After each of my workshops I used to send out an email to the students with a list of the materials we used and links where to find the best prices online. I thought I'd put all that information into a blog post for anyone to reference - I hope you find this helpful.
Alcohol inks are very vibrant, yet transparent dyes in an alcohol base. They are ideal for use on non-porous surfaces -- plastic, glass, metal, ceramic, acetate -- anything that allows them to float and spread on the surface until they dry. And since they are in an alcohol base, they dry very quickly.
You can get started with alcohol inks pretty easily, and for around $30 - $50 (depending on how many colors of ink you buy.) Please keep in mind that the inks are in an alcohol base, which means they are flammable. They stain fabrics permanently. You should roll up your sleeves and always wear protective gloves. I WOULD NOT recommend these for use with younger children. You need to use Isopropyl alcohol to clean everything. If this sounds like too much trouble, then I'd advise trying another medium. For those of you who are not afraid, prepare to be amazed.
Follow the orange links to view the products online:
Ranger/Adirondack brand by Tim Holtz / $4 - $5 for single bottles, or $11-$13 for a 3-pack
These are readily available at your local craft store. They are sold in 3-packs of 1/2 oz. bottles, but you can also buy 3-packs and single 1/2 oz. bottles online at:
Three palettes that I use in my workshops are:
Dockside Picnic: Watermelon (red), Citrus (light green - great for lightening) and Sailboat Blue
Summit View: Sunshine Yellow, Sunset Orange, Purple Twilight
Nature Walk: Wild Plum (bright pink), Stream (teal) and Butterscotch (golden yellow)
The 10th color I also use in my workshops is Denim (a dark blue) which you can buy individually or as part of the 3-pk called Rustic Lodge (along with Terra Cotta and Bottle)
But there are over 60 different colors, including some metallic mixatives - see all the colors here
Ranger Snow Cap Mixative / $4.50- $10 for single .5 oz bottle
This is an opaque mixative - perfect for making white flowers on a dark background.
This can be difficult to find (I've not found it at Joann's or Michael's or Hobby Lobby in-store or online. ) The best price and availability is online at Scrapbook.com or Cheap Joe's.
Pinata brand by Jacquard / $18 for 9-pk / $2.50 for .5 oz / $8 for 4 oz.
This is another brand of alcohol inks, found primarily online. They are sold individually or in a nice 9 pack set for about $20. They offer colors that are slightly different than Ranger and you can also buy them in a larger 4 oz bottles at some online sites.
I love their blues (Baja Blue and Sapphire) and their Rich Gold is magical! It acts like an ink, not like the Ranger gold mixative.
COPIC Marker Refills / $4 - $6 for 25cc (.85 oz)
MEDIUMS AND OTHER TOOLS/SUPPLIES
91% Isopropyl Alcohol / $2 - $3 for a 16 oz. - 32 oz. bottle
You can buy this at any pharmacy or department store. It comes in 70% or 91% strength solutions - I prefer to use 91%. One large bottle will go a long way. It's used for cleaning (tile or metal surfaces, paint brushes, etc.) and n a small mister it can be used to create a speckled effect on dried inks.
Blending Solution / $5 for 2 oz. bottle
Also made by Ranger/Adirondack, this semi-clear solution used to lighten inks, keep them flowing longer by delaying the dry time a bit and helps colors to blend together rather than "push off" from one another. It can be used to add detail to dried inks with a paintbrush or Q-Tip.
Applicator Tool and Felt / $5 for one tool and a small stack of felt applicators
You can get great texture and apply multiple colors at one with this tool which is simply a handle attached to to a flat surface covered with the "hook" side of velcro and a piece of white felt. You can purchase one, or make your own by attaching the "hook" side of velcro to the end of a cork, or a piece of wood, a bottle cap, etc. And you can purchase the felt pads or simply cut your own from a piece of white craft felt. But it does need to be felt, not foam.
Painter's Palette / $1 - $5
Easy to find at craft store or craft section at department store. Plastic is fine.
Best Deal: My Dollar Tree has a 6-pack for $1 in the kids craft aisle!
Paint Brushes / $5 - $6 for a pack of 4 - 5
I rarely use paint brushes because my style is to guide the inks, not necessarily "paint" with them. But brushes do come in handy for small dots, designs and details - especially detail brushes with short, small tips.
Protective Gloves / $8 for a box of 50
Alcohol inks stain. Everything. Including fingers. So it's a good idea to wear some type of protective gloves. For my workshops I buy boxes of Ultra-Soft Vinyl disposable gloves at Walgreens. (Look for Ultra-Soft - it makes a big difference!)
A must to have on hand for general clean-up: cleaning tiles, brushes, surfaces.
Cotton Swabs / Q-Tips
The cheaper the better - the tips are great for adding detail with inks, blending solution or straight isopropyl alcohol.
The flexible straws with a bend are easiest to use. I use straws a lot to blow the inks - usually with a very sharp force of air. I feel I have much more control than when using canned air or an air compressor. You can find these at any grocery store or Walmart, etc.
Canned air / $4 - $8
Used to clean computer keyboards and other electronics, you can find this in the office supply section of almost any store. It's fun to use air to push and guide the inks. Just make sure to protect your surroundings. And if the can starts to get cold, or the propellant starts to come out, just give it a rest for a couple of minutes.
Airbrush / $50
If you're ready to invest in an airbrush/air compressor, this is the one I bought on Amazon for around $50 and I really like it. You don't put the inks into the airbrush, you just use it to blow and push the inks with a steady stream of air.
There are plenty of videos online that show different techniques using an airbrush. Click the link above or visit YouTube and search "using alcohol inks with an airbrush". So fun!
Signo - White Uni-ball Gel Pen / $3 - $4
Great for doodling or outlining on your alcohol ink artwork. This pen features a “uni-glide” gel-ink system that helps prevent blobs, smears and skips. It comes out as smooth as silk every time.
POSCA Paint Pens / $7 for 3-pk
This is my new favorite for doodling and outlining on top of dried alcohol inks. I like the EXTRA FINE tip from Amazon that comes from Japan. Smooth, opaque and doesn't "soak in" to the ink like the Signo gel pen (above) sometimes will.
3-pk WHITE on Amazon
3-pk BLACK on Amazon
Oh, they have metallics, too!
Ceramic Tile / .15 to 1.50 each, depending on the size
Glazed ceramic tile is a great surface to get started on. It's inexpensive and you can completely wipe off the inks with some isopropyl alcohol and start over if you want. 4" x 4" basic white tiles are around .15 each, 6" x 6" are a little more. I highly recommend using glossy, bright white, as the inks are semi-transparent and will get muddy or muted on colored tile. An exception would be using an opaque white ink (Ranger brand "Snowcap" or Pinata "Blanco") on a black or dark colored tile - it's gorgeous!
Glossy Coated Cardstock /
Not my favorite to work on, but another option. These convenient pre-cut sheets are paper with a gloss finish on front, but are still quite porous. Package contains 20 sheets that measure 4.25" x 5.5".
Yupo Paper / $8 - $40 depending on dimension and # of sheets
Yupo is my favorite material to work on. It's a synthetic paper made out of plastic, which makes it a perfect non-porous painting surface for alcohol inks. It's sold in pads, single sheets and rolls. I find Cheap Joe's is the best value offering 20-sheet pads for about the same price as 10-sheet pads of similar dimensions at other retailers. It's available in 74 lb or 144 lb weights and in bright white or translucent. I prefer the basic white, 74 lb and I like to get 11 x14 pads and cut the sheets down for smaller projects. It's also available in large sheets - up to 23" x 35" as well as rolls of 40" x 10 yards for you hard core Yupo fans.
This is a game changer! A great, inexpensive alternative to Yupo paper.
Kirkland Photo Paper / $14 - $19 for 150 sheets (less than .15/sheet!)
I've heard for years that THE BACK of photo paper is a great surface for alcohol inks, but I've not found any without some type of writing or brand stamp on the back. (Don't use the front, which instantly soaks up the ink and doesn't allow them to move very well).
Amazon is best price online, but if you have a Costco membership, I'm guessing it's less expensive in the store.
Mineral Paper / $7 - $8 / 20-sheet pad (9x12)
Yasutomo Mineral Paper is made from rocks, not paper! It's not as glossy and SLIGHTLY porous so the inks act a bit differently.
Made from 80% calcium carbonate bonded with a small amount of plastic, this paper can be used with watercolors, acrylics, inks, pastels, pencils, markers, and inkjet printers. Water-resistant with a smooth finish, it still has enough tooth and absorption for all mediums. It will not buckle when used with the wettest mediums.
Plastic Eggs / $1 - $10
For my Easter Egg workshops I usually buy the white plastic eggs from Hobby Lobby (12 for $1), however there's a limited amount of time they are available in-store or online (around Easter).
Someone sent me a link to some they found on Amazon and they look good, but I haven't ordered any yet to try them out. It's a 50 pack for $9.99.
SPRAY SEALANTS FOR ALCOHOL INKS
It's important to seal and protect your artwork no matter what your substrate/surface. Because the inks are dyes, not pigments, they can eventually fade from UV exposure (if not framed behind special UV-resistant glass.) The type of product you use will depend on final use of the artwork (Framed paintings require less surface protection than let's say a tile used as a coaster.) There are many, many different options, but these are the spray products that I tend to use:
No matter what surface you're painting on, the first coat should be Kamar Varnish, then follow with UV-Resistant Clear spray.
Krylon Kamar Varnish /$8 for 11 oz. spray can
This is the best spray/sealant for the first coat of sealing tiles or paintings. All sprays contain alcohol which can reactivate your inks and change/ruin your designs, but Kamar Varnish (sprayed lightly) is the spray least likely to affect your inks. Use this for your first coat, no matter what type of project it is.
Krylon UV-Resistant /$8 for 11 oz. spray can
Because the inks are dyes, not pigments, they can eventually fade from UV exposure (if not framed behind special UV-resistant glass.). One coat of this, after the Kamar Varnish, is all I do for my paintings on Yupo. I use it on tile, metal and glass as well.
Krylon Triple-Thick Crystal Clear Glaze / $5 for 12 oz. spray can
This is a nice top-coat on tiles (used for decoration), paintings, ornaments, etc. A couple of coats with enough time to dry in between, will do the trick.
Rustoleum Engine Enamel / $5 for 12 oz. spray can
Not automotive enamel, this is Engine Enamel spray in clear gloss. A couple of coats of this gives a very shiny finish, similar to resin, and protects tile surfaces up to 500 degrees, so it's perfect for coasters, etc. Look at home centers and auto supply stores.
Minwax Polycrylic / $8 for 12 oz. spray can
Another option for a very shiny finish, similar to resin. Nice top coat for tiles and canvas. Dries pretty quickly, too.
Metal Stamping Blanks
I use aluminum stamping blanks to make earrings. Some styles come with holes punched already, others do not. I use my husband's old metal punch if needed, but most craft stores sell a hand punch right near the stamping blanks in-store, or you can search online. Keep in mind that the inks do not work well on any metal that is coated or very glossy - the inks tend to bead up instead of flowing. That's primarily why I choose to use aluminum.
The guitar pick shaped blanks are hit-and-miss to find in-store, and Michaels and Hobby Lobby don't offer them online. You can try other online sources.
This clear, dimensional coating gives inks on metal a "faux enamel" type of look - a very glossy, raised surface. Just a couple of drops over dry ink is enough for a nice smooth coating/surface. Carefully spread with toothpick horizontal, across the top, not with the pointy end (which can give you stroke marks that are very hard to get rid of).
Another similar option is Mod Podge Dimensional Magic
1" (25mm) glass, flat on one side - domed on the other.
You can buy these in sets at most craft stores. "Blank Slate" is the brand that Hobby Lobby carries.
Glass Cabochon and Bezel Sets
If you're going to make A LOT of necklaces, you can buy the cabochons and bezels in bulk packs of 30 sets on Amazon.
1" Clear Round Epoxy Stickers
These can be used instead of the 1" glass cabochons. They are slightly less domed, so they don't magnify/distort your design as much. These replace the glass, they are not the adhesive seals I use to attached the glass to the painted designs on Yupo.
1" Circle Punch
If you paint your design on Yupo, then you can easily find and punch an exact 1" area to use in the 1" bezel. Attached each piece to each other with a drop or two of Diamond Glaze. For smaller earrings, get a .75" circle punch.
THESE are the adhesive seals (double sided) that I use to affix the punched out ink design to the back/flat side of the glass cabochons.
For the 1" pendants, order "Circle - 1", for the 3/4" earrings, order "Circle - 20mm"
PurpleMountainbtq on Etsy (great shop!)
(Click through the photos on the product page for directions on how to use them.)
3/4" (20mm) Stainless Steel Bezels and Glass for Earrings
For earrings using glass cabochons, I use 3/4" or 22mm diameter bezels and cabochons. You can buy both together at this shop on Etsy.
Select "bezel and glass" option and "20mm" size.
Stainless Steel Ear Wire Hooks
I also buy these on Etsy.
I really like these chains I found on Etsy, but you can use any style, color or length of chain you like.
ORGANIZATION & DISPLAY OPTIONS
Dazzle Caddy / $5
Made to hold up to 10 inks, glues or other craft bottles. I love this to hold and transport the 10 inks I use for workshops. (I, however, NEVER put the inks in upside down - not since a very messy accident!) The plastic cover doesn't fit on when the inks are upright, but I just hold the cover on with a rubber band. These can be up to $10 on other sites, but they are usually on sale at scrapbook.com for $5. (If the single isn't on sale, you can get the 3-pk for $15)
If they are sold out, try BestScrapbookShelf.com
Easel/Hanger backs for tiles / .61 - $1.60 depending on size
Beautiful decorative tiles created with alcohol inks are pieces of art and these economical, glue-on backs allow the tile to be hung on the wall or displayed on a flat surface with the easel. They are available for tile sizes from 4" x 4" to 12" x 12" and are easily glued on with an adhesive like E6000.
Tiles are not just coasters!
There are so many display options:
Wood block stands
Trays to hold multiple tiles
coaster trays and holders
Shop for these at Leslie Ceramic Supply
I'm often asked where I purchase my mats. I've been really pleased with Matboard Plus online for all colors, sizes as well as backerboards and cellophane sleeves.
Better pricing and free shipping for large orders but sometimes they have great deals on singles or combo packs. So many options!