DIY Alcohol Ink Made from Upcycled Markers

Alcohol Ink Made Using Upcycled Dried-Out Markers

Alcohol ink is the perfect pigment for painting on non-porous surfaces like plastic or metal, but it’s also crazy expensive. Make DIY alcohol ink instead!

Fortunately, you can make your own DIY alcohol ink using the rubbing alcohol in your medicine cabinet and that stash of dried-out markers cluttering your art supplies cabinet. The DIY alcohol ink works great, costs basically nothing, and helps recycle those resource-wasteful markers.

fill tiny jars with rubbing alcohol

A little alcohol ink goes a long way, so you’ll want to source out tiny containers with tight-fitting lids for your project. I’m using small glass jars, but upcycled pill bottles are another good option.

Fill each tiny jar about three-quarters full of rubbing alcohol; use organic vodka instead of rubbing alcohol to make this recycling project even greener!

DIY Alcohol Ink Using Upcycled Markers (2 of 4)

Have you read my post on breaking down Crayola markers for recycling? Refer to this post now, because you need to break each marker down to get out the ink reservoir inside. I especially like making this alcohol ink because otherwise that ink reservoir is one of the waste components of the marker.

Put one end of each ink reservoir into the container of alcohol; you’ll notice the ink reservoir immediately begin to change color, as alcohol wicks into the reservoir and pigment seeps out into the alcohol. Depending on how many dried-out markers I have, I tend to cram anywhere from two to five ink reservoirs into each jar–this is likely overkill, but if your jar opening is too narrow, you can always trade ink reservoirs out as each one is depleted.

DIY Alcohol Ink Using Upcycled Markers (3 of 4)

Let the ink reservoirs sit undisturbed in the alcohol for several hours, and preferably overnight. To finish, lift each reservoir out of the alcohol and milk any remaining alcohol ink from the reservoir back into the container–this is VERY messy, but you’ll get much more pigment into your alcohol ink this way.

Not only is this alcohol ink made up of recycled components, but it’s also a terrific way to upcycle other recycled materials. Alcohol ink works best on non-porous surfaces, so use it to embellish any of the following:

Do you use alcohol ink as an embellishment when you upcycle? Tell us about it in the Comments section!

Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

27 Comments

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  1. Love this, I want to do a project with my daughter for Christmas presents on ceramic tiles. Can I use marker that aren’t dried up.

    • Yes, of course. There are also ceramics markers that work perfectly for home use, and just require a baking in the oven to set them–we have an entire stack of coasters made from ceramic tiles and painted by my kiddos in that way.

  2. I just read recently online (can’t remember where) that all Sharpie Markers can be made permanent by baking in the oven. The crafter was making hand decorated ceramic mugs for Xmas. Just an FYI!!

  3. Hi! I’ve always wanted to reuse the dried out markers we have in our office. I’ve asked permission from my boss to do so in fact but have never quite figured out a way to use the dried out ink and its container.
    Thanks for sharing this brilliant DIY! It’s really like hitting 2 birds with one stone! I’ll be using this for my apartment’s makeover project!

  4. love this idea will be making some soon. I have changed printers and have alot of generic inks left that dont fit the new printer.Any ideas for using these in other ways.Im a card maker.

  5. I JUST purchased 3 packages of pricey alcohol inks (used all my 40% off coupons!) but I still needed more because I’m an art teacher.

    There is an AWESOME project with these: start with white tiles. Rub or spray them with alcohol (at least 70%) Then, drop on the inks and they will spread out to make a really cool effect. They’ll mix some too, but that’s ok as they make wild colors when they blend. Shellac over them with canned shellac (not spray)

  6. Thanks you so much for sharing this brilliant Idea…Now I know what todo with my emty
    pill bottles.
    I want to try this as soon as possible, I have some butterfly’s and flowers made from plastic bottles and I want to paint them with your DIY Ink
    Your sincerely
    Iris

  7. I too have used the pricey alcohol ink on ceramic tiles. A few things…we use eye droppers filled with the ink to make drops onto the tile, different places, sometimes close to each other or touching and then use a different dropper with rubbing alcohol in it and drop that onto the alcohol ink and it spreads and mixes into great designs. My kids and I all made some and used it as a border around our sink in the bathroom. Can’t wait to try the DIY alcohol ink! Thanks!

  8. Oh! Wouldn’t it be great if they worked with dried out old sharpies/ My kids leave the top off and then I’m always trying to figure out what to do with them. Now, do these inks Stay on the items you decorate or do we need to seal them with something? i was going to decorate some glass candle holders… Juno

  9. For even better results only fill your jar 1/4 full of alcohol, then use a dropper to put more on the upper end of the wick. It will seep down pushing the ink ahead of it. Also Sharpies seem to work fine.

  10. Hi, do you have instructions for how to use these on a wine glass? Do you have to heat the design after or do you just paint with these paints and they are good?

  11. I did read through all the comments but still would like to have a few things clarified, please. If you are starting with water based inks, which aren’t permanent, why would mixing them with alcohol make them any different? I would think once the alcohol evaporates, you’re left with the same ink. So is making alcohol ink a permanent ink? Or do you have to seal with something else? Also, from what I have gathered here, you aren’t refilling those markers to make them alcohol ink markers, you are using the new ink from the jars….correct??
    Thanks

  12. Julie,

    I love this idea. I have tried recharging old highlighters with insulin syringe and alcohol, but I like your method. I am looking for a source of refilling liquid highlighters.
    Have you tried alcohol ink on paper , or only on non absorbing materials ?

    Thanks

    Doug

  13. Hi Julie

    If I had markers how would I wash them out to start with a new marker colour – especially some old stampin up markers that I can use with a new refill marker.

    cheers Vicki

  14. Thanks, I love this and made a dozen of the inks with markers and love them. Do you have a suggestion for getting rid of the smell of the alcohol? It is really strong. I sprayed a file folder to use in projects and the colors blend beautifully, but oh the odor!

  15. I loved the idea and made a dozen different bottles of colors. The problem I have is when I use them they leave am awful smell! No kidding the items are useless. I put them out side in the sun thinking that would dissipate the odor but after taking them in every night for 2 weeks they still stank. I ironed some thinking the heat would kill the smell for sure and it did dampen it down a bit, but a card in an envelope stank just as bad after two days. I think I will stick with Rangers! Unless I can think of outdoor use for alcohol inks. Any ideas?

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