By Barbara Nahmias

Sealing and Protecting Alcohol Ink Art on TileMany alcohol ink artists paint on ceramic tile. Tile painting is popular because tiles are smooth and non-porous allowing the inks to flow beautifully. It is also popular because tiles make great gifts as coasters, trivets and small art pieces. Alcohol ink tends to “flake off” ceramic tile if it is not sealed. In my earlier days of painting on tile, I did not know this. I sold a few tiles and gave some as gifts and was very dismayed to hear that they did not last. Even those that had just been sitting on little easels as art pieces eventually dried out and flaked. I offered to repair and seal them, but that didn’t work out too well either. Eventually, through trial and error, and learning from other artists, I found solutions to this problem.

Before deciding how to seal your tile, you need to determine how it will be used. If it is an art piece that will be framed or displayed on a small easel, it can be sealed with a brush-on, water-based sealer like “Liquitex Gloss Varnish” or “Ranger Gloss Multi-Medium.” Varnishes that are not water-based, either brush-on or spray, will act as solvents and totally destroy your work. I learned this the hard way! The key to using these brush-on sealers is to use a very soft, clean brush and apply one coat very lightly. Do not go over your brush strokes multiple times. If you do, it will create “drag” and begin to move the inks around.

Another option for art pieces is a spray-on sealer. I have tried many, but I get my best results by spraying one light coat of “Krylon Kamar Varnish on a totally dry piece. I allow the varnish to dry for about an hour. To further protect the tile and create a shinier finish, I then spray several light coats (with at least 30 minutes drying time between each) of “Krylon Triple-thick Crystal Clear Glaze”. I then set the tile out to dry overnight in an area that is not dusty. Once I set a tile to dry by an open window and ended up with a lot of dust debris embedded in the sealer!

If you are going to use your tile as a coaster (usually a 4 ¼ “ x 4 ¼”) or trivet (6” x 6”) you will need a harder, more protective finish. For this, I suggest artist’s resin- a 2-part epoxy resin that is mixed in a one-to-one ratio and then poured onto the tile. This is a somewhat messy process that also requires 24 hours for the resin to cure and dry properly. You must follow the mixing directions precisely or you will get “sticky” results. As with spray and brush-on sealers, you must protect your piece from dust while it dries. Also, you will need to wipe away any drips from the sides with a flat stick. Yes- this is a big production and there is a learning curve, however, the results are amazing! You end up with a clear-as-glass, shiny, hard finish that is just beautiful. Tim Holtz, the maker of Adirondack Alcohol Inks, sells a resin called “ICE.” I have also used “EnviroTex Lite Acabado Brilliante Resin.” It is a little cheaper and I don’t notice any difference in the results.

Finally, I finish coasters and trivets with a stick-on cork backing. You can usually find these as well as small display easels on Amazon.com. I buy my tile frames and boxes (to inlay tiles) on Aftosa.com. I glue them into the frames or boxes with a small amount of Gorilla Glue. The glue tends to expand and does not wipe off easily so beware! I ruined a tile and frame once by using too much glue. Here are a few photos of some of my favorite pieces.

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Barbara Nahmias is a self-taught artist, and art instructor living in Riverdale, New York. She defines herself as a “latent lifelong artist” who, until retirement from her position at a major media company, never had the time to nurture her creative expression. View Barbara's full profile and see her work!