I admit it: I'm a tad compulsive. I like to have things just right. You know the little holder for whiteboard markers? I always have to have all the markers facing the same way, all the logos lined up, with the colors in a certain order (ROYGBIV, of course). I can always tell if someone's been using my markers. My husband occasionally calls me Mr. Monk (love that show, BTW).
Alcohol inks work great with polymer clay, and they're a lot of fun. One of the best things about alcohol inks is that if you don't like the results, you can wipe it off or add another color for a completely differently look. Of course, if you're compulsive like me, that's also one of the bad things about alcohol inks -- it's sometimes hard to stop tweaking and re-trying!
What You NeedYou just need a few basics for working with alcohol inks:
- alcohol inks
- felt or applicator tool
- alcohol blending solution
Note: I hate gloves -- but to me, this is one time when they're worth the trouble. Alcohol inks can really stain your fingers! The alcohol blending solution isn't totally essential, but it gives you a lot more options with the inks. Plus it's good for cleaning the stray inks off your fingers (or carpet -- oops!).
How To Do ItWhile alcohol inks can be used on either unbaked or baked polymer clay, I prefer working with it on baked clay so I'm less likely to mess up my clay piece.
- Put a drop of alcohol ink on a felt applicator, or directly on your clay piece. You have about a minute before it dries to spread it around, mix it with other colors, etc.
- If the ink dries before you're ready, add a drop of blending solution. This allows you to continue spreading and blending colors. The blending solution's also useful if you get one color too strong and want to lighten or remove it.
- Repeat steps 1-2 to add as many different colors as you want.
The basics are really that easy! But as you start to play, you'll see just how versatile the inks can be.
VariationsHere's a few variations you might want to try:
- Single Ink Color: Try using just one color of alcohol ink. I think it's beautiful with the mottled shades it naturally creates -- but you could add more drops for a more even coverage.
- Multiple Ink Colors without Blending: You can spread and mix the colors without blending solution to retain more vibrant, unique colors.
- Multiple Ink Colors with Blending: I often spread blending solution on the clay before I add the first drop of color. This allows the colors to bleed and blend from the start -- preventing spots of too-concentrated color.
- Painting with Inks: Can you tell that the heart is a little more red than the surrounding areas on this sample? (Don't worry if you can't -- this technique works better & is much more obvious with a larger design.) You can cut small pieces of felt to add specific colors to specific areas. Would be great for "painting" a larger stamp or image transfer.
- Kato Liquid Polyclay Base with Random Inks: Kato Liquid Polyclay works great with alcohol inks. In this case, I spread a thin coat of liquid clay then dropped the ink colors on top and let them bleed and blend on their own. While I wasn't crazy about the dark pool of colors in the middle, I totally love the tie-dye effect on the edges. An idea to play with...
- Inks Pre-Mixed with Kato Liquid Polyclay: You can pre-mix your liquid clay and alcohol inks for more predictable results. I keep my color mixtures in a little plastic paint holder with snapping lids (ya know, like they used to include with Paint by Numbers kits).
- Glazed: I used Glossy Accents dimensional glaze to add a coat of shine -- it really seems to add depth to the finished piece.
I hope you'll give alcohol inks a try. They really are a lot of fun, and these examples are just the beginning of the various effects you can achieve.
Course, if you're compulsive like me, be very careful. You may be tweaking forever!