Overview: Alcohol ink is an acid-free, vividly-colored, alcohol-based dye that is liquid, translucent and fast drying. It is best used on non-porous surfaces (e.g. ceramics). Mixing colors can create a vibrant, marbled, and fluid effect. Alcohol inks come in bottles. Distress inks and India inks are NOT alcohol inks and will not produce the same effect.

Basics: The main ingredients are dye and alcohol, but even within the same brand, the percentages of those ingredients differ. Alcohol is what causes the ink to move; dye is the pigment that remains after the alcohol evaporates. An ink with a higher alcohol content will move more when applied, while one with less alcohol will move less. We highly recommend looking at Sheryl Williams “Understanding Alcohol Ink” #1 and #2 videos here to get a foundation in the basics of why alcohol ink behaves so differently than other painting mediums. They’re short, clear explanations that really help the beginner.

Ink Brands: A few main brands are most often mentioned in the Alcohol Ink Community: Tim Holtz Adirondack®, Spectrum Noir®, Jaquard® Pinata® Copic®* and Zig Kurecolor® and Shinhan®. 

  • The Two Biggies: Holtz® and Pinata®: Tim Holtz® and Jacquard Pinata® are the brands most frequently mentioned as being  regularly used  by our community members (perhaps because they are more available at retail outlets). Pinata® gets high marks for bright colors and staying true, and is often described as being a little thicker than the Holtz® ink. Holtz® has more colors and is preferred by painters wanting a more muted palette. In terms of mixatives, a majority of readers prefer Holtz Snowcap for an opaque white, while a majority of readers prefer Pinata® Gold.
  • Other bottle ink observations:  Regarding stability and colorfastness across all the brands (after sealing, resining, etc), different members have different experiences. However, Pinata® seems to have the most fans for colorfastness. *Copic® makes refills for their markers which come in bottles and many people use the refills as they would use the inks from other brands that come in bottles. Copic® brand tends to be higher-priced, but they have over 300 colors and the inks and markers match.
  • Popular art marker brands are Spectrum Noir®, Copic® and Sharpie®, Prismacolor® 

  • Additional info: Prismacolors® are noted to match Holtz® inks. Copics® are very often mentioned as the “gold standard” of markers with Spectrum Noir® getting frequent praise as well.  Copic® markers now make a “air trigger” system that can attach your marker to an airbrush device, which can be powered by either an airbrush compressor or canned air.

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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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