Sheila is an artist, poet, and freelance writer. Her passion is teaching others how to write poetry and create art.
Create Colorful Tiles With Alcohol Inks
Alcohol inks are great for creating interesting effects on tiles. People use these tiles for accent pieces in the home. Some people spray them with a durable glaze and use them as coasters for beverages. No matter how you decide to use them, they are so much fun to make!
- White ceramic tiles
- Alcohol inks
- Stamper and felt
- 91% isopropyl alcohol
- Cookie sheet or shallow pan covered with aluminum foil
- Spray polyurethane gloss
- Air duster (canned air) or a straw
- Alcohol blending solution
I used 4"x 4" tiles. A box of 100 4" x 4" white ceramic tiles costs about $16 at Lowes. To prepare the tiles, you may want to put some in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place them in a cold oven. Then, turn the oven to about 225 degrees.
After the oven reaches that temperature, wait five minutes before removing the tiles from the oven. Let them cool completely on the cookie sheet before using them. Heating the tiles in this manner reduces the moisture in the tiles and helps the ink adhere better.
The alcohol inks and stamper with felt pieces can be purchased at a craft store. They usually are displayed with the scrapbook and stamping supplies. You can buy a piece of felt for about $0.30 and cut pieces to fit the stamper rather than buying the pre-cut felt pieces.
When buying rubbing alcohol, check the bottle to make sure the one you buy is 91%. For the lighter, I would suggest using a long lighter like ones designed to light candles rather than a short cigarette lighter.
Methods for Decorating Tiles
Tiles can be stamped with ink, dotted, burned, or brushed. For your tiles, you can use any method or combination of methods. Feel free to experiment as long as you do so safely. I'll give brief descriptions of the methods. More detailed instructions are provided in the sections.
- Stamped: Ink is applied to the felt piece on the stamper. Then the surface of the tile is stamped until the entire tile or desired section is covered. The alcohol ink spreads. Stamping over the surface repeatedly creates smaller mottled patterns.
- Dripped or Poured: The ink is poured and dotted on the surface. The ink may be left to dry on its own or lit with the lighter. If left to dry on its own, the result is often geometric.
- Brushed: Using a paintbrush or wiping across the tile with the stamper can give a brushed appearance to the ink.
- Blown: A drop of ink is placed on the tile. Blowing through a straw or using a can of air, the person creates organic shapes by moving the ink with air.
- Burned: Ink is applied to the tile, then lit on fire with a lighter. The result is textures, tone, and depth caused by the burning.
- Blended: Streaks of color are blended with alcohol blending solution to create gradients or smooth transitions of color.
Brushed and Stamped Tiles
For the blue and green tile pictured above, I used a combination of brushing and stamping. The brushing was done with the stamper by moving it sideways. I just wanted a swept look. I felt like the stamping and brushing complement each other well in this piece.
You can see in the background where the blue and green blotches are not as defined. In those areas, I only stamped once. I went over it a few more times in the areas with the small, well-defined mottled patterns. As you try the different techniques, experiment with combining them. The results can be surprising.
You can create lines with stamping by adding ink to only the side of the stamper. Stamp the tile with the inked edge of the stamper to make the lines. One disadvantage of stamping with felt is the possibility of leaving lint embedding in the ink on the tile. If you look closely at the example below, you can see tiny fibers that were left behind by stamping.
Lighting Alcohol Ink on Tiles
The tiles above are a bit dark but feature what looks like jewel tones. This was a surprising effect. I used the same colors for these tiles as I used for the others. After placing the tile in a shallow pan that had been covered in aluminum foil, I covered the tile with drops of color.
I tried to make sure I had ink coverage to the edges of the tiles. If there are tiny white areas of tile showing, these often get covered. You can tilt the tile a bit to cover; however, I left mine flat to keep the colors separated. Then, I lit the tile with my lighter. The flame can be an inch to several inches high. The fire extinguishes itself once the alcohol is burned off. I love seeing the resulting tones and textures.
In the photograph above, the tile on the left was created with only the drops covering the entire tile and then lit. On the tile to the right, I added some more drops of color after the initial lighting. I lit each drop after applying the color. Be careful not to try to add more ink while the tile is still burning. Wait until the fire is safely burned out before reaching around the tile or adding anything to the tile.
Air Blown Inks
When I started experimenting with blowing on the inks to spread them out, I used a straw. Well, that didn't last long. I switched to the canned air used for cleaning dust from electronics. I bought mine at Walmart in the electronics department. You will see that as the inks overlap, they get much darker. So, unless you want the piece to be very dark, you'll need to be careful to avoid overlapping too much. This can be tricky if you are starting with a white tile and you want to cover up all the white.
The first tile that I did by blowing all the ink, I left some white. Some of the tile was getting dark. At first, I had wanted to cover up all the white, but then I thought the white was not so bad since it helped balance the dark areas. If you don't want any white, you could start by covering the entire tile with a light color.
Finishing the Tiles
The tiles can be lightly sprayed with polyurethane. Be careful not to apply a heavy coat since it can cause spotting of the ink. It's better to apply a couple of thin coats. After the polyurethane is dry, you may want to color the edges of the tiles with a black Sharpie for a nice, finished look.
I hope you have fun experimenting with alcohol inks and tiles. Please remember to be safe. If you are under 18, ask your parents to light the tiles for you. Always use spray polyurethane in a well-ventilated area.
Annie Cogger on October 06, 2018:
Thank you for your information regarding getting the moisture out of the tiles before using.
I live in a subtropical climate and was going crazy wondering why my work was lovely one day and terrible the next - the tiles had been sitting next to an open window and it had been raining.
I figured I would search for what on earth was happening and came across your information. I am very grateful.
Thank you again
FlourishAnyway from USA on January 23, 2015:
I can see decorative possibilities with these. Thanks for presenting this information. Beautiful.
RTalloni on January 02, 2015:
So interesting…this offers incredible creative potential! I hope to experiment with this one day. Thanks for the introduction!