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What is Alcohol Ink?

By N. Phipps
Updated May 17, 2024
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Alcohol ink is specifically formulated to create interesting patterns and effects on a number of craft projects. The acid-free ink is permanent and dries fairly quickly. It is used to produce a shiny, metallic background or finish. Alcohol inks adhere easily to a variety of materials, many of which are often difficult to apply colorants to. While glossy paper provides better results, this ink can also be applied to acrylic, plastic, metal, foil, glass, and many non-porous surfaces.

Alcohol ink projects are used for creating interesting backgrounds. These include backgrounds for cards, scrapbooks, ornaments, altered books, and the like. Since the ink is translucent, different color layering effects can be achieved. The single effect technique is the easiest to use and provides numerous effects.

Alcohol ink can be diluted with a blending solution or rubbing alcohol. It can also be used straight, depending on the project, individual preferences, and desired effect. For instance, a blending solution adds more subtle coloring effects whereas undiluted alcohol inks result in a more metallic finish. The ink can also be applied to an applicator rather than directly onto paper.

Using small squeeze bottles, dots of alcohol ink in one or more color are placed on the applicator and blotted over the paper or other surface. Applicator pads or stamps are available for use or transparencies can be used instead for applying the ink. Rubber stamps, however, are not recommended. The alcohol tends to dry out the rubber, making it unsuitable for use.

Depending on the size and amount of dots, the effects will vary. Generally, no more than two or three colors are used, as too many can result in a muddy-looking appearance. The use of blending solution or rubbing alcohol will help encourage the alcohol ink dots to blend together more smoothly. This is normally sprayed or spritzed lightly onto the paper or surface.

When using a transparency on the background, a dampened cloth is used to wipe down the surface. This allows the alcohol ink to flow easily along the surface. Ink drops are then applied to the transparency and allowed to dry. Once dry, the background is ready to be embellished further or left as is.

While alcohol inks are widely available from craft suppliers, homemade alcohol ink can also be used. However, the homemade ink may not bond as well to non-porous surfaces. The colors may not be as vibrant either. To make the ink, a higher strength solution of rubbing alcohol is recommended—at least 90 percent. Fabric dye is used to provide color and is mixed with the rubbing alcohol. This homemade ink is applied and used much like the commercial brands.

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Discussion Comments
By debbadoozy — On Jun 23, 2012

So sorry. I didn't read first and I submitted my problem and not a comment. I do have a comment for anon103318. I definitely read that you could mix alcohol ink with White Out to change the color. I may have read this online because I just ordered some.

By debbadoozy — On Jun 23, 2012

Do you know what the binder is in alcohol ink? I assume that the alcohol is the solvent or vehicle. Is this correct? How about fabric dye. Do you know what the binder is in fabric dye? I have been trying to find this out for months. It's become an obsession. Thank you.

By anon103318 — On Aug 11, 2010

Do you think mixing alcohol ink, say a colored one, with White Out Correction Fluid would work when applied to paper? Would it mix fluidly, dry fast and when written upon, look all right? Companies nationwide are no longer producing "green out" and I was trying to be creative in making some for our large company who uses the product every day.

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