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DIY Craft Supplies- Make Your Own Alcohol Inks

Updated on February 13, 2013
Learn how to make your own alcohol inks with this easy tutorial.
Learn how to make your own alcohol inks with this easy tutorial. | Source

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 run usually 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 inks 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.

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What You Need:

  • 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 (2oz or around that size is good)
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife
  • Pliers
  • Tweezers
  • Something to cover the work surface

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Step 1

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 less concentrated color.

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Step 2

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.

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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

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. 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.

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Step 4

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 :(

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Step 5

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.

I have stored my ink in this cute little bottle. I will use a dropper when I want to use it.
I have stored my ink in this cute little bottle. I will use a dropper when I want to use it. | Source
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Paper Roses- some colored with Sharpie and some colored with BIC ink
Paper Roses- some colored with Sharpie and some colored with BIC ink | Source

***Helplful Tips***

  • Any percentage of rubbing alcohol will work for this tutorial. The reason why higher percentage is suggested is because 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 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 :)

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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.

Happy Crafting!!

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 are wanting a pastel color, it's perfect. Also, most 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!!

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    • MomsTreasureChest profile image

      MomsTreasureChest 4 weeks ago

      Great tutorial and photos, thanks for sharing. I have a lot of old markers, I think I'll give this a try!

    • profile image

      Christine 5 weeks ago

      Great tutorial! Easy to follow and good tips and advise. Thank you!!

    • profile image

      Nancy 8 weeks ago

      Sounds too time consuming. I just use a 50 percent coupon and then I only pay half of what it costs.

    • profile image

      Felicia 2 months ago

      Great tutorial. Thank you

    • profile image

      Andrea Dorman 7 months ago

      For the DIY alcohol ink......can I use food coloring with the rubbing alcohol or just sharpies?

    • profile image

      Trisha 7 months ago

      Thanks for this tutorial, I cann't afford inks so this will make a huge difference to me

    • profile image

      parisima 9 months ago

      Great tip ....thank u ....

    • profile image

      Claudia Martin 9 months ago

      I made my inks, went to try it on glass and can barely see it!! I don't know what I did wrong!

    • jbosh1972 profile image

      Jason 11 months ago from Indianapolis, IN. USA

      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?

    • profile image

      heather 13 months ago

      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?

    • profile image

      chris 14 months ago

      hi? can i use food coloring to alcohol ink?

    • profile image

      Sharon 15 months ago

      Such generous, clear advise! Thank you

    • profile image

      hawkgeek 19 months ago

      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 profile image
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      Jamie Brock 19 months ago from Texas

      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 profile image
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      Jamie Brock 19 months ago from Texas

      drina- Yes, I do believe so.

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      drina 20 months ago

      Will this work on cds

    • Jamie Brock profile image
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      Jamie Brock 2 years ago from Texas

      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!!

    • profile image

      Megan 2 years ago

      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 profile image
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      Jamie Brock 3 years ago from Texas

      Rachel- Yes, I completely understand what you are asking.. When I use these on fabrics I always rinse a few times to make sure the water is clear before I have them dry and I have had no problems. I am not sure about other porous surfaces, though. My guess is that they probably would run a bit... unless they were set with some fixative, maybe a clear sealer (if on paper) or something like that. I hope this helps! Thank you so much for dropping by :)

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      Rachel 3 years ago

      Do you know how well the inks set? Do they end up bleeding if they're used on porous surfaces that get wet or damp? I hope I'm articulating this well enough.

    • Jamie Brock profile image
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      Jamie Brock 3 years ago from Texas

      brenda foster- If you check my other hubs, you will find a hub on how to make the paper roses!

    • profile image

      brenda foster 3 years ago

      can you help me find the paper roses project pictured abovee???

    • Jamie Brock profile image
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      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      Savvy Unlimited- Oh that's great! Thank you for letting me know that :) I love Hobby Lobby!

    • profile image

      Savvy Unlimited 4 years ago

      Hobby lobby has a 40% off coupon you can use on their app. I use the same one every week and it always works. This is cool though. I might make my own custom colors.

    • cre8ivOne profile image

      cre8ivOne 4 years ago from Midwest, USA

      That is more than okay, it's awesome! This is so excellent!

    • Jamie Brock profile image
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      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      crea8iveOne-Oh, I bet you had a ton of fun making them and I'm sure the recipients just loved them :) Thank you so much for including my link! I will be sure to go in and add a link to your coasters on my hub here.. if that's okay :)

    • cre8ivOne profile image

      cre8ivOne 4 years ago from Midwest, USA

      Jamie,

      Check out my hub, I have included your hub ! Thanks again!

    • cre8ivOne profile image

      cre8ivOne 4 years ago from Midwest, USA

      Thank you so much! I made many of these for Christmas gifts this year and just LOVE this project. I am excited to include your link on my hub as well :)

    • Jamie Brock profile image
      Author

      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      crea8iveOne- Thank you so much.. of course you can mention this hub! I've just gone to look at your alcohol ink coasters and they are amazing :)

    • cre8ivOne profile image

      cre8ivOne 4 years ago from Midwest, USA

      I was SO excited to find this Hub!! What a fantastic resource for making your own inks! I just posted up a craft that requires alcohol inks would you mind if I mention your hub to my article? Here it is : https://hubpages.com/art/DIY-Alcohol-Ink-Coasters...

      Thanks!

    • Jamie Brock profile image
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      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      Sharkye11- I am so glad that you found this useful.. Absolutely, I think this would work awesome for prepping surfaces for drawing, painting,etc... I've used it to tint some sheer fabrics and it works great.. The possibilities are endless!!! Thank you for the votes and for sharing.. I really appreciate it :)

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Wow! This is awesome! I have done something similar to regular magic markers (and water) when they start to dry out to make a color wash for art, but never thought about using permanent ink and alcohol.

      I know you wrote this with craft projects in mind but it has my inner-artist all alive and excited. An excellent way to prep some art surfaces for ink drawings, rather than adding the color after the drawing is done.

      I can think of tons of ways this would be fun in crafts too! The permanent ink would even tint fabric. thanks for the great tutorial! voting, sharing and more!

    • Jamie Brock profile image
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      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      storybeader- Thank you so much for dropping by! I am glad that you have found this useful for you. I have been having lots of fun experimenting with the different colors and brands of markers. I love it..... the only thing I can do without is the colored fingers but I guess that just comes with the territory! Great to meet you, Deb and thanks again for stopping by and for commenting :)

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      storybeader 4 years ago

      great tutorial. I've been playing with alcohol inks recently and your tutorial just brings the process to another level. I'll have to try it! Thanks. Arrived here through Rose at randomcreative. {:-Deb

    • Jamie Brock profile image
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      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      Thank you Natashalh- Thanks so much for dropping by! I am going to do a quick update on this hub because I have had some time to experiment with the different colors and brands.. I have found that in general, the sharpie ink seems to be a bit better quality. The BIC still works but it's just not as bright and concentrated as the Sharpie. All in all, I love how my colors came out. I've just colored some paper flowers with it and I'm going to upload a photo of those now too. So glad you have found this useful :)

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      This is 100% awesome! I've recently started using alcohol inks, but I only have two colors. I have lots of markers I never use, though. I know I'll be using this! Pinning.

    • Jamie Brock profile image
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      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      Vinaya Ghimire- Thanks for stopping by! I am glad you enjoyed the tutorial for the alcohol ink. Happy New Year to you!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      Jamie, your tutorial is easy to follow. I have wondered how alcohol ink was made. Thanks for teaching me.

      Merry Christmas an a very Happy New Year.

    • Jamie Brock profile image
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      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      randomcreative- Oh, I know what you mean.. you and me both! I just couldn't see paying such high price for stuff like this. I was so glad to see how well this worked especially since it was so cheap to make. Hope you give a try sometime!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks for this great tutorial! I usually stay away from crafty supplies like this because of the price tag. How great to be able to make them at home.

    • Jamie Brock profile image
      Author

      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      kashmir- Thank you :) I'm glad you found it interesting and thank you for the compliments. I do try to make it as understandable as I can. Sometimes I think I try too hard and drive myself crazy in the process.. lol! Thank you so much for the votes up and everything.. Merry Christmas to you as well :)

    • Jamie Brock profile image
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      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      agusfanani- You are welcome. I am so glad this will come in useful for you and I truly appreciate the compliments on the hub too. I really appreciate it!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend, great interesting hub, not something i would try but enjoyed reading it and you explained it so well as you always do.

      Vote up and more !!!

      Wishing you a very Merry Christmas !

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 4 years ago from Indonesia

      I always need to use different kinds of colors in my activities so this technique will be very useful for me to prepare my own colors. Thank you very much for sharing this neat, well explained hub Jamie Brock.

    • Jamie Brock profile image
      Author

      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      btrbell- You are so welcome :) I am glad you found this interesting! If you do decide to give a try, just be sure to cover your work space well and you may want to wear something that you don't mind getting a bit of ink on, just in case. Thank you so much for dropping by!

    • Jamie Brock profile image
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      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      Jackie Lynnley- Thank you for dropping by :) This one does have the potential to cause a mess for sure. I did pretty well with it until I got to the fuchsia color. It was very concentrated and I did have a little bit of ink spatter with that one and managed to get some on my fingers. I love doing DIY stuff so much that I don't really mind the mess too much.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      This looks like fun and it may be just what I am looking for. I will try it! Thank you, Jamie!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I doubt I will do this but I do find it really interesting. When I do things like this I end up ruining clothes, carpet, you name it. Probably blue fingers for weeks. I do love crafts though, more to buy or watch others do.

      Very interesting.