How Do I Get Started with Alcohol Ink?

by | Mar 29, 2018 | FAQs

Start by browsing  our community’s video page:

Continue by watching videos on YouTube!  Subscribe to the AI community channel.  Use ‘alcohol ink’ as a search term.

  • Use our Supply List here
  • Short do’s and don’ts for your first session: Breathe. You can do this. Ease in. Don’t get overwhelmed by the options. As one reader commented: “Get a bottle of alcohol, some dollar store paint brushes and a 4.99 3 pack of inks from Joann’s.” or “I started simply by taking sharpies. Scribbling a bit on a tile. Literally scribbling and the dropping or dabbing alcohol on it to see the reaction. When I saw what it could do I was ready to buy some ink and Yupo® but I still do most of my work on tile.”


  • Detailed list for your first session:
    • Buy an easily-obtained non-porous substrate (what you paint on). Some common options are Yupo®, the back of photo paper (Costco’s Kirkland Brand is highly recommended), or plain ceramic tiles from the hardware store.
    • A couple colors: You don’t need every color to start with. You can buy 3-6 bottles of ink. We recommend at least one from the family each primary color (yellow,red, blue). With those you can mix to any color.
    • Buy a bottle of alcohol from the drug store. Isopropyl alcohol, 91% if possible.
    • Start checking the AI community frequently. Look at what others do and find your own groove, with the advantage of being exposed to a wide range of experience and talent from the start!
    • Prepare to get messy. Put down plastic/tarp on the nearby floor, cover your work surface, probably with plastic and paper towels. Paper towels are your FRIEND! Banish pets and other unpredictable buddies to another space while you’re painting.
    • Play. Apply the ink several different ways. Stamp or paint: with felt, from the bottle, or a with a Q-tip, brush, or anything else you can find (Coffee stirrer! Finger! Check out all the options on our Supply list under Application or Manipulation.) There is no wrong way to do this.
    • Feel free to start over. Multiple times. Alcohol ink wipes out easily, which can help you not fret about mistakes when you’re starting out.
    • See what works and what you like. Branch out as your fancy dictates (Painted on only tiles? Try some Yupo®! Used only Holtz ink? Try a Pinata®! Loving the q-tip? Pick up a cosmetic sponge, pour it on, or try a marker!)
    • When you’re ready, post your work on the AI Community Facebook page. You’ll be surprised how supportive and varied the feedback is that you’ll get!
    • Be prepared to get hooked. The one thread that connects the community here is that from the newest newbie to the most experienced pro, we LOVE the process of painting with alcohol ink. All of us get a little loopy (happy? Drunk? Mesmerized? Hypnotized? Infatuated?) with the actual application and movement of the inks.
    • LEAVE IT BE!  If all the members of this community could agree on one thing in terms of technique it’s probably that, with alcohol ink, “Less is often more.”  Many beginners, not used to the magic and beauty of the medium when left to its own devices, will serendipitously achieve a fabulous painting in 10 minutes, but not believe our own eyes and keep messing with it. The most experienced painters here all know, with this medium in particular, stepping away and leaving a piece for a few minutes NEVER hurts! Alcohol ink can compose itself, sometimes. It has its own particular flow that is often not easily adjusted by fussy human hands. If you like what you see, don’t assume doing more will be better!   Many of us have seen a wonderful piece of work lose quality because we couldn’t leave it alone. If more is needed, you can add it later, after some moments of reflection.
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The Alcohol Ink Art Community is a community of artists who work with or want to learn to work with alcohol ink as an art medium.

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  1. Jolie wheeler

    Thank you so much laurie for sharing all the wonderful tips and sending to me via email so i dont miss them. I honestly learn something new everyday about this magical medium.

  2. Linda

    To create alcohol ink trivets, I’ve been told that due to the heat created by the dish placed on the trivets that it’s necessary to use a different type of sealer; i.e., clear engine oil spray.

    Does anyone have any experience or suggestions for trivets?


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