Getting started with alcohol inks: A review of alcohol ink brands
Updated: Feb 21
Over the next few months, I am going to be doing a series of posts on getting started with Alcohol inks. If you are new to alcohol inks or have been wondering about which brands you should purchase, this post will be worth reading.
I figured the best place to start is with an overview of alcohol inks and the brands I like to use. AND if you’re new to alcohol inks, keep reading to learn how to grab a FREE Essential Alcohol Ink Materials Guide developed by yours truly. All of the links below are affiliate links.
Let’s get to the details!
Alcohol inks are transparent, highly-pigmented dyes that can be used on non-porous substrates. The color options are endless, and there are several brands available to choose from; my favorites include Copic, Tim Holtz, T-REX, Jacquard Piñata Color, and Brea Reese.
Copic Various Ink Refills
According to Copic, the Various Ink Refills were designed to refill Ciao markers, Sketch markers, Copic markers, and Wide markers. More recently, artists have started using them in their liquid form to create. The Various Inks are alcohol-based and permanent, with guaranteed color consistency. They are non-toxic, photocopy-safe, dries acid-free, and cleans up with rubbing alcohol. They also have a guaranteed three-year shelf life.
Copic various refill inks are, by far, one of my favorite brands to use when creating. Of all the inks I use, Copic has the most color variety, but they are also the most expensive. Unfortunately, Copic discontinued its 25 ml bottles to replace them with 12 ml bottles, which were scheduled to release spring 2020. The new design appears to have a pen-shaped form to make it compact and easy to use.
If you are wondering about the available colors and which ones you should purchase, check out my post on Deciphering the Copic labeling system.
Tim Holtz Ranger Ink
According to Ranger Ink, Tim Holtz alcohol inks are “Acid-free, fast drying transparent coordinating dye inks specially formulated to create a colorful, polished stone effect. Use on glossy paper, dominoes, metal, shrink plastic, glass, and other slick surfaces. Available in exciting color palettes. Alcohol Blending Solution is available for lightening colors and cleaning inks from non-porous surfaces”.
I am a huge fan of Tim Holtz alcohol inks. I own and enjoy using every color developed to date. The bottles have precision tips that allow smaller amounts of ink to flow out while using, which gives added control when you’re creating art. The bottles are on the smaller side at .5 fl. oz., just under 15 ml, but they come in coordinating color packages, which I absolutely love. Having watched and followed Tim Holtz, I’m sure he put A LOT of time in the development and packaging to make sure all of the colors coordinated. If you’re just starting out, I suggest purchasing the 3-packs and creating art using the three colors, and you’ll start to see how amazingly well they pair together.
Jacquard Piñata Colors
According to Jacquard Products, “Piñata Colors are highly saturated, fast-drying alcohol inks for any hard surface, including glass, metal, plastic, ceramic, stone, leather, resin, polymer clay, YUPO® and more. Indelible and impervious to water, Piñata Colors clean up with alcohol and rewet themselves, allowing for unique effects and techniques not easily achieved with water-based inks. As a dye-based, highly transparent ink, Piñata Colors are unparalleled for vibrancy. Only the most lightfast dyes have been selected for the palette. Acid-free with excellent adhesive properties, Piñata Colors are the go-to inks for all non-porous surfaces.”
Personally, I would purchase either the Jacquard Products Piñata Exciter Pack or the Piñata Color Overtones Exciter Pack when you’re first starting out with alcohol inks. Here’s why, in the Exciter pack, you receive a variety of colors, black, white, and rich gold. If you’ve seen my work, you know how much I love working with metallics, especially, Jacquard Product metallics. An even better option is the Piñata Color Overtones Exciter Pack because it comes with Brass and Copper, my two favorite metallics. Individual bottles are also available for purchase.
Piñata Colors are very saturated and extremely vibrant inks. It is a thicker consistency than most of the inks mentioned in this post and has more of a gloss when dried. For the most part, when a blending solution is added, the colors stay relatively pure, with little undertones bleeding out.
T-REX Alcohol Ink *updated 2/21/2021
According to T-Rex, their “inks clean up with alcohol and have rewetting properties that make painting with them on any non-porous surface a delight.” The ink sets are “highly saturated, water-resistant, acid-free and Japanese dye-based for creating depth, layering & stunning effects.”
They currently offer 3 different packs, warm tones, cool tones and a starter set at affordable price points. So if you're looking to get into alcohol ink, their packs are a great starting point.
The starter set comes with 11 colors and a bottle of their clear blending solution. A detailed description of each color is available on their website*. The bottles are 20ml jumbo-sized bottles providing 33% more Japanese dye-based ink than other brands. They are designed with an anti-clogging tip and leak-resistant cap. The inks are fast-drying, permanent, and waterproof.
The WARM EARTHtones is a collection of 12 colors spanning the spectrum of pink, red, orange, yellow, and brown with a pop of Gold Metallic (our first-ever metallic). A detailed description of each color is available on their website*.
The COOL EARTHtone is a collection of 12 colors spanning green, teal, blue, purple, gray, and Silver Metallic (our first-ever metallic). A detailed description of each color is available on their website*.
I personally love using Space Black and Tidal Teal from the starter set. The colors are super vibrant and saturated, similar to Jacquard Piñata Colors. Based on how they perform, I would assume they have a lot more pigment than alcohol. The hues are unique and worth the small investment.
According to Brea Reese, their alcohol ink “ is a fast-drying, highly pigmented medium, which is used on non-porous surfaces. These vibrant colors are great for a variety of techniques. Alcohol ink is best used on waterproof paper, resin molds, or any non-porous surface.”
The bottles are 20ml large bottles, similar to T-REX, but with more color varieties. They also package their bottle individually or in packs of three. The prices are moderate, so it’s easy to snatch up some colors without breaking the bank.
Brea Reese alcohol inks are very pigmented and vibrant. My only complaint is the packaging. The screw-on caps are terrible, and I end up with more ink on my table than on the page. In looking at their website, it seems they may have changed their bottle design since my last purchase, so maybe this is no longer an issue…
There you have it!
AND as mentioned, if you’re interested in a FREE Essential Alcohol Ink Materials Guide, subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send you a copy*.
*I promise, no spammy emails, and I keep the emails to a minimum because who needs extra garbage.