Monday, December 28, 2015

Getting Started with Alcohol Inks

Now, I'm not sure I would consider myself an "expert" in alcohol ink (perhaps experienced, but not an expert), but I've played around with them enough now that I am definitely qualified to share some advice for those who are interested in trying them out. As of this post's date, I have published 36 alcohol ink project posts. They are regularly some of my most popular posts and often my favorite projects because they are so quick and easy to work with.

So what are alcohol inks?

They are alcohol based dyes that can be used to dye any number of different surfaces, but often work best on smooth/nonporous surfaces (like glass, metal, plastic, glossy paint, etc...). The ink is a lot like the ink used in permanent markers (think Sharpies). It's permanent once it dries as long as it doesn't come in contact with alcohol based liquids (though just like permanent markers, some very smooth surfaces like ceramic, will smear even once dry). Alcohol Inks are often stamped or dripped onto surfaces and can create a translucent stained glass effect when used on clear surfaces (like glass and plastic). The most popular brands are Ranger Adirondack and Jacquard Pinata. 

So what do you need to get started?

Alcohol Ink. The kits are sold at craft stores and online. I have not tried the Pinata Inks, but they come in a large set with several colors all in one box. The Ranger inks are mainly sold in sets of 3 (metallic inks are sold in sets of 2). They are usually priced $8-12 a set. I've purchased a few sets on Amazon when their prices dipped and also picked some up at Michael's using 40 or 50% off coupons. My favorite set to recommend to beginners is named "Dockside Picnic" and comes with a shade of bright watermelon red, lime green, and a bright sky blue. "Summit View" is another good set that would pair nicely with Dockside Picnic for a beginner. It includes a bright yellow, bright orange, and bright purple. The Ranger Inks come in many colors but are grouped into earthtones, lights (pastels), and brights. The Dockside Picnic and Summit View sets are "brights." They will create the brightest most vivid colors.

A work surface. I use a craft mat to protect my table from the ink. These mats are great for stamping on too and allow for an easy to clean work surface and can be reused over and over again. If you're not sure you need to spend the extra money for a mat, parchment paper would be a good inexpensive substitute, but you might want to use masking tape to make sure it doesn't roll up while you're working.

Blending solution. Ranger has a blending solution that's used for thinning/mixing the ink and cleaning up after your mistakes. I'm too cheap to buy the little blending solution bottle and instead use rubbing alcohol. Some crafters swear by 90% rubbing alcohol, but I never remember to look for it at the drugstore, so instead I buy 70% rubbing alcohol in bulk from Costco. 

An applicator and felt. An applicator has a felt surface that you drip your ink onto to stamp onto your surface. Ranger makes an applicator too. I was too cheap to buy one of these also (although, if you watch prices, they have gotten pretty cheap), so I made my own with some scrap wood and some hook and loop tape (velcro). I was even able to customize it with a layer of craft foam under the velcro. It works great. I've also seen homemade applicators with little wooden handles or knobs and one person just attached the felt to a large binder clip to use as a stamp. Whichever method you use, you'll need some felt. I pick mine up at Michael's or Wal-mart and cut it to size. 

Canned air. This one seems silly, but canned electronic duster air is awesome for blowing your ink around on your surfaces. It works great when you're trying to work on curved surfaces (like christmas ornaments) or when you just want to get your ink to spread out.

With those above items, you can create all kinds of projects. Some other tools that might be helpful: eye droppers or pipettes for dripping rubbing alcohol or blending solution onto your projects, vinyl gloves if you hate getting ink on your hands (most of it does come off with rubbing alcohol though--I never wear gloves), and water pens (brushes with a water reservoir that you can fill with rubbing alcohol) for painting with alcohol ink.

So how do I use them?

To start, prepare your surface. Clear your table and put down your craft mat or parchment paper. If you don't like the smell of rubbing alcohol, you may want to open a window. The alcohol inks smell like alcohol--it doesn't bother me, but if you're sensitive to it, make sure your area is well ventilated.

Next, grab your applicator and put some felt on it. Make sure to have a few extra pieces of felt cut to size set aside (I've done some projects with just 1 or 2 pieces of felt, and others I've used depends on the look you're going for, how big your project is, and the colors you're using).

Figure out what you're going to ink. I have decorated glass (like vases, votive candle holders, glass pop bottles, glass Christmas Ornaments, glass craft gems, etc..), porcelain and ceramic (like tiles), metal (like tins, photo frames, galvanized flower pots, washers, etc...), plastic (like plastic Easter Eggs, transparency film, switch plates, shrink plastic, plastic charms, etc...), and painted surfaces (like terra cotta pots, a painted wood picture frame, etc...). But really any smooth surface will work. I've even inked pillar candles. And you can use alcohol ink to dye fabric like silk flowers. So your only limit is your imagination. In the photo below I'm testing out alcohol inks on white duct tape.

Now it's time to select your colors. Drip your chosen alcohol ink onto the applicator. You don't need much. You can choose to combine the colors as little or as much as you like. If you want it to mix more or want to thin the colors a bit, you can drip rubbing alcohol or blending solution on your applicator felt too.

Then stamp your selected surface. The first pass will usually spread out and look a bit like watercolor paint. If you like that look, finish covering your surface in color and you're good to go. If you want a more stippled look, after you've covered the surface in color, you can come back and stamp over it again until the colors separate more. If you notice that the colors are starting to blend together too much (sometimes they get muddy or brown colored if they blend together too much), put a new piece of felt on and re-ink and keep going. With the duct tape, I went over the piece several times with colors from the two sets I mentioned above (Dockside Picnic and Summit View). In the end, the colors cracked when I peeled the tape up from the craft mat, so unless I figure a way around that, I've nixed duct tape from my list of possible surfaces for the time being.

If you don't have your applicator yet and want to try your inks out--or if you're looking for a more free form look, try dripping your ink onto your surface (like with this vase). Experiment with dripping rubbing alcohol or blending solution onto the alcohol ink directly from the ink container and try blowing it around with canned air or use a plastic straw and your own breath. The really great thing about alcohol ink is that if you don't like what you've created, it's usually pretty easy to start over, just wipe it off with some rubbing alcohol. The smoother your surface (like glass or ceramic) the cleaner your surface will be to start over.

When it looks the way you want it to, set it aside to dry for a few minutes and you're done. You can seal the surface with an acrylic sealer or a layer of mod podge--which is recommended for ceramic tiles and for any jewelry or other pieces that will be regularly handled or may come in contact with alcohol based liquids. I've left some glass pieces and the photo frames that I made unsealed as I knew they would just be sitting on shelf--they've all held up fairly well.

When you're all done, rubbing alcohol can be used to clean up most small spills and any ink that you get on your hands, but be careful not to let it set and dry too long on surfaces like your kitchen table (I have a couple small drips that I haven't been able to clean up because I didn't see them right after I was done with my project).

Now you know all you need to to get started! Try out some ink projects and let me know how they work in the comments below. Happy Crafting!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Floral Christmas Centerpiece

Happy Christmas Week! Here's wishing you all a great week of wrapping, baking, crafting, packing, preparation for the holidays. This week I made a fairly quick project out of a floral arrangement that was given to me a few Christmases ago but was not really my taste and starting to fall apart a bit.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of what it looked like before. I was a bit excited to tear the thing apart. I grabbed any floral accessories that I had that might fit a Christmas arrangement and piled them on the table with the parts from the original arrangement. It used to be all blue and green, but I ditched most of the blue and any of the overly rustic looking greenery and replaced it with some red roses and ornaments. 

I replaced the floral foam with some fresh foam, stuck some of the tall pieces in the back and then trimmed the 3 roses to be different heights and stuck them in the foam...then it was just putting the pieces back in until I liked the way it looked--lots of trial and error in floral arranging--and since it's all fake and foam--no big deal, just move it until you like it.

The red makes it feel quite a bit more festive than it was before, so I'm glad I took some time out of my hectic pre-Christmas schedule to rework this arrangement.

Merry Christmas from Sarah Jane's Craft Blog!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Dremel Engraved Plastic Ornaments

There's a post floating around with plastic ornaments engraved with a dremel. They are beautiful. These--are not. For starters, she managed to find plastic ornaments that are white underneath. All of the ones I had in my stash were made of gray plastic. I also only have one engraving tip size for my dremel--but I figured I'd give it a whirl. 

It's really hard to get anything resembling a smooth line. The dremel wants to shoot right off of the ornament. After ruining a couple red ones, I was left with some small gold and silver balls. I opted for a quick starburst/asterisk design as I thought I could manage it given how excitable the dremel was on the surface of the ornament. The starburst was easy enough and would probably look good no matter what color the plastic is underneath the paint. Just be sure to work on a covered surface to catch all the little paint/plastic filings.

Clearly this is one of those "as seen on pinterest" projects that is way harder than it looks. But my little starburst ornaments still look good hanging from the tree.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Retro Christmas Pin Refashion

This week is finals week at the school I teach at, so I'm just sharing a really quick project before I get back to grading finals. This summer my Grandma past away. She had lots of costume jewelry--especially pins and broaches. This beauty was one of the unclaimed after everyone took whatever they wanted. Now, I like a bit of Christmas kitsch as much as the next gal, but it was a bit over the top--I mean the charms hanging off the wreath are bigger than the wreath--but I could tell it wouldn't be hard to fix it.

The dangly bits on this pin were just attached with jump rings, so all I needed was a pliers. I pulled each of the rings attaching the charms to the wreath apart and now I have one wreath pin and 3 charms. The charms on their own are kind of cute, and I can't wait to find a new purpose for them, but for now I have this lovely retro wreath pin.

It went from kitschy to almost understated (if there was such a thing in a Christmas pin). I can't wait to wear this over the holiday season.