How to Make Alcohol Inks

Making alcohol ink or dye from household items is super easy.  I use the alcohol ink to dye crepe paper for a nice vintage look.  Honestly this is so easy I almost think it is silly to have a how to article.  But since I am whipping these up all the time I thought I’d give you a quick run down.  You can also see my tutorial on how to make Walnut Alcohol Ink.

How to make alcohol inks
As McClain says: this tutorial is “Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy”

Supplies

  • Alcohol:  I like the high proof stuff myself ;) Joking aside, I use the 91% isopropyl alcohol if I can find it because it dries faster and for dying crepe paper changes the texture the least.
  • Glass jars: Plastic is fine but will tend to stain forever.  FOREVER.
  • Old/Cheap Markers OR Food Coloring:  I have tried a number of different pigments from watercolor to paint but they tend to not dissolve in a way that I found to fit my needs (in other words they made a craptastic mess)alcohol ink supplies

Step 1

Pour some alcohol in jars.  If using markers uncap and stick in alcohol let sit for about 30 minutes.  You can speed the process by stirring the marker around in the alcohol.  If using food coloring start with 1 to 2 drops of your color. If mixing colors you may need to add alcohol if you want a pastel color.

making alcohol ink
Only hard part here is waiting for the color to come out of the markers

Step 2

That’s it.  Color in alcohol = done.  Feel free to celebrate with a drink of ethyl alcohol (as known as spirituous liquor). Edit: apparently some people in the world don’t understand chemistry humor. So let’s clarify: isopropyl alcohol = baddy bad. Ethyl alcohol = tasty. Make sure to use common sense when having a whisky sour, glass of wine, or beer. Never drink & drive and always enjoy in moderation!

Notes

More markers per jar = a brighter dye.  The nice thing about using markers is that if you happen to have the washable type then it will not stain your hands.  However, you could just stop and put on some gloves like someone that has sense.

These alcohol based inks are perfect for dyeing paper products.  You can see these dyes in action on how to dye crepe paper without loosing the crepe texture. 

If you are looking for a way to make alcohol ink for use on plastic, metal, or glass SORRY!  I have tried so many formulas and none of them work quite as well as the commercial variety you can see here (warning an affiliate link ahead).  If I ever come up with it you will be the first to know!!!

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117 thoughts on “How to Make Alcohol Inks”

  1. If you are making alcohol ink with Playskool Washable Markers that in itself would be why they are not as good as store purchased inks. I also noticed that you just put the whole marker (casing and all) into a jar of alcohol. Washable markers are Waterbased for the purpose of being Non Toxic for children. When making alcohol ink out of markers…Permanent alcohol based markers will give you a more vivid and permanent ink. You just pop the marker open and remove the incased cotton and tip. Put a cut into the casing of the cotton and drop them into Isopropyl alcohol 90% or higher. Let them steep for a while and then remove the cotton and tip. If you want deep color…use less alcohol (about an ounce)and steep longer. Start there and add alcohol to suit. I have found the ratio to be an ounce of alcohol per marker. I also personally find that BIC markers are very handy because they name their colors. If planning on making larger or darker amounts you are sure to be using the same colored marker. As well as when making your own color mixes (and documenting your color mixes for future reference). This is just another spin on homemade alcohol ink. That is the beauty of creativity…whatever you can imagine and dream up! I hope this helps someone.

    Reply
  2. I wanted to add a little information as to why paints or inks like india ink when added to alcohol don’t work but markers and food coloring will. The difference is that paints use pigments and markers use dye. There is a big difference between the two. Think about it this way. If I mix some dirt into water and let it sit long enough it will eventually settle at the bottom. That’s what pigments do. Now think about dyes like sugar. If I mix that into water it completely dissolves and becomes part of the liquid. To make alcohol inks you need mix in a dye. You can even use fabric dyes. In my opinion the powdered kind works better and a little goes a LONG way. Though if using the powdered kind you’ll need to filter it through a coffee filter before using because not everything dissolves.

    Reply
      • I have not read through all of the replies. In the process of using powder and needing to pour through a coffee filter, has anyone tried putting the powder in a tea, cloth sachet bag? I just tried liquid food coloring. It looks like a tube of blood with heprin in it. Some cloudy are at the bottom. In this application I don’t think the bag would have saved any time or mess. But the filtering bag idea came to mind. Beth

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  3. Is it possible to make water based inks this way? I got into making tumblers, and I used to use epoxy, which means that I could use alcohol inks, well since seeing how dangerous it is to use inside my house, I’ve switched to a water based method, but alcohol inks don’t work on water based products, so I’m curious if I can use this method and just use water instead of alcohol?

    Reply
    • Hi Cassi. Short answer is no. The markers are alcohol based. You’d have to soak out the dye with alcohol, evaporate it off completely, and then mix the very tiny smudge of dry powder you get with distilled water. Not worth the effort.

      You need to mull your own water based paint / ink. Buy dry pure artist pigment, a heavy glass palette, a muller, and with distilled water only, grind your own colours. Then mix with more water. A small amount of dry pigment makes a lot of paint.

      Similarly, you can’t separate watercolour paint from its binders (ox gall, gum arabic and glycerine), or oil pigment from the linseed oil. That’s the point of the binders. Similarly, fabric dyes are not permanent, or at least it’s a different process (steam fixing), so are no substitute. I mull my own colours when I paint buon fresco (damp, drying plaster). Just colour and water. The plaster is the binder.

      Best of luck, Sean.

      Reply
  4. Thank you for sharing your helpful tips. Making my own alcohol inks has saved me so much money. I found that using a fine spray to dye crepe paper and building the colour up slowly, drying between light spraying was a good way to preserve the crepe texture…takes ages though, so something to do well in advance of needing the crepe. Agree with colouring flower centres, dry brushing is definitely the way to go.

    Reply
  5. Dear KM, YOU ARE WRONG BRIANNA IS 100% CORRECT. Ethanol and Ethyl are the same substance and although it can be used industrially they are the type of alcohol present in our wines, beers and spirits. IMO You are a rude, horrible piece of work, a troll, and absolutely bang out of order leaving such a horrible message when all Brianna is doing is sharing a really helpful money saving craft DIY and having a joke about the alcohol aspect. You should apologize but I doubt you will admit you are wrong, try doing a bit more research before jumping in with such rudeness and DISINFORMATION. I have brewed commercially, completing courses to do so. Ethanol/Ethyl IS the substance we are trying to create when we ferment sugars and yeasts, completely safe to drink when its not in its concentrated pure form and in moderation. Brianna never suggested drinking pure undilluted ethanol. Vodka and spirits typically contains 50 to 60% water mixed with the Ethanol. Fell free to argue with me, I will quite gladly send you a brewing chemistry academic paper for you to brush up on.

    Reply
  6. Can you use gel food coloring for this? I have some in neon colors I wanted to try, but wasn’t sure if it would dissolve. Also, I love your tutorial! Thank you for giving me a viable option for cheaper ink! I’m positive I have old markers lying around, and I’m glad I have a way to repurpose them before throwing them out.

    Reply
    • Well I just worked on making them today. I got a real vibrant colors using a 1 oz to 3 sharpie (knock off brand from walmart) ratio. I opened the pens up and took the middle out. Cut it in 3 pieces, but did not slice down the middle because the inside part being left in the ink. I used little plastic bottles from dollar store, have order bottles with eye droppers to store them in.

      Reply
  7. i need to color plastic fishing lures using a straw to blow the alcohol color to make patterns on the lures any suggestions on type alcohol ink to use all colors, i then dip the lure in a diamond clear coat for the shine
    thanks
    sac

    Reply
  8. I know you said in your opinion this doesn’t hold up to heat, but since you bake polymer clay at a relatively low temp do you your formula could be substituted for the insanely expensive store boughts?

    Reply
    • My guess is no, though I haven’t tried it. Polymer clay is a plastic and this version really only does well on natural materials. If you try it out and it works let us know!

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  9. Has anyone tried to make alcohol inks with printer ink? Printer quit working right after new order of ink arrived!

    MM

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      • I tried this, printer ink didn’t dissolve in alcohol, it just floated in globs. (This was with Brother jet ink printer ink by the way.) However it worked fine with water and I made a very nice set of four glimmer sprays. It was a total pain in the butt to get the ink out though and very messy.

        The upshot though is I have nice glimmer spray, I used way more hairspray and glue than most of the YouTube videos recommend because I found one video that said the usual recipe with just a couple-three squirts of hairspray tends to brush off in the long run. I used a mixture of crushed up old eyeshadow along with the dollar store L.A. Colors loose powder eye color that most of the YouTubes recommend because of the higher mica content in that.

        Reply
  10. Do you know if you use food coloring, if it says it has high fructose corn syrup in it, will it not be good to use for this project? I bought some and I thought it would be good for me to use, but I noticed that the ingredients on a couple of them have that in them. Thanks for any advice.

    Reply
    • I would assume that as long as it had a lot of dye in the solution it would work. Depending on how much corn syrup it had, it might make your item sticky?

      Reply
  11. I’m designing some huge hibiscus flowers for a retail installation. The design was easy and the client loved it, but they’re asking for the center of the flowers to be “darker” that the outer edges of the petals. I’m working with crepe paper, so I’m thinking the best thing to do is paint or dye the inside 1/4 of each petal after it’s cut, but before it’s curled and assembled to the wire structure I’m using as the petal’s frame…

    And tips? Have you ever used this with a paintbrush on a large scale piece? Any idea what happens to the paper if only part of it is dyed?

    Thanks for your time!

    Reply
    • Hmm. If I was going to attempt to do that, I’d probably try a dry brush acrylic paint in the center after assembly. It would give a different look, but harden the center and give it a deep color. Any pictures of the finished product?

      Reply
  12. Hi Brianna!
    I’m new to this Acohol Paint! The reason I’m getting into it is because years ago I was really into India Inks…believe it or not there use to be transparent inks that I totally loved…even won contests with my work! I would sketch with black India Ink and paint over it with the transparent inks and the sketch was still very visable! Now no one knows what I’m talking about…even though you can still buy transparent inks…they are now a days…anything but transparent.
    So I’m hoping to make my own alcohol ink paints! I have lots of India inks and was wondering if I can make transparent alcohol inks out of them rather than use Sharpies? If so…any ideas or ratios on amounts to use in mixing the two? It would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    Reply
  13. Thank you for this tutorial. I will be doing this.

    As, I will be doing this on basa wood bases, I will be using a sealent.

    Reply
  14. I am planning to try printer ink which is chock full of pigment and relatively inexpensive if you buy a generic kit on ebay.

    Reply
  15. Have you tried this on aluminum foil, rather than paper ?
    If so, do you ‘prep’ the aluminum with something?

    Reply
  16. Got it. Now that I have a small jar of color: what do you recommend to transfer from jar to project?
    Also, once mixed, can it be stored, and if so for how long?

    Reply
  17. I have used 70% rubbing alcohol with Rit liquid dye on pearls & it works beautifully. I’m going to try the 90% isopropyl to see how that works. I did let the pearls soak for several hours to get a deeper color.

    Reply
  18. Hi! I followed your guide and made alcohol inks today with crayola markers. I used them but they never completely dried. They are sticky after 3 hours. Would sharpies be better? Thoughts?

    Reply
    • What type of item did you put it on and how much? A whole roll of crepe paper might take all night to dry if I really soak it. A single sheet of paper will be dry in 15-20 minutes.

      Reply
    • I would lay the paper flat on a plastic bag and then pour the dye over it. Let it dry overnight without handling to allow the crepe texture to stay as much as possible.

      Reply
  19. Have you tried this using denatured alcohol rather than isopropyl? I am just curious because there is no water in the denatured type and would dry faster. At least that would make sense to me.

    Reply
  20. I am soooo going to try this for my friends baby shower…I mean the dyeing of creepe paper…not the drinking or either types of alcohol. I LOVE your post…it’s making me enjoy looking up ideas.

    Reply
  21. “Feel free to celebrate with a drink of ethyl alcohol (as known as spirituous liquor).”
    You had better take THAT advice down right this minute. Drinking even a small amount of ethyl alcohol can be fatal. NOT good advice.

    Reply
    • While I truly appreciate your concern for everyone I do believe if you Google for a little bit you will realize you are incorrect. If I had said methyl, isopropyl, butyl etc you would be profoundly correct cause that is some nasty shiznit. BUT Fortunately ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol, is created during fermentation and therefore quite tasty. I would always recommend to my readers to enjoy moderately and never drive!

      Reply
    • You are totally wrong. Wow! Beyond snippy, downright condesending and nasty. You must be use to thinking that you are always right, because obviously you think there is no reason to verify information.

      Reply
      • Try dissolving the dye in a very small amount of boiled water first and then adding it to the alcohol. If there is anything left in the water mixture there will be a lot less to strain.

        Reply
  22. Can you make alcohol ink with tempera? I know tempera is washable, but was wondering if the alcohol would extract the pigment, rendering it usable for tie dying.

    Reply
    • I would be surprised. My findings with alcohol tend to be that paints/dyes leave a lot of particulate behind and do not have small enough particles to effectively make a bright solution. Give it a try though. I used a dye successfully but I had to let it sit two days and then strain it through coffee filters.

      Reply
  23. I think i was just called someone with no sense, but whatever, ‘messy artist sort’ suits.
    I love mixing these up, having crazy fun with old give away windows, glass, tables (with glass in them)…
    Lacking sense, i make up for it and then some, with F U N!

    Reply
  24. I tried using alcohol with Rit dyes and it doesn’t mix well, turns clumpy so I wouldn’t do it again.

    Reply
    • I have never posted the recipe but I also tried it. You have to let it set a long time and then filter it with a coffee filter to remove the non-dissolved particles.

      Reply
    • Any color like grey or turquoise is easy. Just mix food coloring or find a marker in that color. I have never tried using a metallic marked as they have a different chemical makeup. So I do not know if gold is possible.

      Reply
  25. Wonderful! I wonder….I have alot of dye reinkers. Could I mix them with rubbing alcohol to make alcohol inks? And if so, what would be the ratio? Thanks so much

    Reply
  26. I have to say Thank you for this. I enjoyed the read I like what you said about the link at the end. And the how to was very helpful.

    Reply
  27. I didn’t realize you could make them yourself – Thanks for linking up to Pin Worthy Wednesday, I have pinned your post to the Pin Worthy Wednesday Pinterest Board.

    Reply
    • Thanks for pinning! The home-made alcohol inks aren’t quite as versatile as the store bought ones, but they are a lot cheaper.

      Reply
    • You could. Just seemed like a lot of work to me. The color gets sucked out and I was not in any hurry but I bet that would speed the process right up!

      Reply
    • You can…. but to get the best effect for alcohol ink, it takes a non-porous surface best. For canvas, you can prime it with gesso, but not just with a brush. Use a palette knife and apply it in thin coats, smoothly scraping off most of the gesso each time. The more coats the better. Do this until you achieve a glass-like finish. This should lend a beautiful surface for the alcohol ink to work it’s magic.

      Reply
    • No for it to really stick you’ll need the commercial stuff. I have actually been working on something that would take the place of the commercial kind, but I have yet to perfect anything that I would put up as a tutorial for that type of use.

      Reply
  28. This is so ingenious–thank you for sharing!
    Are these permanent on nonporous surfaces–like those in the little bottles found in craft stores?

    Reply
    • They are not permanent on non-porous surfaces. However, now I want to try to make some that are. I am thinking about substituting permanent markers or rit-dye which are permanent colors. I haven’t tried it out yet so if you get to it before me let me know.

      Reply
  29. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve seen, and even pinned, a few projects that call for alcohol ink, but I always thought it was some sort of specialty product. I had no idea I could make it this easily! I’m definitely pinning this for use sometime soon.

    Reply
    • It is so easy. It is basically an alcohol based stain or dye in my opinion. Perfect for projects that need to dry fast.

      Reply

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