A Handy Helper

Rubbing (or isopropyl) alcohol can serve a surprising number of purposes in the studio, including:

  • General clean up. Rubbing alcohol is an excellent solvent and I use it for many jobs where soap and water doesn’t quite do the trick. The odor is mild and not offensive, and it’s ecologically neutral.
  • Watercolor special effects. When used in lieu of water, alcohol creates interesting effects with watercolors. The colors spread and “wet” much differently. And they’re markedly more granular on the surface.
  • Pastel blending. Use a small, alcohol-loaded synthetic brush to blend pastels on the painting surface. You can also use an alcohol-laden brush to pick up a dab of color from a stick of pastel, which you can use for corrections, touch-ups and light strokes of color.

For dispensing small amounts, keep a bit of alcohol in a small squirt bottle or eye-dropper bottle. But protect your good brushes by applying it with a synthetic brush or cotton swab.

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