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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Laurie "Trumpet" Williams is an alcohol ink artist and founder of the Alcohol Ink Art Community. She is also a digital marketing consultant helping artists and small businesses with online marketing strategies. Check out Laurie's full bio here: Laurie Trumpet Williams, Alcohol Ink Artist & Instructor.

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