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  • Writer's pictureKristine Hurd

How to Finish an Alcohol Ink Painting

You've just finished a beautiful painting with alcohol ink. Now what do you do? Unlike some other mediums, in my opinion, you MUST seal alcohol ink artwork when it is finished. Because alcohol ink is dye-based and not lightfast, the ink will break down and fade over time. The only way to prevent this is to seal your artwork when it is finished. It also helps prevent scratches and damage.

Multiple square alcohol ink paintings mounted on wood on artist desk
Paintings with a coat of gloss varnish

Finishing an alcohol ink painting involves 2 ESSENTIAL steps and one optional. Please note - while there may be other products out there that work , these are the products I have experience with and trust, and that are available in my country.

How to Seal Alcohol Ink - 3 Steps

Before starting any of these steps you must make sure your artwork is fully dry. I leave my paintings a minimum of 24 hours before starting the finishing process.

Step 1

The first step is to create a barrier to prevent the alcohol ink's from reactivating and interacting with the other finishes. This step is NOT optional and must ALWAYS come first. For this step you'll need Krylon Kamar Synthetic Artist Varnish. I normally spray a minimum of 4 thin coats, but if the ink is dark I'll apply as many as 6 (for some reason dark inks are more likely to discolor during the next steps unless you apply a few more coats).

Step 2

To prevent UV damage you will apply several layers of Krylon Gallery UV Archival Varnish. It contains hindered amine light stabilizer and UV absorbers for the maximum UV protection. It comes in a gloss, semi-gloss, satin and matte finish. I usually apply 3-4 coats of UV protection.

Step 3

This step is optional. Some artists like to finish with Krylon Triple Thick Glaze or Crystal Clear Spray. I haven't used it myself so I can't tell you what it's like, but it does create a protective, high gloss finish for your work. This would be something to consider if you you want a glossy finish aren't planning to use any of the options below.

Other Sealants for Alcohol Ink

Resin/ Epoxy

A coating of resin over a painting really helps the colors to pop, and gives the artwork a glossy, clean finish. It also provides protection from wear, scratches, and UV damage. I use , ArtResin, which has hindered amine light stabilizer for protection against fading and yellowing (yellowing is one of the drawbacks of most resin). ArtResin is also food safe when it is fully cured which means you can use it on items that may come in direct contact with food.

Best for: Artwork on wood or other solid surfaces, anything that might come in contact with food.


Varnish also provides a glossy finish similar to resin, but is a much thinner coating. Like resin it increases the brightness and color saturation of artwork and improves the durability of the piece. I like to use Liquitex High Gloss Varnish on my artwork.

Best for: Artwork on wood or other solid surfaces, art on canvas, ceramic


Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish is a crystal clear, fast-drying protective topcoat. It resists damage from abrasion, scuffing, chipping, water, alcohol and other common household chemicals. It's a less expensive than resin and varnish but will still give you a shiny finish.

Best for: Artwork on wood or other solid surfaces, art on canvas. I don't recommend it for things like planters or trinket dishes as I've had issues in the past with paint chipping.


Crystalac Brite Tone -is a super hard, scratch and chemical resistant, non-yellowing, clear finish with exceptional Clarity. Food safe when cured and Heat resistant to 350 F which makes it useful for anything that might come in contact with heat such as a mug or candle jar.

Best for: Mugs, candle holders, trinket dishes, planters

Where to Find Sealants for Alcohol Ink

Most of the products mentioned can be found at art supply stores across the country. This blog post has a comprehensive list of art supply retailers online in Canada.

Minwax Polycrylic can usually be found in the painting section of places like Canadian Tire, Rona, Home Hardware etc.

I order Crystalac Brite Tone directly from their website.

I hope this was helpful! Feel free to Pin it to refer to later, or let me know if you have any questions or comments below!

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