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Supplies for Alcohol Ink Painting

What do I need to create an alcohol ink painting?

Alcohol Ink Painting - the most basic of supplies - by Monica Moody - monicamoody.com

You need these three things: 1) your hands, 2) alcohol ink, and 3) something to paint on.
Yes, it’s really that simple.

If it’s the longer answer you’re looking for, this is where my O.C.D. can be used to your advantage. Below is a diagram and detailed list of things I’ve used for painting with alcohol inks.

Do you need EVERY item in the diagram/list?  Absolutely not.  There are only a few that are necessary and many that are downright frivolous. :)  The “must-haves” are noted as such.
You should also read this blog post that’s all about substrates (what you can paint ON) for alcohol ink painting.

 

  1. Sharpie/Copic markers

    – sometimes I like to define even abstract alcohol ink paintings a bit more by adding lines and stuff with markers. I love Sharpies.  Sharpies are awesome.

  2. Artist pens

    – same as the above, but smaller line thickness. I prefer Pitt Artist Pens and Sakura Pigma Micron Pens.

  3. Blending tools

    – these are little pen-like creatures I found at a craft store, one with rounded tip and one with pointed tip.  They are absorbent tips, and I’ve used them with alcohol or alcohol blending solution to lighten or blend areas of a painting.

  4. Ranger® Adirondack® Alcohol Inks

    [MUST HAVE] – though number 4 in the diagram above, these alcohol inks should be numero uno on your supply list! Check out my ramblings on alcohol inks (why I love them, what they’re like, and where to buy them) for more detailed information.

  5. Alcohol Blending Solution

    [MUST HAVE THIS OR 91% ALCOHOL IF YOU WANT TO MAKE MAGIC] – This Alcohol Blending Solution was specially formulated to dilute and lighten the Alcohol Inks’ vibrant tones. Not only is this solution useful for lightening and blending the Adirondack Alcohol Ink colors, it will also remove them from slick surfaces, hands and art tools.

  6. Frisket Remover

    – this is one of those “frivolous” items I referred to above.  If you use masking fluid/frisket (7) to mask off areas of a painting that you want to keep white, you may (or may not) wish to use one of these to help with removal of the masking fluid.

  7. Masking Fluid

    – this is used (as noted above – hello, redundancy!) to mask off areas of a painting that you want to keep white. My preferred brand is Daler-Rowney.  It’s fun to peel off of the paper – it’s like peeling sunburn for the soul!  More on masking fluid.

  8. 91% Isopropyl Alcohol

    [MUST HAVE THIS OR ALCOHOL BLENDING SOLUTION IF YOU WANT TO MAKE MAGIC] – used to dilute, blend and lighten alcohol inks.  I’ve used other “percentage” alcohols but have found this one to have the best results, so I’m sticking with 91%.

  9. Q-tips

    – I use these with alcohol and blending solution to blend and lift ink from a painting.  I like the long ones, because they make me feel important.

  10. Canned Air

    – another frivolous item, but it can be oh-so-fun to play with!  You can use it to blow alcohol ink or blending solution around on the paper and get some interesting effects.

  11. Cosmetic sponges/pads

    – can be used to lift, blend, or add texture to a painting. Or to put on makeup.

  12. Tim Holtz® Adirondack® Alcohol Ink Applicator

    – this is a pretty cool little applicator that can be used with ink blending foam (13) or felt (14) to create textures.  I have several of these applicators and use them often.  Check out this painting for an example of the kind of backgrounds you can create using the applicator with foam or felt attached to it.  Depending on which brand you find, it either comes with blending foam (13) attachments or felt (14), both of which are available in refill packages.

  13. Ink blending foam

    – attaches to alcohol ink applicator (12) and is used for “stamping” to create textures, etc.  Sometimes it’s packaged under the “Inkssentials” brand (as seen here) and sometimes under the Tim Hotlz® brand. Either way, look for a package of refills similar to the one I linked to above.

  14. Alcohol ink applicator felt

    – attaches to alcohol ink applicator (12) and is used as noted above in 13. This section 12, 13, 14 is kind of giving me a headache. Just click this.

  15. Eyedroppers

    – I use these with alcohol and blending solution to drip and dribble. Found them at my local Walgreens and suspect you can find them at your drugstore of choice or Amazon.

  16. Erasers

    – for erasing pencil marks and sometimes rubbing off tiny bits of ink. Pencils not pictured because 1) I forgot, and 2) you know what a pencil is. Well, to be fair, you know what an eraser is too – but these are the specific ones that I use.

  17. Tim Holtz® Adirondack® Alcohol Ink Fillable Pen

    – I have a few of these and honestly have only ever used them once. Seemed legit. Here’s part of the manufacturer’s description: This dual-tipped dry pen can be filled by using just a few drops of your favorite color Alcohol Inks. Read more about it here.

  18. Inkssentials® Mini Misters

    – I have, on occasion, put alcohol inks and/or alcohol or blending solution into one of these and sprayed, I mean “misted”, onto a painting. Clicky.

  19. White Gel Pen

    – can be used to add details on an alcohol ink painting. I prefer Sakura Gelly Roll pens or white, oil-based Sharpies.

  20. Micron Pens

    – ditto.

  21. Paintbrushes

    Technically I have done entire alcohol ink paintings without the use of a brush. But for more detailed work, I use teeny, tiny brushes. Keep in mind that to clean alcohol inks out of paintbrushes, you must use alcohol (or alcohol blending solution). I buy the cheapest “good” brushes I can find for ink painting. I have several I’ve had for 4 years, even though they’re routinely cleaned with alcohol…which you’d think would kill something. But alas, they still work and haven’t fallen apart.

  22. Latex Gloves

    – for keeping your hands clean. Yeah, right! I bought a box of these when I first started tinkering with alcohol inks, and besides blowing them up and letting them fly across the room occasionally, I don’t use them anymore. I like to get my hands dirty! (I use alcohol for clean-up.)

  23. Palette

    – I use cheap plastic palettes or paper plates.

  24. Toothpicks

    – you might want to use a toothpick to really get into nitty gritty details…or to remove that bit of lettuce from your front teeth.

  25. Small applicator bottles

    – I bought a few of these because I liked the teeny, tiny metal applicator tip.  Some ink painters prefer oiler boilers. (Fun name!) For use with alcohol or blending solution.

  26. Alcohol Swabs

    – I have used these to wipe an entire sheet of paper before painting, to remove ink, to blend ink, and to clean up fingertips, brushes and other boo-boos.

  27. Straws

    – you can use a straw to blow ink or alcohol/blending solution around. It’s pretty fun.

 

OTHER, not pictured:

I’ve used a few other items not pictured or listed above (usually for adding/creating textures):

 

 

 

77 Comments

  1. I’ve been asked several times now, “do I really need all that stuff?” so I guess my disclaimer in the blog post wasn’t large or clear enough.

    NO. YOU DO NOT NEED EVERYTHING IN THE PICTURE FOR ALCOHOL INK PAINTING.

    Technically, the ONLY things you truly need are ink and paper. Seriously, you can create a painting with only those two things and nothing else but your hands.

    The items in the photo are just MY collection of tools. It may grow, and it may shrink. On some pieces, I use a lot of the things in the diagram, and in others, I use only a few.

    What you need and what you don’t need for alcohol ink painting will ultimately depend on you. Experiment, play, and have fun!

    • Monica, Thank you for the information. It was helpful. I really enjoy your art work and talent.

    • Besides all the fabulous info about alcohol inks, your writing style is clever. This is the first time I have simultaneously read about AI and smiled. Thanks!!

      • Thank you, Jeannie. I really appreciate that! :)

    • Monica, Thank you SO much for posting this information. New to alcohol ink painting, I have been searching for some of the tools you mentioned. Sometimes it’s difficult to find things which others are using to get amazing results. Best of wishes, Honi

    • Thanks for this post, Monica. I am a testament to the fact that all you need is ink and paper. I had been given a whole bunch of alcohol inks. Last night, I thought “why don’t I try those?”. it was pure experimentation, but lots of fun. I came across your post because I wanted to find out how to clean the brushes. And having done that paining, I can now see how some of those tools would come in handy. I imagine it’s taken years for you to discover a purpose for all of those things. There is no substitute for doing the work and having fun. And, I really kind a like the turkey vulture that started out as a crow!

  2. Great info, Monica. So well photographed and explained!

  3. thank you for this entrance, I didn’t know you also can mask alcohol ink, so i learned enough, I will go on the search in my country,if I can such stuff here too ☺ thanks again.

  4. Hello- I am just starting to dabble in alcohol ink after seeing it at a craft festival and have made two pieces myself. I found your blog extremely helpful & informative; especially the supply list. I was wondering if you have come across a “tried & true” sealer that you could recommend? I have searched the Internet and seem to get varying answers. I was looking for something that would protect the pieces as coasters from condensation & moisture and keep pieces from scratching or chipping off. Any knowledge you could share on the subject would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much! -Erin Martter

    • Hi Erin, thanks for your kind words. I have done several ceramic tiles and sealed them with Krylon Triple Thick Acrylic Glaze. Mine were not meant to be used as coasters, so I was not concerned with things like hot beverages being placed on the tiles, putting them in a dishwasher, etc. I prefer to work on paper or board, and while I have a large stack of ceramic tiles, I don’t expect to be using them soon…and the sealing conundrum is part of the reason for that.

      It seems there is a lot of discussion (and confusion) on what’s the best thing to use, and to be honest I haven’t paid much attention to it, since it hasn’t been a priority for me.

      I do recommend that, if you have not already, you check out the Facebook group for Alcohol Ink painting here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/alcoholinkdreamscapes/ There are many members from beginner to advanced, and everyone is very open to share their techniques and findings from experiments with this relatively new medium. I know there have been many discussions about proper sealing, especially where tiles are concerned. I don’t know if there is a definitive answer, but you are sure to find some helpful information. It may take some scrolling, or perhaps you could check out the documentation that’s been saved in the “files” section of the group.

      Best of luck to you!

      • Thanks so much Monica! I joined the group andd have already been inspired by some of theh great work and information there.

    • I have used this tutorial to make photo coasters and they came out perfectly! The resin gives it a beautiful finish. I have seen alcohol ink coasters sealed with resin for sale on test, so I imagine it can be done the same way. Hopefully the link works.http://www.pinterest.com/pin/546202261030042388/

  5. I have purchased several colors of alcohol inks, but haven’t used them. My goal is to use the inks on Yupo. I found your web site very informative. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

  6. Hi Monica, I have spoke to you already, about alcohol inks and demoing for my art group. Thank for informing me that you don’t teach due to your busy schedule etc. My question has most like been answered, but I too was wondering what fixative to use on a painting, like on Masonite board? I did some research on that, and found out that some artist use matte fixative then seal it with an acrylic sealer. Is that something you would do? I know that you can’t spray to close using a fixative or it can make your painting bleed.

    Thank You,
    Mary Dubinsky

    • I seal all of my alcohol ink paintings with Krylon UV Resistant Clear Gloss. Most of my paintings are on Yupo, for which I use 3 or 4 very light coats. I have done some on Yupo and mounted to wood (not framed under glass) and have used much thicker application with several coats – this gives it a shiny finish similar to resin.

      I’ve also used the same spray to finish my alcohol ink paintings on Claybord and cradled wooden board. I’m not sure about Masonite but suspect it may work on that as well (if the inks work on it?)

      I sprayed one rather large painting with a matte UV resistant finish and hated it. It looked chalky, and luckily I was able to dust it off without harming the painting – and reseal with gloss instead of matte.

      I haven’t tried any other finishes. I know some people use brush-on acrylic gloss and others use spray Kamar. I am happy with the Krylon UV and will probably stick with it.

      • Thank you Monica, I will take your advice! I did try it on the Masonite board and it does make the color spread out a bit. I emailed another artist and she doesn’t use a sealer on her art on board work, but she does on Yupo. I guess its trial and error sometimes.

        Thank You,
        Mary Dubinsky

      • Monica, what kind of board can I use for a 24″x30″ alcohol painting or can I use Masonite and prime it and seal it beforehand to get a slick finish. I love your blog and the wonderful advice. Lambeth Marshall

      • I see that you have used Masonite but do you gesso or prime it, seal it before using the alcohol ink?

        • Sorry I am late to reply. I used store-bought boards. They were masonite that already had gesso – smooth, no texture on the surface (which I prefer).

  7. I have a lot of sharpie paint pens (I think oil based?)- how would these work with alcohol inks, do you think? I figure if I write OVER a pinting- it may scratch off the alcohol inks, but if I did it UNDER the ink- would it mess up the drawing? I may just have to play with it.

    • I have a couple oil based Sharpies too, but I haven’t tried using them in conjunction with alcohol inks. I would say just play with it on some scrap paper and see how it goes. I do some drawing with Micron pens and Pitt artist pens and then use alcohol inks over them. I spray with workable fixatif before applying alcohol inks. It works, for the most part, but if it’s too heavy an application of alcohol ink, it can start to remove the fixatif.

  8. WOW i am so excited to begin this journey into this process Thank you so much for sharing your everything on this subject.

  9. just getting into alcohol inks after loving an accident with alcohol markers and this is very helpful

  10. Hi Monica! What a great site! Can you use Alcohol Inks on wood panel? Or some other kind of panel that doesn’t require framing?

    Thanks,
    Lisa

  11. Oops! I didn’t realize this info was already on your site. =)

  12. hello,
    thank you for your informative & fun website! Have you tried alcohol ink painting on plexiglass? Do you think it would work well?

    • Thanks Holly! I have not tried plexiglass, but it should work. Any surface that’s non-porous (or one that is porous but prepared with something slick like gel medium, gesso, etc.) should do. I have tried using the inks on regular ol’ glass, and they did work, but I prefer paper, personally. :) Good luck!

    • HI have been playing with a substitute for a commercial alcohol blending solution. I used 6 drops of glycerin to 6oz.s of 91 percent alcohol. It is very close to the commercial one, slows down drying for better blending. I started to use Citrosol instead of glycerin. Does anyone have some good ideas to share? I know just plain alcohol works but it dries too fast.

  13. Hello Monica,

    I was wondering if you had any information on using alcohol inks on metal. If so, what primer did you use?

    Thank you :)

    • I have used alcohol inks on copper. No primer needed for inking on metal. I finished mine with Krylon UV Gloss.

  14. Hi Monica! Thank you for all you information! It is very helpful. I was wondering if you have any tips on fixing the ink to any of the substrates. I see that as long as you let alcohol touch it, the ink changes. Do you use any fixatives?

    • Most of my ink paintings are done on Yupo paper. I spray these with Krylon UV Clear Gloss (yes, even when framing). I also use this spray on paintings that I do on Gessobord or basically any gessoed or primed panel.

  15. I found your site so helpful! I want to paint on aluminum. I need some help as the aluminum has a powder coated finish of pink. I want to remove the pink and get down to the metal and create my own design.
    Do you have any tips on how to remove the paint on the aluminum?
    The item is a box mod used for vaping. I have two to do.
    Although it is aluminum, I am hoping to get colors to create a patina like effect.

    • I am sorry that I can’t be of any help with this. I do not have any experience removing paint or powder coating from aluminum. :(

  16. I have just started with alcohol inks and want to make trivets on ceramic tiles. I would like to know how to make these heat proof so they can be used as trivets for under hot food dishes.
    I read somewhere that someone used clear motor engine oil spray. I have asked around and I can’t fine this
    Do you have any information about being able to make the trivets able to support heat.
    Just happened on your blog while searching.

    • I’m sorry I don’t know the answer to this. I have painted a few ceramic tiles but did not much like working on them, so after those first few, I never did any more. Perhaps someone with experience will see your comment and reply. Best of luck!

  17. May I use alcohol ink on a finished oil painting’

    • I’m sorry that I honestly have no idea about this. I have never used any type of oil paint (besides oil-based Sharpies) and would not recommend attempting to add ink over a finished oil painting. You might try a test though – maybe do a small oil painting on scrap material and then experiment with ink on top of it?

  18. Hi, I use alcohol inks on fingernails :) Actually, on top of LED cured gel polish, not directly onto fingernails! The results are amazing! However, I’m looking for a quick dry sealer. I’m finding that as the final step in the manicure, after the ink has dried I put a layer of clear “top coat” gel polish on, and there is typically smearing of the ink art. I’ve been using regular hair spray very lightly over the ink, and that does tend to reduce the amount of distortion/smearing that occurs, but it still happens enough to change the look.
    Wondering if anyone knows of a solution??

    • I’ve been seeing a lot of alcohol ink stuff for fingernails. I am a nail biter and have what I refer to as “fingernubs”, and I do not do fake nails. I’ve never had a manicure (or pedicure) in my life. LOL sooooo not girly, I know. Hopefully someone will see this and offer some advice.

  19. Hi,,,

    Don,t you have to use non porous waterproof paper…I used construction paper and it just soaked in even with glue and embellishing powder…ty,..look forward to hearing from you

    • Alcohol inks work best on non-porous surfaces. Yes, Yupo synthetic paper (also used by many watercolorists) is pretty much my “holy grail” of surfaces to paint on. You can also paint on glossy cardstock, glass, acetate, Claybord® and Gessobord®, metals, plastic, ceramic tiles, etc. I know some people paint on canvas using some kind of something on the canvas before they do (gloss gel? digital ground? not sure). I did that once, but I hate canvas and prefer smooth surfaces. There may be a way to seal or pretreat traditional watercolor paper, but I’m not sure that is and haven’t tried it. I can definitely see how the inks would bleed right into and through construction paper. Hope this helps!

  20. Fantastic article! I use gloves all the time. It doesn`t matter if I am cleaning or painting. Gloves are protecting my hands. There is nothing worse than too dry hands. Best regards!

  21. I have spilled some of the alcohol ink on my aluminum kitchen floor of our rental house. Help, how can I get it off?

    • Oh goodness. I’m not really sure. I clean up alcohol ink spills with isopropyl alcohol. I don’t know that I can recommend that for a FLOOR, but I HAVE cleaned a couple of drops of ink off my (linoleum) kitchen floor with alcohol, and it worked. Good luck!

  22. Thank you for all the great info!! I just started using alcohol inks on Yupo and love it. I’m going to try some of the tools you suggested. I had the Tim Holtz Spritzer tool (it is a hand tool made to use with his distress markers) but I used it for my flower paintings and it’s amazing! You can really manipulate the inks into all kinds of shapes depending on the pressure/force you apply as well as the direction. You get crampy hands from all the squeezing..:) but have more control versus the canned air. Love your beautiful art!!!

  23. Just starting out with alcohol inks & appreciate your wonderful (& witty) advice!

  24. Thank you. I will be working with 30 – 9 year olds for a class project. I want to keep it simple. You have been helpful and entertaining!

    • Thanks, Angie! Best of luck. My kids seemed to really enjoy blowing the inks around on paper with a straw or coffee stirrer. :)

  25. got into and fell in love with alcohol inks and more importantly, Yupo because of your work and your list which is both helpful and funny. Thanks

  26. If you want an inexpensive paper to practice on I use the BACK NON glossy side of photo paper for printers. It works great. The glossy front side sets the inks so you can’t manipulate it easily. I just tried yupo paper for the first time because I wanted a much larger image. 20 x 28. The size and the flexing of the yupo made it more difficult to manipulate and tilt but maybe there is a heavier weight yupo than the one I used.

    • I have used 74lb. Yupo but now use only 144lb. Yupo.

      • Hi, I have a couple of questions. I am fairly new at using alcohol inks. I am now painting on Yupo and attaching it with medium to canvas panels.
        I want to try cradle boards with a little lip o that the resin does not flow over.
        Any recommendations?
        Also, what caused you to change to 144 lb weigh Yupo.
        Was there a problem with the lighter weight? Thank you, Deann

        • As for switch from 74lb. to 144lb. Yupo, I had an issue with framing the lighter weight Yupo – namely, the parts of my painting(s) that were left “open” (just white paper, not covered in ink) stuck to the glass in my frame. The pieces were sprayed with Krylon UV Gloss, and the thinner paper bowed. Gray splotches appeared where the white paper touched the glass, unfortunately on the face of a portrait.

          I have done many paintings, especially smaller ones, on 74lb. Yupo and sprayed, matted, and framed them without issue. I believe the problem was having a large area left white and the lighter paper’s tendency to bow in the frame. The heavier Yupo hangs straight with taping just the top of a painting to a mat.

          I’m sorry I don’t have any recommendations on canvas or panels with lips. I don’t like working on canvas. I do love cradled boards, but I haven’t used the type with a lip. Seems like a great idea for pouring resin into though. Good luck!

  27. Mille merci pour vos recommendations j’aime beaucoup.
    Puis je faire des encres d alccool sur toiles que passer en base
    MERCI
    Huguette

  28. Hi Monica, just getting into this, so frisket really works with these alcohol inks? Any tips? I have bookmarked your site because you answer a ton of questions. I have been primarily a watercolor artist, but my love of abstract & bright colors has totally won me over.

    • Hi Kathy! Thanks for the kind words. I have tried several different brands of masking fluid and prefer Daler Rowney for use on Yupo with alcohol inks. As you might imagine, the alcohol-based inks can be a little more “intrusive” than watercolor, but this particular brand seems to hold up well. Occasionally, I’ll have some bits of ink that sneak in where the masking was, but they can be removed with alcohol. Some colors may leave a light stain behind. Usually it doesn’t matter, if my intent was to keep an area light, but if I want it white, I just cover the stains with white ink or acrylic.

  29. One more question, I have limited space to work, have always covered my small dining table with big piece of plastic or old shower curtain, will this be sufficient for this application? Thanks for your help.

    • Same here. My kitchen table is my only “studio” space. I use freezer paper, shiny side up, plastic, or cheap vinyl table cloths. :)

      • I use freezer paper also, put the shinny side or the wax side. The ink will absorb into the paper, but will not penetrate the wax side. Leaves the paper side dryer.
        K

  30. Please tell me what to do….working with alchol inks on tile, and I did seal them with a varnish, the tiles are still chipping?
    What can I do?
    Thank you.

    • I’m sorry, but I do not paint on tiles, so I’m not sure how to answer this question. I painted a few way back when but no longer work on them. The text above the photo on this page has some info and a link to a Facebook group for tile painting: http://www.monicamoody.com/alcohol-inks-on-ceramic-tiles/

  31. Hi Monica,
    I absolutely love your work! What are your thoughts and/or suggestions regarding using alcohol ink on a laminant counter top?

    • Thank you Margaret! As for using alcohol ink on a counter top, I suspect it may work, but I would be concerned about sealing it and longevity. You could spray it for UV protection and then top with resin (I haven’t tried this), but alcohol based ink can’t be sealed to be food-safe (as far as I know)…and I don’t know if cured resin is food-safe. I have seen many table and bar tops made with bottle caps and poured resin. I have eaten off a plate and placed a drink on this type of countertop, but I don’t know if I would cut up raw chicken on it.

  32. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this blog post! I love your sense of humor! I am just getting started with alcohol inks… I finally played with the four colors that I had gotten a year or two ago and although only two of the colors actually looked good together I was immediately hooked and am currently awaiting the arrival of the entire collection (on sale at JoAnn’s). Thanks for your fun list of things to try. Have a great day! 😃

    • Thanks so much! Enjoy your new addiction! 😉

  33. Hi Monica…

    I’m an acrylic painter who is just starting to play with alcohol inks and one of my concerns is fading–my understanding is that because they are dyes and not pigments, that they are susceptible to fading easily. And my hope is to create (and sell) my work, so I want to be confident that someone who buys it will have something that will last and not degrade over time. What is your experience? Does a simple UV spray coat work to prevent fading, or…? Thanks so much for your input!

  34. Loved your list and sense of humor:-) BTW..I make my own felt pads for my blending tools by cutting up 9 x 12 pieces of white felt from Jo-Ann’s…Only takes minutes. TFS your expertise…I can’t wait to spend more time on your blog.

    An alcohol ink beginner, who is loving the mess and results!
    Hugs, Nancy

    P.S. I have several cards on my blog :-)

  35. Thank you Monica for sharing your knowledge with us!! We are just starting to dig into alcohol inks and found you! You are now bookmarked! :-). I absolutely love your humor!!! Perfect!!!!! Thank you again!

  36. I recently made my own alcohol inks with markers and 91% isopropyl alcohol (woooo cheapo DIY!). I was brainstorming different tools that aren’t already in my vast art kit. I can’t believe I didn’t think of alcohol wipes! And I have a bunch laying around. Also going to look into the refillable alcohol pens. I’m wondering if it’s a possible super cheap alternative to Copic markers. Great post!

  37. What is the compartment box in photo for the alcohol inks? I have been looking for a way to store them neatly.

    • It was a bamboo lipstick holder that I got at The Container Store. I actually do not recommend it. It became annoying, as the bottles were too tight a fit.

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