. At this point you could use these as backgrounds for a greeting card – collage on them, draw on them, do Zentangle on them – any kind of art.
Once alcohol inks are dry, you can write or draw on them with many media – remember, they are not water based so you won’t smear them with a water based media on top.
****The next sample I really enjoyed doing. But doing this with the alcohol inks, you have to work fast because they dry so quickly. I dropped Pinata inks (see how vivid the colors are) onto the Yupo paper, totally covering it. I used a bit of blending solution to move the colors around a bit (this also extended the drying time a bit), and then I wrapped the paper in plastic wrap. I left it to dry overnight. When I released the plastic wrap the next day the effect was beautiful. In the third picture, I did another piece using Adirondack colors which gave a more subtle effect. (this is a great way to create special effects)
***And then there are dreamscapes. This is the idea of June Rollins (she has beautiful AI work and many tutorials available). You lay down lines of the alcohol ink across the page, add blending solution and tilt the paper to make the ink flow. Then you add another color and do the same thing. You take coffee stirrers and move the ink flow. You take an old credit card and move it. Get the picture? Her pieces are beautiful – these are my first two attempts. These take a lot of practice to get them to really work right. I just love the looks of flow that you can get with these inks.
Next one turned into kind of a hot mess. I put down a mix of colors and then laid a stencil on top. I dropped the blue through the stencil. That is the outer part. You let it sit a while and you can kind of see the stencil. I didn’t like the way it did the inner part, so I put another stencil on top and dropped clear blending solution on it. That created the small circles you see. So the overall effect is okay, and I took a silver Uniball pen and a microperm pen and did a tangle on it.
**I dropped ink on the blending tool and pounced it on a blank domino (just an inexpensive plastic domino). These are fun to collage on, punch hole through and make necklaces.
***To show a couple other effects, I did a light background, then placed the circle stencil on top of it. I put blending solution on the blending tool and pounced through the stencil. This took the ink off in those places. Then I used a stamp with Ranger Archival Ink and stamped on the bottom. On the right hand side, this is one of the earlier pieces where I showed drops on top of each other. I inked my stamp with Ranger Archival Ink (has to be this type of ink) and then took a damp paper towel and removed the ink. I wasn’t careful enough and did smear it a bit, but you get the general effect – it removes the color just like the blending solution does.
Last but not least, here I just used drops of color on the blending tool, pounced it all over the Yupo paper, then used some blending solution on top of it and pounced some more. I also did some drops directly on the Yupo paper. Once it dried, I did some quick art on top of it with white gel pen and black Microperm.
When I step out of my comfort zone and work on something new, I am sometimes quickly frustrated. It doesn’t look the way I think it should or the way that the picture/video I am working from looks. I expect perfection from myself and it should be easy peasy. But that doesn’t happen. It takes practice, and finessing techniques my way, and coming up with a way that works for me. That way I can start to develop my own style. This was a really fun way to step out of my comfort zone!! I see more playing in my future!
Thanks Pat for a great tutorial. Alcohol Inks are fun and addictive to use. There are many more ways you can use them besides what Pat has shared here. She is right that you just need to start playing and developing your own style to use them. One of the wonders of AI is that you really have just a minimum of control and that takes some getting used to.
Blue Twig Studio sells all the Ranger Adirondack Alcohol Inks and the Pinata Alcohol Inks, as well as the Yupo paper and various tools, including craft sheets (although everything may not be listed on the website). Watch the Class Schedule for the next Exploring Alcohol Inks class – which I try to do once or twice a year. It is a great way to play and experiment with various surfaces and tools. I love to see which techniques/surfaces/tools the students love and which ones they ignore.
Let Your Inner Artist out to Play
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5039 N Academy Blvd
Colorado Springs, CO 80918