We’ve made it all the way to lucky number 13! This week’s project was Rebecca of Hugs are Fun‘s idea and was inspired by Darby Smart’s Inked coasters project. It worked well on ceramic, why not try it on acrylic? (Original kit instructions at The Crafted Life.)
To create some variables, I prepared squares of white acrylic, clear acrylic and transparent yellow acrylic. I pre-etched two of the pieces – one vector etched with a radiating fan design as seen on Ryan’s large abecediary, and one raster etched with the same pattern I used on the swirly marshmallows from week 4.
Coloring the acrylic was simple and fun! We prepped the surfaces with the alcohol blending solution, then dripped on the ink. It spread and created organic patterns that were quite pretty – except for the yellow acrylic.
The etched pieces were the most fun to color. The ink ran down the pre-cut lines, making the them bloom with color. I mucked up my piece by adding too much color, but Rebecca’s turned out lovely.
After the ink dried, I took them home to seal them. This is where the trouble started. I couldn’t find the right combination to keep all the colors vibrant and the surface non streaky. Mod Podge is recommended by most of the tutorials, but many reviews found it stayed sticky, and was not resistant to liquids. Rebecca had tried on her coasters and was not 100% pleased. Obviously liquid resistance is not of the utmost importance when it’s hanging from your ears, but I wanted to try other options.
Attempt 1: a single solid spray pass with Triple Thick Glaze by Decoart – The colors started running like they were off to the races. The ones that didn’t become a muddy mess lost all depth of color, becoming flat blobs. Nice shiny surface though!
Attempt 2: Coat with Diamond Glaze, then spray – I find that this stuff is nicer to work with than Mod Podge, as it is more gel-like than paste-like. The idea was that the Glaze would act like a sealer, and the spray would smooth it out the rough stroke lines. It, too, mixed with the ink just enough to create streaking in the color. Neat effect, but not the intended goal.
Attempt 3: very light coats with Rustoleam Acrylic Enamel – It held colors better than the other options, but it ate the purply-red. It’s a spotty version of its former vibrancy. And even after 6 light coats, I couldn’t get a nice glossy finish. It’s a funky matte, which Ryan really liked, but it was not what I was going for.
Reading up on other blogs that posted the project, comments suggested sealing it with resin. I’ve never worked with resin, and never tried it in the laser – perhaps that should be a post to itself in the future (provided it doesn’t create toxic gas when lasered)!
In the end, though, all the pieces were destined to be sliced up by the laser, so perhaps the finish isn’t that important. Here’s how the laser tests went –
Cutting: It went beautifully! There was no change in how it cut, and the inks did not run. I did let the pieces cool a little bit (like 30 seconds) before removing them from the laser, because the sealant looked a little more glossy.
Vector Etching: It also went well! The thin lines, only about as wide as a hair, created interest, but I didn’t find them that dynamic. I was looking for a little more pop. The vector lines on the clear piece, though, look fantastic from the opposite side.
Raster Etching: This is what I was looking for. The solid blocks of white popped out from beneath the color. It’s very dynamic – I love the contrast!
I think coloring acrylic with alcohol inks is a fun way to add pizzazz to white and clear acrylic, provided I get the sealant issue resolved to my satisfaction. I love looking at the cut pieces, and seeing the randomness of the pattern, something that is a bit alien to my work style.