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Pin Review: DIY Colored Ink Coasters

Have you ever seen a pin you thought was really cool but weren’t sure if it was legit? Tell us about it in the comments and we’ll blog about it!

In high school AP art, I found my calling with colored inks and watercolors. They dry quickly and there’s so many cool effects you can do – wax resist, sprinkled salt to look like snowflakes or stars, flicking the paint off the brush to make it look like random spray, using rubbing alcohol to make “craters,” etc. Well, you can imagine my enthusiasm when I found this pin on Pinterest.


The steps are pretty simple if you’ve painted with colored inks or watercolors before. Really you could use any of these techniques, but the one from the pin mostly uses the colored crater effect from squeezing drops of colored ink on rubbing alcohol. If you have no paint experience, you just coat the tile with rubbing alcohol, drip paint on it and experiment. It’s pretty hard to mess up, but a paper towel and some water and a paintbrush comes in handy. I personally like the flicking paint effect. While the alcohol creates craters or large circles that overlap, I think it can be a little tricky as the effect varies based on the amount of alcohol used and how soon / how much paint or ink is applied. (By the way, though most people don’t have colored ink lying around their home, it can be found in any craft store and dries a bit firmer than watercolor, which can get messed up after it dries if it gets wet).

The real appeal to this project is that the floor tiles used as the coaster bases are about 16 cents each at Home Depot or Lowe’s. DIY coasters aren’t limited to watercolors / colored ink though, you can also decoupage scrapbook paper or photos or use fabric. The other supplies are definitely going to be where you spend most of your money for this project. The aerosol finishing spray was much pricier than the tiles, and you will probably want to invest to some rubber stopper feet for the bottoms to prevent scratching your table. Also, don’t expect it to take 15 minutes. All in all though, it’s not an expensive project and can be finished in one afternoon.

My parents recently purchased a new coffee table (after literally holding on for over 20 years to a scrap one that was left behind in their apartment by the people before them), but didn’t have coasters. I looked around on Amazon but couldn’t find any that matched the room or that stood out to me, so I decided to make my own. It’s also my dad’s birthday this month and being a college student in the midst of Halloween parties and a friend’s birthday ever weekend, I didn’t really have the money to buy a Brookstone gift or anything.

So here’s my attempt.

My mom keeps putting napkins underneath because she’s paranoid they will scratch the table, but I think they’re fine. They’re heavy enough that they aren’t going slide around and scratch. I haven’t had time to find, purchase and glue rubber stoppers on the bottoms anyways.

Some different techniques I used:

Swirling: I noticed with the alcohol that it didn’t always make cool crater-like drops, especially when using a brush instead of dripping or applying a lot of alcohol to the surface of the tile. I ended up playing with the mixing colors and brushing them more into swirls. I can see having a lot fun expanding on this technique, maybe even trying to make swirly color coasters.

Textures: Once the paint is moderately dry, dab a dry paper towel on it, pressing onto the tile to get a cool texture. I think this is more interesting than just swirled colors and craters, plus you can see the texture later on and people will wonder how you did that. Really anything absorbent with texture could be used, maybe even lace or cheap doilies. Paper towels are cheap and readily available, though! Plus they can double as quality control, used to wipe off excess ink or clear muddy puddles where too many colors ran together.

Flicked paint: One of my favorite watercolor / colored ink techniques, take a paintbrush with a little bit of water, dip it in the ink, and flick the brush above your tile with your finger to get this cool effect. It gives it more of a spray paint / graffiti feel and can be used to include a darker color like black in small amounts without risking overrunning lighter areas. If you flick the paint while the tile is very wet, this effect will be more subtle, but if you do it while it is almost dry, the flicked paint will look more defined.

In the original pin, the tiles are wrapped up with a cute little bow. I got kind of lazy at this point and am not very good at tying ribbons…

The consensus: This pin is decently cheap and will probably produce nice, sturdy coasters way more colorful and unique than the premade sets you can purchase. It is only really limited by your painting ability and creativity. While the alcohol dripping effect is cool, I suggest trying different kinds of watercolor / ink painting techniques to get something even more original. The supplies cost under $20 and the project takes about 3-4 hours including getting everything ready and waiting for it to dry then adding the varnish and painting the sides white (I recommend doing 2 coats).