Acrylic technique: alcohol

Rubbing alcohol, the inedible travesty, has primarily been used by the artist as a cleaning product. However, as the mixed media scene exploded, rubbing alcohol has found a new purpose in the artist inventory. Its water repellent properties can be used to create spherical patterns in acrylic paintings. The patterns are organic and visually stunning and work in a variety of


  • Rubbing alcohol or methylated spirits
  • Canvas or watercolour paper
    • If using paper that is not  100% cotton, gesso/prime your paper
  • High flow acrylic paint or watercolours
    • If you do not have high flow acrylic paint, you can make your own by watering down acrylic paint you already have. Your aiming for a buttermilk consistency.

Acrylic method:

  1.  Paint a base coat of acrylic, dry completely
    • Generally a lighter colour works best for the first layer
  2. Paint a thin layer of your watery/high flow acrylics
    1. You must work quickly, the technique wont work if this layer is dry
  3.  Drip, splash, flick rubbing alcohol/methylated spirits over the wet paint and watch the patterns form
  4.  Experiment

Watercolour method:

  1. paint a layer of watercolours over your surface
  2. Drip, splash, flick alcohol/methylated spirits over the wet paint and watch the patterns form
  3. If adding a second layer, wait for the painting to dry completely
  4. Experiment


  • Once your painting is dry, try adding more layers of paint to create interesting designs. You can even do the technique again over dry layers.
  • Make sure not to use too much alcohol, this can make all your colours mix together into a big mess. Unless that’s what you were aiming for, of course.
  • If your second layer of paint is too thin and runs off the surface wipe it away and start again from step 2.
  • Alternatively, if your paint is too dry try adding water with a spray bottle, this can add to the aesthetic of the painting.

Here’s some artworks I made using the technique

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