Some techniques for making your own alcohol ink recipes that will save you a bundle:
If you have been exposed to the crafting market for any length of time, you are probably already familiar with some of the cool alcohol ink techniques.
Alcohol inks are very concentrated and are sold in small squeeze bottles for scrapbooking, altered arts and of course, polymer clay bead making.
Polymer clay artists use alcohol ink to tint both the solid polymer clays, as well as the liquid ones. We also use the ink to dye the surface of raw and baked clays plus to use between layers in techniques like mokume gane.
If you love to use alcohol ink like me, you can go through a lot of it and the price really adds up! Here’s how to make the ink yourself.
Awhile ago I heard rumors of people making their own alcohol inks using 90% rubbing alcohol and fabric dye. Since that was all I had to go on, it took a little experimenting to come up with a recipe for making something that would work.
First of all you need the higher strength rubbing alcohol of 90% or more, not the typical 75% you usually see on the shelf. That one has a fair amount of water in it. I ended up finding 99% Isopropyl Alcohol at Costco (4 x 500ml) for around $7.
Next I found some small empty bead vials so I could store a few different colors of the ink. Being a ‘craft supply hound’ I just so happened to also have several different kinds of fabric dyes on hand.
I filled each vial about half full of fabric dye and topped them off with the rubbing alcohol. You could tell which ones were going to work and which were not because the alcohol started to change color right away. After stirring them for a bit, I let them sit for the day.
Some interesting things occurred.
The cold water batik dye didn’t work at all. The alcohol stayed mostly clear and the powdered dye just sat at the bottom.
Both the Rit and Tinex dyes worked very well but had quite a bit of particles that would not dissolve no matter how much you mixed it, that had to be filtered out. My guess is that these particles were salt. Salt is used often as a mordent to help ‘set’ the colors when dyeing fabric.
The last dye I tied was a Dylon dye. It worked but I found it a little ‘muddy’. Although it didn’t appear to have the salts the other dyes had, it contained a very fine powder that didn’t completely dissolve. Filtering it through a coffee filter cleaned it up though and made it quite usable.
I would like to try some of the Rit liquid dyes. I think they would work the best since the dyes are already dissolved. But haven’t seen it on my journeys and would have to make a special trip to the fabric store to find it.
There are a couple of drawbacks to these homemade alcohol inks other than being kind of messy to make.
The high concentration of the colors don’t seem to be there like they are in the commercial brands like Adirondack. Maybe the liquid dyes would help this or maybe more powdered dye and less alcohol would work.
Also it doesn’t seem to stick as well to non-porous surfaces as well as a name brand ink. I have seen some cool techniques where alcohol ink was used to dye silver spoons and glass jars, and this ink doesn’t seem to work for that.
Overall however, I think this was a great project and now I have a whole bunch of different colors that I can use any time the need arises. Also because these homemade alcohol ink techniques and recipes are so cheap, I don’t have to worry about how much I use to tint clays or antique beads.
Besides, it makes you feel like you are very clever! And who doesn’t want to feel clever every once in awhile!