Using Acrylic Ink vs Acrylic Paint: Key Differences

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Masha Eretnova

I often see acrylic ink along acrylic paints in the art shop and if you are not sure what is the difference exactly, let me tell you!

I tested Liquitex and Daler Rowney acrylic ink and more than 10 brands of acrylic paint to conclude what use when and which is better in acrylic ink vs acrylic paint battle.

Key difference between acrylic ink and acrylic paint is the consistency: ink is very watery and runny and paint is thick and high in viscosity.

I find that acrylic ink is much more concentrated and pigmented as well and can work with washes easier (unlike watercolor).

Before we proceed please note that alcohol inks are NOT the same that acrylic inks! Unlike acrylic inks which are water-based, alcohol inks are alcohol-based.

What are acrylic inks?

Daler Rowney acrylic inks I tried

Acrylic ink is liquid water-based painting medium. Like acrylic paint it is made with acrylic polymer binder but in much watery consistency and with high load of pigments and water.

Their main advantage is intense color and amazing flow.

Acrylic inks are widely used for painting, illustration, pouring, drawing and adding watercolor or splatter effects.

Acrylic inks are compatible with:

  • acrylic paint
  • pouring mediums for pouring, like Floetrol for better control and more viscosity
  • water
  • same surfaces like acrylics – canvas, paper, synthetic paper.
  • or can be used straight out of the bottle.
  • airbrushing, calligraphy and pens refill.

High-quality acrylic inks use only pigments, no dyes or substitutes. This is why they can easily work as acrylic paint in layering, dry fast and stay permanent on paper or canvas without fading.

Brands of acrylic ink I recommend:

  • Daler Rowney acrylic ink
  • Liquitex acrylic ink, especially their metallic series – simply gorgeous. They are also archival!

Difference between acrylic paint and acrylic inks

acrylic ink vs acrylic paint
  • They have different package from acrylic paint.

Acrylics normally come in tubes and jars, while acrylic ink comes in bottler with a dropper.

  • One of the similarities between acrylic paint and inkis drying time – both dry very quickly.

However, being concentrated and liquid, acrylic inks can leave marks and outlines once dry.

I’d like to note, that both inks and paints are quite lightfast and permanent when dry.

  • Consistency and composition is by far the biggest difference between acrylic inks and paints.
acrylic ink vs acrylic paint consistency
Acrylic ink consistency
Acrylic paint consistency

We used to have acrylic paint thick, high viscosity, good for layering and texture.

Acrylic inks don’t offer any texture, they are silky, runny and can be opaque or transparent. They look more concentrated than paint but once dry they will be more transparent.

Acrylic inks behave like watercolor washes with water and are easier to dilute that regular acrylic paint. See ex., Daler Rowney acrylic ink is easily spread with wet brush:

acrylic ink vs acrylic paint

Because of the fluidity, acrylic inks are also better than paint for airbrushing as they are already of the right thinness for it.

Quick note that regular acrylics can come in heavy body (thickest), soft body (thick), and fluid (runny) forms, while acrylic ink comes only in one – liquid.

Properties Acrylic Ink Acrylic Paint 
CompositionArt pigments, liquid polymer binder, water.
In cheaper inks – dyes instead of pigments, oils.
Acrylic polymer binder, pigment, water.
ViscosityLow High
ConsistencyExtra fluid, runnyFluid, Thick and very thick
Color OpacityLowOpaque
Solvent WaterWater 
Ease to controlAverageYes
Can be reactivated with waterNoNo
SafetyNon-toxic but ideally not for skinNon-toxic but ideally not for skin
Table comparison acrylic ink vs acrylic paint

Fluid acrylic paints vs Acrylic Ink

Fluid acrylic paint like Golden Fluid that is much thinner than regular acrylic paint. They are already quite flowy.

They are still not the same as inks – the fluid acrylic paint is more opaque, still slightly thicker like liquid honey.

Read also: Best Acrylic Paint On Canvas 27 Brands Reviewed for Beginners [Cheap to Pro]

Can you make acrylic ink from acrylic paint?

You can make acrylic paint more fluid with glazing medium, GAC100 or acrylic medium but it will not become acrylic ink.

Some beginners may wonder if it is possible to simply dilute acrylic paint with water to turn it into ink.

Well, it won’t work either!

Ink has liquid binder to begin with and less water and it helps maintain the quality of the ink and make sure all pigments are bonded.

However, if you will just add lots of water to acrylic paint, it will become very watery but it will also break the bond between polymer binder and pigments.

You can add a bit of wetting fluid or mediums to the fluid acrylics to thin them closer to the ink consistency but with regular acrylics the result won’t be satisfying.

Bottom line

Both acrylic paint and acrylic inks are super exciting and affordable to try and I guarantee much fun 🙂 This work is in private collection and was made with Liquitex acrylic inks and acrylic paint:

acrylic ink