Over the past few weeks, I've been testing the thinners that are used with alcohol ink. I tested rubbing alcohol, Ranger Blending Solution, and Pinata Extender with dropped ink and with stamped ink. For the most part, I determined that the thinners don't react too differently with the ink itself. The Extender seems to thin the ink without separating the color quite as much, but in the end they all dry looking pretty much exactly the same. So I thought I'd try one more test--the fluid ink test. How do the inks behave when thinned heavily and blown around?
I used the same ink for each test--this time a Pinata (Rain Forest Green) Ink. I dripped a few drops on and then used a bunch of the thinning solutions and blew it around with a can of air to see how it behaved. The first test was of the Ranger brand Blending Solution. It moved freely and created a lovely green splash across the tile.
The last one I tried was the Rubbing Alcohol. It was the thinnest of the thinners and the ink splashed across the tile very easily. The end results looked the same for all three thinners--for the most part. The only difference was that each thinner is a different thin-ness. So the the rubbing alcohol is the most watery and the Pinata Extender is the thickest of the thinners, so it doesn't move quite as easily across the tile--which could provide a little more control. The Ranger Blending Solution falls somewhere in the middle.
In the end, after all of my tests, I have come to pretty much the same decision. The rubbing alcohol costs about 10 cents and ounce, whereas the Blending Solution and Extender come in well over 2 dollars an ounce and the results are not vastly different from the cheap stuff. So for the beginning alcohol inker, the rubbing alcohol will do the trick. If you're a serious inker, the Extender provides a different enough result from the rubbing alcohol that it may be worth trying out, but the Blending Solution doesn't seem terribly different. And no matter what, you'll want to use the rubbing alcohol for cleanup since it's so much cheaper.
In the process of cleaning up during this project, I discovered an interesting technique. I ran out of ceramic tiles while testing the dripped ink and the stamping, so I used the same tile for each of the tests above. While I was cleaning the tiles off with rubbing alcohol and a napkin, I noticed that the napkin's texture would lift some of the ink off and leave the rest, creating a neat texture across the ink. So after testing my last splash of ink, I messed around with the technique. I added color and a little thinner and waited for the sweet spot. It seems to work the best when the ink isn't completely wet and isn't completely dry. If it's wet, the napkin will soak most of the ink up and leave a void. If the ink is dry, it won't lift any of the ink and leave the texture.
This is definitely a technique that I'll have to try again. I used some Bounty brand napkins, but I'm sure other brands of napkins and possibly paper towels will work for this technique. I look forward to trying out different textures soon!