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5 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Alcohol Inks! (Beginner Friendly)

Do you try to paint something but end up frustrated because it looks so different from what you've seen people do online? Trust me, I’ve been there too!

“What am I doing wrong?” I'd ask myself. “Why can't I control my inks?”

I know how slow progress can feel when you start learning alcohol inks. So, here are my top 5 things you can start doing now, and (hopefully) notice a difference right away.

1. Take a step back - literally!

Look at your painting from far away, across the room, maybe turn it upside down. Try taking a photo or looking at it through your phone camera as the change in size can make it easier to see areas that need more work.

You'll see the balance of weight and colour more clearly, and just get a better idea of how it flows.

A change in perspective is also a reminder not to stress about tiny details or areas that you don't like.

2. Make a technique worksheet

Alcohol ink techniques
Sorry for my bad photo quality, this is a messy old sheet!

Grab a sheet of Yupo paper and practice making marks, using lots of different methods. Think of it as a worksheet and try every technique you can think of...

And after each mark, label it with the tools and techniques you used. That's the key!

Then in future you can reference this sheet.

Why bother?

When you define the techniques that you know, you become more purposeful with your painting choices. The effects you get feel more in your control. It stops feeling like luck or chance, as you figure out how to get each effect.

Making the sheet and paying attention to how you get each effect improves your ability to control the inks and replicate this effect at will.

Your sheet will look different from mine depending on the techniques you use, the brand of your inks, humidity, etc. There's a lot of factors that affect how paintings turn out but if you take the time to catalogue the effects you can make (and practice your favourite ones) you'll notice a difference in your finished paintings. Don't try to imitate other peoples' effects, just experiment and have fun, and you'll figure out your own unique techniques.

3. Study colour theory

Don't worry, this doesn’t need to take long... Just look at a colour wheel chart like this and pick colours that go well together.

colour wheel
Enjoy my beautiful diagram... You'll find better ones on Google though!

The simplest colour combos use analogous colours that are near each other on the colour wheel. Because when they mix, they make a similar colour that fits in perfectly!

Complementary or opposite colours are more challenging as they often become muddy when they mix. But, with the help of a friendly lil colour wheel, you'll know this in advance.

You can also try working with cool colours or warm colours (and avoid mixing them).

Some brands of inks (e.g. Ranger by Tim Holtz) bleed out different colours and undertones when you dilute them, so try testing out colour combos on scrap pieces of Yupo before using them for full paintings, so you know in advance how they'll look together.

Read more about colour theory here if you're interested!

4. Focus on composition from the start

Some people can instinctively paint with nothing in mind and it'll turn out magical and gorgeous... But I’m not like that!

I often choose a composition as a helpful starting point. Even if it changes, it guides my decisions and gives a more deliberate, impactful look.

It can help improve paintings by creating focal areas with more details, and other areas that guide the eye around. Harmony and balance are appealing to the eye so play around with different layouts.

Some composition ideas I found useful available at this link.

5. Use a viewfinder

Not every painting is a masterpiece, but there's always a part that turns out well. So pick out the best pieces of your finished paintings and snip them out!

You can use a picture mat as a viewfinder or you can easily cut out a piece of paper like the moon shapes above. Place it on top of paintings to find the best parts, trace the shape of the viewfinder and cut it out. They often work as their own smaller paintings, or you can repurpose them as greeting cards, bookmarks, coasters, etc.

I do this all the time and it's a lot of fun finding these hidden gems!

Thanks for reading :)

Enjoy the process and don't get too caught up in what other people are doing. By practicing consistently and intentionally, you'll develop your own ways of doing things and create work that makes you truly happy.

These are my personal suggestions based on my art style, so take them with a grain of salt! You can make wonderful art while totally ignoring all of this, the main thing is to just keep creating. With that said, I hope you found something useful here.

Comment below if you have any questions or feedback. And let me know if you try any of these!

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