Flaming Alcohol Inks

Scorched Science: Flaming Alcohol Inks

Discovery Place Science

We are fired up with another episode of Scorched Science!

At Discovery Place Science, we push the boundaries of innovation and incorporate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts into the design process as much as possible.

In this episode of Scorched Science, we are exploring a hot take on alcohol inks with a next-level fire demonstration. In the content below the video, find information about alcohol inks, important safety measures and steps for trying this at home.

All About Alcohol Inks

Are you familiar with a style of art that involves alcohol inks? Alcohol inks are fast-drying alcohol-based dyes that can be used to make beautiful flowing designs. Once the alcohol ink is applied, the alcohol evaporates, leaving just the colored dye behind.

After the ink dries, you can apply rubbing alcohol for additional effects. We take it one step further by adding heat with fire!

Scorched Science 1

Safety First

Since this activity involves fire, there are a few precautions you will need to take if you want to try this at home. Children should not attempt this activity without adult supervision.

This project should be done outdoors on a fireproof surface, far from any flammable materials. It is recommended to do this activity wearing close-toed shoes and long pants and tying long hair back.

In the video you will see Krysta, STEM Design Experience Specialist at Discovery Place is wearing a fire-resistant lab coat and a face shield since it is difficult to say how high the flame will reach. Have a good pair of fire-safe gloves and metal tongs in case you need to touch anything hot.

If the fire spreads, we do not want to put it out with water since we are using isopropyl alcohol. Instead, we would need something to cut off the fire’s oxygen supply – like a fire blanket.

Materials:

  • A fire-resistant workspace
  • A fire-resistant canvas: ceramic tiles or a glass sheet (removed from picture frame)
  • Alcohol ink colors of your choice
  • 91% isopropyl alcohol
  • Pipette
  • Cup
  • Lighter or blow torch

Directions:

You can use a white ceramic tile for this activity if you want to do multiple layers of color and fire. You could also use a glass sheet from a picture frame for a translucent piece, but you can only do one or two layers of color this way; any more than that and the glass might break.

  1. First, wipe down your canvas with isopropyl alcohol to remove any unwanted debris.
  2. Next, take your favorite colors of alcohol inks and apply droplets on the canvas generously. Get creative by adding different color combinations.
  3. Once you have applied the alcohol inks, take your pipette and apply isopropyl alcohol on the canvas. It is okay to get a little heavy-handed on your pouring. The more alcohol you use, the more flames you will get.
  4. Double check your surroundings before this next part and make sure there are no flammable materials within your workspace.
  5. When you are ready, take your lighter or blow torch and ignite the canvas!
DP alcohol inks canvas

Chemical Changes

The combustion of ethanol (C2H5OH) is a chemical change. When heat and oxygen (O2) are introduced, the ethanol reacts with the oxygen in the air to form water (H20) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

The ethanol acts as the fuel to our fire. Once the chemical reaction has converted all the ethanol into carbon dioxide and water, the flame will die down. After that, you can apply more colors and repeat the process. Each piece will be unique!

When you’re satisfied with your results, allow your canvas to cool down to room temperature before touching it.

Artist Inspiration

We were inspired to take alcohol inks to another level after seeing the beautiful flowing designs from a few artists:

Courtney Bias

Want more Scorched Science? Check out our previous episode, Copper Flame Painting.