How you blend your alcohol inks will become a defining texture of the art you make with them. There are many styles to experiment with and choosing the right kind of alcohol ink can help you to bring out the best of this style you want to achieve. Some brands of alcohol ink will blend more quickly, while others might be more resistant to blending and require thoughtful use of blending solutions. Similarly, some brands are known for slow-drying alcohol ink that give you a lot more time to work with your blending methods.
How to Get the Best Blending Results
Remember that when it comes to blending alcohol ink, the substrate matters. Surfaces that are non-absorbent will allow for better blending, since the ink will be able to move smoothly over the surface. Other surfaces, however, such absorbent or overly textured surfaces will make it more difficult to blend alcohol ink and may interrupt the ink-flow.
It's useful to know basic colors theory when you get started with blending colors. This is because, when you allow two colors to blend into each other, they will mix or spread and therefore make a third color. For instance, mixing together red and blue will create purple. It's important to be aware that when you blend these colors, part of the blend will become a new color.
Additionally, mixing colors often requires a trial and error approach with an eye to balancing the colors. In some cases, the colors that you are using for your blends are appropriate, but there needs to be less of one or the other of the colors to achieve the appropriate balance or your desired blended appearance.
Choosing a Brand
Choosing your brand of alcohol ink is a personal decision that depends on your style and preferences. Each ink is made of a ratio of dye and solution. In general, if there is more dye and less solution, you will have a vibrant ink that will be less fluid. Alternately, an ink that offers a higher ratio of solution to the dye, will have more diluted or muted colors that offer easier blending or spreading. The ability to manipulate the dye to solution ratio is also in your own hands, as you can dilute your own ink to your ideal ratio using rubbing alcohol.
Ranger Adirondack alcohol inks have a strong reputation for a smooth flowing ink that allow easier blending. Since these are more fluid ink, they can spread and flow easily when dropped onto the surface. Due to this fluidity, you might find them to be less vibrant and more transparent and muted than other colors.
Jacquard Pinata inks tend to shine out in their vibrancy. The also tend to be thicker and less fluid, making it more work on you to do the blending. Blending with these colors can also be simplified using a blending solution.
Copic Marker Refills tend to offer a lighter, more diluted appearance with exceptionally smooth blending capabilities, and a much more muted appearance. These are commonly used for subtle abstract art.
Poppyfield alcohol ink offers a very long drying time which gives you the freedom of an increased window of time for manipulating shape, blend, and texture. However, their intensity and long drying time can make them more difficult to control than other brands. These are more recommended to someone who has experience painting with alcohol ink and is looking for a good brand to use for experimentation.
How to Know Which Inks in Your Collection Blend the Best
It's important to always do your own tests before working on a larger piece of artwork. This not only gives you practice for your blending technique, but it helps to let you know and tweak how your colors will blend. While your ink blend might act a little differently on each substrate on which you apply it, it can be useful to do your practice on scraps, include scraps of yupo paper, smaller samples of materials, and other crafting materials you might have saved in your collection.
To figure out which of your inks have the most fluidity and the easiest blending capability, make your own color chart. Here's how to do it!
- Gather supplies: You'll need a piece of yupo paper, your collection of alcohol ink colors, all necessary droppers and a few extras as well, a pencil, and a ruler.
- Make a grid for testing your colors: Using the pencil and ruler, make a grid on the yupo paper. Give yourself about a square inch (or 2 square centimeters). For a small collection you can make these blocks even larger. The key is to make your squares uniform, since this will make it easier to judge the spread of the ink with your eyes. Also, allow a space on the grid, either under it or above it, to label each color that you test.
- Label each square: Label a square for each of the colors that you will be testing. Beware of labeling with an ink pen or alcohol ink marker, as these might blend with the dropped ink and alter the result. Instead, opt with a pencil for now, you can go back with fine liner or brush pen to beautify the result after everything dries.
- Drop each color into the corresponding square: Using the same size dropper, drop 2-3 drops of each color in the square labeled for it. Try to keep your number of drops uniform to easily compare the spread between different colors. Meaning, if you start with two drops of ink, continue dropping just two drops over the whole grid, even if some of your colors seem to spread less or need more drops than others. This consistency will help you make decisions later on when it comes to how much of each color you'll need when working on a different piece.
- Allow the drops to dry: Without tilting or encouraging the ink to spread, let them dry entirely.
Now, you can use the chart when using your alcohol inks to choose the colors you use. At a glance you can see how vibrant the ink will be, what kind of shading and translucency the color offers, as well as its fluidity and how much it will spread on its own.
Happy painting, and check out our other tutorials to continue your artistic journey with alcohol inks!