Exploring Inks & Giveaway! Let’s get Ready for Inktober LIVE!

Hi friends! Today we are going to look at a bunch of different inks and discuss what they are best for. We will also compare inks and paint and what inks might go well with the supplies you already have. If you have been on the internet for any amount of time you have probably heard of Inktober, a month-long drawing challenge during the month of October started by Jake Parker (more details here) so I thought I’d help you get ready in case that’s something you want to try. If not you can still learn about inks and maybe add some to your stash.

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I also have an awesome giveaway!

3 lucky readers will win a copy of both of Jane Davenport’s new books Fabulous Figures and Whimsical Girls! Jane uses inks a lot, she even has her own line of ink and I am sure these will inspire anyone to get creative. To enter the giveaway simply leave a comment on this blog post letting me know what your favorite ink is. Due to publisher restrictions this contest is only open to USA residence to let me know what state you are from as well. I will choose 3 winners at random next Friday. Good luck!These book are a wonderful way to kick start your creativity and get you ready for Inktober!

*Note, due to the high volume of comments it might take a while for your comment to appear on the site as new commenters have to be approved manually. Rest assured if you leave a comment on this post you are entered in the drawing.

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You can watch the live broadcast or replay in the player below but if you want to chat live or ask questions about any of the inks I am using please watch on the YouTube watch page at 12:30 pm Eastern time.


Supplies available at sponsor Jerry’s Artarama! Use coupon code: frugal20FS49 for 20% off $49 + Free Shipping (Excludes: Sale, Super Sale, Egift Cards, Buy It Try It’s and Vendor restricted items. Look for the green coupon eligible icon on the product listing.

So…What IS ink exactly?

Ink can refer to any fluid colored substance used for drawing or printmaking. We are not going to discuss printmaking inks today which can be as thick as paints. Today is all about the inks we used for drawing and mixed media work. There are some blurry lines between what is ink and what is paint. Ink can be either dye or pigment based (just like paint) it comes in all sorts of colors and lusters (just like paint!) some is waterproof and some is water-soluble (just like paint!) and some is lightfast and some is fugative (just like paint!) The similarities between ink and paint are vast but the difference here (unlike printmaking inks) comes down to viscosity for the most part. Inks will be liquid and fluid and by the end of today’s presentation you will know about many different kinds and what ones will enhance your particular style of work and make your other supplies more useful.

The 5 most common inks for drawing

Let’s talk about water reactive inks first. These inks are similar to Dr Ph Martins Radiant line or children’s liquid watercolors. These dye based colors are super clean and transparent and they are the same type of inks you will find in most watercolor/water based markers. These inks will come bottled, in daubers (like distress stain), in markers (Tombow, Zig real brush pens etc), in spray bottles (Adirondack sprays) and can be applied with dip pens, fountain pens and with an airbrush. You can apply them with a paint brush too but it will stain your bristles. These inks are typically not lightfast so are only for work that is meant to be kept in a sketchbook or reproduced. Dye based stamp pad reinkers diluted with a  bit of distilled water will make this kind of ink. This ink can be layered as it stains the paper but the ink will react somewhat as it is not waterproof. It layers on porous surfaces because of the staining ability of the tiny dye particles to absorb into the substrate and stain it. Fabric die is an example of this process. These also can be used for calligraphy. My pick for a good all around water reactive drawing ink is Winsor & Newton. *There are shimmer versions of this ink as well, some in spray form, but I advise against using shimmery ink in fountain pens or airprushes as it may clog or oxidize.

India Ink is an ink known for being deep black, usually waterproof and made of carbon and used for drawing typically with a dip pen. You can find no-shellac fountain pen safe india ink, just be aware some is waterproof and some is not. You can also find colored pigment based india ink like the Bombay line from Dr. PH Martin. This is my favorite India ink because it is waterproof and lightfast and comes in a  beautiful array of colors. You can also get india ink markers like the Pitt Pens from Faber Castell, they come in nib sizes from superfine to jumbo brush markers. I really like the fine tip markers for pen and ink work. India ink is a wonderful addition to a watercolorists tool box as you can watercolor over these inks without lifting them. You can also use the inks on top of a watercolor and not worry about lightfastness. Just keep in mind that thick applications of india ink may seal the paper and not allow the watercolor to bond in places giving you a resist effect.

Acrylic inks are very similar to the Bombay India inks in color, viscosity and performance. The difference is the binder which in this case is acrylic emulsion. Many companies make acrylic inks such as Dr PH Martin, Daler Rowney, Liquatex and more! Acrylic inks come in a range of transparent to semi opaque colors and pearlescent/metallic finishes. Due to the pigment composition some can be airbrushed and some shouldn’t be (never spray apply anything with a CL label!) so read the labels to be sure. You can also purchase acrylic inks in a spray bottle and these can be used on paper, canvas, textiles and some plastics and metals. These can be applied over watercolor and acrylic paint as well. They are waterproof once dry. Most brand name acrylic inks use pigments like they would in their paint and will be lightfast. Specific info on each ink can be found on the bottle. You can explore acrylic inks here.

Alcohol inks are another favorite of mine because they are waterproof when dry on so many surfaces. They are best on non porous surfaces like metal, plastic, marker paper and glass but can be used on regular paper and fabric too (but the color will appear much darker.) Pinta and Adirondack are two of the most popular brands of bottled alcohol inks but you can also find loads of alcohol ink markers (like Copic, Sharpie, Spectrum Noir, Promarker, Concept etc.) to choose from! For drawing the marker will probably be more useful however if you like to make cards, jewelry or home decor projects having a few bottles of alcohol ink around would be handy because you can color ceramic and metal and use it to tint glass. You can use other media over alcohol ink but I don’t recommend using alcohol ink over acrylic inks or india inks as it will dissolve the layers below. This ink is available in markers, bottles and STAZ-On inkpads. Do not spray apply.

Xylene based inks like the ink found in Chartpak markers might be useful to you if you can stand the smell (it’s a doozy!) The clear Xylene ink is great for transferring toner based photocopy images to your projects (I have a tutorial here on transferring photocopies to ceramic tiles) and then you can color those images with alcohol inks without smearing because the solvent is totally different. OR, if you stamp an image with alcohol based Staz-on Ink you can color it with Chartpak markers with no smearing which is great for jewelry and home decor items. These markers can be used in the same way as alcohol based markers on marker paper but they are harder to get ahold of, can be more expensive and the smell is intense (unless they have improved it since I bought mine.)

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I know that is a lot of info and there are a lot of brands that makes these kinds of inks and I will do my best to cover it in a comprehensive manner in the live broadcast but please refer to the cheat sheet above if you get confused. Thanks for stopping by, good luck on the giveaway and til next time happy crafting!

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