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Alcohol Inks on Thermal Prints

Some examples of fading AND darkening. This paper came with the camera and had some intense reactions to the inks. This is all Sharpies.

Alcohol fades and somewhat whites out any images on a thermal print. I found that this happened on many papers, but not all and not on thermal print sticker papers.

So let’s dig into this.

Some examples of fading AND darkening. This paper came with the camera and had some intense reactions to the inks. This is all Sharpies.

You might think, as I did, that Sharpies and other alcohol inks would be the perfect tool for adding color to your thermal prints. We’d both be sorta right, and a whole lotta wrong. It turns out that alcohol and other solvents in alcohol based pens fade thermal prints. It can also lift the finish and blur the dark areas around. In other cases the solvents can blacken the paper.

This can be used to manipulate the images in a fun way.

These images were done with Artist Loft Artist Brush tip alcohol markers. Lots of smudging and fading and blurring of the background- what I particularly like about the effect.

These images were done with Artist Loft Artist Brush tip alcohol markers. Lots of smudging and fading and blurring of the background- what I particularly like about the effect.

Here we have Sharpies on thicker glossier paper. Notice that for most of the images that the darks didn't fade much at all. Only on one image- the one with green, do we have fading.

Here we have Sharpies on thicker glossier paper. Notice that for most of the images that the darks didn’t fade much at all. Only on one image- the one with green, do we have fading.

Letraset and Prismacolor markers are much more intensely alcohol and other solvent based, but wow do they manipulate the image in a different way. I used 2 very pale grey markers- I think 10 or 20% gray. Both cool greys. You can see the ghosting effect here. Also the tree images used the narrow point side of these markers to pretty good effect. It lifted and smudged the darks. Neat.

Letraset and Prismacolor markers are much more intensely alcohol and other solvent based, but wow do they manipulate the image in a different way. I used 2 very pale grey markers- I think 10 or 20% gray. Both cool greys. You can see the ghosting effect here. Also the tree images used the narrow point side of these markers to pretty good effect. It lifted and smudged the darks. Neat.

 

This is a close up of one of the images where I used the very pale grey Prismacaolor marker to fade out and ghost part of the image- in this case the cars in this parking lot. Creepy and very cool.

This is a close up of one of the images where I used the very pale grey Prismacaolor marker to fade out and ghost part of the image- in this case the cars in this parking lot. Creepy and very cool.

But on some papers the alcohol doesn’t fade or alter the darks at all, so you can add a flood of lighter color.

I tested Sharpies, one pale LetraSet, one light gray Prismacolor, and a set of artist loft alcohol ink markers. I tested them on a couple of different papers and images. I also tested coloring the paper and then printing. 

The cheapo paper I favor will fade with all of the above but less so with sharpies. With Sharpies it fades and seems to come back a bit.

sharpies

 

With the slightly heavier and more coated paper that I bought for work it doesn’t fade at all.

Tests of all the alc pens on heavier glossier papers

With sticker paper nothing alters or shifts either.

I also tested some Sharpies that were at least 10 years old, if not significantly older. Shockingly they worked. They also seemed to alter things more so than the newer Sharpies. 

I also sprayed some images with plain old isopropyl alcohol, and it faded things significantly even on the heavier glossier paper.

Important to note, color the paper the night before and let it dry overnight. the alcohol can make the coating sticky and it can bind up on the print head, it will eventually print but it will be warped. I like the randomness of this. Do this at your own risk.

Important to note, color the paper the night before and let it dry overnight. the alcohol can make the coating sticky and it can bind up on the print head, it will eventually print but it will be warped. I like the randomness of this. Do this at your own risk.

Another test was to color the paper with alcohol markers then print on it. The tests were fantastic and very cool.

Alcohol ink markers aren’t archival but neither are these photos. Part of the joy is that they are so disposable and temporary, they are the very definition of ephemera.

Note: I have provided affiliate links to the ‘zon items I have ordered in the past. With the ‘zon you may not get the exact same item I ordered. I’ve had this happen on more than one occasion. I order something I reorder it only to get a similar but ever so slightly different item. It is best to test whatever you get with the materials you hope to use to be sure it will react in the way you wish.

List of links:
This is the paper that I use. It’s cheap and is nice and glossy and has good contrast when printed on. It’s also thicker than some of the other papers I’ve used and doesn’t have a plastic core. ($14)  https://amzn.to/3SdGWA8
This is the paper I bought for work, it’s much thicker and very glossy. https://amzn.to/3SzTp14
Colored sticker paper I use. https://amzn.to/47eQHTu
Mystic Gem Sharpie https://amzn.to/3MAsPBl

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