Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Artist EBL Designs' Tutorial on Alcohol Ink Tile Coasters

What’s your business name and your name(s)?  EBL Designs and I’m Elizabeth L’Eplattenier.

Can you share anything new that you have been working on since the last article?
I've been experimenting a lot with alcohol ink on ceramic tiles.  I really love how you can’t make a mistake in this median and that you really don’t always have control over how the ink moves.  It takes patience but the results are AMAZING.  I taught a group of ladies at the June Handmade Triad meeting how to make these tiles.  Everyone really enjoyed the experience and making them is really simple!

Alcohol Ink Tile Coasters


My supplies

Example of ceramic tiles
So let’s talk about those supplies.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your tiles, in fact, I usually pay about $.15 each for mine at Home Depot (plus I buy them in bulk online and pick them up in the store – LOVE THIS OPTION!)

Tim Holtz Adirondack Alcohol Ink
I like using the Tim Holtz Adirondack Alcohol Inks – they come three to the pack and are sold at your local craft store (can we say coupon?) for about $9.99.  I’m sure you can use any brand of alcohol inks, but I like to use what I can find (BTW- there are some tutorials out there on how to make these tiles using Sharpies, but I have never gotten it to work for me).  

I also like using the Ranger Adirondack Alcohol Blending Solution while others prefer the rubbing alcohol.  To me, the rubbing alcohol can make the inks gritty, so it’s worth the $5 for the blending solution. I use the rubbing alcohol to clean my tiles first to make sure I have the cleanest surface before dropping the ink – again, things can get gritty if there is any dust or debris on the tiles.  The rubbing alcohol is also useful if you get the ink on your hands or clothing – it may help lift the stain if used immediately (but wear old clothing just in case). 

I recommend wearing gloves.  Mine are a set of dish gloves because I feel like I can get a better grip on the bottles and the tiles with them rather than the latex gloves.  I will say, I didn't wear them for the majority of this project (it was hot…) and I’m sporting some colorfully stained hands and nails today.  If you don’t mind this “artist” look for a few days – go for it! 

The paper towels are for excess ink and clean up.  The card board, wax paper and plastic table cloth is to protect you, your furniture and everything else in your home.  This is a messy project that leaves lasting stains and can even take the varnish off furniture (you should see my kitchen table – it’s not pretty).  I actually spent $3 to upgrade to a vinyl table cloth with a felt back – no ink has made it through yet! Plus with the card board, it easy to move the tiles to another location while drying and transporting them outside to use the sealant, you know, in case you actually want to use your kitchen table for something other than arts and crafts. 

The black paint or Sharpie is to finish off the edges of the tile to make it look more crisp and finished.   If you’re using the tiles as coasters, you’ll need to use a sealant.  If not, the ink will flake or scratch off.  You can glue felt onto the bottom of the tile to keep from scratching your furniture.

This is a fun project to work on and is easy to do, but it is time consuming because you have to wait in between steps.  It usually takes me 3-4 days to completely process a batch of these tiles.

Onto the project!

1. Clean your tiles with rubbing alcohol and paper towels. You can also paint the sides of your tiles with the black paint or wait right before putting the sealant on the tiles.  If I have my paint out, I’m painting as much as I can to make future processes easier.  It is also why you’ll see some of the tiles with the black edge and some unfinished.
Prepped surface with wax paper covered card board and prepared tile.

2. If you haven’t already, put down the plastic table cloth onto your work surface.  Line your card board with wax paper and place a couple of tiles onto it.  I like to work with more than one tile at a time – it’s faster when you’re making batches.

3. Next, put on your gloves.  I like to work with only ONE color at a time when using the inks, that way I don’t mix up the caps or forget to put the cap back on and knock over the bottle.

Shows first color and how the ink blooms

4. Select the color that you would like to use.  Gently drop one drop of ink at a time onto the tile.  Think of it like food coloring. Keep it spaced out – the color will bloom and spread (well, most of the time).

Second color added and bloomed. Notice that ink isn't spreading as well on second tile.

5. Next, add the second color and so on until most of the tile is covered.  Remember, a little ink goes a long way and this is just the base color. Keep adding color until most of the tile is covered.
Notice the white flecks on the second tile

6. You might notice that you have white “flecks” on your tile where the ink is not absorbing.  This could be a flaw in the glaze, etc.  It’s okay, the next steps should help cover it, but sometimes, you just have to let go and live with the white spots…

7. Using a bunch of paper towels, gently blot the ink on the tile to help pick up the excess ink and to cover the remaining white areas.  Work fast because the ink will dry quickly.


8. Repeat steps 4-5.  If you like the results, stop you’re done.  Or you can use the Ranger Adirondack Alcohol Blending Solution or rubbing alcohol for a different look by dropping small amounts onto the tile (like the ink) and watching it bloom.  I like to wait a few minutes for it to dry and then add more ink.  This will help give you that "in depth" layered look.  At some point, you will need to walk away from the inks.

9. Let the tiles dry for a few hours, but preferably, overnight to 24 hours is best.  If you spray the sealant and the ink isn't dry enough, it could cause the ink to run.

10. If you have not already, paint the edges of your tiles or use the sharpie. When painting, I also like to paint a little of the back as well just in case the felt doesn't fully cover.  Let the paint dry.

Coasters after sealant spray

11. Next: READ THE DIRECTIONS ON YOUR CAN OF SEALANT.  They may be different than mine.   When using the spray clear sealant, it’s best to work outside (even though the can says "or in a well-ventilated area").  Working outside can present its own issues such as humidity (don’t try it) or rain.  I usually will spray a good layer of sealant on the tile, wait the few minutes that the can say it takes to dry, then spray a second coat.  Then wait at least the recommended minutes of drying before moving the tiles back inside before moving them inside, but if it’s a nice enough day, I’ll leave them outside for a little while (fumes can be harsh).  When I say moving them inside, I mean move the wax paper covered card board with them on it inside.  DO NOT TOUCH THE TILES FOR AT LEAST 24 HOURS or you may leave finger prints.  I did say this was a lengthy process…

12. 24 hours later, glue the felt to the back of the tile.  I like using Mod Podge for more coverage plus you don’t feel the glue behind the felt like you can with hot glue.  I then take my exacto knife and carefully cut the tile out and use the scissors to clean up the edges if needed.

Note: Mod Podge can take a few more days to dry where as hot glue is pretty much ready to go.

Enjoy your Alcohol Ink Tile Coasters!

As always, do you have any advice for a crafter who is just starting their own business?
Ask questions when you’re at a market to the vendors.  Usually they’re friendly and will help you.  I try to network at every event I’m at because it’s a great way of learning where other markets are, what shows they like working and which ones they don’t.  I have found out a ton of information anything from where to buy business cards and jewelry boxes to how to fill my NC Sales and Use Taxes.

I would also encourage local crafters to come to the Handmade Triad meetings.  These meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month (except for July).  It’s a great place to meet other crafters, ask business questions and try a new arts project.  I’ve learned so much from this group and they have definitely helped push my business in the right direction! To learn more about Handmade Triad, visit their facebook page at: www.facebook.com/handmadetriad

Is there anything else you would like to share?
Take advantage of social media. You might not have or want to open an Etsy shop or a webpage, but customers like to be able to find you online.  Facebook is free and easy to work and it is a way that you can share and connect with your customers when you’re not at markets.

If you’re selling at markets, get a credit card reader.  In today’s Indie Market world, customers expect that you will be able to take credit cards or you’ll miss a lot of sale opportunities.  Some think you are not truly committed to your business if you don't have a credit card reader.  It’s very easy to set up a Square account.  I personally love using the PayPay reader so I can keep all my business money following through one account.

EBL Designs will be a featured artist at the First Friday Indie Market on August 1, 2013.  The market is located on the corner of MLK and Elm St in Downtown Greensboro, NC and is open from 4-9 pm.

To find out more about EBL Designs:

You can find EBL Designs locally at:

Eclectic Calico:
109 W. Murphy Street
Madison, NC 27025

EBL Designs plans on expanding her collection into more local businesses this fall.  To learn more, please check out the Shop Local section at www.ebldesigns.com.

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