Experiments With Homemade Faux Alcohol Ink

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.


Materials:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Gel food coloring
  • Washable markers, both dried-up and usable ones
  • Glossy photo paper or yupo paper
  • Dropper/pipette

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.

Upcycle dried up markers by turning them into alcohol ink.

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!

The layers of color mix and repel each other at the same time.

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.

The Dumpling did not want to create abstract art, so I pre-printed rainbows and unicorns on photo paper for her to color instead. Unicorn image downloaded from Freepik.

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.

(Click here to download crystal image (4″ x 6″))

Images colored in with regular washable markers.
After adding a few drops of rubbing alcohol, the ink on the markers started blending 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.

Blinking-Winking Owl Craft

My latest project with the Dumpling is to make trendy animals (ex: llamas, flamingos, narwhals, etc.) from the past and present. Owls, of course, made the list because they were everywhere back in the early 2010s due to Harry Potter mania. The birds were inescapable, being featured in clothes, home decor, and toys and even becoming popular household pets.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about owls are their eyes, so the Dumpling and I made ones that blinks and winks…among other expressions.

Materials

  • Owl template (click here to download)
  • Card stock
  • Thin wire
  • Tape
  • Hole punch (1/8″)
  • Scissors
  • X-Acto knife (optional)

1. Print the owl template on card stock and cut.

Tip: It is easier to cut out the eyes from the owl with an X-Acto knife!
We colored our owls by stamping them with bubble wrap.

2. Glue two pairs of eyes together. Select two pairs of eyes from the template (or draw your own) and hole punch where indicated. Position one pair in front of you, then vertically flip (very important!) the eyes over to glue the second pair onto the backside.

3. String a thin wire through the eyes and tape the wire in place on the back of the owl. (I only had floral wire…that’s why it is green!)

Bind Photos Into a Book

The photos on my phone are an un-curated mess, filled with blurred, unflattering, or accidental shots that should have been deleted long ago. As a result, the Dumpling and I would often get distracted by the 10,000+ images other than the ones I want to show her.

After our recent family vacation, I printed a few photos that highlighted our trip and bound them into a miniature book. Sharing real, physical pictures was such a refreshing experience in this digital age. The format helped the Dumpling better recount the events in chronological order and served as a keepsake of our holiday.

The book served as a personal keepsake or can be given away as a personalized gift!

The photo book, which measures 3″ w x 4″ h, was made from folding a standard 6″ x 4″ photo in half. The below tutorial shows how to print two images per spread. To create one image per spread, just print directly from your phone.


1. Adjust slide size to standard 6″ w x 4″ h photo dimensions in a blank PowerPoint presentation.


2. Delete any text boxes on the slide. PowerPoint inserts the title and subtitle text boxes on the first slide by default, so select both and delete.


3. Insert 3″ w x 4″ h rectangle on the left half of the slide. PowerPoint uses a blue rectangle and black outline by default. While it does not matter what the fill color is, remove the shape outline. This is where the picture on the left spread will be.


4. Duplicate the rectangle and place it on the right half of the slide. This is where the picture on the right spread will be.


5. Fill the rectangles with photos. Instead of filling the shape with a color, select the option to fill it with an image. Repeat steps 3-5 on additional slides until reaching the number of desired pages (my recommendation is approximately 10-20).

(Pro-tip: Add text on top of the photos to tell a story!)


6. Convert the slides in JPGs. My local print shop only prints photos from JPGs or PNGs, so I had to convert my PowerPoint file into the acceptable format. I could not figure out how to export the images without compromising on the resolution (even though I checked all the settings!), so my workaround was to first save the slides as a PDF.

Then I converted the PDF into JPGs in Adobe Acrobat. If you do not have Acrobat, there are free conversion apps online.


7. Print on regular 6″ x 4″ photo paper.


8. Score and fold each printed photograph in half. Scoring creates a cleaner fold, especially on thicker paper stocks. If you do not have a scoring board, layer a folded towel under the photo, place a ruler on where the score line should be, and run the edge of an old credit card along the ruler to create the score line.


9. With the edges aligned, tape the back of the photos together using double-sided tape. I applied tape on the top, bottom, and outer margins of the photo, but not the inner margin located along the fold.

Once the photos are taped together, they form the inside pages of the book and the folds make up the spine.


10. Press the photos together under something heavy (i.e. textbooks) for about 24 hours. This limits the pages from puffing open on their own.


11. Tape the spine tightly together and then measure its width. This width varies depending on the number of pages, weight of the photo paper, and how well the pages were compressed together. For example, the width of my spine was approximately 0.5″. If unsure, add no more than 0.125″ to the measurement.


12. Create the book cover in PowerPoint. The process is similar to creating the inside pages of the book as demonstrated above, so I did not splice the demo video up into individual steps. In summary, adjust the slide size to US Letter dimensions (11″ x 8.5″) and insert a rectangle with the following dimensions: (6″ + width of spine spine) x 4″. For my example, it would be 6.5″ w x 4″ h. The rectangle should be placed at least 0.25″ away from the edges of the slide to prevent the image from being cut off during printing.

I have also added lines (at the 3″ and 3.5″ mark) to help indicate where I needed to score the book spine.

When “filling” the the rectangle with an image, PowerPoint automatically stretches the picture, so manually change this setting by switching to “Fit” under the “Crop” drop-down. To enlarge or shrink the image proportionally, click and drag the white circles on the corners AND hold down the SHIFT key simultaneously.

Cover image is downloaded from Freepik.

13. Print. I used standard 8.5″ x 11″ card stock. When printing, select “Actual Size” in the setting to prevent the printer from changing the image size.

14. Score and fold where spine ought to be, then cut out the cover.


15. Tape the cover onto the first and last page of the book. Again I only taped the top, bottom, and outer margins. Do not tape the spine of the book onto the cover because there needs to be wiggle room for the book to open and close.


Aluminum Foil Embossing

DIY metallic embossing — with embossing powder, special ink, and heat gun, has always sounded complicated and messy to me, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that a kid-friendly version can be created with aluminum foil. This project allows lots of room for error, so it is great for toddlers still working on their fine motor skills.

Materials

  • Aluminum foil
  • Thick string or twine
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • Black cardstock (optional)

Draw or print a design on a piece paper. Simple images without much detail work the best. Click here to download my leaf design.

Trace design with glue. Smudges are okay since everything will be covered up by the foil anyways.

Glue string/twine onto the design. For my leaf design, I cut the string into varying lengths beforehand and let the Dumpling chose which ones to use. I was not picky about placement. If you are, however, the strings can easily be re-arranged since the glue took a while to dry.

Apply more glue surrounding the image and on top of the string, cover with a sheet of foil with shiny side up, and gently rub on the raised image.

Let dry, cut along the outlines, and glue the leaves onto the black cardstock. Any color paper can be used, but I preferred black since it brought out the metallic silver.

Bonus: Turn the leftover foil into abstract art. Crumples, rips, and wrinkles are interesting textures, so fold the leftover foil into strips of varying lengths and widths. Then ask your toddler for their expert arrangement to create a piece of abstract art.

Shrink Plastic Crafts

One of my favorite craft materials lately is shrink plastic (a.k.a. Shrinky Dink), which is a type of clear plastic (#6 to be exact) that once heated, thickens and shrinks to approximately half of its original size. It is great for making personalized crafts and gifts since we could essentially draw or trace any design on it.

The Dumpling and I have turned our plastic trinkets into wind chimes, ornaments, accessories, name tags, and key chains, just to name a few.

Original (left) vs. shrunken (right)
A name tag for the Dumpling’s book bag.
An Easter-themed wind chime.

Materials

  • Shrink plastic sheet
  • Color pencils, permanent markers, or acrylic paint
  • Oven safe tray
  • Oven mittens
  • Hole punch (optional)
  • Clear nail polish (optional)

Draw or trace your image onto the smooth side of shrink plastic sheet with permanent marker. My sheets came pre-sanded on one side and smooth on the other, so check carefully. Size the images accordingly as they shrink to half of their original size once heated.

Sanded side (left) vs. smooth side (right)
Trace or draw on smooth side. I have a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol ready on the side to wipe away small smudges or mistakes.

Color on the sanded side of the plastic. Flip the sheet over and color on the sanded side — the rougher surface makes it easier for the pigments to grab on. Coloring on this side also ensures that the color doesn’t cover the design outline.

Color on sanded side. The colors may look light, but they darken slightly once heated.

Cut along the outline. Be gentle as plastic can rip easily.

Punch hole(s) on where you want to string the shrink plastic.

Pre-heat oven to 175°C and then bake cutout for approximately 3-5 minutes in oven-safe tray. The funnest part of this activity is watching the plastic curl and then flatten into a miniature version of itself. The first time I did this, the cutout did not flatten properly — my guess was that I did not wait for the oven to pre-heat to the right temperature, so be patient!

The plastic curls and shrinks to approximately 50% of its original size in the oven!

Let cool and varnish with clear nail polish.

Mini Easter Activities Book Printable

For the Dumpling’s school Easter party, I made a mini activities book that I am sharing as a free printable. I love using this template because the book is printed single-sided on a regular piece of copy paper and is assembled without any gluing or binding — just fold and cut.

Materials


Download the template.


The content is appropriate for pre-schoolers and kindergartners with adult guidance.

Print. Under the print options, select “Fit” under the Page Sizing section. This ensures that no matter what size paper you’re using (whether A4 or Letter), the entire image would be scaled appropriately to fit within the print area.

(Confession: I actually forgot this step and my books came out slightly cut off on the edges.)


Fold and cut. Cut along the solid lines and fold along the dotted lines according to the guide below. Remember to trim the rectangular border on the perimeter of the sheet as well.


Inspired by one of my favorite crafters, Hello Wonderful, I also attached mini chocolate eggs to the bunny on the front page using double sided tape. Check on their version of an Easter bunny egg holder!

Easy DIY Birthday Coloring Book With Printable

The Dumpling’s kindergarten is throwing a birthday party for all November babies at the end of the month. Since she’s one of the birthday kids, I wanted to do something extra. So along with treats, I also made her classmates a coloring activity book as a party favor that I’m sharing as a customizable printable!*

The book is super easy to make because it’s printed single-sided on a regular piece of copy paper without any gluing or binding. While the customizable version provides the option to include a short message, I have also made a generic version with a simple “Happy Birthday” on the cover. The content is suitable for pre-schoolers and kindgardeners.

Materials

Customize the cover text in Adobe Reader (skip if using the generic template )

Open up the PDF file in Adobe Reader and click on the form fields (highlighted in blue) to edit the text.

Print. Prior to hitting the print button, select “Fit” under the Page Sizing section. This ensures that no matter what size paper you’re using (whether A4 or Letter), the entire image would be scaled appropriately to fit within the print area.

Print Setting

Trim the page border. Although this step might look extraneous, it ensures that all your pages will be of equal size.

Fold and Cut.

I managed to whip out 20 of these within the hour…mom-life is hard work!

 Please note that the two graphic elements in the template are different than the version featured in the video—the font used on the cover and the balloon design on the letter tracing spread.

The Dumpling Turns Three: Cake, Cake, and More Birthday Cakes!

In what felt like a blink of an eye, the Dumpling turned three last week. It was the first year that she understood what a birthday is, and ironically, it was also the first time I didn’t throw her a party. (My rationale was a bit complicated—something to do with me no longer feeling guilty about us not spending enough time together.) Instead we did a few birthday-themed activities leading up to the big day and took a family trip to Disney Hong Kong for the grand finale.

Blowing “candles”

The Dumpling’s lungs got a workout as she practiced blowing out pretend candle made out of marker caps. We even played a bit of “air bowling” by arranging the caps like bowling pins and trying to knock them all down in one huff.

Scrap Paper Cake

We used pieces of scrap paper that were cut into varying lengths to build our first cake. I even managed to sneak in a numbers exercise by labeling the strips 1-10 and asking the Dumpling to glue them in chronological order.

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3D Styrofoam Cake

For our second cake, we painted styrofoam circles and stacked them to create a 3D layer cake.

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Birthday Breakfast of Champions

On the morning of the Dumpling’s birthday, I made her favorite breakfast food—pancakes. I added a candle because pancake is a cake…right? Those candle blowing exercises paid off because she kept blowing the candle out before I could snap a picture!

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The actual birthday cake

The Dumpling wanted a chocolate cake, so I asked jigg to pick up something cute at Harbour City since the selection is somewhat limited in Discovery Bay. While I was expecting cartoon characters, he came home with this chic gourmet dark chocolate cake from Paul Lafayet. Even though the Dumpling gobbled it up, I think jigg and I need to recalibrate our definition of “cute” in the future.

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Disney Hong Kong

Despite talking about going to Disney for months, the Dumpling was absolutely miserable when we got there. She only smiled on the “Small World” ride and was Miss Grumpy Pants the rest of the time. Womp womp.

Halloween Activities: Toilet Paper Roll Creatures

Did you know that toilet paper rolls in Hong Kong are white, not cardboard brown like they are in the U.S.?! This is a game changer for a crafter like me because the rolls are essentially perfectly primed canvases.

I had a half a dozen toilet paper rolls saved up that were itching for a second life as pieces of art. A quick Google search for “toilet paper roll Halloween crafts” returned hundreds of great ideas—using these as my starting point, I turned my paper roll crafts into lanterns so they are cute creatures during the day, but spooky monsters at night!

Toilet-Paper-Roll-Creatures

Materials

Additional materials depending on the creature

  • White masking tape (mummy)
  • Bubble wrap cut into approximately 4″ x 4″ (zombie)
  • Brass fasteners (zombie)
  • Pipe cleaners (cat)
  • Push pin/tack/needle—optional

For All Toilet Paper Roll Creatures

Draw the eyes, noses, and/or mouths on the toilet paper rolls with a pencil and cut the shapes out with an X-Acto knife. The basic premise is to create openings so that light from the candle can shine through. To add additional designs, puncture small holes on the roll with a push pin—they can be anywhere, but a safe approach would be to follow the shapes of the eyes, mouths, etc.

Color in each creature (where applicable). The Dumpling and I used both watercolor and craft paint, but I found that watercolor latched onto our rolls better and didn’t flake off as much once they dried.


Ghost

Because my paper roll was already white, I pretty much left the ghost as is. The little ones can opt to glue on cotton balls or strips of white tissue paper as additional decoration.


Jack-o-Lantern

Cutting this was the closest as I’ll get to carving a pumpkin this year. Mine is just as cute as any real jack-o-lantern, but without the mess!


Mummy

I don’t know what it is with toddlers and tape. The Dumpling could spend 30 minutes peeling, cutting, and sticking tape on anything!

Peel masking tape and stick it onto the toilet paper roll. There’s really no wrong way to go about this—it doesn’t matter which direction the tape goes on, how uniformed the tape is ripped, or how much tape is used—all these “imperfections” give the mummy character. The Dumping ended up putting on so much tape, she blinded our mummy so I had to cut out the eyes again!


Zombie

Puncture a small hole on each side of the head (roughly where the temples are located) to insert the brass fasteners. 

Paint the bubble wrap pink, roll it roughly into an ovoid with the bubbles facing outward, and insert it on top of the toilet paper roll where the zombie’s brain would be. Have extra bubble wrap on the side because the Dumpling and I couldn’t stop popping them! Warning: The craft paint flaked off everywhere once it dried. Unless you’re coloring with something that is more permanent, the brain is mostly for decorative purposes and less for play.


Cat

Fold the top halves of the toilet paper roll inward to create the ears. This should preferably be done prior to coloring the cat.

Cut two pieces of pipe cleaner and fold them in half. The length depends on how long you want the whiskers. Mine were approximately 2 inches before they were folded in halves.

Puncture a small hole on each cheek where the whiskers would be and insert the pipe cleaner with the “v” side going into the toilet paper roll. 


Owl

Fold the top halves of the toilet paper roll inward to create the ears. This step should preferable be done prior to painting the owl.


I found a color changing LED candle (from the Dumping’s old Mickey balloon we got at Disney) and tucked it inside one of the creatures. Doesn’t my toilet paper roll gang look like they’re having an awesome party?

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