Sunday, July 6, 2014

Alcohol Inks Tutorial

Hi everyone!  I've been a terrible blogger because I haven't been around much lately, I know.  Summer time is crazy at work and I've had to work several weekends, so my rare free time has been spent relaxing rather than blogging.  I hope you'll all forgive me!  Don't forget that you can follow me over on Instagram where I post pics of pretty much any manicure that doesn't make it into a blog post, so it's a great way to keep tabs on what's going on with my nails :)

To make up for my absence, I have a tutorial for you today...yay!  Many of you will have heard of an awesome new manicure technique called lead lighting.  Taking its name from a stained glass technique, lead lighting manicures feature stamping with black or a dark color over a white/light base.  Then the stamped design is filled in using sheer jelly polishes, mimicking the look of stained glass.  You can create some truly gorgeous and unique manis this way.  

When searching out jellies to try lead lighting for myself, I discovered I actually don't own very many suitable polishes for this technique.  Browsing around on the web gave me the idea of using alcohol inks to lightly pigment clear polish, but those inks can get a little pricey.  Further research let me know I could make my own alcohol inks at home, with supplies I had around the house so I thought I'd give it a try!

There are several "recipes" for DIY alcohol inks floating around the web using anything from KoolAid to food coloring to markers for the color part.  For my initial experiments, I tried food coloring, marker ink, and acrylic paint.  Each of these made a great alcohol ink, but once I started mixing them with the clear polish I ran into issues.  The marker ink caused the polish to thicken and separate rendering it unusable and the food coloring faded color so badly it became grey.  So I've settled on acrylic paint for my polish alcohol inks.

This is one of the easiest tutorials you'll see.  The supplies you'll need are paper towels for clean up (this stuff can get messy!), Rubbing Alcohol (I used 70% because it's what I had at home, but I've seen sites that recommend using 90%), Acrylic Paint (I recommend the liquid-y kind rather than what you'll find in a tube. You're mixing it so if it's already liquid it just makes things easier), a small cup for mixing, a bottle or jar to store your ink in, and a bottle of clear nail polish (I used Wet 'n' Wild's Clear Nail Protector because it was on sale at Walgreen's for $0.69).  If you have a small funnel, it will come in handy but it's not necessary.  Also, acrylic paint is permanent!  If you're worried about staining, make sure to wear old clothes and cover your work surfaces.  You can also wear latex or rubber gloves to protect your hands.

To start, pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol into your mixing cup and add a few drops of acrylic paint.  Mix it by either swishing your cup around or using a spoon or other mixing device.  Decant a bit of clear polish out of the bottle, you'll need room to add some of the ink once it's mixed up.

Once your paint is dissolved into the rubbing alcohol (and here's where the funnel would be  helpful), pour it into your storage bottle or jar.  I used an old Seche Vite bottle (cleaned with acetone) to store my inks.  The next step is to pour a small amount of the ink into your clear polish.  As you can see in the photo above, you'll have to shake it up to mix everything together.

But once it's all shaken up, it stays mixed with little to no settling.  They look a bit cloudy in the bottle, but that doesn't seem to be an issue once it's mixed with the polish and applied.

And here are two coats of the red color above and a yellow jelly I made over two coats of Sinful Colors Snow Me White.  My next step will be to try these with the leadlighting but I don't anticipate any problems with that...well, not with the polish anyway, the stamping might be another story!

If you don't want to go through the hassle of making your own inks, they are available for purchase at most craft stores, like Michael's and Joann's.  Joann's website has a nice selection of them, prices are regularly $4.99 for a 0.5 oz bottle and $9.99 for a pack of 3.  It does look like they're having a sale right now, making the single bottles $3.49 and the 3-packs $6.99, so it's a good time to buy if you're interested!

Have you tried any DIY alcohol ink recipes?  I'd love to hear about your results or see any pics of your lead lighted manis!  I hope this post was helpful and thanks so much for reading!


  1. Interesting tutorial! Thanks for posting, I didn't know this could be done!

    1. I'm glad it was helpful, thanks Arathael!

  2. I've seen other people talk about this, but I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Now I know. The DIY route is creative. I ended up buying a set of polishes for this...You're idea is better, but I think I'm too lazy!


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