December - Gift Ideas!

Work your creativity and crafting skills by using alcohol inks this winter! Alcohol inks are a simple way of making beautiful, colorful designs that can be achieved by children and adults alike. There are multiple options you can choose to make your canvas, including mugs, tiles, washers, and more.

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Nancy here! During my time working here, this is one of my favorite projects that I’ve had the chance to learn about and teach. My hands are currently stained from teaching this as a holiday gift-making workshop and it is so worth it! Every single artwork comes out differently, even when you’re trying to make them the same, and there’s nothing I like more than a unique piece of art.

Here is a small list of supplies you will need:

  • Alcohol inks -can be purchased online, at most crafting stores, or even made on your own!

  • A canvas - choose one of the following:

    • White porcelain mug - can be bought at the Dollar Tree & discount stores

    • White gloss ceramic tile - any size, can be bought at Home Depot or hardware stores

    • Metal Washers - 1- 2” depending on preference, varying sizes also work well for charms and give a great metallic shine from the material

    • Glass from a picture frame, A plastic light cover, the possibilities are endless!

  • Isopropyl alcohol - good for watering down intense color, wiping off areas you’re unhappy with, and pulling out color

  • Optional items to manipulate the inks:

    • Straws - to blow

    • Cotton swabs - for fixing areas or adding dots

    • Plastic fork or toothpicks - for texture, scratching, and creating negative space

    • Tape - for negative spaces

    • Toothbrush - for small consistent splatters

  • A clear coat - a few options include:

    • Mod Podge - acrylic sealant, not suggested for eating surfaces, has texture

    • Clear spray paint - for mugs or tiles, may not hold permanently, spray exterior only

    • Epoxy - super glossy and will hold really well, flat surfaces only

    • Diamond Glaze - creates a gloss sheen with no texture

Let’s get started! I decided to use a tile as my canvas today. I love these because of their versatility - you can put felt underneath and use them as coasters, get a small stand for them, or put them in a shadow box. If you’re choosing to do this with children (or if you’re a bit messy yourself), I highly recommend gloves and art aprons as these inks can stain skin and clothing. This craft is also a opportunity to help guide your child in using supplies sparingly by focusing on how colors interact together. A few drops go a long way!

It’s always hard to know where to start and alcohol inks can be especially unpredictable, so I decided to just go for it and see where I ended up. First I added a few drops of mustard, then a light pink. Already I was eager to explore my texture tools so I busted out the straw and used some air to push around the second color I added. You have to act quickly if you want the colors to blend! If you want layers, allow the inks to set for a minute or so before adding more colors - please note that these inks dry a lot faster than most paints you may have worked with. After adding another color, I used a cotton swab to move the colors around.

The nice thing about alcohol ink is that, if you aren’t liking something, adding a bit more ink makes a HUGE difference. Before this first one, I used a toothpick to scratch up some of the ink I’d set down, added some blue and green, and then used my straw again after adding more mustard and green. I love the texture that’s made with a strong, thin stream of air.

I opted out of negative space this time around by not setting any tape before starting, so I decided to cover the white tile altogether. A little more mustard, some straw work, and more blue did the job! Do you notice the spots that formed in the third picture above? Those are made by adding drops of plain isopropyl anywhere that I wanted the colors pulled out slightly. If I used my cotton swab to make swipes, I could even remove any color or texture I wasn’t fond of.

After adding a few more drops of alcohol, I used a toothpick to scratch in designs around those drops and anywhere I felt it looked a little dark. To add a bit more texture, I dipped an art toothbrush in alcohol and pulled the bristles just above my tile to create little lightened spots.

Once I was feeling satisfied with how everything looked, I decided to try two different coating methods. You can see the Mod Podge coat on the left in the picture below. It leaves quite a bit of texture and also pulled in a bit of ink. I’ll likely do another coat once this has fully cured. On the right I used Diamond Glaze and made sure to cover all the way to the edge. This one also pulled up a little bit of ink, but is a lot clearer and has a much less texture. For this coating method I recommend keeping a toothpick on hand to pop any bubbles that form - there were quite a few! Spray paint is also handy, but do a couple coats with plenty of drying time in between. If you’re hoping for coasters instead of artwork, I highly recommend one of these last two methods, depending on your preference of texture. Both of these will clear up quite a bit once dry.

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It’s always hard to know when to stop with art. I think I struggle with that the most as an artist. When I look at what I’ve created, though, I try to look for all the little things I like, such as the balance of colors and how you can see them blending to share each of their spaces. I enjoy how nothing is quite centered - the darker rings around the lighter spots I chose not to scratch, and the unintended textures in between all the spaces I wasn’t deliberately thinking about. This is what I love about process art! I’m not really intending to create anything specific, I’m just opening myself up to the experience, the mess, and the joy of creating! After it’s all over I get to reflect on that and see what my own creative process has produced.

Above is a selection of projects and techniques using alcohol inks.

Top row- techniques; blowing wet inks, scratching off ink with toothpick, dripping metallic inks onto a dry surface to add accents (base layer was decorated with inks and alcohol, then allowed to dry before adding gold ink on top), drops of alcohol added on top of inks causing white spots to appear.

Second row- substrates you can use as your “canvas”; ceramic mugs, light switch plates, washers, glass.

Bottom row- Finished products made by kids at Art Beast!

Please share your experiences with this technique in the comments section below.