Jamie loves writing about DIY projects, decorating on a budget, craft ideas, and creative ways to reuse and upcycle products.
How to Make Alcohol Ink
Alcohol ink is a translucent ink that is used to color metals, resins, paper, glass, fabrics, or anything else where you need translucent color coverage. It works very well on non-porous surfaces, but it can be used on other surfaces as well. The popular brand of alcohol inks is the Tim Holtz Adirondack Alcohol inks, and they can usually be found in the scrapbooking section of craft stores. Unfortunately, these inks can be pricey.
For three small dropper bottles full, it will usually run around ten bucks a package. I have wanted some for a while, but I just couldn't see paying that for three small bottles of ink. I had an idea about somehow using permanent markers to create these links, and after I ran across a few videos and saw it was possible, I couldn't resist making my own.
I am super happy with how they came out and want to share with you what I did so you can save a few bucks as well. In this tutorial, I have used a Bic Mark It permanent marker, but Sharpies work great too.
- Sharpies or Bic Mark it Permanent Markers (in whatever colors you choose)
- Rubbing alcohol (the higher the percentage of alcohol the better)
- Glass jar—small but not too small (like the size of a small jar of mayo or similar)
- Plastic dropper bottles to store your ink in (2 oz or around that size is good)
- X-Acto knife
- Something to cover the work surface
Step 1: Pour Rubbing Alcohol in Glass Container
What you first want to do is put some rubbing alcohol in a glass container. I used a clean glass jar that some dip for chips came in. Pour about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of alcohol into the jar. Use less alcohol for a more concentrated color or more alcohol for a less concentrated color.
Step 2: Cut Into the Marker
Make sure you have your work surface covered and protected. It can get messy if you aren't careful.
Take the lid off and take the pliers and pull out the felt tip and put it into the jar with the alcohol. Then pull off the rubber grip that is on the marker. You will have to tug pretty hard to get it off.
Then about 1/2 inch down from the tip of the marker (where the felt tip was housed) take the X-Acto knife and cut into the plastic tip most of the way and then fold it back. You will see the ink tube with the filter-like material inside exposed. Pull it out with the pliers and discard all the other plastic pieces of the marker.
If You Are Using a Sharpie
You do basically the same thing, except the sharpie doesn't have any rubber piece you will have to pull off. Also, the Sharpie is made in two pieces so you won't have to cut the tip off to get to the ink tube. You just need to pull the tip off the Sharpie using a firm grip and rocking back and forth or gripping it with a pair of pliers. Once the tip is off, the ink tube will come right out.
Step 3: Expose the Ink in the Tube
Now that you have the actual tube out that contains the ink, take a pair of scissors or X-Acto knife and cut the filter tube in half. Then take the X-Acto knife and cut a slit lengthwise in each half. What you are doing is opening up and exposing all the ink in the tube.
Read More From Feltmagnet
Once you have the slit made, drop both halves of the slit ink tubes into the jar of alcohol. Put the lid on the jar (if you have one) and sit the jar aside for at least an hour.
Step 4: Discard the Tube Halves and Felt Tip
After the liquid has been sitting for a while and if you are ready to proceed, grab the pliers or a pair of tweezers, or you can even use your hand with a glove on, and reach in and take out both the tube halves and the felt tip and discard them in the trash.
If you want, you can try to wring the excess liquid out of the tube halves before throwing them out but be very careful . . . the color will be very concentrated and can make a huge mess! Just make sure you are doing it over a very well-covered work surface. I made the mistake and ended up spattering fuchsia-colored ink on my kitchen table.
Step 5: Pour the Contents Into a Container
Now you just need to pour the contents into a dropper bottle or some other container with a lid to store it. A dropper bottle that isn't too small is best since alcohol ink is usually applied by the drop, but any kind of container will work as long as it has a lid. You could even keep it in the jar you prepare it in with the lid on.
- Any percentage of rubbing alcohol will work for this tutorial. The reason why a higher percentage is suggested is that it will dry faster than a lower percentage alcohol but if dry time isn't important to you, it really doesn't matter. You could even use just water if you wanted. I used 50% because it's what they had at the Dollar Tree at the time, and in general, the lower the percentage of alcohol, the cheaper the price.
- If you are planning to make several colors at the same time, use a separate container for each color you are making. You don't have to use only glass jars for preparing your ink. You can also use disposable containers like plastic cups or anything else that you don't mind getting stained. I just like using glass because it won't stain.
- Whatever you decided to prepare it in, the finished product will need to be stored in a container with a lid.
- Out of all the glass jars out there, I think the large-sized baby food jars are just the perfect size to prepare this ink and even store it in, if needed. So if you have a supply of these saved and would like to make your own alcohol inks, you are in luck!
- If you want to use the same glass container to do multiple colors, be sure to clean out the container with a paper towel and alcohol between each color to avoid transferring the previous color to the new color.
- Also, use a paper towel with alcohol to clean off the scissors, X-Acto knife, or anything else that has come in contact with ink in between each color to avoid transferring any ink to your new color.
- You can mix certain colors to make new colors if you would like. If you start out with making a batch of red, yellow, and blue, you can then combine them and make lots of other colors. Find a good mixing chart or color wheel to find out which colors you need to mix to make the colors you would like. This site has lots of great information about colors and the mixing of colors—it's actually a site for kids, but I found it very useful. Here is another site that has a chart for mixing food coloring that could come in helpful.
- This ink is usually applied in drops or by using a dropper. What you have made is a concentrated ink solution, so the more drops you add, the more concentrated the color.
- You can use this ink to add color to clear glimmer mist. Remember to apply fewer drops for a lighter shade of color and more drops for a darker shade. If you are interested in making your own shimmery mist, see my DIY Glimmer Mist tutorial.
- I am going to throw this in... in case you are not the do-it-yourself type and would rather just buy the ink. I do believe you may be able to use a 40% off coupon sometimes to buy this ink at craft stores if you would rather. Personally, I would rather make the ink and use the 40% off for something else, but that's just me.
I truly appreciate your visit here and hope that you have enjoyed the tutorial and will find it as useful as I do. There are lots of things we can make ourselves to help save valuable dollars and time, so any time I've tried something and found it to work, I love passing it along. I am sure many of you will agree; the cost for some of this stuff is insane if you were to go out and buy it at the store.
Update: Sharpie vs. BIC
I have been experimenting with the different brands of markers for a while. I have found that, in general, the Sharpie brand works a bit better if you want a color that is darker and more vibrant. The BIC brand still works great, but in some cases, it seemed more diluted in color than the Sharpie.
So, if you want a pastel color, it's perfect. Also, most of the BIC colors I used were older markers that had already been used for a while, so I suspect that may have had something to do with it. I encourage you to just experiment with the different brands and see which colors and what shades work better for you. Remember, if you have a color that is too dark, you can always dilute it with more alcohol to achieve a lighter shade. Have fun!
marlene jones on April 02, 2020:
Could i put these inks a spray bottle? I like spraying paper for my junk journals. Thank you foe the great instructions.
Leona Pretorius on March 11, 2020:
Thank you for the information i would like to know about white ink please
Claudia on February 18, 2020:
Thanks for the info. Always looking for a cheaper way to do artsy crafts and pioneers like you are of great value.
Cathy on October 08, 2019:
Thank you for this incredibly helpful post! I only discovered alcohol inking this week and can't wait to try it!
Helene Wollenberg on October 02, 2019:
you rock. I'm so with you on the price of some of these fancy art supplies (fancy to me) but I love trying my hand at different art projects and use anything and everything close enough to the real thing. This is the second diy of yours I've tried and boom peerrfect. love it. thankyou for sharing its truely decent of you and appreciated by those of us who are capable of seeing a good thing when it comes along.
Linda on September 22, 2019:
Best information i have seen yet!!
di on July 17, 2019:
Actually you can get 3 and use coupons at Michael's or Hobby Lobby and the price then isn't bad at all for ink dye.
Laurie on May 30, 2019:
Tried doing purple ink came out green what did I do wrong it's 99%
Christine Linnett from England on July 30, 2018:
Like you I was reluctant to spend all my hard earned cash on expensive inks when I could make them myself. I used a cheap set of markers - no brand - I used 2 markers of similar colors to add to the alcohol - i left the inky felt soaking all night and the colors are amazing x so bright - I made some blending solution as well and faux white mixative and pearl. They all work beautifully xxx also use vellum instead of Yupo paper x works a treat
Sandi Riemann on May 26, 2018:
You Explained It Well! I'm Going To "DO IT", In A Day Or So....I Too Have "Bic" Markers...For About 4 and 1/2 Years, Just Sitting Around. I Moved Here(To Where I Live Now) With Just A "Suit-case"....Got My ART SUPPLIES Going Now, And I Prefer "POP'S" Of Color! 18 Years Ago, I Made "high-Fire" Stoneware Jewelry, With "Swarovski Crystals", And Carve Box's, With Designs On Top, Also With "S.C.'s". When They Were Cooling Down, They Would Crack and Re-Crack...And Then Smooth Over. Tear Drop Shapes, Hearts, "horse teeth"...Aqua-Marine, Purples...I Made A Small "Long Square" Box With Grapes And Grape-Leaves...Beautiful Stuff! Now I Live On Disability, And Make Water-Colour Cards For Our Church...My Brother DID Get My 100 or So Glazes... I HAVE Some Stoneware, and Tools...Even A Kil... I Used To Glaze Tiles, And Made "Trivets"... Anyway, Can't Pass Up A Box Of Tiles For 2$...and I KNEW About Just Sharpies...Thank You For Putting It In "PLAIN" Words, and Showing The Pictures.... I Wonder If You Cut Up The Color "Filter", And "Shook" Up The Jars, Left Them Over Nite, Then Shook Them Again, And "Squeeze" Out The Filter...Yada Yada,..If That Would Make Any Difference... I ALSO Have A "Pearlescent" Product I Can Add To My Watercolors... Water Based,.... Hmmmmm.
Carla on March 10, 2018:
Thank you for all the info. Can you use food coloring??
Wanda on January 24, 2018:
I used 1/4 cup alcohol and an old and a new black sharpie. The color is more purple than black and is so light you can barely see it. So disappointed.
Janet on December 11, 2017:
I made six different colors and used 1/4 cup of alcohol with each colored Sharpie. When I put it on a gourd, you can barely see it. It is way too light meaning you either have to add less alcohol or more felt color. I'm really disappointed because I was very excited about the alcohol ink.
Vera DeStefano on December 05, 2017:
Very generous with information, thanks, will try.
Sherry Porrazzo on November 27, 2017:
Great info. Thanks for posting this. I have TONS of sharpies I'll never need, (I've moved on to other crafts!) Will try this.
MomsTreasureChest on October 21, 2017:
Great tutorial and photos, thanks for sharing. I have a lot of old markers, I think I'll give this a try!
Christine on October 09, 2017:
Great tutorial! Easy to follow and good tips and advise. Thank you!!
Nancy on September 22, 2017:
Sounds too time consuming. I just use a 50 percent coupon and then I only pay half of what it costs.
Felicia on September 15, 2017:
Great tutorial. Thank you
Andrea Dorman on April 19, 2017:
For the DIY alcohol ink......can I use food coloring with the rubbing alcohol or just sharpies?
Trisha on March 25, 2017:
Thanks for this tutorial, I cann't afford inks so this will make a huge difference to me
parisima on February 21, 2017:
Great tip ....thank u ....
Claudia Martin on February 13, 2017:
I made my inks, went to try it on glass and can barely see it!! I don't know what I did wrong!
Jason from Indianapolis, IN. USA on November 27, 2016:
I appreciate this straightforward tutorial. No mention of these being applied to metal. Also, might be a tad tricky to seal these with a solvent clear coat. Perhaps a barrier of water based acrylic varnish would need applied. I wonder what happens with alcohol inks in an airbrush?
heather on October 17, 2016:
hello i tried to make this ink and have a couple of problems,first i cant seem to get it to stay on the metal i used it on,it just blows off when i try to spread it. its dark and i have good color on my news paper so i dont know where i messed up. second,one of my colors i didnt have a permanent pen so i used a kids marker by crayola,does this matter?
chris on September 01, 2016:
hi? can i use food coloring to alcohol ink?
Sharon on August 15, 2016:
Such generous, clear advise! Thank you
hawkgeek on April 21, 2016:
I made a black alcohol ink to use on my clear stamps, but now I'm having second thoughts. Since this ink is permanent and dries quickly b/c of the alcohol---does anyone know if this black ink will stain my clear stamps? I always keep a shallow dish with soapy water nearby to immediately put my stencils in after using. I'd planned on using this ink on my stamp pad. Thanks for any help you can provide.
Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on April 02, 2016:
LESIA- Well, this is extremely late (so sorry!) and you've probably found your answer but here goes, just in case. I have never used it on gourds but I do not see why not. I think that it would.
Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on April 02, 2016:
drina- Yes, I do believe so.
drina on March 22, 2016:
Will this work on cds
Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on January 31, 2015:
Megan- I don't see why it wouldn't work.. it's definitely worth a try. You might have to do it multiple times to get the color as dark/bright as you want but I am thinking it could work. Also, yes, absolutely you could apply with a paint brush. Thank you so much for dropping by!!
Megan on January 10, 2015:
Would this work to dye white felt? Also, could I use a paint brush to brush the ink on instead of a dropper? I have been looking for an easy and cheap way to dye small pieces of felt. Thanks in advance!
Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on April 13, 2014: