Fun With Splash Inks (Part 2)

Splash Inks are acrylic inks invented by Karen Elaine and made by Yasutomo. I’ve posted on Splash inks previously. Today, Arizona Art Supply had a class in learning how to use the inks. Kari Foteff

Senior Account Manager Kari Foteff, from Strathmore, and inventor Karen Elaine.

Senior Account Manager Kari Foteff (L) from Strathmore, and inventor Karen Elaine.

from Strathmore Papers (L) and Karen Elaine were there and they taught a wicked good class. Strathmore papers were the first papers I loved when I was a papermaker, and it was great meeting someone who gets to work with Strathmore papers much of the time.

It’s fun meeting an inventor, particularly one who is modest and never mentioned her time on the Carol Duvall show. ( A popular show on the DIY Network several years ago) or the process of invention, just what the inks can do.

There are four inks, and they follow the CMYK colors: Cyan (blue) Magenta, Yellow and Black. You can mix them into over a hundred different colors.


We mixed several colors, and Kay, next to me, did a whole sampler of colors.


We then masked off a card and, using a stencil, scraped Golden’s regular gel (gloss) over the stencil and allowed the gel to dry, creating a resist.  We then mixed colors and applied them over the card. Kay did an attractive multi-colored card:


And I tried for a batik effect:


I’ll be demonstrating the inks at Arizona Art Supply’s booth the Women’s Expo at the Phoenix Convention Center April 27 and 28, 2013.

Karen Elaine helped me learn how to do some paper marbling with the basic colors. I have some more work to do (mixing new colors), but I’m really pleased with the basic marbling which is super easy:


And works with more complicated combing patterns, too.


Even the second pick-up works well:


I made these on cardstock, but you can also make them on sized watercolor paper. You can use them as art journal backgrounds, or just write in the lighter areas. You can use Golden’s regular gel as a resist and then write on it with a sharpie. Lots of experimentation still to go, but I’m having a lot of fun with Splash Inks.

–Quinn McDonald has inky fingers again.

Disclaimer: I purchased the inks myself. I am receiving no compensation to blog about them.

Splash Ink: New Product

This isn’t a review, because I haven’t had these inks long enough to do anything except make a few basic mixes. But with a weekend coming up, there is the possibility you may want to try them, too.

colorbottlesI went out to buy ink today, because most of my work is done with ink, watercolor paints and pencils. I had gotten a flyer from Arizona Art Supply mentioning that there would be a demo of the new Splash Inks, and it had piqued my interest.

Here’s the premise: Splash Inks come in only four colors–the same four colors that printers use to make hundreds of colors by mixing them in different amounts or different size dots. You may know the colors as CMYK–Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. The K is used to prevent confusion with B for blue, which is called cyan. (Did you take notes? No matter. Read on!)

colorgreenThe inks are acrylics, and only slightly thicker than ink. They mix incredibly well, and can be used in waterbrushes and in calligraphy pens. (I haven’t tried that yet).  I played around with the yellow and blue to make various shades of green, turquoise, and jades. The more water you add, the more transparent the colors become.

Splash ink was developed by Karen Elaine Thomas  for Niji and is distributed by Yasutomo.

colorhowtoThe packaging comes with a mixing chart for landscapes, portraits and more. The colors are measured in drops (the bottle tops are designed for this) and water is added to lighten colors and make them transparent. It’s hard not to like the idea.

I’ve tried the most basic mixing with good results. While you are supposed to used these inks on watercolor paper, I think coated stock or Yupo will give a clearer color and less fast absorption, which made it a bit harder for me to mix. This is not a disappointment, it’s simply a new technique and needs some practice.  I have fallen in love with the colors you can make, though.


Karen Elaine was at the Mesa (AZ) stamp show, and demo’d an interesting technique using rubber stamps. There is something appealing about resists, and she used it in that way.

I’m eager to try working with these inks. They seem to be versatile and I want to explore them.

Disclosure: I paid for the inks and am not receiving any compensation from anyone to post this blog.

—Quinn McDonald uses ink to work on journal pages.

Poured Acrylics for Art Journals

Poured acrylics are exactly what they sound like–add acrylic paints to acrylic medium and pour or spread them onto a canvas. Some artists add water to the paint and spread it to create a blended background.

I tried a variety of mediums (gel, fluid, and glaze) and two different substrates, freezer paper and watercolor paper. The freezer paper allows the release of the poured acrylics and makes them usable in collage.

Experimenting with acrylics takes some time, but the results are worth it. Here are some results I came up with.

Poured acrylics mixed with gel medium on watercolor paper. ©Quinn McDonald 2012, all rights reserved.

Acrylics mixed with heavy-bodied gel medium on watercolor paper. This dries the fastest, but the results are a little more controlled than I like. I prefer the smooth surface of fluid medium.

Acrlic and gel medium poured onto freezer paper. ©Quinn McDonald, 2012, all rights reserved.

If you pour the same mixture on parchment or freezer paper, the acrylic will dry and can be peeled off. The front and back look completely different. This is the same color mix as above, but the colors that sank are different than the ones that were on top.

Acrylic paint and ink mixed with fluid medium and opal/gold glaze. ©Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved, 2012

Mixing ink (green and mallard blue)  and paint (Payne’s gray) with a mixture of fluid glaze and gold/opal glaze gives amazing results. Fluid glaze is designed to retard the drying of acrylics, and it does. This piece took 24 hours to dry.

Swirled and controlled colors. © Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved, 2012

Acrylics (Payne’s gray, vermillion, cobalt blue) dropped onto fluid acrylic and then treated like the surface of marbled paper or cake decoration. In the corner is a blend of metallic copper acrylic, and quinadcricone burnt orange swirled together in flue acrylic.

Inks on fluid acrlic and gold glaze © Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved, 2012

First, put down about a tablespoon of fluid acrylic and spiral a teaspoon (approximately) of gold/opal glaze (Golden’s) through it. Spray inks (I used Tattered Angels Shimmer mist) onto surface, wait 30 seconds, and tilt mixture, being careful to keep the ink on top of the fluid medium.

Can be peeled off parchment or freezer paper. © Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved, 2012

Payne’s gray, opaque white ink, Graphite Shimmer Mist, swirled on top of fluid acrylic. Once dry, these acrylics can be peeled off the freezer paper and used in collage. Use self-leveling medium to create a thin skin.

—Quinn McDonald is experimenting with inks. There’s something to be said for that. She’s a creativity coach and art journaler.

Knowing When It’s Enough

When are you done? When is the art complete? When do you quit? All good questions, and all with similar answers.

This weekend, I was working with ink on watercolor paper. It’s a new technique I’m puzzling out, and the most critical element is knowing when to stop working. It’s incredibly easy to overwork the ink, and once it’s overworked the piece simply looks like a clean-up towel.

Here’s the first step:

Which actually can be left alone. But I wanted to add another layer. The next step promptly overworked it.

So why didn’t I know that? Because I was willing to see what would happen if I tried another layer of ink. So the first reason you don’t quit is curiosity–seeing what will happen if you continue. When the urge to continue is  more interesting or compelling than the need to quit, you push on. If I had been perfectly satisfied with the results, I could have quit.

Another way to know you are finished is when the elements of design you had in mind are all in place. On this paper, I worked  in three stages. When working with ink pieces, it’s important to let one layer dry completely before the next one is started, or the ink will blur. Waiting allows time to make the decision to continue or decide the design is fine the way it is.

In the case of this piece, the black and gray sections were complete, but there was not enough contrast in the overall page. I added the yellow, which was interesting, but still not enough of a contrast. So I added the orange-red over the yellow, allowing both colors to show.

I knew I wasn’t done when the yellow didn’t achieve the purpose of contrast. I knew I was done when the branching edges completed a pleasing design. In other cases, you would continue when you cannot explain how your work is complete.

Ink on watercolor is a fairly tricky medium. You have to balance not being in control as well as controlling color choice and water amount. The medium doesn’t allow erasing, covering with gesso or not clicking “accept” and starting over, as you can with digital work in steps.

It was a mistake to add gold to this page. Not only was the choice in the yellow-green-gold color range, of which there was already too much,  but the eye can’t find a resting place, a catch with everything in one tone. The ink on the upper left looks like a three-legged blowfish sticking out its tongue. The lesson: knowing what you are doing and why. Here I knew why, but the what was a bad choice. Had I given the choice of shimmering ink more thought, I would have realized that I should have stopped after the background was still wet when I applied the second layer.

In this case, the shimmer worked far better.

It was right to choose the shimmer because there was a large, dark center that needed more definition. I left the lower right hand corner (which I love) alone, but did not expect it to carry the entire piece. Adding the shimmer ink gave the middle section texture and made both colors–the blue/gray and the violet, more visible. Knowing how strong (and how much space) the strongest part of a visual piece can carry is a way of knowing when the piece is complete.

These same decision-making questions work for other “should I quit?” questions, too. If one small and excellent part of a relationship can’t carry the rest of it, it may be time to add something to the relationship. But you have to know what and why.

Discovering that art answers are a bigger part of life is one of the reasons I do creative work. Because (you already know what’s coming) it makes meaning out of part of my life.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who is exploring the relationship between ink, water and paper, along with the rest of her life.