Advanced – Adding India Ink Pens To Your Alcohol Ink Paintings

Why Use The Faber-Castell India Inks

It would be wonderful if we had alcohol ink markers and pens that we could layer without fear of the ink moving.  It would also be nice to have very fine-tipped alcohol ink pens but I haven’t seen them yet. So I’ve found India Ink markers from Faber-Castell to add layers and really fine lines.

Here’s my experience with the Faber Castell (FC) Brush Pens

  1. The amount of time it takes to dry varies by region, humidity, etc.  Do a test first so you know how long it takes yours to dry. In the arid west it’s a matter of a couple of minutes. In humid Florida it can be 1/2 hour.
  2. You can blend the FC before they dry.
  3. You can use the Chameleon Blender pen to lift their color.
  4. The Signo Gel pen won’t write on top until the FC is dry.
  5. They are pigment based with a felt tip.
  6. They do come with a bigger tip. Here is a picture showing a comparison of the Faber Castell PITT, The Faber Castell Big Brush, Copic and Spectrum Noir bullet nib.  The Big Brush holds four (4) times as much ink and only costs one dollar moreTips compare 2

Here are the barrels side by side from top to bottom: Big Brush, PITT, Copic & Spectrum Noir

tips compare

The Faber Castell PITT pens have been used for half of the Golden Sunset painting. I love their intense colors and they way they layer with the alcohol inks.

So why do the India ink markers work for us?  The India ink markers once dried don’t move when alcohol is applied on top of them. The reason they don’t move is that they are pigment based. Pigment based means that the particles sit on top of the paper and don’t merge with the alcohol.

Let’s look at bit more into the difference between dyes and pigments.

More About The Difference Between Dyes And Pigments

So what’s the difference between alcohol ink markers and India ink markers? The alcohol ink colorant is a dye that completely dissolves into solution and in our case it is alcohol.  When you add more alcohol the dissolved dye merges into the new solution. When you let the alcohol evaporate off the dye is more concentrated because there is less solution.

So what difference does it make if we are using dye rather than pigment? Dyes are designed for maximum brightness and color saturation.  That’s what we like about our inks.

What about light-fastness? “Light fastness is the resistance of colours to fading, changing shade or darkening under the influence of light”1 Dyes are less light-fast than pigments because the quantity of the colorant exposed to light is more. Think of the dye completely dissolved in alcohol like sugar water spread out in a pan.  Most of the dye is exposed to the light. Think of the pigment as little rocks.  Only part of the little rocks are exposed to the light.

All of the Faber-Castell India ink markers are rated for light-fastness on the barrel of the marker. Mine are all *** Maximum light-fastness.

In conclusion, I am glad to have found the Faber-Castell India ink markers as a good tool to add layers and details to my alcohol ink paintings.



Pets Class – Amazing Student Work

The Level 3 Pets class has been in process for many months.  It’s really an advanced class and I am so proud and amazed by the fabulous work of these artists (students).  I just have to share some of their work with all of you.

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My Kingdom For A Good White

One of the questions I get all of the time is “what do you use for a good white?”  Because Yupo stains and the inks are transluscent it’s hard to get a good answer.

I decided it was time for an experiment.  I took 15 different “whites” and tested them in the harshest environment possible – on black.  I used 4 different blacks to see if that made a difference too.  The inks were:

  1. Adirondack Pitch Black
  2. Spectrum Noir True Black Refill
  3. Copic Black 100 Refill
  4. Prismacolor Black Marker

The whites I used were:

  1. Bic White Out (why not?)

    Whites Tested
    Right click – View image to enlarge
  2. Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen – White
  3. Derwent Graphik Line Painter – Snow
  4. Sakura Gelly Roll
  5. Molotow Acrylic
  6. Pen Touch – White
  7. Ranger White Opaque
  8. Sharpie Waterbased Paint
  9. Signo Uniball Gel Pen – 153
  10. Signo Uniball Gel Pen – Angelic
  11. White Titanium Watercolor
  12. Adirondack Snow Cap Mixative
  13. Pinatat Blanco Blanco
  14. Clorox Bleach Pen (why not?)
  15. Masking Fluid

Here’s the results:

White Test Results
Right click – View image to enlarge

Fascinating right?  Everything looked bright white when first placed on the ink.  The ink you put the white on definately makes a difference.

The Adirondack Pitch Black has lots of colors in it. I often see green, but I’ve heard about the pink.  Look how pink the whites turned! Best was #1 Bic White Out and #11 White Titanium Watercolor.  The Bic White Out Pen is really hard to control.  The other contender #8 Sharpie Waterbased is really pink in real life.

Spectrum Noir True Black Refill is a great black. #1, #8 #11 best bet. (Bic, Watercolor, Sharpie)

Copic Black Refill ate everything up. The best one was the bleach on the bottom. #1 and #11 are passing.

Prismacolor Black Marker is not as intense a black but the whites did better here. #1, #5 (Molotow) #8 and #11 were okay here.

What’s the bottom line? Test out what color and make of ink you are going to put white on. Of course the best was masking fluid.  The Bic Pen is hard to use, perhaps pour it into a palette. The Sharpie Waterbased is pretty reliable and the Titanium Watercolor works pretty well.

I guess I spend money and test stuff so you don’t have to.  Let me know if you’ve got any other contenders. I’d love to know.

16 New Paintings Added To The Level 1 Student Gallery

As the October Level 1 class ends I would like to share their paintings in the Level 1 Student Gallery.

New paintings by: Joining paintings by:
Cathy Brillhart
Lisa Crosby
Erin DePino
Anya Getter
Emily Holmes
Maria Mason
Janet Mayfield
Pat Bell
Debra Boulay
Debbie Brown
Margaret Coleman Hoffman
Di Faria
Ginny McCartha Smith
Sherri Patterson

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Purple Iris – Love The Light And Shadows

I just finished this Purple Iris based on a photo by Terry Krysak at PaintMyPhoto.  People asked how I select my paintings and I tell you it is all about the light.  I search for hours for an image that stops me in my tracks and this one did it.

Purple Iris smlr

It’s 11 x 14 Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper – I’ll repost the image once I get it scanned but I just couldn’t wait to share.

How To Create A Value Swatch With Alcohol Inks

In our classes we learn that the key to making a two-dimensional object look three-dimensional it to get the lights and darks right.  I’ve posted a couple of tutorial regarding values: The Role of Values in Your Paintings and Using The Values of Your Inks (Colors, Hues).

I’ve created a video to show you how to create quick swatches of values for a couple of inks (Stream and Pinata Calabaza).  This was inspired by a lovely video by esperoart creating tonal (value) swatches with watercolors and I wanted to see if I could do it with inks and how.

2 – Blog Colors To Values Part 1 Stream and Calabaza from Sheryl Williams on Vimeo.

grayscale1gray-scale 0 black.

Here are two different grayscales.  I use the one with 0 as white.  I punch holes in the middle to match them up.

Value Ranges blog


Here are the results of the experiment with Stream (Adirondack) and Calabaza (Pinata) inks.

If you decide to try and make some swatches, please post so we can share.

Getting Prints Made


Getting prints made of my alcohol ink paintings opened up a whole new world for me. I’m terrible about selling my originals because I don’t want to let them go.  Last summer a fellow artist told me that the paintings don’t do anything under my bed.  That really struck me.  I guess it’s time to share my work.

I read about several different print from home companies in the AI groups but didn’t try one until a professional photographer, visiting a dear friend, told her about AdoramaPix and I decided to try them out.  There was also a suggestion to use Metallic paper.  I wanted to see.

I was so thrilled with AdoramaPix because they are fast, inexpensive and the quality is marvelous.  I was shocked how beautifully the alcohol ink blows up even to 30″ x 20″. The details are sharp and the metalic paper is amazing.

I recommended using AdoramaPix to a fellow artist but she missed a few key points that would have improved her results. I realized it took me some work to use the site effectively.  In this post I’ll take you through the steps to improve the experience.

AdoramaPix assumes you are creating projects and then adding those projects to your shopping cart.

Treats order as projects. Multiple projects per order.

Step 1. Upload your photos.  You have to Browse for your first image.  You can drop into the dotted box for your subsequent images.

Step 2. Name for the project

Step 3, 4, & 5. ImportantSelect paper, border and color corrections.

(3) I like to use the Metallic (Kodak Endura Metallic).  (4) I use No Border because it’s easier to mat that way and none of the image size is used for a white border. (5) Color Corrections – I don’t correct the color. They do a great job using the colors you already have.

Step 6 Print on the back of the image

Step 7 Print Size and Quantity – Click on Advanced Order

The site will list sizes based on the size that will print based on number of pixels.  You can add additional sizes to the grid and then select quantities.

Will show if doesn't fit
Quantities Added

Review and Adjust the Cropping of Your Pictures

They have two options to modify your image if it doesn’t fit in the size you’ve picked: Full Bleed or Full Image.  If you pick Full Bleed you’ll crop out part of your picture, Full Image will have white to fill the space.

Now that you’ve added your images to your project you can Save and Complete Later or go to the Next Step to Review your order and add to your shopping cart.

I wanted to share what I’ve learned about ordering prints online.  For those of you who have never done it, this will give you an idea of the decisions you need to make.  For those of you that have ordered prints online, I wanted to point out how to make your AdoramaPix experience better.

p.s. I don’t work for AdoramaPix.  It’s just the service that I use.  I assume the same decisions come up using other services.  I did find a comparison of services here.

Contact Paper Resist – Video

In my quest for effective masking, I decided to try out contact paper (adhesive shelf liner) to see how well it worked.  I was really shocked at how easy it was to use and how clean the surface was when it was lifted. I had some experience with Frisket film but it’s quite pricey and when I used it with watercolor it wasn’t always a clean lift.

The first experiment was the shape of a cat cut out of contact paper and adhered to a ceramic tile.  Here’s the video:

Contact Paper Cat
Contact Paper

The cat was cut out of Duck brand “Peel & Stick Vinyl Covering” contact paper, pressed to the ceramic tile, background was poured and the contact paper was removed.  I’ll probably paint in the cat later but at this point the idea was to see how effective the contact paper was.

The next question was: “How does it work on Yupo Paper?” And the answer is – wonderfully.

Contact Paper Moon
Contact Paper Moon

Here’s a painting of a large moon on Yupo.  I traced the bottom of a cup onto the contact paper, placed the moon on the sheet and poured a background.

Then the moon was lifted and painted with a small brush and lots of blending solution to look smooth.

The silhouette of the tree was added last.