How to Create Stunning Alcohol Ink Artwork – The Drying Process
Updated: Mar 26
Today's blog post will definitely be more suited for my artist friends and people interested in painting with alcohol ink. In this post, I'm going to discuss the different drying tools I've tried and provide a short video clip of a couple of drying process I use most in action.
If you are new to Ink Chatter, you may not know that I've spent the last 30 years looking for my art medium. I've experimented with a lot of different mediums, but none felt like home. It wasn't until I stumbled across Lana Rubin's artwork on social media and tried alcohol ink for the first time that I finally fell in love with an art medium. For those of you unfamiliar with Lana, she uses alcohol ink and yupo paper to create amazing and vibrant collage pieces. Thanks to Lana, I bought my first pack of Jacquard Products Pinata inks from Amazon and started experimenting. As a natural learner or knowledge builder, I adventured down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos and social media in the quest to find other artists that also use the medium.
In the early days of my creative adventure, I would often get overwhelmed by the different processes and ink manipulations each artist would use. I have tried countless ways of drying ink over time and have come to enjoy using an air bulb, travel hair dryer (the key is in the travel size), and a hot airbrush. I wear a mask most of the time (99%) because inks can be very hard on your lungs, which rules out forced air by mouth.
Alcohol ink is by far my favorite medium to work with, but the drying options can be overwhelming, especially for people who are just finding the medium. As a life-long learner and teacher of knowledge, I want to share with all of you the different techniques I've tried and the ones I prefer to use the most.
For the remainder of the post, I'll review the following drying processes:
Forced air by mouth or straw
Each of the tools I'm about to discuss can be used in different ways to create different outcomes. I will typically use more than one tool on each of my pieces.
Most standard hair dryers have varying speeds and temperatures, which can make for different outcomes when drying inks. Typically, larger hair dryers put out a lot more force than a travel-sized hairdryer. There are various ways to use a hairdryer to get specific effects as well, which ultimately means you'll need to experiment to see how to best use one. I prefer to keep my hairdryer further away from the piece and use it to create a smooth finish. I also use a large hairdryer to spread large volumes of ink across larger canvases or yupo paper. Sometimes I'll use hair dryers to create a wave or ripple effect, but that is pretty infrequent. I know some artists make roses, wisps, and other effects with hair dryers. If this is of interest to you, definitely check out YouTube! I use a Conair Infinitipro.
Travel Hair Dryer
I prefer a travel hair dryer over a standard hair dryer simply because it produces less forced air, which for me equates to more control and even drying. I have two travel hair dryers - one is super small 'tiny red,' and the other one is black and slightly more powerful. I really love my tiny red hairdryer, I've used it so much I have black electrical tape holding it together! The one that is black and slightly more powerful has a cooling setting, which is the only reason I like to use it. In the video, at the end of this post, you'll see how I use both dryers.
My travel hairdryer is 10 years old, but here is a link to a similar option.
I don't often use the airbrush when I'm working with yupo paper, but I absolutely love to use an airbrush when I'm working on canvas. An airbrush is great when you want to spread large quantities of ink across a canvas (or yupo) or if you're going to have more forced air aimed at the inks. It creates a tremendous splattering effect the closer you get the airbrush to the ink. I honestly have an airbrush because my husband had it in his garage, and he wasn't using it; otherwise, I'm not sure I would go out and buy one. The one I have is from Iwata and it is top of the line; however, Iwata sells more reasonable options as well.
The canvas artwork above was completed using an airbrush
Forced air by mouth
The most control can be found by using forced air by mouth, but it also has the most risk to your health*. Forced air from your mouth is likely to have the least amount of pressure or force (compared to a hairdryer, for example); therefore, you will likely have the most control. In the video below, I'm using alcohol ink and mixing it with 91% isopropyl alcohol before using forced air by mouth.
The artwork to the right was completed using forced air by mouth.
*Alcohol inks are considered toxic and contain many chemicals that are not typically good for human consumption or absorption. My advice if you plan to use forced air by mouth is to work in a ventilated area, preferably with an air purifier, and in small doses. The air purifier I use in my home is the Winix 5500. It lights up red alerting me to toxins in the air when I'm using inks.
An air-bulb is the next best thing to forced air by mouth. I feel I have more control over the piece when I use the air bulb than I do with a hairdryer or airbrush. I actually had the air bulb for my DSLR and found a dual purpose for it. If anyone is looking for one to purchase, the air bulb I use is Giottos Rocket Air Blaster Large. I like the Giottos air blaster because it can stand upright, it has a long nozzle and is very durable. If you follow me on social media you have likely seen a video of me using the air blaster, but you'll see it show up in the video at the end of this post.
Hot Air Brush
I recently purchased a hot air brush because I wanted to add another drying tool to my arsenal of ink tools. Also, I shop when I'm stressed - ergo, a new tool. The hot air brush that I purchased is from Revlon. I like to use the low and cooling settings most. It's easy to create ripples or waves in the ink with the hotter environment. On the low setting, it can be used to dry ink evenly.
The photo to the right was done completed using only a hot air brush.
Video using multiple drying tools:
Overall, if you're just starting out, I would purchase travel hair dryer or a hot airbrush first. The next tool I would purchase is an air blaster. Since you can get reasonable deals on Amazon it should set you back too much to get started. Plus, you may already have some tools on hand.
I really hope you've enjoyed today's post. If you want to continue learning more about alcohol ink, check out my past posts or fill out this form to join my email list to receive weekly tips, inspiration, and good vibes.
Until we meet again,
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