Getting Started With Alcohol Inks

alcohol ink painting by sammy gorin art

When I first started working with alcohol inks, I felt completely clueless. No matter how many YouTube videos I watched, I just couldn't get the hang of it! I experimented with different products, substrates, blending solutions and more, but what I slowly came to realize is that on some days, you just won't get the ink to move in the way you want and on other days, you can really make magic! Here is a list of things you'll need to get started, plus a few things I wish I knew before I began this tricky art form. 

Please note, if you choose to use any of the products mentioned below, you must read and comply with the safety precautions outlined by each manufacturer. Always work in a well-ventilated area and wear nitrile exam gloves and a respirator to protect yourself. 

Alcohol Inks 

Alcohol inks are transparent, highly-pigmented dyes that can be used on non-porous substrates. My go-to products include Tim Holtz Ranger Ink, Jacquard Piñata Colors Alcohol Ink and Copic Various Ink. 

Jacquard Piñata Color Alcohol Ink 

Jacquard Piñata Color inks were the first alcohol inks I tried. They offer an awesome "Exciter" pack of eight colors that is reasonably priced and even includes Rich Gold! Despite having dozens of colors in my personal collection, I still find myself grabbing for the colors I initially started working with. Jacquard's products are much shinier than its competitors', but I've found that if you layer them too much or use a little too much blending solution, the ink starts to look thick and pieces of dried ink break off and float around your artwork. 

 Tim Holtz Ranger Inks 

It seems like Tim Holtz Ranger Ink is the most commonly used brand amongst alcohol ink artists. Each ink comes within a pack of three. When I first started working with the brand, I was a little hesitant to believe that the colors packaged together would actually match. But, what I soon learned is that there are some colors that once placed on a substrate begin to show hints of other colors. For example, Pink Sherbet, of the Retro Cafe trio, has a blue hint to it once it hits your YUPO paper. While I love that the brand makes it easy for consumers to know which colors work well with each other, I do find it frustrating that I have to buy a pack of three just to stock up on one of the colors within a pack. While you can find singles of each color online, they're typically more expensive. 

Copic Various Ink

Copic Various Ink definitely offers the widest selection of colors. At $8 a pop, Copic inks are pricier than the others (one Jacquard color is about $4 and one pack of three Ranger Inks is about $12), but keep in mind that you're buying 0.85 oz of ink as opposed to Jacquard and Ranger's 0.5 oz bottles. In my opinion, the increase in price is justified by the incredible color selection alone! 

Now that you know what inks you need, it's time to learn how to use them! Click here to download my eBook, "The Ultimate Guide to Alcohol Inks." 


Since alcohol inks have to be used on non-porous surfaces, you have to be careful with the substrate you to choose to work on. My go-to substrate is YUPO, a 100% recyclable, waterproof, and tree-free synthetic paper. It's super-smooth, holds ink with razor-sharp precision and can also be used with acrylic paint, oil pastel, pencil and watercolor. YUPO is available at Blick Art Materials in pads of medium and heavy weights, and you can also buy sheets of YUPO by the yard. Other commonly used substrates include Ampersand ClaybordShrink Film, glossy paper, metal, glass and other slick surfaces.  

Blending Solutions 

Another key element to alcohol ink is blending solution, which is used to lighten and blend your inks together. You can also use it to rewet inks if you want to rework parts of your artwork. To learn more about how to work with blending solution, I recommend checking out my eBook, "The Ultimate Guide to Alcohol Inks." I go over the pour method and lots of other techniques! 

Protecting Your Work 

To help protect your work from the sun, dust and more, I recommend sealing your work with one of Krylon's varnish sprays. 

Other Recommended Supplies

  • Alcohol ink is hard to wash off, so I strongly recommend protecting your hands by wearing a pair of nitrile exam gloves. Trust me, walking around with blue fingernails for days isn't very fun. 
  • Something to blow the ink around your substrate like some straws, a hair-blower, an airbrush machine or a can of compressed air. 
  • Q-tips and cotton pads 
  • Paper towels to protect your workspace 
  • Paint brushes and a palette 
  • Eye droppers 
  • If using YUPO paper, I recommend having washi tape or masking tape on hand so that you can keep the paper in place. Otherwise, if you use a hair blower to move your ink around, your YUPO paper might go flying! 
  • Whether using it as a blending solution or not, I definitely recommend having a bottle of isopropyl alcohol (91%) on hand. It's perfect for cleaning up your brushes and your workspace. 
  • Another one of my favorite clean-up products is Jacquard's Clean-Up Solution. It works like magic! 

The Ultimate Guide to Alcohol Inks

In need of more guidance? I provide detailed explanations and step-by-step instructions in my eBook, "The Ultimate Guide to Alcohol Inks.

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Disclosure: Links to Blick Art Materials, Amazon and Skillshare are affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Please note, I only promote products that I personally use and love! 


  • Jessica

    I’m trying to figure out how to leave an unpainted spot in the middle of an alcohol ink painting. Like a shape or a logo. Maybe some kind of sticker? Any ideas?

  • Debi

    I am just beginning with AI. I seem to have a real hard time moving the metallics. Any suggestions? TIA

  • Debi

    I am just beginning with AI. I seem to have a real hard time moving the metallics. Any suggestions? TIA

  • Erica

    Thanks for all the great information and tips!! I just have to remember to USE my gloves before starting. I go days with colorful fingers too. 🤣🤣

  • Sammy Gorin Art

    Hi Moriah! Thanks so much! I usually add the blending solution to the ink before I start blowing it around.

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