If you are an ink artist, chances are you’ve worked with either alcohol ink, acrylic ink, or both. They are fluid art mediums that are super vivid and quite trendy.
What’s the difference between acrylic ink and alcohol ink? The difference between acrylic ink and alcohol ink is in the base. Alcohol ink is dye based, while acrylic ink is pigment based.
Many beginners, however, lack this vital piece of information and cannot tell their uniqueness.
We often come across people asking if they can be used together, how and where to use them etc.
This article clearly distinguishes acrylic ink from alcohol ink and addresses all these questions. So if you’ve always wanted to know how they compare, keep reading to learn more.
What Is Alcohol Ink?
Alcohol Ink is a fluid art medium. It is characterized by a very thin consistency and dense dye that yields vibrant color.
The ink is mainly composed of dye suspended in alcohol. There are other resins and additives as well, but dye and alcohol are the base.
Once the alcohol evaporates, the dye is left behind, dried, and adhered to the substrate. Because alcohol evaporates rapidly, alcohol inks dry really fast.
Dry alcohol ink work cannot be distorted or lifted by water. It becomes waterproof.
You can always reactivate the dye using alcohol to rework your art. Normally, a clear alcohol blender is used to blend in areas or fix mistakes.
On the flip side, layering without disturbing initial layers becomes a challenge.
Alcohol ink can be transparent or opaque and is used to decorate or create background effects by painting on surfaces. It is also ideal for embossing, staining, stamping, and other ink arts.
This is, of course, possible on non-porous surfaces. The ink produces the best results on ceramic tiles, glass, Yupo paper, plastic boards, and other non-porous surfaces.
You could still use it on porous surfaces, but the results won’t be appealing.
On paper or canvas, alcohol ink will not flow. Instead, it gets sucked into the fibers at once.
Any fine details or sharp lines would be impossible to achieve because of the instant blotting.
And if you have some refillable alcohol markers that are in great shape but have run out of ink, you can use this ink to refill them. Just ensure it is compatible with the pen brand.
The archival quality of the ink is really low, especially when exposed regularly to direct sunlight. The good thing is there are UV-resistant coatings that can significantly help slow down the fading process.
Alcohol inks are super affordable. They are sold in sets, and you can get a 24-color acrylic ink set for a bargain. The price per unit is dirt cheap.
What Is Acrylic Ink?
Acrylic ink, like alcohol ink, is a fluid medium. In fact, it is these same features that bring about confusion as to whether they are the same as alcohol ink or not.
Like its counterpart, acrylic ink is very thin and fluidy, and the color shows brightly. It is, however, pigment based.
The ink is made from a blend of pigment and other additives suspended in a liquid acrylic resin emulsion. It is like an extra-thinned watery acrylic paint.
When painted, acrylic ink dries and bonds to the substrate permanently. The bonds cannot be broken using water.
It works the same way as regular acrylic paint. Once the liquid components evaporate, the acrylic molecules link into a grid with rigid waterproof bonds.
There is a good and bad side to this. Let’s start with the negative.
You have to work with good speed and accuracy when using acrylic ink. The moment it dries, it cannot be reworked after.
This can be a challenge for beginners who need to take their time and are bound to make mistakes.
On the bright side, it is excellent for layering because there is no chance of lifting the bottom layers once set. That means you can also paint over and hide any mistakes.
Because acrylic ink is less thin and pigment based, it can be used in the same way as acrylic paint to make ink paintings. It works better than alcohol ink on porous surfaces like canvas and paper. There are special papers for the same as well, such as the Yupo paper.
Therefore, acrylic ink is the perfect choice for artists who prefer to paint with a watery consistency for a watercolor look.
Only this is nothing like a watercolor painting. With acrylic ink, you can build up thin layers; something watercolors cannot do.
Acrylic paint can be transparent or opaque. It is also archival, so you can enjoy intensely pigmented artwork for many years.
Acrylic inks don’t come cheap and are more expensive than alcohol inks. The best acrylic ink brands are sold as individual colors, but the price can escalate really quickly if buying multiple colors.
The Difference Between Alcohol Ink And Acrylic Ink
Having gone through the properties of both inks, it is pretty clear that these are two distinct types of art mediums.
You can draw out the differences between alcohol and acrylic ink from those properties.
In addition, you’ll be able to incorporate the correct ink into your artwork, knowing how they behave.
Nonetheless, if the differences did not come out that great, or you need a reference point, here is a chart with a side-by-side comparison of their characteristics.
|Properties||Acrylic Ink||Alcohol Ink|
|Base||Pigment-based ink in an acrylic resin and water emulsion||Dye-based ink in alcohol that is highly saturated|
|Consistency||Thin||Thinner and runnier|
|Coverage||It can be transparent or opaque||It can be transparent or opaque|
|Reactivation||Water soluble when wet. Waterproof once dry and cannot be reactivated using water||Alcohol soluble when dry and wet. Waterproof once dry but can be reactivated with alcohol|
|Drying rate||Moderate speed, dries within 20 min||Dries quickly, in under 20 min|
|Layering||Effortless layering||Nearly impossible to layer without reactivating the bottom layers|
|Applications||Pouring technique, watercolor painting effects, airbrush, and pen refilling||Unique effects of transparent and delicate paint layers as background or decor, stamping, embossing, staining|
|Painting Substrates||Paper, cardboard, canvas, plaster, sealed wood, and fabric||Yupo paper, Nara paper, glass, ceramic tiles, plastic, vinyl, metal, resin|
|Archival qualities||Archival, it is light-fast, and vividness lasts for decades||Non-archival and fade over time. Lightfastness can be improved with an anti-UV coating|
|Price||Moderately priced but costs more||Low prices|
How To Use Acrylic Ink On Canvas
If it’s your first time using acrylic ink on canvas, you might wonder how to go about it. Acrylic ink is pretty versatile, and you can apply it on canvas using any paint application method, be it a regular paintbrush, airbrush, or spraying.
This could be on fresh canvas or on top of an already painted canvas to add details. Do not worry; the ink is compatible with most other mediums.
To paint a picture on canvas, you must start with a clean surface and apply a good primer. It would be difficult to paint with ink bleeding, considering how thin it is.
Primer helps seal the canvas. After the coat of primer dries, you can go ahead and paint, applying the ink in very thin coats.
Slowly build up your layers.
To create an abstract painting or achieve a watercolor effect background, mix 20 parts of water with one part of flow aid.
Use a paddle brush to cover the entire canvas. Now release drops of different colored acrylic inks and watch them flow spread out .
Can You Use Acrylic Ink With Resin?
Yes, you could. Although alcohol ink is preferred for resin, you may use acrylic ink. But beware that the effect will vary greatly.
Acrylic ink is somewhat flowy in resin, unlike alcohol ink, that can be contained in desired areas to achieve a distinct look like the famous “Petri Dish” effect, acrylic ink cant.
It spreads to wherever it wants to go. It will be a better choice if you are looking to tint the entire resin but not controlled designs.
So, Which Is Better, Alcohol Or Acrylic Ink?
Whether partial to acrylic or alcohol ink, neither is better than the other. They are unique and shine in their own ways, depending on the application.
In most, not all, cases, you can achieve similar effects with acrylic ink as alcohol ink. So, you have to look at the strengths of each ink to determine which is better for your needs.
For example, if you are decorating an object or making artwork that will be displayed outdoors, you are better off with acrylic ink due to its light fast properties.
If you want to work on a project over an extended period, alcohol inks would be a better option. You can take your time touching up sections and blending colors to create something unique as it can be reworked.
Bear in mind the substrate as well. The inks do not produce the same results on different surfaces. So experiment with a small sample first before committing your ink supplies to a large project.