WATERCOLOR SPECIAL EFFECTS: ALCOHOL AND WATERCOLOR

A few weeks back I did a post on the watercolor and salt technique  so this week I thought it might be fun to do some more experimenting with the alcohol and watercolor technique.  I do not know the scientific explanation for this reaction but alcohol pushes the the pigment in watercolor away, creating some pretty cool special effects.  I have never tried this before so I thought it would be fun to learn and experiment together!

Let's start by gathering up our supplies:

At a minimum, here are the supplies you will need: 1. Watercolor paints 2. Watercolor paper (I started with the standard 140lb watercolor paper then I tried another kind. (This is a great opportunity to be loose and experimental!  If you have different papers lying around, give them a try.) 3. Rubbing alcohol (Just the kind you get at the pharmacy section of the grocery store.) 4. Some implements to apply the alcohol. I used Q-tips, a spray bottle, and a dropper. (This is another way to experiment and get creative!) 5.*Optional: Some reference material to get you inspired.  I used this microscope book full of different types of petri dishes.  I thought this might be a fun application for this technique. I've always had a little fascination with microbiology.  What is cool about this technique is that is can be purely abstract so have fun and let yourself be loose!

Let's get started!  I began by making a bunch of circles to resemble petri dishes.  I just grabbed my micron pen and traced around the circles a few times each.

For my first experiment, I went with a nice dark blue and green.  I was thinking the dark color would have a dramatic effect.  The brush was really loaded with water and pigment.

Next, I grabbed my dropper and pulled in some alcohol.  I started dropping it on my circle.  It was mesmerizing to watch and the results were stunning!  I love that  bull's eye/tie dye effect. This really lends itself well the the petri dish theme.  I could also visualize some type of underwater theme but it's just cool as an abstract pattern by itself. *Note how wet the paper is.  You can see the water and paint pooling around the edges.

For the next circle, I tried a nice vibrant pink. Time is of the essence. Once the paint starts drying the alcohol effect stops working.

This time I tried the q-tip.  I dunked the tip in the alcohol and the touched it directly on the paper. This was pretty cool because you could draw with it.  

Really looks like a swab in a petri dish.  You could also try dripping the alcohol off the q-tip for a different effect.

For the next one I tried a lighter color and used a dropper to add the alcohol.

The effect is more subtle but still cool.  Cells with a nucleus and mitochondria.

For my next experiment, I was referencing a picture that had a dot of color outlined by a white circle.  A light bulb went off and I decided to add some pigment to the alcohol to see what would happen.

I remembered I had this.  THIS IS WHY I CANNOT THROW ART SUPPLIES OUT (I foolishly blog about purging here. This is a concentrated liquid watercolor pigment that I dropped into the alcohol.

I added a drop of color and it sunk straight to the bottom.  I used my clear dropper to squeeze up some of that pigment with the alcohol.

I dropped the alcohol and pigment mixture onto a wet, light pink, wash.  Look what happened! Blob of color in the middle with a nice white ring around it!

So much fun!  This has such a meditative effect, in the same way adult coloring does.  I really got transfixed watching the colors swirling around.

Here is what it looks like dry. Blood cells? Gumballs? Boba Tea? A regular rorschach test.

Here is what it looks like dry. Blood cells? Gumballs? Boba Tea? A regular rorschach test.

Next up, some plant-like cell shapes.

Using my dropper to add drips of alcohol.

Using my dropper to add drips of alcohol.

For my next experiment I tried something really different.  I remembered I had this paper:

Yupo Paper! I acquired this on a birthday trip to the art store.  I had read about it and HAD to try it.  It is a smooth synthetic paper which is actually waterproof.  Because it is non-absorbent it does not tear or buckle and creates some really interesting effects.  When I originally tried it, I was not impressed.  It was like trying to paint on wax paper.  I remembered somewhere in the recesses of my brain that this paper was fantastic with alcohol inks so I gave it a try.

I drew another circle and added some paint.

I added the alcohol and pigment mixture to the paint and it was gorgeous!

So mesmerizing! It's like watching a lava lamp.

Minutes later it looked like this.  I decided to dry it with a hairdryer.

It was fun to blow all the paint around.  It looks nothing like the original but I still love the outcome. The process is really fun to watch and the results are always surprise endings!

One last thing I tried was using a fine mist spray bottle to apply the alcohol.

I applied a light paint wash to the paper then sprayed the alcohol while the paper was still wet.

Here is a close up. Similar to the salt effect here.

Well I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did and that it really sparks your creative fires!!

Warmly,

Pam