How Do Alcohol and Acrylic Paint Work Together?

As an artist, you know every element of an artwork is of great significance. That is why without an appropriate background, any figure in the foreground cannot shine. If you are working with acrylic paints, there are several techniques you can use to create a unique design. Among these, the alcohol drip acrylic method is quite popular.

You can use this mix of alcohol and acrylic paint to render beautiful patterns to your works. Any art piece you create with the alcohol drip method can work well as a standalone. It can also feature as the background of any painting. In both cases, this will add a pop of color and pattern to it. 

What Art Supplies Do You Need?

Before you start applying any art technique, it is crucial to know what tools you need. The alcohol drip acrylic method is no different. It is clear that you will need alcohol and acrylic paint. Here is a list of the other art supplies you need to keep in hand.

  • A watercolor paper or a canvas
  • A few paintbrushes
  • A tumbler full of clean water
  • A wiping cloth
  • A spray bottles

Why Should You Use Acrylic Paints?

There are various types of pigments available in the market right now. Among these, acrylic paints are most popular among new artists. Non-toxicity and low drying time are two of the most significant features of these paints. Besides, by using acrylic paints, you can experiment with different styles and techniques at a relatively low price. 

Thus, acrylics become the most suitable medium for the alcohol drip technique. You can obtain your desired results simply by mixing different styles.

What Type of Acrylic Pigment Should You Select?

The type of acrylic paint you choose also makes a difference. You can go for either heavy body paints or standard ones. Experiment with pigments from different brands to find the one that works for you. Some artists prefer to take the fluid acrylics route. That is because these paints are easier to control on the canvas.

Which Type of Alcohol Should You Use?

In this technique, the alcohol and acrylic paint spread together and create an abstract pattern. So, you can use isopropyl or rubbing alcohol for this purpose. You can find both of these in your local art store. Chemists and online stores also sell it. 

It is better to opt for a relatively high percentage as this allows your paint to spread well. If it does not work as smoothly, you can always dilute it later on. Also, you have to be careful while working with this substance as it can irritate your skin and eyes.

Which Type of Canvas Should You Choose?

When you apply your chosen acrylic paint, it will interact with the canvas. That is why its painting surface should be appropriate for the use of this technique. 

If you are a beginner to the alcohol drip method, it is best to work on small surfaces. So, opt for a concise watercolor paper instead of a massive stretching canvas. That will give you more control, allowing you to maneuver the alcohol and acrylic paint better. 

You can practice on watercolor paper, which does not bend upon soaking up excess moisture. Once you feel like you understand the basics, you can move on to using a stretching canvas. Working on such a large painting surface will help you learn flow patterns better over time.

Keep in mind that any painting support which absorbs a lot of water is not fit for this technique. So, avoid using regular notebook papers and invest in a pack of watercolor papers or a canvas. 

Which Paint Mediums Work Well with This Technique?

The painting medium you use also affects the results of the alcohol drip technique significantly. Since acrylics dry fast, you cannot take up much time during the application process.

If you work in mixed media, you will have to put in extra effort to make it work. That means you will have to take the other types of paints present on your canvas into account. 

Testing out watercolors, oil paints, et cetera with the acrylics and the alcohol drip method can help in this regard. Once you find the correct combination of pigments, your art piece will turn out beautiful.

What Other Products Do You Need?

Other tools include a few paintbrushes, some clean water, a spray bottle, and rags. You will, of course, need the brushes while applying the paint. But, aside from that, they will come in handy while flicking or dripping the alcohol. Besides, you can use one to spread the liquid in some areas. This technique is pretty messy, so use a cloth or rag to clean up any untidy areas.

Once you prepare the necessary art supplies, it is time for you to start painting. Art is all about bringing your imagination to life. So, the way you go about applying the technique depends solely on your creative sense. 

How Can You Pick the Right Color Story?

The alcohol drip technique is all about hues and patterns. So, the color palette you select is critical in determining how the art piece turns out. 

In general, you can opt for any color you want. However, as the alcohol mutes the hue to a certain extent, it is better to go for vibrant tones. The painting medium will also affect the results. So, try out different color combinations. You can also use swatches and charts to figure out which shades work for you. 

What Should Be the Focal Point in Your Painting?

Artists typically use the alcohol drip technique to create unique or abstract backgrounds in their paintings. Thus, this allows you to bring different regions of the artwork in and out of focus. Using other painting styles in conjugation with this one helps you showcase your creativity on the canvas further. 

How Do You Typically Apply the Alcohol Drip Method?

Once you have a general idea of the painting you want in mind, you can truly begin the process. That includes four simple steps, which are as follows.

  • Select A Base Color

Covering your canvas in a coat of paint helps the hues on top pop better. So, start with a layer of white or any other color. You can also use a mix of a few different shades as the base coat. Ensure that any paint you put on the painting surface dries down completely. If you leave behind any wet traces, they will interfere with the main artwork. 

  • Put On a Layer of Acrylic Pigments

The base coat you applied before plays a supporting role. The colors in it will show through much, if at all. But the next layer of paint you put on matters. 

You have to dilute or thin the pigment directly into your canvas. Getting the correct consistency is vital. If you add too much water, it will become too runny and slide off the painting surface. But if it is too thick, the alcohol you apply later on will fail to spread it. So, spread thin layers of paint and gradually build it up to your desired opacity.

  • Drip The Alcohol on The Painting Surface

Acrylics dry pretty fast. So, you have to do this step quite quickly. The freshly applied paint has to remain wet for it to spread with the alcohol. So, once you are sure the paint layer is not dry, drip some alcohol on the medium. The paint will spread rapidly across, making beautiful shapes all over. 

Sometimes, however, the above distribution does not occur. So, if you face such a situation, check how dry or thick the paint is. Chances are, there is an issue in one or both of those two parameters.

  • Apply A Paint Wash

However, the task is not yet over. Once you are decently satisfied with the pattern, you will have to repeat steps 2 and 3. Make sure you allow the painting to dry completely before going in with a fresh layer of paint and alcohol drops. 

Once you finish applying both the layers, allow the painting to dry completely. That can take anywhere between a few hours to a few days. Then, seal the artwork in varnish, and voila! Your beautiful alcohol drip acrylic painting is ready. 


Acrylic paints have a good reputation among artists, old and new. Their versatility, perhaps, plays the most crucial role in this popularity.

You can apply all sorts of techniques using acrylics. Dripping alcohol on a painted canvas is one method of going about it. If done correctly, this technique yields beautiful, abstract patterns on your painting surface. 

In this article, you learned what supplies you need for this method and how you apply it. But there is a bit of a learning curve in this regard. So, if you want to perfect this technique, you will have to keep trying new things and practicing.

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