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”


  • 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!


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!!!



82 thoughts on “How to Make Alcohol Inks

  1. 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?

    • 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!

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


  3. 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.

    • 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?

  4. 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!

    • 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?

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

    • You are wrong. Homemade alcohol ink CAN be used on metal. All you have to do is prime (prep) the metal with a white waterproof paint (or any paint if you are careful to not apply to much alcohol ink.)

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. “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.

    • 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!

  13. 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.

    • 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.

  14. 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!

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

    • 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.

    • 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

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

    • 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.

  20. 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.

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