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Alcohol Inks - What You Need To Know Before You Start

Using alcohol inks can be a fun way to use colors and create backgrounds for stamping or card making. You can also use alcohol inks in painting and to add color to different surfaces such as glass and metals. The brightness of the color means that a small bottle will go a long way. Alcohol inks are an acid-free, highly-pigmented, and fast drying medium to be used on non-porous surfaces.  Mixing colors can create a vibrant marbled effect and the possibilities can only be limited by what you are willing to try. Read below to learn what supplies you will need for crafting with alcohol inks and other useful hints regarding these vibrant colors and mediums. 

Alcohol Ink Supplies


Alcohol inks come in a wide range of colors and pigments. Sold in .5 oz bottles, a little bit of ink is able to go a long way. Adirondack Alcohol Inks by Tim Holtz, also called Ranger ink, is the main supplier of alcohol inks. Many Tim Holtz inks come in packs of three different colors that look good when used together. The three inks pictured below are in the "Ranger Miner's Lantern" kit and has different earth tones to work with. If it is your first time using alcohol inks, the kits are a good option for colors that work well when blended together.


Tim Holtz Adirondack Alcohol Ink Metallic Mixative can be used to add luminous highlights and polished effects. These inks need to be shaken well before use and should be used sparingly as they can overwhelm a project.

Alcohol Blending Solution

The Ranger Adirondack Alcohol Blending Solution is used to dilute and lighten the alcohol inks’ vibrant tones. This solution can be used to both enhance your project as well as clean up when you're done. Using this product will clean alcohol ink off of slick surfaces, hands, and tools.



The type of project you are making is going to make a difference in what application you are using. One of the best ways to apply alcohol inks is to use the Ranger Tim Holtz Tools Alcohol Ink Applicator Handle & Felt. This tool allows the user to mix different colors of inks and apply them to the surface without the mess. There is also a Ranger Mini Ink Blending Tool to use with more detailed projects. Though there are refillable Tim Holtz felt pads and mini pads, because of the hook and loop tape on the applicator, you can use most felt as a cheaper alternative.  You can also use gloves and use your fingers to apply a specific color to your project.


Here's an example of a makeshift felt applicator that was made out of felt, binder clips, and tape. 




Another mode of application is using the Crafter's Companion Spectrum Noir Pens. These alcohol ink markers are double-ended providing a broad chisel nib for larger areas and a fine bullet tip for detail work. The pens are refillable and the nibs replaceable.


Color Blending

The refillable, ergonomic Spectrum Noir Color Blending Pen enables the blending of alcohol ink colors. The Ranger Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink Palette provides a surface for blending several colors.

To apply alcohol ink you can also use gloves and use your fingers to apply a specific color to your project. The type of project you are making is going to make a difference in what application you are using.


The Ranger Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink Storage Tin holds up to 30 bottles of alcohol ink – or fewer bottles and supplies. The Crafter's Companion Spectrum Noir Pens store easily in the Crafter's Companion Ultimate Pen Storage.


When using alcohol inks the surface you are using should be non-porous. Some options could be a glossy cardstock, shrink film, dominos, gloss paper, glass, metal, and ceramic. The reason alcohol inks do not do well with porous materials is that they will soak in and begin to fade. When using alcohol ink on glass, make sure to use a clear sealer such as resin or the Ranger’s Gloss Multi-Medium so the colors do not fade or wipe off. Use 2-3 thin coats of the sealer to make sure your project is coated, but make sure the layers are thin so that the sealer does not drip or run.


Different Techniques

There are many techniques to experiment with when using alcohol inks. Techniques range from directly applying the alcohol ink to your project to using a marker to get a more precise application. If you are just starting with alcohol inks here are a couple of techniques we recommend trying:


Use your felt applicator to get a marbled effect on your pattern and create a background. This can later be made more precise and specific by applying alcohol blending solution and adding alcohol ink directly to your project. At any point, to blend colors together, you can use your applicator tool.   


Or, start with applying your dye directly onto the surface you are using. This gives you more control of where colors are going and how much of each color will be shown. Use your applicator tip to blend the colors and cover the surface you are using.


These are just two of the many techniques you can use when applying alcohol ink. Some other methods could include putting alcohol ink on your slick surface and pressing your paper or surface into the ink to create a pattern. Another technique could be putting the alcohol ink in water and putting your surface through the water to create a different look.

Other Tips

  1. Use a slick surface for easier clean-up. To get ink both off of this surface and off of your hands, you can use the alcohol blending solution. 
  2. To push some of the ink and color around you can use a straw or an air duster can for more precision.
  3. If using a stamp on top of the alcohol ink and non-porous surface use Archival Ink or StazOn Ink.
  4. If unhappy with the colors on your metal pieces, use the blending solution to clean it off.
  5. Do not eat or drink off a surface you have colored with alcohol ink .
  6. Do not put alcohol in a spray bottle which would allow alcohol to be dispersed in the air.

Projects Using Alcohol Ink


Faux Polished Stone Technique

Put All your Eggs in One Basket

Alcohol Ink Key Hook

"Stone" Dipped Mug

Dyeing with Alcohol Ink 

Love Heart Valentine Card

DIY Home Décor – Coasters with Alcohol Inks


 Alcohol Ink Key Hook  Alcohol Ink Key Hook


Check out various alcohol ink projects at our Think Crafts Blog.

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