Art is, as it should be, an ever-evolving act of creation — not just in the act of making art, but also in the process of creating different materials. Throughout history, artists have been mixing, blending, and improvising to make the right materials (or as close as they can get) to create the work they envision. Think of the myriad paint, pencil, pen, and marker options available today. A great many of those innovations came about through the creative improvisation of necessity.
Ink made with pigment and alcohol may not be a recent innovation in the art world, but alcohol ink has been seeing a major increase in use lately as artists use alcohol ink as the primary material to create beautiful works of art. The biggest difference between past use of alcohol ink and now isn’t the inks; those have remained more or less the same. The bigger innovation comes in the form of newer, less-traditional mediums on which art is being created.
The Materials Make A Difference
Paint and inks interact with surfaces differently, simply by nature of what the substrate is made of. For example, most inks are very watery so they will soak into a porous material like paper or canvas but roll right off a non-porous surface like glass. Watercolor ink and paint are often heavily pigmented, but they are still primarily water. This can make them harder to control, especially on a more porous paper. On the other hand, a paper with low porosity or a waterproof paper will produce a different set of results. This is largely why the material you paint on is so important.
Alcohol ink is incredible because it is pigment rich and can easily be manipulated like a watercolor paint, but at the same time, it dries much quicker because alcohol-base evaporates rapidly. It often means being much more purposeful with placement of a color — or, alternately, embracing the chaos and abstract quality. When it comes to using alcohol inks, the base on which you create will play a big role in how much or little you can control or alter your designs. Some of the best options include:
One of the single most popular options for alcohol ink art is synthetic or waterproof paper. Unlike regular paper, waterproof paper is totally non-porous so you don’t have to worry about the ink immediately absorbing and the pigment becoming locked in place. Waterproof paper is a great option because you can continue to work with colors after the ink is dry. You can add drops of alcohol to re-wet the pigment, you can layer other colors on top of wet or dry ink, and you can scrape ink off to create designs. However, the caution here is that not all synthetic and waterproof papers are made the same or are equal in quality. TerraSlate waterproof paper is a perfect substrate for alcohol ink and is also tear proof so it can stand up to a lot of tougher manipulations like ink scraping. Better still, TerraSlate waterproof paper is acid-free, colorfast, and works with the standard home laser printer so you can print any design you choose, and then lay alcohol inks over the design for even more creative opportunities.
Artist Trading Cards
This is a fun option for creating small works of art that you can trade, gift, or sell. However, the word of caution here is that artist trading cards come in a wide variety of different materials. They are fun because they come in so many different colors and patterns. They are also available in a range of different materials, like acrylic, bamboo, canvas paper, and watercolor paper. Some of these options are going to be better for alcohol ink art than others, so pay attention to the porosity and texture. Artist trading cards are a good option for experimenting with different base materials before you buy something larger. Waterproof paper artist trading cards aren’t particularly common, so if you know this is the size you want to work with, it may be less expensive to buy a ream of waterproof paper and cut the sheets down to size.
While it’s not waterproof paper, a high-gloss cardstock can be a fun option to play around with. Note that the glossy coating can help slow the ink absorption, but it will still absorb liquid eventually. At that point, it will be harder to manipulate or alter your designs. You’ll also need to be more cautious about how much ink you’re using since too much liquid can cause the cardstock to warp — the same issue you’ll face with pretty much any type of traditional tree-pulp paper.
Glass and Ceramic Tiles
Alcohol ink and glass can create an almost stained glass effect, but without all the work of carefully soldering panes of glass together. Since glass is a non-porous surface, it’s a great option for mixing, layering, and scraping away layers of dried ink to create a range of different designs. Similarly, ceramic tiles, clayboard, and other comparable products can also be fun alternative mediums for creating alcohol ink art. As many artists know, these materials can get expensive quickly, so they aren’t always realistic options for the budget-conscious artist.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of options, by any means. The greatest part of creating art is using odd, unconventional, and unexpected materials and seeing what happens. Grab the roll of aluminum foil from the kitchen and see how it works with alcohol ink. Or maybe your kids have some shrink film from a DIY Shrinky Dinks project. Our primary suggestion for the best experience with alcohol ink is to choose base materials that are non-porous. Smooth, non-porous materials are going to give you the most freedom and versatility.
Whether you’re looking to create art for your livelihood or you simply want to play around, TerraSlate waterproof paper is an all-around great option for alcohol ink art. As the name implies, our paper is waterproof, not just water-resistant. It’s also acid-free, archival quality, tear-proof, and works with the standard home laser printer. Want to learn more? Explore our alcohol ink waterproof paper options online to get creating!