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On inks and inks

Several people have asked me lately about my experience with combining pen/ink illustration with alcohol inks.  The biggest fear I had – as others have as well, apparently – is the concern that lines drawn with pen/ink will be smudged, smeared, spread, or otherwise altered by adding alcohol inks.

I have been lucky thus far by using Pitt artist pens for illustration and then coating with a light spray of Workable Fixatif.  Note: I have only done this on Yupo paper and have not tried it on any of the other substrates I have experimented with.

See Head and Skull for visual reference of pieces for which I have used the following process:

  1. Draw subject.
  2. Mask background with masking fluid.
  3. Apply light spray coating of Workable Fixatif to subject.
  4. Dry (doesn’t take long for WF to dry, but I’m impatient and use a hairdryer).
  5. Paint with alcohol inks.
  6. Dry with hairdryer.
  7. Remove mask from background.
  8. Mask subject.
  9. Paint background with alcohol inks.
  10. Again with the hairdryer!
  11. Remove mask from subject.
  12. Tweak as desired (sometimes I go back over the pen lines, depending on how much alcohol ink ends up getting layered over them. Also perhaps of note: I have successfully added details with Copic markers, Sharpies, gel pens, and Micron pens, on TOP of alcohol inks, but as of yet have not tried any of those “under” alcohol inks.)

This is just my crazy, OCD process and may not work for everyone.  If you aren’t masking anything, you need only pay attention to the first 2 or 3 steps.  It probably isn’t necessary to mask the background of a piece before spraying Workable Fixatif; I’m just a little paranoid about it, because the Yupo paper is non-porous and slick, and I don’t want the WF to add any unwanted texture…so I try to use it sparingly and only in the area(s) where I have illustrated something with a pen.

Happy fixatif…ing?



  1. This is fantastic, Monica! Thanks!! I love your work!

  2. Love it! Thanks for sharing all the info. I have a package of Grafix Dura Lar Matte Film and was wondering if alcohol inks could be used on it. .

    • Hi Sylvia. I have never tried (or seen) Grafix Dura Lar, but now I’m intrigued. Alcohol inks can absolutely be used on acetate, and it sounds like the film you have is an acetate-like sort of thing. I would definitely give it a shot if I were you, and I will add that film to my list of “experiments” to try. Thanks for the heads up on it!

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