How Do You Seal Alcohol Ink Art?

by | Mar 29, 2018 | FAQs

Overview: There are a lot of variables to the necessity of sealing your alcohol ink. Three things don’t vary. 

  • If you care about keeping your work as you created it, YOU NEED TO SEAL YOUR WORK. 
  • Sealing is a complex subject and takes time to understand and to execute.  Many people spend as much time or more on the sealing process as the painting process. Don’t dismiss it or underestimate the amount of work sealing takes. (Many of our most experienced contributors have been known to sigh and roll their eyes when this subject comes up. One calls it “going down the ‘sealing’ rabbit hole.”) 
  • All sealing options involve stuff not healthy to breathe. Read and comply with the labels of the products you choose. Masks, gloves and well-ventilated rooms are your friends. Some folks are highly sensitive and others not as much. Pay attention to your own body when inking or sealing.  Don’t ignore a headache, or any other symptoms. Don’t assume because you don’t smell it, it’s healthy to breathe. Plan ahead for sealing, so you can do it in an effective and safe way. (Plus, products are affected by temperature, humidity, and can be messy enough to require tarps and other protec

See our video gallery for Sealing Alcohol Ink

 

The Bare Minimum: Kamar® & UV protection: The simplest option, nearly universally agreed upon, is 2-3 coats of Krylon Kamar® spray and a UV protectant. The product most recommended for UV protectant is Krylon UV-Resistant Clear Gloss. The application sequence of these two don’t seem to matter.

Kamar® seems to be the only fixative which everyone agrees does not reactivate alcohol inks. That means that almost any other sealant, whether sprayed, brushed or otherwise applied, may cause your painting to melt, morph or dissolve in front of your eyes. (Note: Some people think that Art Resin® will provide all the protections of Kamar® and UV, so if using Art Resin®, they skip Kamar® and UV. Others disagree.)

  • Most people agree that several light coats of Kamar® spray with a waiting period between them is best. It is also true that the distance you hold the spray can from the artwork matters. Too close and you can overdo it and create drips of Kamar®. Too far and the mist can combine to make larger uneven drops by the time it hits the painting, coating unevenly.
  • One important Kamar® caveat: at the time of this writing, Kamar® is not available in all countries. Alternatives to Kamar® are not generally agreed on. Some alternates mentioned are: Winsor & Newton® Professional gloss spray varnish, Varnish 300 from Montana®, Ghiant® spray varnishes, Rustoleum Crystal Clear®,  and Liquitex® professional Gloss varnish. Some non U.S-based inkers theorize that the formulas for the sprays are not identical from country to county. What IS agreed upon is that testing the spray on a sample before working on the finished piece is a good practice. Whatever you use as a Kamar® alternative must be water based. Many fixatives are alcohol based, and, for that reason, will re-activate the inks, causing them to move. When considering a Kamar® alternative, read the label or ask the clerk, eliminating all options that are alcohol based.   

Why UV protection?

Alcohol inks are dye-based, not pigment based. They are not are light fast, (but the manufacturers are working to improve on this.)

Other Sealers (adding to the bare minimum of Kamar® and UV)

If you are making coasters, or ceramic pieces that must stand up to heat and moisture, near universal opinion says Kamar® and UV are not enough. After uses, especially with heat, the surface of the coaster will be damaged.  

There are MANY, MANY options for sealing if you go beyond Kamar® and UV and many artists use these additional options for all sorts of work, not just coasters.  If you are creating wall art that you will frame, Kamar® and UV, under glass, are considered enough.

  • Resin is the best known, most-discussed, and currently most popular additional method of sealing. Applying resin is not a small undertaking. It is not inexpensive. It takes 72 hours to cure. It is sticky. It is messy. It needs space where it can cure undisturbed, where dust, hair etc. will not be stirred up and get stuck to it while drying. It needs to be done in temperatures over 60 Fahrenheit. That being said, many of our best contributors adore it. Most people say that it adds stature and beauty to the color and quality of most works of alcohol ink. Unless you are working on a substrate that is better served by framing under glass, you probably should consider resin. It is not a must, but it’s a choice favored by many.
    • Art Resin® is the brand most frequently recommended by our members who resin including several of our leading contributors. Its site says it offers UV protection and fixative protection. It is significantly more expensive than most other resins.  It also has fairly solid evidence that it yellows less over time:

Other sealant options: 

  • Liquitex Acrylic Pouring Medium® (does not need mixing, less toxic, but doesn’t harden like resin) A good video about this option: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBAzfxWKMHY
  • Tri-color Liquid Glass®: This is a medium just recently discovered by the AI community. Good reviews so far as an alternative to resin. Does not require mixing, does not harden to the degree resin does. 
  • Envirotex® 
  • Polycrylic® (brush on or spray) 
  • Rustoleum® High Heat Gloss Sprays
  • Dupli-color® Engine Enamel
  • Amazing®Clear Cast (available at Hobby Lobby)
  • Rejuvenate® (floor wax available through Walmart)
  • Craftsmart® Liquid Gloss Resin (In Australia)
  • Krylon® Triple Thick Clear

No sealant that we know of is labelled “food-safe.” So design alcohol ink dishes, mugs, etc around the notion that neither food nor a person’s mouth should touch sealant (On mugs that means outside and below drinking line).  We have noticed that the high heat/automotive sprays (alternates for resining coasters) produce more than the average toxic fumes. Although their finish stands up, many artists avoid them because of the toxicity.

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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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40 Comments

  1. Judy Huck

    If you are coating ceramic tiles that you plan on using as coasters with resin is it necessary to coat with anything before adding the resin?

    Reply
    • Nikki

      I used Art Resin on my painted coasters (white bathroom tiles) with no other sealant and they turned out great.

      Reply
  2. Pamela Gravett

    If I was to use the engine enamel on my ceramic coasters would they be heatproof?

    Reply
  3. Judy Huck

    For those who have used the tri art liquid glass on alcohol ink projects is it heat resistant?

    Reply
  4. SARA T POWELL

    I am going to try
    Rustoleum engine enamel on some tile coasters. Would you recommend using the Krylon UV spray first?

    Reply
    • Pam Bravett

      You need to seal first with Krylon Kamar and then the uva followed by the engine enamel, if you spray directly with uva the ink will move. Hope this helps.

      Reply
      • Suzzanne

        I did Kamar, UV, and then engine enamel. The ink on my tile moved. I think this is because I didn’t wait long enough between coats. Any thoughts? I really want to make coasters and just can’t seem to figure this out!

        Reply
        • Kshama Thakkar

          How do we seal alcohol ink on ceramic tiles that is dishwasher safe and heat safe

          Reply
          • Alcohol Ink Art Community

            The only thing that I know of that might work would be a food-safe expoxy resin. I would check with the resin companies to check on the dishwasher safe requirement, as well as the maximum temps that they can with-stand.

  5. Youtu.Be

    This is a good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Short but very accurate info… Many thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

    Reply
  6. Dorita

    I used alcohol ink on the inside of glass Christmas ornaments. Do I need to use a sealant since the ink is not exposed? If I do, any recommendations on what to use? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Alcohol Ink Art Community

      I think you are good without sealing these as they are inside the glass. If you painted on the outside of the ornament, we would definitely use the Kamar or similar sealer.

      Reply
  7. Deborah Taffel

    I want to paint a metal menorah. Would I bake it in an oven to seal it?

    Reply
  8. Nikki

    I just wanted to add to this – per Art Resin’s FAQ page it is food safe once it cures. I can definitely say that tomato-based foods will stain it though 🙁

    Reply
  9. Jean

    Most helpful post that I’ve found on my alcohol ink journey!
    Thank you!

    Reply
  10. JeanMarie

    Man has sealing been a journey for me!! I too made coasters and used automotive clear coat to protect them pet another video I watched and it effect the inks but mainly the Rich Gold! It totally disappeared!!! ‍♀️

    Reply
  11. Pamela B

    When sealing a cup with resin my ink always runs. I can not find a way to keep this from happening but still getting the look and finish of resin. What would you suggest to keep this from happening? I am using a very thin layer.

    Reply
  12. Magz

    I got my niece hooked on AI and her drama class is stamping a vinyl like photo album cover – any recommendations on a sealer that won’t crack when it’s opened and closed? Excellent post. Thanks for the help!

    Reply
  13. Deanne Demyer

    Just fyi, Artresin is not uv protective, it has an ingredient which protects the resin from yellowing. I talked to the company and finally they clarified this and said that it DOES NOT protect any substrate (such as alcohol ink) from uv light.

    Reply
  14. POOJA VIJAY

    I have used AI on a tile, and got a brustro varnish/sealer instead of karmar. Do I now apply a thin layer of mod podge on my painting and then Apply a coat of resin to seal it for gloss finish?
    I had once directly put resin on my AI painting and it reacted with AI.

    Reply
    • Alcohol Ink Art Community

      You have to use a sealer to “set” the alcohol ink or it will reactivate and move the ink. That’s why we suggest Kamar… and are on a constant quest to find alternatives… but you need to “set” the ink first, then you can use a UV and gloss sealer/varnish.

      Reply
      • Phillip Carrero

        I am a reseller of Krylon Kamar. We have run out of stock of Krylon Kamar every time since alcohol inks started in Australia. Importers do not want to over supply in case the demand dies and they end up with hundreds of cans nobody wants.
        So, someone has to come up to an alternative for the out of stock times. It would be much easier to split the supply between two or three brands, rather than suggest just one.

        Reply
        • DreaD70

          Phillip, I think that’s the point of this article…no one has identified any true alternatives. We struggle with the same issue in the US, stores often run out and do not have an alternative to offer. In fact just this evening I went to three Walmart stores before finding the Kamar, the first two stores aren’t even carrying it anymore. And earlier today I looked for it at a Home Depot where I’ve purchased it in the past, but they no longer carry it either. My concern is if it something that is being slowly removed from our local stores, what will we use next? That’s how I got to this article, looking for an alternative as back up. LOL Maybe someone should plea to Krylon to make sure it doesn’t go away. 🙂

          Reply
  15. EveG

    Can you do the 3 step spray sealer process in the cold weather? I have a screened in porch to spray on but how will the cold affect the different sealers like Kamar varnish etc. Would hate to have to do this fun project only in Spring. Can’t really make holiday gifts if I can’t spray outside! I’d appreciate some advice!
    Thanks,
    EVe

    Reply
    • Alcohol Ink Art Community

      I do spray outdoors in the cold, but then I transfer my work inside (in a storage area) after an hour or so, where it’s warmer to dry and cure properly.

      Reply
    • DreaD70

      I have learned that I can take my stuff outside to spray as long as the spray and the surface are room temp-ish. After about 10 minutes to let the fumes dissipate I bring them inside to cure and have not had any issues. But once I left the project outside in the cool for a couple hours and the spray left a distinct texture. It felt dry to the touch but extremely rough.

      Reply
  16. Cynthia Fordyce

    Hi Looked at several videos using alcohol ink on the inside of wine glasses. I can’t imagine doing it that way and sealing it, then drinking from it. I believe it should be used on the outside. Am I correct? Thanks

    Reply
    • Alcohol Ink Art Community

      Yes. We don’t recommend it on any surface that will serve food, as it’s not proven food safe….especially the sealing process in this video. Instead paint on the outside and stay away from the rim of the bowl or glass. I have seen some artists use art resin to seal pieces such as cutting boards. ArtResin has been declared food safe. Here’s an article about that. https://alcoholink.community/artresin-food-safe-alcohol-ink/

      Reply
  17. Bettina Sørlie

    Hi!
    Krylon is not available in Norway. I’ve been searching for alternatives and came over a varnish called H2O gloss varnish which is water based and UV- resistant. So here you get step 1 and 2 in one bottle.
    Do you think this varnish is a good alternative to Krylon?
    Thanks.
    Best, Bettina

    Reply
    • Alcohol Ink Art Community

      Bettina, I would definitely try it on a sample piece first to see if it works. Being water-based, it should work as long as it doesn’t have other chemicals in it that would activate the ink.

      Reply
  18. arden

    I just ordered a can of Krylon Kamar Varnish online. While I waited for its arrival, decided to try other mediums. Here are my testing results, alcohol ink on ceramic mugs and bowls:

    1) Rustoleum Crystal Clear contains acetone and will liquefy the ink. In some areas, the modified designs/pattern did not look half bad. Obviously, you don’t want your work to be altered.

    2) Mod Podge super hi-shine clear acrylic sealer. This also contains acetone but it did not alter the designs/pattern as badly as Rustoleum. At the end of the day, I will not use this on alcohol ink again.

    3) Mod Podge dishwasher safe gloss. This worked really well. None of the patterns/designs was altered.

    My intention is to seal the ceramic with Mod Podge dishwasher safe gloss so that it can be used in the top rack of a dishwasher. Unfortunately, I have to wait 28 days to see how the ink will be affected.

    I am excited to try Krylon Kamar.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas.

    Reply
  19. Brenda K

    I used Krylon Kamar Varnish light coat 3 times on my tiles with alcohol ink and the shine was lost – how do I get the shine back?

    Reply
  20. Anastasia

    Help ! I live in Switzerland and can not get Krylon Kamar and Krylon UV Archival.
    What can I replace Krylon with? Which brand or product? I need to seal my alcohol inks paintings before a coat of resin by MasterCast. I truly appreciate yr help – i am desperate to move on with my work but am block cos I cant find these producta

    Reply
  21. Pam

    Hi! Since Krylon can’t be shipped to my country and I find that other water-based sealants don’t work well with my alcohol ink paintings can I only put glass over them when framing? Will it be enough to seal them?

    Reply
    • Alcohol Ink Art Community

      Yes. You could. Don’t hang in direct sunlight, however. The main reason we seal is because the alcohol inks are not lightfast, which means they will face in sunlight and some other light exposures. We need to add a UV protectant for this… but if you add the UV protectant directly to the painting, the inks will move, so you have to spray a barrier layer of Kamar first. Hope this makes sense.

      Reply
  22. DreaD70

    In the paragraph titled, The Bare Minimum: Kamar® & UV protection you state in the last sentence that it doesn’t matter whether or not you apply Kamar or the UV first, but it DOES matter.

    “The simplest option, nearly universally agreed upon, is 2-3 coats of Krylon Kamar® spray and a UV protectant. The product most recommended for UV protectant is Krylon UV-Resistant Clear Gloss. The application sequence of these two don’t seem to matter.”

    If you apply UV first, it DOES make the ink run. I know this because I grabbed the UV by mistake and didn’t realize it until I sprayed and the ink melted and moved.

    Just thought I’d share and maybe save someone some aggravation.

    Reply
  23. DreaD70

    I just found this article about ArtResin and in it the author discusses hw AR is food-safe and non-toxic. The author also states that is not recommended to use AR on items that would come in contact with hot items , i.e. coasters, mugs, and trivets because it can only withstand temps up to 120 F.

    https://alcoholink.community/artresin-food-safe-alcohol-ink/

    Resins made for countertops tend to have a higher resistance to high temps, for example, KSResin and StoneCoat claim up to 400 F…quite a difference, a lot more industrial/durable as well because they have UV protection and qualities that make them scratch resistant too.

    ArtResin is better with non-functional projects such as paintings, not items that are intended for daily use/wear & tear.

    Reply
  24. Rebecca

    Does this 3-step process (Krylon kamar varnish/UV sealant/resin) work for tiles that would be installed in a home remodel? Specifically, for a tile backsplash in a kitchen, or installed in a shower?

    Also, is there a matte resin we could use for a backsplash if we wanted the AI tiles to blend in with other matte-finished tile? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Alcohol Ink Art Community

      I would not trust this process for use in a home remodel project. It probably wouldn’t hold up on the wear an tear of the tile. I would think a thin resin coat would work, but use the KAMAR Varnish first to “fix” the ink.

      Reply

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