Alcohol inks are incredibly expensive. Save BIG BUCKS by making homemade alcohol inks. You’ll get vibrant, gorgeous alcohol ink at a fraction of the cost!
I’m super excited because today I’m updating a post from way back in 2015. Almost 5 years ago I decided to start making my own alcohol inks. But I’m always working to improve things. So over the past 5 years I’ve tried all sorts of markers and bottles and methods and I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. But I’ve also sort of streamlined the process. I’ve figured out how use less tools and make more vibrant and saturated colors. And I’m really happy to share with you a new and improved way to make alcohol inks at home… (original Alcohol Inks post can be found here)
But first, what are alcohol inks used for?
Alcohol inks are a lot of fun! You can use them to add super bright and saturated colors to things like white coffee mugs or clear acrylic trays or bangles. You can even set them on fire to make some gorgeous abstract art. And alcohol inks are also used by fine artists and can be made into some truly stunning pieces. For more information on using alcohol inks to make your own DIY gorgeous alcohol ink paintings, check out this very informative post at acrylgiessen that covers all things about painting with alcohol inks.
Why DIY when you can buy alcohol inks?
Straight UP to save money. BIG money, in fact. I was needing a new set of alcohol inks and I wanted to have sort of a rainbow assortment. Because I was feeling supremely lazy I figured I’d just buy a set. On Amazon I found this Ranger Favorites Alcohol Ink Set and it had most but not all of the bright and cheerful colors I was hoping for. Plus each bottle was only half an ounce. At $60 for the set, that means each half an ounce costs $4 apiece. Now think about it this way… at $8 an ounce and with 128 ounces in a gallon, do you have any idea what the cost is per gallon?
First let’s think of a few gallons to compare this astronomical price I’m about to show you… In my part of Texas I can get a gallon of milk for around $2.50. I filled up my car yesterday and paid $2.29 a gallon for regular grade gasoline. But if I wanted to order enough of these little bottles of alcohol ink to equal one gallon it would cost me $1,024. Wowzers, right? Ooh, and I didn’t even add tax. Silly me! That would be another $84.15 for a total of roughly $1108 per gallon of store bought alcohol ink. That’s about my grocery budget for 2 weeks spent on nothing but TAX.
Now this was kind of silly, I grant you because who would ever BUY a gallon of alcohol inks? But I just wanted to bring home just how expensive this little craft medium is. And alcohol inks are a really FUN craft medium to work with. Unfortunately because of the cost a lot of crafters can’t afford them. That’s why I went DIY 7 years ago and never looked back.
Did you know I wrote a book about Alcohol Inks?
I did, I totally wrote a book on Crafting with Alcohol Inks titled Crafting with Alcohol Inks which is soooo original, I know :) Quick plug, get your very own copy of Crafting with Alcohol Inks by Allison Murray (yours truly) online at either Amazon or Barnes and Noble!
Back when I wrote this book in 2016, my publisher wanted me to use alcohol inks in the projects that others could purchase and so I did. Except for my very first use of alcohol inks when I purchased a little 3 pack that is the only other time I’ve ever spent money alcohol inks. Every single other use has been DIY.
And, as I said, through the years I’ve managed to come up with much more vibrant and saturated inks to use than I did way back in 2015. In a nutshell, these DIY alcohol inks are amazing and, in my honest opinion, rival store-bought alcohol inks at a fraction of the cost. And also in my honest opinion, blow my previous version of alcohol inks out of the water.
Supplies Needed for DIY Alcohol Inks
- Chisel Tip Sharpie Markers
- Strong Isopropyl Alcohol (91% or 99%)
- Precision Tip Applicator Bottles
- Glass Jars
- Paper Towels
- Disposable Gloves
- Craft Knife
- Protection for Work Surface
- Goo Gone for Clean Up
The supplies list to make DIY super strong alcohol inks is really small. Gather strong Isopropyl Alcohol (91 or 99%) and really good permanent markers. As of today, Isopropyl Alcohol is a straight up nightmare to find because of the current global health situation. Right now I’m not going to link to the alcohol because online there’s rampant price gouging.
I’ll admit the timing of this post isn’t exactly perfect but I’ve been working on it since way before the shortages. Please PIN THIS POST for future reference. This will be the perfect project when things settle down and rubbing alcohol isn’t being sold at a crazy premium.
The Markers You Use Affect the Quality
For this batch of super strong DIY alcohol inks I used Sharpie brand chisel tip markers. I initially purchased this set from Amazon but then was disappointed when I received them and realized there was no pink marker. Because I wanted a pink alcohol ink, as well, I purchased 2 fine point Sharpies individually from the craft store Michael’s. Later I found that Target carries a 4-count chisel tip Sharpie set that includes pink, lime green, bright aqua ,and purple.
Flat out, there’s just A LOT more ink inside of the chisel tip Sharpies giving you a much stronger alcohol ink. I’d strongly suggest picking up your fat Sharpies from Target. They’re cheaper than online and you can get all of the basic alcohol ink colors you’d want. But if you cannot find a chisel tip in the color you want, you’ll need TWO fine point Sharpies instead of one chisel tip.
If you’re not down with Sharpie, you can most certainly try to use any markers you please. Just make sure they aren’t eraser board markers because those won’t work. Washable markers will not work, either. Be sure that any markers you use state PERMANENT somewhere on them. And just know, I’ve used very cheap and very expensive markers in my journey and I think Sharpies produce the best results hands down.
Want to Use Up Old, Spent Markers?
You can absolutely get ink out of markers that appear to be all used up. Because just because they won’t write on paper doesn’t mean there isn’t anything left inside the pen. It’s just like expensive beauty products. There’s always SOMETHING left behind (so frustrating, right? :)
Follow this tutorial and whether your markers are new or old you’ll be able to eke out all of the color. But you won’t get a full ounce of good, vibrant colors when using old markers. Instead you’ll need to save up a couple of old markers to add up to about the same amount of ink in an original. Or you’ll need to reduce the amount of alcohol ink you make. Maybe instead of a full ounce, you’ll get a quarter of an ounce. If you try to use a single old marker and get a full ounce out like the tutorial below shows, just know your inks are going to be super faint.
Choosing Bottles to Hold and Dispense Your Homemade Alcohol Inks
These 1 ounce precision applicator bottles are the perfect little vessel for your DIY alcohol inks. After many years of making my own and using lots of bottles I will always, always use these precision tipped dispensers from now on. Though they come with a little funnel you don’t even need them with that needle tip (more on that in the tutorial below). Plus they’ve got a great screw on cap that you can really get nice and tight. And the silicone lid/drip stoppers work really, really well.
Learn Better by Seeing the Action? Check out our Homemade Alcohol Inks Tutorial Video:
Making Alcohol Inks, Step by Step:
At 1 ounce they’re the perfect size for a super strong alcohol ink like we’re making today.
With the cap on your Sharpie Marker, twist back and forth the cap. Slowly but surely the tip of the marker will pull away from the rest of the marker’s cartridge.
Slice open the tube that contains the ink. Cut all of the way from one end to the other.
Place the tube in a small glass jar and squeeze rubbing alcohol onto it. To begin with, start with just a very small amount of alcohol. The strength in our homemade alcohol inks comes from a high ratio of marker pigment to Isopropyl alcohol so go easy.
Place the lid on the jar and allow to sit or stir the tube around in the alcohol to help the ink seep out.
Once the top portion of your tube has turned mostly white squeeze downward onto the tube into the jar to release the ink still inside. Squeeze the tube like this a few times, adding a little squeeze of alcohol onto the tube to resaturate to help push the ink out.
This is a GREAT time to wear gloves, by the way.
Really great… Exhibit A in favor of wearing gloves… This strong alcohol ink literally took me 4 days to completely scrub/wear off. Cruddy-dud but lesson learned!
Getting your homemade alcohol ink into these precision applicators is a snap, no extra tools required! Simply squeeze the applicator bottle to push out all of the air.
Flip the applicator over and try to place just the needle portion of the lid into the alcohol ink. Release the pressure and the liquid will begin sucking up into the bottle as the pressure normalizes or whatever. I’m not a scientist but it’s just like when you put your finger on the end of a straw to suck up the coke from your glass.
Despite best efforts I did get ink onto the white screw on cap of my applicator bottles. I did clean them up just a little bit with alcohol in a fingertip spray bottle and a paper towel. Know, however, that once used in earnest, the outside of these alcohol ink bottles are going to become just as colorful as the inside. Alcohol ink runs and drips and that’s what makes it so much fun to craft with!
There are lots of Sharpie colors so if you have several that are quite similar in shade, it would be a good idea to label each color. In all honesty, I had planned just to put a little paper circle onto each bottle and dab it with the color inside. But since this was for a post I decided to print up some Avery 5160 labels I already had on hand.
How much money can you save making homemade alcohol inks?
For this project I did use quite a few things in my stash which brings the price down even lower, but let’s cover how much it would cost to make exactly what I did. I made a total of 10 colors and a full ounce of each.
- 32 ounces of 91% Isopropyl Alcohol from Walmart = $2.50
- Chisel Tip Sharpies from Amazon (current price) = $7.74
- Additional Colors, 2 Individual Fine-Tip Sharpies from Michael’s at $1.69 apiece x 40% off coupon for online purchase = $4.06
- Precision Tip Squeeze Applicator Bottles (quantity 24) = $9.99
- Add in sales tax (from my research no state exceeds 10% so we’ll go with that) = $2.43
For a grand total of $26.72 for 10 colors, a full ounce each of really vibrant or a total of $2.67 per ounce. And don’t forget, you’ll still have 14 applicator bottles and approximately 22 ounces of alcohol remaining for other uses. And since I did the whole dramatic thing with gallons that’s $341.76 per gallon of homemade alcohol ink vs. $1,108 per gall on of store bought. Proof is in the pudding, my friends.
Why BUY when you can DIY alcohol inks and save an amazing amount of $? :)
DIY Alcohol Inks
- With the cap on your Sharpie Marker, twist back and forth the cap to open the plastic case and retrieve the ink tube inside.
- Slice open the tube that contains the ink with a sharp craft knife. Cut all of the way from one end to the other. Place the tube in a small glass jar and squeeze a small amount rubbing alcohol onto it. Place the lid on the jar and allow to sit or stir the tube around in the alcohol to help the ink seep out.
- Once the top portion of your tube has turned mostly white, using gloved hands, squeeze downward onto the tube into the jar to release the pigment. Add more alcohol to equal approximately 1 ounce of total liquid.
- Squeeze the air out of a new precision tip squeeze bottle. Flip the applicator over and try to place just the needle portion of the lid into the alcohol ink. Release the bottle and suction will begin pulling the ink into the bottle. Continue until your squeeze bottle is full.