Tim Holtz Adirondack Alcohol Inks by Ranger

Reported by Kristine Fowler

If you’re looking to add color to surfaces other than regular paper, you might want to try Tim Holtz Adirondack Alcohol Inks by Ranger Ink. Widely available in both online and brick and mortar craft and stamping stores, the inks come in 24 colors, and are sold both individually and in 3-color sets. Pricing is fairly consistent at all of the locations I checked, with the individual bottles priced around $3.49 US and $9.99 US for the sets of three. Four (4) Metallic Mixatives round out the palette (gold, silver, copper and pearl) which are a little more expensive at around $4.99 US each.

Since I wanted to begin at the beginning so to speak when researching this article, I started my journey with a visit to the Ranger Ink Website to see just what they had to say about the Adirondack Alchol Inks. Here is the description I found there.

“Acid-free, fast drying, transparent Earthtone dye inks specially formulated to create a colorful, polished stone effect. Use on glossy paper, dominoes, metal, shrink plastic, glass, and other slick surfaces.”

Ranger goes on to list the following details:

  • Acid-Free
  • Fade-Resistant Dye Inks
  • Multi-Surface Inks
  • .5 fluid oz. bottles
  • Precision Tips
  • Coordinating Colors
  • Available in eight 3-color kits and individual bottles of 24 Earthtone colors

Surprisingly, the Adirondack Alcohol Ink line is not featured on Ranger’s Tips and Technique page. Honestly, I had at least expected to find a tip sheet and perhaps a tutorial here on exactly how to use the inks to create the polished stone background that they mention in their product description — but that wasn’t the case. In the video section however, you can find 2 short clips demonstrating the product, one featuring Tim Holtz himself – and the other by Ali Edwards of CK fame. While both are helpful from a how-to perspective, neither one worked particularly well to ‘sell’ me on the product.

What did work though (and the reason I have some of these inks in my stash) was to see these inks demonstrated live – and to see the beauty of the art created with them in person. In my opinion photographs and images on video tend not to do these products justice (Please keep this in mind while reading this article). I think you will find that seeing them up close, and experiencing the versatility of the line for yourself would be well worth the effort.

The next step for me in preparing this piece, was to collect several different test surface materials. I chose plain paper, glossy paper, a tranparent plastic charm, a flat metal word, a ‘lumpy’ metal embellishment, some ‘bling’, gold & silver foil and an old CD. On all test surfaces, I used some combination of Red Pepper, Oregano and/or Mushroom Adirondack Alcohol Inks. I also used Adirondack Blending Solution in some cases (more on that later). You will see below that for the most part, the Red Pepper seemed to overpower the other two colors though — but this is more than likely my error, and not the fault of the inks themselves. Perhaps if I had used less of the Red Pepper ink I would have seen a different result. (Ya think?)

Here’s what I found.

  1. Paper — While plain paper wasn’t listed by Ranger as a suitable surface for inking, I gave it a try anyway. The result —- not great. While the ink will transfer (why wouldn’t it right?), it permeates the paper, making blending literally impossible. Here I used a combination of Red Pepper and Oregano Inks and then applied Blending Solution. Not so pretty. It’s very very splotchy.

  2. Glossy Paper (CTMH) — Love it! If the inks are applied on their own, you may at first get something that looks a little splotchy….but by applying Blending Solution, you can really smooth this and the result is a really beautiful background that can be stamped on, or used on it’s own. (Remember though when stamping on glossy that you need to use something other than a dye-based ink. Try an oil based ink or something labeled ‘archival’.) In creating the background for the simple card below, I used Red Pepper & Oregano Alcohol Inks along with Copper Metallic Mixative all applied with Blending Solution. Remember what I said about these backgrounds not photographing well? It’s next to impossible to recognize the metallic in here, so you’ll just have to trust me. It’s much nicer in person.

  3. Transparent Plastic Charm (CTMH) — This is definately one of my favorites. The charm remained transparent even after the ink was applied which means that if I was to place this on a scrapbook page or card, the background colour would show through. Very cool. (Here I used Red Pepper Only)
  4. A Flat Metal Word (by Making Memories) — Another winner. Applying Red Pepper Alcohol Ink I was able to transform the piece which was initially silver, entirely. Interesting to note though is that the ink does not appear at all marbled on the metal word as it did on the plastic. This, I cannot explain.
  5. A Lumpy Metal Embellishment, a Bookplate from HodgePodge Hardware by SU — This metal piece took the ink very differently than the flat one as it does in fact appear a bit marbled. (You might not be able to see this in the picture). This piece started out copper-colored and while it has definately taken on a red hue, it almost looks antiqued or worn. It was also a bit more difficult to apply the color to this piece as it is ‘lumpy’. Getting the ink into the ‘depressed’ areas was a bit tricky. (Red Pepper Ink only)
  6. Gemstones, by Hero Arts — As suggested by Tim Holtz in the Ranger video, I used the alcohol inks (Red Pepper only) to add color to the bling. As you can see, the acrylic Gemstones took the color beautifully. They dried fast and retained their shine. This is definately a keeper trick! Again, these unfortunately didn’t photograph well, and they look MUCH better in person.
  7. Gold & Silver Foil Sheets (CTMH) — For these, I used all three of the Alcohol Inks, along with the Blending Solution, and something quite interesting happened here. First off, the red definately took over moreso on the foils than with any other media (not sure why). More imporantly though, I noticed right away that the two samples didn’t wind up looking all that much different, and the Gold that I expected to see on the Gold Foil piece was practically non-existent, only truly visible along the edges. Investigating further, I discovered that the Blending Solution was the culprit — interacting with the Gold surface on the foil sheet, essentially removing it. Guess what? The surface below is silver — thus the similarities in the two samples.

  8. Last but not least, I colored the surface of an old CD. Why? Well, why not? I suppose I could use this as a decorative element on a scrapbook page, or embellish it further and it would officially become altered art. For this I used all three colors yet again, along with the Blending Solution. {This probably photographed the worst of them all, due mostly to the fact that the CD is really shiny}

So what does all this mean?

Essentially it means that Adirondack Alcohol Inks do exactly what Ranger promises they can — add color to non-porous surfaces. Are you surprised? I’m not — but I did learn the following key lessons while testing.

  1. Always do a test patch before applying alcohol inks to any project surface. Even different metals will react/respond differently when alcohol inks and/or Blending Solution is applied.
  2. It can be tricky to get off your hands, so you might consider wearing gloves while playing. (You can if you wish use a bit of the Blending Solution to assist in removal, but wash thoroughly with soap and water when you’re done as the solution is a chemical.)
  3. The Blending Solution (sold seperately) is a must have to create the polished stone backgrounds that Ranger promises the Inks to be designed for creating. This is particularly true if you use the Metallic Mixatives which are highly concentrated and don’t blend well without it.


  • If you stamp on a transparent surface (like plastic, glass, or vellum), the material remains transparent even after the ink is applied. Think custom embellishments here!
  • You can create beautiful unique backgrounds for stamping and scrapbooking projects that are unlike anything you can create with dye-based inks or reinkers.
  • Colors coordinate with other products in the Adirondack line, like the Colour Washes & Paint Daubers.
  • Because the inks dry incredibly quickly – there is no creative ‘down-time’ while you wait for things to set.


  • Adirondack Alcohol Ink line are all Earthtones. What this means is that while they will coordinate with all other products in the Adirondack line, what you won’t find are brighter hues like say those you might find in a crayon box. Bright Reds, Vibrant Blues, Sunny Yellows and so on.
  • While you can use them on their own, Blending Solution is recommended (and in my opinion necessary) to achieve optimum blending potential. This is a con simply because it means addtional investment beyond the inks themselves.
  • Since they are not water-based inks, they will stain any surface they come into contact with. So….make sure you protect your work area with a non-stick craft mat.
  • While not a huge deal, it is worth mentioning that the bottle tops are not color-marked making it possible to ‘mix’ them up. In his video Tim Holtz suggests marking the bottle tops with a punched out piece of cardstock that has the ink applied so that mixing them up can be avoided. Wouldn’t you think that if it was important enough for Tim to suggest, that it perhaps should be done ‘before’ I buy them?

Where can you buy them? Well, as I mentioned earlier they are widely available both online and elsewhere. Here are a couple of places that I found.

In general, I rate Adirondack Alcohol Inks a 9 out of 10 because most importantly they do what they promise, and the potential is there to create incredible art if you embrace them. I considered rating them slightly lower initially due to their price tag, but when I considered that there was enough ink and blending solution in those little bottles to create literally hundreds of projects – on a per project basis, the cost is marginal. One bottle of Adirondack Alcohol Ink is after all less expensive than most ink pads on the market.

Last but not least if you’re not yet convinced and are looking to see more samples of backgrounds made with Adirondack Alcohol Inks, check out this website that I found while surfing. And remember if you can — see if you can find a live demonstration somewhere in your local area. Try your local scrapbook/stamping store, hobby store or a craft expo. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. As I said before, the art created with them really needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.

Have you tried Adirondack Alcohol Inks? Do you love them or hate them? Have you made the investment and they sit idle on your shelf or do you rely on them frequently when you craft? Let us know. We always love to hear what you think!

The following two tabs change content below.
CC Contributor

CC Contributor

Craft Critique is delighted to welcome a variety of talented industry professionals as contributors to share their expertise with our readers.

, , ,

7 Responses to Tim Holtz Adirondack Alcohol Inks by Ranger

  1. Avatar
    java diva August 28, 2008 at 1:35 pm #

    I just picked up 2 packs clearanced at HL last week!! I was so excited to finally give these a try, although I was introduced to them at a LSS a year ago. I was surprised too that there’s not tip/tech section for these. I searched and was inspired to ink up a paperclip. It didn’t work! 🙁 Go figure. So I’ll just stick to glossy paper, which by the way they will work on photo paper! Maybe slightly different look than glossy, I haven’t compared yet, but still very cool looking!

  2. Avatar
    Jenna Franklin August 28, 2008 at 2:01 pm #

    For the other colors you’re looking for, try the Pinata Inks from Jacquard. Same thing, different company (the Pinatas came first, actually). Pinata also comes in a WHITE which can mix with any other color to product a pastel!

  3. Avatar
    lyzzydee August 28, 2008 at 4:19 pm #

    I have used them on glossy photo paper, which does work well, not had too much luck on metal, perhaps that is me. I love reading this blog!!

  4. Avatar
    Momsnack August 28, 2008 at 5:39 pm #

    I love these! Make great backgrounds, work on glass (ornaments etc) – try them on vellum, also dominoes – make great pendants – color first, stamp a simple design & then heat emboss.
    NancyS (momsnack)

  5. Avatar
    Julia Stainton August 29, 2008 at 6:40 am #

    Great review! You’ve inspired me to dig mine out again!

  6. Avatar
    Regan Tomlin September 2, 2008 at 10:06 pm #

    Here are some samples of some metal items I have altered using these inks….I just love them btw 🙂

    I have never tried the glossy paper….but I definitely will now 🙂

  7. Avatar
    Michelle McGee September 18, 2008 at 7:55 pm #

    VERY thorough review, thank you.