White Roses, FW acrylic inks on Saunders Waterford 140lb (300gsm) paper, (15x10cm)
I combined ultramarine violet watercolour and inks. The inks crept into the watercolour and give interesting textures to the leaves.

When Sue Williams first discovered acrylic inks she loved the effects she obtained when they were diluted with water – and she was hooked.

Acylic ink qualities

Acrylic inks are vibrant, strong and lightfast liquids that come in a wide range of brilliant colours, including metallic and pearlescent inks.

This wonderful bold medium is suited to painting large, ‘explosive’ flowers, but it is also very versatile and can be diluted with water or extender medium to give subtle and delicate effects. 

As the inks dry, interesting effects and colours emerge – with practice some of these can be anticipated, but there is often an element of chance as to the way a colour mix will dry.  

There are a range of acrylic inks to try:


Top tip

Tilting your paintings from side to side makes the inks run which be unpredictable but creates some lovely effects. 

Things to note:
  • Mixing inks with water does not affect their lightfastness.
  • You can re-wet drying ink and add other colours.  
  • Once the inks are dry they are waterproof and will not move when re-wetted or glazed-over with other colours.
  • Wet ink can be washed away and blotted if you need to make corrections.  
  • Transparent colours can be built up in layers once the underlayer is dry, so a yellow may be glazed over a red. The effects can look like stained glass.
Acrylic ink colours

Note that:

  • Some colours are opaque and will cover the colours beneath.
  • Browns are usually well behaved and easy to manipulate.
  • Some bright colours can dominate mixes and are more difficult to control.  
  • Some colours will separate in mixes, especially when added to wet watercolour washes.  
  • Corrections can be made using white acrylic ink.
  • White acrylic ink can be mixed into other colours to make soft, pale colours, however some of the luminosity of the inks will be lost.

Acrylic ink techniques

Wet-in-wet with watercolour

Inks can be used wet-into-wet with watercolour; try granulating pigments such as ultramarine violet watercolour.

The watercolour paint holds the inks and makes interesting textures (see White Roses below).  

Drop or draw the inks into a watercolour wash to allow them to mix on the paper.  

Top tip

Mix inks and watercolour together on the paper rather than on a palette.

Wet-on-dry and wet-on-wet

Inks can be painted onto dry or wet paper, or can be sprayed with an atomiser.

Inks generally will flow or push into water and you can use water to spread the inks.  

Adding texture

Try sprinkling salt into the ink as it begins to dry (see example below).

Salt sprinkled into damp acrylic ink will absorb colour to give a speckled appearance.

This technique works best if the ink is beginning to dry and only a little salt is used.

Pen and ink and pen and wash

Acrylic inks can be used quite conventionally and are wonderful for pen and ink and pen and wash, although they take a while to get used to if you are used to watercolour.

You can draw with:

  • A twig
  • A bamboo pen
  • The dropper in the bottle
  • A pencil dipped in ink
  • A dip pen

Top tip

White acrylic ink is very useful for highlighting and correcting mistakes and for drawing on coloured papers.  

En plein air

Acrylic inks are convenient, easy to use and are ideal for painting on location.  

When painting outside, limit the number of colours you use and take several brushes, a different one for each colour.  If using dip pens, have a pen in each bottle of ink.

Wild Roses, FW acrylic inks on Saunders Waterford 140lb (300gsm) paper, (28x20.5cm)
Working in situ, I drew these flowers with the dipper from the bottles of ink, before painting with inks.

A unique medium
  • Acrylic inks will give effects that are unique to the inks and cannot be achieved with watercolour or acrylic paint.
  • Acrylic inks can be combined with acrylic paint, used with collage and more.
  • Acrylic inks are wonderful for abstract painting.  
  • Acrylic inks are great for experimenting

Discover the versatility of acrylic inks and enjoy using them!


Demonstration:  Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks, acrylic ink, (37 x 25.5cm)

Colour mixes used

From the top: Indian yellow and process magenta; scarlet and process magenta; Indian yellow and Rowney blue; antelope brown and Rowney blue; Indian yellow, Rowney blue and antelope brown.