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Mixed Media Inks and Ideas

Inks for mixed media projects can easily confuse and overwhelm beginners. After all, there are quite a few different inks readily available in the market. If you want to know which one is the best mixed media ink for you - whether it’s acrylic and alcohol ink or gouache and watercolor ink - this quick guide will fill you in!

What is mixed media?
Mixed Media in Paper Crafting
Inks for Mixed Media Projects
Dye-based Inks
Watercolor ink
Alcohol ink
Pigment-based Inks
Acrylic ink
India ink

Pigment mixed media ink bundle from Altenew

What is mixed media?

It is a kind of visual art that mixes various mediums in one piece of artwork. To put it simply, mixed media is an artwork that utilizes more than one creative tool such as watercolor, ink, alcohol ink, acrylic, oil, gouache, colored pencil, pastel, gesso, etc. It also incorporates various art techniques and forms, such as assemblage and collage.

While relatively new to the art world, it has gained popularity and is considered a revolutionary art form compared to painting and drawing. The advent of the Internet and modern technology catapulted different types of mixed media art quickly into mainstream society. These days, you can see iconic mixed media artwork all around us -  from iconic collages and assemblages to thought-provoking installation art.

New to mixed media? Read our guide to making mixed media art!

Mixed Media in Paper Crafting

One of the best things about creating mixed media art is the fact that anything goes. Believe it or not, a few famous artworks out there even utilized zippers and bologna! There’s a liberty of expression that allows the artist to use anything and everything on their artwork, therefore adding a whole new dimension and creativity to it.

Floral watercoloring book and pan watercolor set

Florals Coloring Book and Watercolor Bundle

Even if you’re still a beginner, you can create watercolor mixed media art on a much smaller case through handmade cards, scrapbook pages, and art journals. The popularity of stamping, ink blending, watercoloring, and embossing in paper crafts has put a spotlight on a must-have supply - ink. Dye ink, pigment ink, India ink, acrylic ink, alcohol ink - which one should you get? With the wide range of inks in every color and shade imaginable out there, choosing the best mixed media ink could be a little tricky. 

Let us demystify these inks for you!

Mixed media ink sprays from Altenew

Altenew Ink Sprays

Inks for Mixed Media Projects

There are two classifications of inks for mixed media projects: dye ink and pigment ink. A good ink can be used on various porous surfaces, such as paper, fabric, wood, glass, and more! How do you know which ink suits your needs? It depends on your personal preference, specific projects, and budget.

Stamping on fabric using pigment inks

Watercolor Wonders Stamp Set

For instance, Altenew’s pigment ink is water-based and fade-resistant. It will leave a stunning detailed impression every time. Once heated with a heating gun or iron, it will stay on permanently. You can even use it on fabric! Since this pigment ink is acid-free and archival, your artwork will remain intact and well-preserved for a very long time. Naturally, this mixed media ink is perfect for card making, scrapbooking, art journaling, and other mixed media art.

Altenew mixed media inks

Altenew Mixed Media Inks

Fun Fact!

Porous vs. Nonporous Surfaces

Nonporous surfaces are smooth and don’t absorb gas or liquid. This means nothing - no substance - can go through it because it doesn’t have holes. Some examples are synthetic or waterproof paper, vellum, glass, plastic, metal, ceramic, vinyl, and varnished wood.

On the other hand, porous surfaces can be penetrated by air, water, and other substances because they have empty spaces or pores. These can be either smooth or rough. Some examples are fabric, leather, standard paper, untreated wood, varnished surfaces, sponge, and cardboard.

Find more inks for mixed media projects!

Dye-based Inks

Dye-based inks are water-based, fast-drying, and great for a variety of stamping techniques. It absorbs into the surface and has a more “liquid” and transparent appearance. Since it dries quickly, it isn’t ideal for embossing, but it does leave a smooth, crisp impression. Because it is water-based, you cannot use these with other water-based mediums since the ink will bleed. This is the standard ink used for rubber stamps, clear acrylic stamps, and clear photopolymer stamps. While it is acid-free, it’s not as lightfast as pigment inks, so it may not last as long. Some dye inks are fade-resistant, though.

Watercolor inks from Altenew

Spring Garden Liquid Watercolor - Brush Marker Refill Bundle

The two common mixed media inks under this category are:

1. Watercolor ink - If you are looking to create your very own watercolor mixed media art project, this is the ink for you! Also known as liquid watercolors, these are usually more vibrant and pigmented than pan and tube watercolors. These are meant to be diluted with water and can be used with other types of watercolors.

Alcohol inks for mixed media projects

Altenew Alcohol Markers Refills

2. Alcohol ink - As the name suggests, this is an alcohol-based ink that is pigment-rich. Since the alcohol in it dissolves quickly, it dries faster than watercolor ink. Alcohol ink mixed media artworks are all the rage these days. This is because you can easily manipulate and activate them using alcohol. It goes without saying that alcohol ink is perfect for more abstract artworks.

Ready to try mixed media inks? Check out our wide range of watercolor inks!

Pigment-based Inks

Compared to dye-based ink, this ink takes longer to dry and sits on the surface. Some brands are water-based, so they react with water, while others are waterproof. This opaque ink also stays on permanently, unlike dye inks, and can be utilized with other coloring mediums. If you want to create mixed media ink and watercolor artwork, this is a perfect choice. Not only is it great for a variety of inking techniques, but it also works well on a wide range of surfaces such as cardstock, cork, wood, and fabric (linen, felt, cotton, and Aida).

Face mask stamped with florals using mixed media inks

Face mask stamped with florals using mixed media inks

Here are a few techniques that you can try with pigment inks:

  1. Stamping
  2. Ink blending
  3. Brayering
  4. Ink smooshing
  5. Heat embossing
  6. Watercoloring

The video below will show you how to do monoprinting and a few techniques using pigment inks and a Gelli plate.

The two common types of pigment-based mixed media inks are:

1. Acrylic ink - Like alcohol ink mixed media artwork, acrylic ink art is quite trendy. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a mixed media project that doesn’t utilize acrylic ink. This ink mixes well with alcohol ink and dye ink, lightfast and water-resistant. The difference between acrylic ink and acrylic paint is the fact that the former is more fluid than the latter. Acrylic paint is also more saturated, while acrylic ink is more translucent. Creating acrylic mixed media art will ensure that your work is permanent, long-lasting, and waterproof.

Stamping on cork using pigment mixed media inks

Birds of a Feather Stamp Set

2. India ink - This ink has gained popularity among various artists in different art forms due to the strong, clean, and crisp black lines that it produces. Indian ink is a renowned ink that is opaque and permanent. Its main ingredient, carbon black, is known as the oldest and strongest pigment. Interestingly, it has been used to mark organs in many surgeries. If you’re interested in creating one-of-a-kind mixed media ink and watercolor art projects, you must give Indian ink a try.

Mixed media holiday frame made with pigment ink

Ruby Red Pigment Ink

Alcohol ink mixed media, watercolor mixed media, acrylic mixed media - it doesn’t matter which medium or technique you fancy. What’s important is to let your creative flag fly! As we mentioned before, anything goes in mixed media! You can be as creative as you want. Don’t get overwhelmed with the variety of inks. Start with one ink and see how it goes. You can combine two or more inks as you go on. That’s the fun part! We hope this quick guide to mixed media inks helped you figure out which one is right for you!