Alcohol ink is one of the most fascinating art media I have ever seen. It seems to have a mind of its own, blending and repelling itself into mesmerizing abstract patterns.
I have been wanting to get my hands on a set, but decided to make my own by following a simple recipe using markers and rubbing alcohol. The idea of using rubbing alcohol has never occurred to me, so I further experiment with mixing it with other household dyes to see what happens — some yielded interesting results…some not.
- Rubbing alcohol
- Gel food coloring
- Washable markers, both dried-up and usable ones
- Glossy photo paper or yupo paper
Experiment #1: Marker ink mixed with rubbing alcohol
My first attempt was following the recipe I found online where I clipped off the caps from a set of dried up markers (perfect upcycling project!) and soaked the ink pads in rubbing alcohol overnight.
We used a dropper to apply the inks onto the photo paper and watched the colors mixed and repelled each other — just like real alcohol inks. The recipe worked!
We experimented with adding ink on top of an almost dried layer and un-dyed rubbing alcohol, which diluted the colors of existing layers.
Experiment #2: Food coloring mixed with rubbing alcohol
In my next experiment, I replaced marker dye with liquid water color. Unfortunately, the solution clumped up so I added gel food coloring instead.
This still ended up being a failure in my opinion because the inks had both watercolor and alcohol ink properties — but were neither here nor there. Eventually everything started turning brown after several rounds of layering.
Despite the inks not turning out properly, we added the remainder onto a piece of photo paper and tilted it to let the colors run downwards. The results reminded me of corals so I digitally overlaid a doodle of underwater botanicals on top. Pretty cool right?
Experiment #3: Dropping rubbing alcohol on marker ink
For our final experiment, we colored on photo paper with regular markers and added un-dyed rubbing alcohol on top. Even though the Dumpling’s coloring were rough, uneven scribbles, this method seamlessly blended everything together.
Out of the three methods, the first one replicated the basic properties of alcohol ink the best. Although the homemade recipe was inferior to the real thing, it worked well enough for me to make the faux version again if I have any old markers around.