Candice is a theophile, multimedia artist, aromatherapy enthusiast, freelance writer, and a regular contributor to many sites and blogs.
Why I Love Alcohol Inks
Alcohol ink paintings are just one of the newest crazes sweeping the art community, in part because they are so beautiful and really fun to do; plus, anyone can create a lovely art piece with very little learned technique.
Alcohol inks capture attention with their super intense vibrancy. There is no other medium with the strength, clarity, or pure color transparency that they do.
Alcohol inks are translucent inks used to color metals, resins, paper, glass, fabrics, or anything else. They are an acid-free, highly-pigmented, and fast drying medium best used on nonporous surfaces but may be utilized on almost any surface.
The way colors blend together is absolutely gorgeous, with seemingly endless combinations of beauty. Even advertisers are jumping in on the popularity, as many commercial adverts are showcasing art created with them because of their wide mass appeal.
Another reason alcohol inks are getting so popular is that anyone can make a lovely abstract painting in very little time, and they make a great project for any kind of artist, plus; they work superbly on any nonporous surface such as ceramic tiles, yupo paper, glass and much more. These are just a couple of the reasons why alcohol inks if not already in your art toolkit, will soon be.
Will Alcohol Ink Paintings Fade?
All this leads everyone to the questions of how to finish these pieces, keep those luscious colors protected from scratches and fading, and prevent them from yellowing over time.
The bottom line is this: All alcohol inks will fade over time. No matter what you do. And any clear protective coating will yellow over time, period.
How to Seal Alcohol Ink: 3 Methods
But, there are specific coatings that are better than others and certainly ways to quickly slow the fading process and protect your art from yellowing.
I'll show you three ways you can do this easily that have all worked well for me on my alcohol ink paintings and projects.
If this is your first time hearing about alcohol inks, you're in for a treat. They are a blast to work with. They can be very messy if you're not careful. But if you take the right precautions, they can bring gorgeous results with little to no mess.
Method #1 for Sealing and Protecting Alcohol Ink Art
After you have completed your alcohol ink masterpiece, be sure to let it dry completely before trying to seal your work.
You definitely don't want to ruin all your hard work by not having a little patience. Believe me; it's worth waiting a day or two to ensure it's completely cured.
Another great thing about alcohol inks is they dry very quickly compared to acrylics or oil paints. You'll notice most of them are dry to the touch within minutes versus waiting for days or weeks for other mediums to cure.
Just to be sure, you should give it a whole day or two before applying anything to the surface of your work.
Here's the scoop; many people will tell you that you can use any clear coat or varnish to protect your projects, but that is just not true, and some can even mar, blur, or completely eradicate your whole work because they contain chemicals that interact with the alcohol inks. Believe me, I've learned the hard way and wrecked quite a few pieces trying cheaper or other products to protect my art.
The first method employs three stages, and I believe the best overall method- because it's the easiest and fastest method, is probably the most widely used, the first stage employs the use of . . . drumroll please . . .
1. Krylon Kamar Varnish
Kamar varnish is the MOST IMPORTANT first step FOR ALL alcohol ink art. Kamar varnish is nonyellowing, acid-free, and vital in protecting your alcohol inks from interfering with any other product. It is best to be applied in thin, even coats and dry well (according to product directions) between each layer. This is, in my opinion, the definitive, most important thing you can do to protect your artwork from yellowing and keep it looking fresh from the pallet.
2. Krylon Gallery Series UV Archival Varnish Matte
The second stage of method one:
A good tip to always follow is that you don't want to spray too close to your work, or it will clump up, bubble, or a number of different things, negatively affecting your art. But also be careful not to spray too far away either, or the spray will dry before reaching the project.
Krylon sprays are my go-to products and have always worked best for me, so I believe they are the best by far. I like using the matte version better than the glossy one, but that's just a personal preference. You may like the glossy better, depending on your project. Either one is fine.
If you only remember one thing, make sure you ALWAYS use the Kamar varnish first! This is crucial, as it's the only spray I've found that is sure to protect your inks from interacting with anything else you put on top of it.
Do not use the UV spray first. To ensure your art can handle anything sprayed over it, cover with a good protective coating of at least three or four coats of the Kamar varnish before using any other product, and wait between coats to be sure each layer is completely dried. I usually layer at least four and sometimes five coats, depending on the thickness of the coat.
After you've got at least three layers of the Kamar varnish (you can use as many as you think you need), spray several thin, even layers of UV protection over that, drying between each layer according to spray directions.
Once you have completed both the Kamar varnish and UV sprays, you can add a nonyellowing clear top coat to finish your project.
3. Krylon Acrylic Crystal Spray
I always use the Krylon Acrylic Crystal Spray for the third stage in method one, but you can use whichever nonyellowing clear coat you like. I use this one because, so far, for me, it's kept its promise.
I have used this for pencil art, color pencil, ink, watercolor, gouache, alcohol-based markers, acrylic, and even the occasional oil. The spray dries clear and matte; there is no added shine or glimmer besides any that was there before application. A warning, though; like many similar products, the smell is very strong and can linger close for some time afterward. Highly recommend using outdoors only.
That is one way to protect your art. Now you're ready to frame and hang your work or sell it to another art lover. Read on to see two other methods.
A Couple of My Alcohol Ink Art Pieces
Method #2 for Sealing and Protecting Alcohol Ink Projects
Method #2 is very similar to the first method, with the exception of the ending. There are three stages in method two; the only difference is the last coating. As stated earlier, KAMAR VARNISH is crucial for the first protective layer.
Be sure to use at least three layers of the Kamar varnish, followed by a few coats of the UV spray, and for this method, my next favorite is a non-yellowing Krylon Triple thick Clear Coat.
It really just depends on what kind of project you are working on and how you want the final product to look. If you want a deep glossy surface that has a little depth, use this method #2), and at least five coats of final gloss coats, making sure to dry well between each layer.
If you want an even deeper glossy effect, read on to find out how to use Method #3 with resin.
Most of the information from the video and Jane Monteith came from the "alcohol ink art community" on Facebook and personal experience.
NOTE: Please take all the necessary safety precautions when using these products. Spray in a well-ventilated area.
Method #3 Sealing Alcohol Ink Projects with Resin
Method #3 is another beautiful choice because there really is no substitute for the stunning gloss and depth you can achieve with resin. Its protection is unparalleled, and with its durability, you can even use it for everyday wear and tear items, from coasters to countertops. Its uses are endless.
As previously mentioned, the first stage in any of the three methods is to start with the Kamar varnish. Then, UV protection and whatever final coating you choose. Resin is a top choice for lasting protection.
There are numerous methods of using resin, and the whole resin concept has most artists cringing with doubt and fear. But don't worry, I've broken it down here to the simplest version, and it's much easier than you think.
First, what type of resin to use? Well, the best, I believe, is the ArtResin brand, not only because of its amazing properties but for the simple reason the owners are artists themselves who designed it. They stand by their product, so it's much safer than any other type with no VOC; it's non-toxic and less chemically smelling than any other brand. Plus, it's super UV protection for your alcohol ink art, and it's the best non-yellowing product out there. By the way, I'm not affiliated with them, nor do I receive anything for mentioning or using their products. It's just that I love them.
Before using resin on your art or art project, be sure to use at least three coats of the Kamar varnish spray to protect your work first. Not every artist will agree, but in my experience, it's better to be safe than sorry, and why not protect your work before adding any other layer anyway?
Next, be sure your surface is clean and clear of dust and particles.
I love Jane Monteith. Not only her art but her videos explain things so well. See her video Resin 101 about using resin to seal your alcohol ink projects below. This gives you every step you'll need to know.
So to summarize the three ways to seal and protect your alcohol ink art projects, you can choose which one best suits your unique look :
- Method #1. Seal with Kamar Varnish, then UV spray, followed by non yellowing clear coat for matte finish.
- Method #2. Seal with Kamar Varnish, then UV spray, followed by non yellowing triple thick clear coat for glossy finish.
- Method #3. Seal with Kamar Varnish followed by non yellowing ArtResin for super glossy finish with real depth.
Most of all, enjoy playing with the inks, create from your heart, and you'll always get a beautiful result. Happy inking!
A Couple of My Alcohol Art Pieces
Questions & Answers
Question: I was advised to use the Kamar and UV Spray on wine glasses, but they are not food safe. Do you have any recommendations on a product that is food safe? Should I seal it with the Kamar and then try modge podge? I've also read that modge podge will make it bleed.
Answer: I'd use method 3 here; a food safe resin over KAMAR and UV spray.
Question: I've seen people set fire to their alcohol ink tiles, does that seal the inks? Can such tiles be used in kitchens near gas stoves? Can tiles sealed with resin be used or is that flammable?
Answer: I've never set fire to any alcohol ink projects so I wouldn't know if it actually seals them. And I would check the specifications of the resin you used as well as with the company you purchased the resin from to determine if it is flammable.
Question: What did you find was the best of the three methods of sealing ink paintings to a tile used as a kitchen trivet?
Answer: I use all three methods to seal projects and haven't tried a trivet yet, but I would suggest sealing with the Kamar Varnish, then a resin specifically formatted to withstand high heat.
Question: After the kamar and UV spray, will there be any problems framing it? Such as the art sticking to the glass over time or anything?
Answer: I haven't had any issues with that yet, but I couldn't say for sure over time, especially if it gets a lot of sun, or high heat.
Question: When I use a stamper with felt usually on washers I end up with fuzz. Is there a better product to use than felt?
Answer: I've never tried using that, but I would guess that cotton might work better.
Question: If the alcohol inks will inevitably fade then what is the point in going the extra mile and using different sprays on it?
Answer: It helps them last much longer than not using any protection at all.
Question: I have this varnish at home and I've noticed that when I use it with my black pigments it seems to turn them into a green color. Have you ever had this experience and do you know how I could avoid it?
Answer: Sounds tricky, never dealt with varnish over black pigment turning green. I can't answer that. But best of luck figuring that one out! Let me know if you do.
Candice Collins (author) from WestCoast Florida on April 15, 2021:
Never done any fired products. Sorry can't help you there.
Kim V on July 14, 2020:
Can you use any of these methods if you do Alcohol Ink Fired Projects. Thanks innAdvance
email@example.com on January 12, 2020:
Interested in your inspiration.