One of my readers recently told me I should try using Miskit to protect my white areas when working with alcohol ink.

grumbacher miskit liquid frisket

Fortunately, I already had an old bottle of Miskit laying around. The liquid inside was old and full of dried up chunks because I hate using the stuff. It ruins brushes, dislikes being worked with, and if you do things wrong…


alcohol ink painting by nathan carson made using miskit

… the color bleeds through your perfectly drawn letters.


portrait of jojo made with aclohol inks by nathan carson

But that makes it perfect of alcohol ink! Alcohol ink is messy. Gloriously messy! You’re not supposed to be perfect. In fact. You can’t be perfect! Not yet. Some day some one will figure out a method to control the chaos inherent in this medium. One of the reasons I’m making these tutorials is so that other artists can learn my techniques, then spend the time they would have used experimenting to evolve the art form. Making fine art with alcohol inks is a relatively new idea, and we’re getting in on the ground floor! How awesome is that!?


epic images promotional poster made by nathan carson for david dougherty

Here’s how the final piece turned out. I’m sure you don’t have a friend’s photography show to promote, but you could use these same techniques to make awesome greeting cards, love notes, or Christmas ornaments for the people in your life. The possibilities are endless!


david dougherty photographs

My friend and PODCAST cohost, David has ALL KINDS OF AWESOME IMAGES to choose from. I picked the one on the bottom right because it reminded me of the work of Dave McKean.


dave mckean painting of edgar allen poe

Dave McKean was one of the first artists to explore Photoshop as a tool for making fine art. By combining traditional photography, sculpture, painting, and computer software, Dave McKean produced stunning collages the likes of which the world had never seen! A very young Nathan discovered Dave McKean on the covers of The Sandman comic books which were written by Neil Gaiman.


Epic Images poster

I began with a mock up in Photoshop. David’s photography show is taking place at a coffee shop, so I wanted the poster to reflect that in some way. I decided masking out the letters in Miskit, then painting coffee colored alcohol ink pools over the top would be the perfect way to advertise. As an added bonus, I would get to make a tutorial about my process. I’m a good teacher. Now I’m attempting to monetize that by making killer tutorials in hopes that people will want to know more about me and then subscribe to my podcast on iTunes. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make it as an artist in the new millennium. I’m not saying you should make killer tutorials, I’m saying you should take the things you already enjoy doing, and combine them in order to create your own promotion machine.


… take the things you already enjoy doing, and combine them in order to create your own promotion machine.


I love to teach. I also love talking to David on the phone. So I make the best tutorials I can, then use them to promote the recordings I made of me and David talking. You’ll have to be creative to find your own path to success, but if you’re an artist, that comes naturally. If you’re not, why are you reading this tutorial?



I began by drawing what I mocked up in Photoshop with watercolor pencil on yupo paper. Why watercolor pencils? What is yupo paper? Find out by reading my previous tutorial HERE!

Also, see how the picture of the drawing is terrible and has a pause button and an X on it? That’s because it’s a screen capture from the Periscope session where I filmed it. Want to watch me draw, paint and write? Find me on Twitter, then subscribe to my Periscope! My Twitter name is:


(There’s no ‘e’ because Twitter names can only be 15 characters long.)


old grumbaucher miskit

My bottle of Miskit is about ten years old, and full of lumps and coagulated chunks. I was scared it might not bond and that using it could waste an entire day, but I recently quit my job (or got laid off, or got fired, depending on who you ask) and declared myself an artist. Artists are poor, so they can’t buy fancy new Miskit like you working-job types. Want to listen to me talk about my experience becoming an artist? Subscribe to my podcast on iTunes. It’s called

My Friend’s Divorce

it would mean a lot.


applying grumbacher miskit to yupo paper

Miskit is miserable to work with. Or I think so, at least. It will ruin whatever brush you use to work with it. Not immediately, but quickly, over time. A few days of Miskit use, and that brush will be toast. So use an old brush to apply the stuff. Just dip it into the bottle and begin applying it to the areas you would like to remain the color of the paper.

Once the stuff is completely dry, you’ll be able to paint over the top. The Miskit will protect the paper beneath it by blocking your pigments with its chunky, frustrating, brush-ruining body until you feel like removing it. It’s kind of like watered down rubber cement.

As you work, the Miskit on your brush will begin to dry. This will cause your bristles to clump, giving you even less control over an already difficult medium. When that happens, wash and rub the Miskit out of the bristles under the faucet with warm water.


epic images miskit alcohol ink painting

Once the Miskit was dry, I began applying ink using the Direct Squirt Technique. What is the Direct Squirt Technique? Find out by reading my last blog. To read my last block CLICK HERE!


adirondak and pinata alcohol inks

Alcohol inks are often applied using the DIRECT SQUIRT TECHNIQUE,  because of this, the bottles themselves are a sort of futuristic paint brush. I usually use Adirondack inks, but recently happened upon Piñata colors, and decided to give them a try. I’m glad I did.


Piñata bottles are made out of a thinner plastic, making them easier to squeeze


Piñata bottles are made out of a thinner plastic, making them easier to squeeze, and the tip lays down a better line of ink. I’m a Piñata man, now. But don’t take my word for it. Try various bottles for your own damn self! You might very well like the delicate tip, and more durable body of the Adirondack line better.


alcohol ink and miskit painting

Alcohol inks tend to be extremely vibrant and bright. This is called ‘Saturated’ in art terms. Unfortunately, I needed this puddle to look at least a little bit like coffee. I know that if you mix complimentary colors together they neutralize. The results of that neutralization are uncertain. Sometimes you get a brown, and sometimes you end up with gray. The outcome of mixing colors together is determined by the colors themselves, as well as the chemical composition of the pigments. You’ll never be able to predict the outcome, you just have to experiment. I decided to experiment directly on the paper by mixing purple and yellow directly on the page. As you can see, they didn’t blend.


Pro Tip: If you mix complimentary colors together, they neutralize.


Need some help remembering which colors are complimentary? Here’s a handy guide:

Yellow and Purple (Easter)

Red and Green (Christmas)

Blue and Orange (The Mother Fucking DENVER BRONCOOOOOOOOOS!)

Go Broncos.


ice tray being used as an alcohol ink palette

Because the colors weren’t mixing well on the page, I began mixing them separately in an ice cube tray. Ice cube trays are essential to my alcohol ink work flow.

Do you have any amazing tips of your own?


This tutorial only exists because someone read MY PREVIOUS TUTORIAL and suggested I start using Miskit to protect my whites. Who knows what we’ll discover if we work together!?


alcohol ink puddles on yupo paper

Working slow and building up layers of various browns, I wound up with this.


Painting occupies a spectrum between unity and variety. A blank wall has unity. A wall with a mural on it is more interesting to look at. That’s called variety. Variety is the purpose of art. Adding variety inspires ideas, which leads to break throughs. You can’t even make a sandwich without the idea of one first! We’re important, us artists. Our ideas fuel progress.


Variety is the purpose of art.

—Nathan Carson, December 9, 2015, Brooklyn


Now, imagine that you have a beautiful landscape painting on your wall and then you add another painting to the same wall. The new painting depicts an Undead Lich Lord doing furious battle with an Ogre Mage. You’ve added variety, but the two paintings don’t work together. This dissonance between the two images has broken the unity of your wall. There’s lots to look at, but your gallery will be hard to market. Sometimes visual dissonance is a good thing, but usually we want to avoid it.


alcohol ink puddle on yupo paper

In the alcohol ink painting above, there is a lot of unity, but is there a way to add more variety? There is! See the three red arrows? They’re pointing at three blobs of ink that our minds see as being about the same size. This is a principle that my teacher and mentor, Roger McCoy calls, ‘Equals Cancel.’ Our eyes see all three blobs as being the same size and shape, so our brian stops investigating and moves on. To put it another way, imagine you’re at a Broncos game:

Nathan Carson at Mile High Stadium during Peyton Manning's first game as a Bronco. Image by David Dougherty for Epic Images.

Nathan Carson at Mile High Stadium during Peyton Manning’s first game as a Bronco. Image by David Dougherty for Epic Images.

See that unstoppable sea of blue and orange? <— (which also happen to be complimentary colors, go Broncos!)  are all of those dots humans? How do you know? You don’t. But your brain assumes that they are because it doesn’t have time to investigate every dot. That’s what’s happening in the alcohol ink painting above. Those three dots are reading like all the people in that crowd. It’s not wrong. Sometimes you want to cancel out various areas of a painting to draw attention to the focal point, but in the piece I’m working on, I wanted to add more variety.


alcohol ink puddles on yupo paper

So I made one of the puddles bigger. Looking at the image with fresh eyes, I wish I’d of done more to make the medium puddle consume the one it’s overlapping, but that might have made it read as the same size as the giant puddle above it, and then I might have had to make the giant puddle bigger to compensate, and that could have had other undesirable consequences. It’s easy to make fun of modern art, but the good stuff took lots of knowledge to execute.

rubbing miskit off yupo paper with a finger

I let the piece dry over night. You don’t have to wait that long, but definitely make sure your painting is completely dry, if it’s not, you’ll smear pigment into your white areas, and that defeats the purpose of Miskit.

In the morning I began rubbing the dried Miskit-with-ink-on-top with my finger. Miskit is kind of like rubber cement. Imagine a dried glob of rubber cement. You could remove it from your counter top with a little elbow grease. Miskit is like that. Unfortunately, the oils in my finger began to pick up ink pigment and smear it into the white…

rubbing miskit off of yupo with an eraser

… so I switched to an eraser. The eraser also picks up pigment, but without finger oil (gross!) to serve as a medium, it’s just dry dust. Removing Miskit With Erasers = Good. Removing Miskit with Fingers = Bad. Unless you want to smear the ink. Remember:

“Every strength can be a weakness, and every weakness can be a tool.”

—Nathan Carson, December 9, 2015, Brooklyn

epic images poster

Once I was done removing the Miskit, I took a photograph and brought it into Photoshop. Then I combined it with DAVID’S picture.

If I’m being honest, I like the original Photoshop composition better. Maybe someday I’ll go back and figure out why, but not today. Today I’m up against the clock, trying to finish this tutorial as well as a podcast so that I can make a living as an artist. Want to help? Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, it’s called:

My Friend’s Divorce

just like this website!



I’ll catch you on the flip side.