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DIY Craft Supplies: Make Your Own Alcohol Inks

Jamie loves writing about DIY projects, decorating on a budget, craft ideas, and creative ways to reuse and upcycle products.

Learn how to make your own alcohol ink with this easy DIY tutorial.

Learn how to make your own alcohol ink with this easy DIY tutorial.

How to Make Alcohol Ink

Alcohol ink is a translucent ink 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 used a Bic Mark It permanent marker, but Sharpies also work great.

Supplies Needed

  • 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)
  • Scissors
  • X-Acto knife
  • Pliers
  • Tweezers
  • 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 an old chip dip glass jar that I'd' cleaned thoroughly. 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.

Pouring the rubbing alcohol in the glass container

Pouring the rubbing alcohol in the glass container

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 an 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 set 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 that 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.

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.

Paper roses: some colored with Sharpie and some colored with BIC ink

Paper roses: some colored with Sharpie and some colored with BIC ink

Helplful Tips

  • 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 of 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 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 decide 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 a 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.

Happy Crafting!

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 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 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:

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 :)

Rachel on April 12, 2014:

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 (author) from Texas on January 23, 2014:

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

brenda foster on January 20, 2014:

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

Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on August 24, 2013:

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

Savvy Unlimited on August 22, 2013:

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 from Midwest, USA on February 13, 2013:

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

Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on February 13, 2013:

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 from Midwest, USA on February 09, 2013:


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

cre8ivOne from Midwest, USA on February 09, 2013:

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 (author) from Texas on February 09, 2013:

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 from Midwest, USA on February 07, 2013:

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 :


Jamie Brock (author) from Texas on January 25, 2013:

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 :)

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on January 25, 2013:

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 (author) from Texas on January 20, 2013:

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 :)

storybeader on January 20, 2013:

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 (author) from Texas on January 19, 2013:

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 :)

Natasha from Hawaii on January 19, 2013:

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 (author) from Texas on December 27, 2012:

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

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on December 21, 2012:

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 (author) from Texas on December 18, 2012:

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!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 17, 2012:

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 (author) from Texas on December 17, 2012:

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 (author) from Texas on December 17, 2012:

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!

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on December 17, 2012:

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 from Indonesia on December 16, 2012:

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 (author) from Texas on December 16, 2012:

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 (author) from Texas on December 16, 2012:

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.

Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on December 15, 2012:

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

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 15, 2012:

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.