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Distress Ink Techniques

Updated on June 21, 2020
linfcor profile image

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Distress Inks

Distress inks have been one of the most popular inks on the market. Because of their versatility they have become one of the most sought after ink pad.

They are manufactured by Tim Holtz at Ranger. There are 61 colors in the palette. They are acid free which makes them perfect for scrapbooks. They are considered fade resistant and water based dye inks.

The one thing that most crafters love about distress inks is that they are dye based and react with water. Dye inks are transparent and dry quickly. Technically, they are a hybrid ink, which means that they have more pigment ink, but also have some dye ink too. Their ability to dry quickly makes them one of the most popular inks on the market.

Their transparency gives you the ability to see right through them. That means that they will blend with ease.

The pads currently come in two sizes. The little mini pads are smaller than the full sized pads and are easier to store. The mini ink pads are 1" by 1". The colors in the mini ink pads match the color palette of the full size pads.Each pad is a raised felt ink pad. They stack beautifully. They are considered fade resistant.

The larger or standard pads are 3" by 3". They have a higher raised felt which makes them easier to use in direct ink to paper applications.

All colors have the coordinating re-inker available. I always suggest that when you buy the pad, you buy the re-inker at the same time.

Distressed ink Products

Distressed Ink Products

There are many variations to the distressed ink lines. Not only are there ink pads and reinkers, but there are also stains, spray inks and markers.

Let's start with the distress ink stain sprays. They have a mist sprayer that is perfect to apply a quick coat of ink spray.This sprayer makes a mist of both large and small blots.

Tim Holtz Distress® Markers are water-based inks for coloring, journaling, stamping and more. The dual tip markers are ideal for many coloring techniques. They come in multiples in canister sets.

Distress Marker Tip From Ranger

"Distress Markers contain a continuous ink barrel, which feeds ink to both nibs. Sometimes when Distress Markers are stored vertically for extended periods of time, the majority of the ink ends up at the end that is facing down. The good news is, you can lay your Distress Markers on their side, horizontally, for 24 hours and they should be as good as new"

Distress Ink Color Chart

Currently available color range for distress inks
Currently available color range for distress inks

Distress Ink Brushes

Beyond the blending pad and applicators, there are blending brushes that help you apply a seamless blend. You can use it to apply both distress inks and distress ink oxides.Apply the ink directly to the paper or as a shaded effect through a stencil. It is a retractable brush that comes in a two pack.

In addition to a blending pad or a brush, you can use a sponge dauber or a make up sponge

Storing Distress Inks

There are a variety of ways that you can store your distress ink pads.

My personal preference for my mini pads is the Ranger Distress Mini Pad Holder.

For any other container you should store the pads flat with the bottom side up. Or you can store them on their sides.

Distress Markers should be stored horizontally on their sides

If you glue a piece of velcro to the bottom of you ink pad, you can stick the blending pad right on the corresponding color and use them over and over again.

Distress Ink Storage Solution

I love storing my distress inks in these handy containers made for them by Ranger, They fit in nicely and the lids stay put.
I love storing my distress inks in these handy containers made for them by Ranger, They fit in nicely and the lids stay put.

Because distress inks are water-based, make sure the stamps are free from sizing and any oils to prevent the ink from beading on the stamp.

If you are using the printed labels on your ink pads, you should go over them with some Mod Podge to seal the label

Always purchase the corresponding reinker when buying any distress inks

Distress Embossing Ink

Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pad, Clear for Embossing
Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pad, Clear for Embossing
This is the ultimate embossing ink for anyone who is looking to get the optimum quality in overall performance with their embossing powders. This embossing ink gives a weathered worn look to your projects. You can use it with embossing powder for a superb weathered look. You can also stamp with it and use it without any embossing powder to create ghost like images ( you apply it and then heat it with a heat tool) So the product is very versatile. Their is a line of distressed embossing powders that add more definition to this ink

Simple Ways To Use Distress Inks

  • Aging paper-making paper look aged is easy with distress inks. This technique is perfect for tags, mats, card edges and embellishments. You can age paper by simply taking a blending tool or a sponge and adding ink to the edges of the paper Try applying ink to the edges and some of the surfaces of a paper using a sponge or a blending tool. The brown palette of Distress Inks give the most natural look, but experiment with soft colors as well. Gives dimension to any project
  • Stamping images- though stamping with distress inks does not give as clear an image as other inks, you can stamp with it for a shabby chic look
  • Blending colors-because this is a water based ink, it stays wetter longer. That enables the colors to blend seamlessly. They can be used lightly or layered one on top of another. Using a sponge or blending tool, blend the inks with a circular motion. You can use any color combination. This makes a perfect background for tags, scrapbook pages, greeting cards and more
  • Water Resist-since distress inks react with water, you can get a very nice back ground effect by adding drops of water over a distress inked surface,
  • Water Coloring-you can use your distress inks just like watercolors and paint them onto a stamped image

Resist Distress Technique

This resist distress ink technique adds a lot of interest to any of your projects

What You Need

white cardstock-you need to use a heavy paper at least 80 lb.

stamp of your choice

versamark ink

clear embossing powder

blending tool or sponge

heat tool

How To Do It

  1. Using Versamark ink, stamp your design
  1. Sprinkle clear embossing powder over the images that you have stamped
  2. Tap off excess embossing powder
  3. Heat set the image
  4. Using a soft swirling motion, apply the distress ink over the surface of your embossed image with a blender or sponge
  5. Continue to add and blend your distress inks till the surface is covered
  1. Use a slightly damp cloth to remove color off the surface of the embossed image

Distress Spray Techniques

It Matters What Kind Of Paper You Use !

Most of your distress ink techniques require blending. So the type of paper that you use matters !

Thin papers often do not work well. The ink may well go through the paper. And more than that the paper may rip as you work the ink in with the blending tools.

Paper color matters too ! You will see a difference between using the same colors on bright white paper verses a different color. Better to stick with brighter colors. Darker papers like kraft and black do not show the colors of distress inks at all.

Paper that has some texture in it will yield different results too. If you want to get a well blended result, you are better off staying with a white, smooth heavier paper.

Sponges And Daubers- The Tools You Need For Distress Inks

Having the right tools to blend your distress inks makes all the difference in your results.

You can use cosmetic sponges if you have them, but it will take a lot longer and a lot more effort to get a good blend. The cosmetic sponges have edges that will show on the paper.

So, shape matters ! Anything with hard lines, will cause you to have an uneven blend

Sponge daubers are round. They go over your finger so that you can have complete control over the pressure that you give the ink. So edges or harsh lines show, so you get better coverage. You can rise them if you would like, but most people keep them in a box and reuse them.

The One Tool You Need For Distress Inks

Ranger Distress Mini Ink Blending Tool and Blending Foam Bundle, 1-inch Round
Ranger Distress Mini Ink Blending Tool and Blending Foam Bundle, 1-inch Round
Using distress inks is a lot of fun and very rewarding. There is only one tool that you need besides paper to accomplish a variety of satisfying results. The ink blending tool is a good investment. You will get a lot of use out of this tool. The beat thing is that once you use a pad for a specific color you can use it over and over again. I attach the pad to the color I used with a piece of velcro. That way when I pick up my ink pad, the blending tool pad is always there.

Water Drop Technique With Distress Inks

This technique is especially rewarding for beginners. Generally you will want to use two colors of distress inks, but there is no limit to the color combinations that you can achieve,

  1. Tap the color from two distress inks pads side by side on a non stick craft mat.
  2. Lightly spritz water from a misting bottle onto the ink.
  3. Place your paper onto the ink puddle
  4. Gently press the paper to transfer the ink onto it
  5. Allow it to dry or dry with a heating tool

Blend it For A Backgound

Blending distress ink is so much fun. When I do it, it reminds me of playing with finger paints in kindergarten. The colors are very vibrant. You can use these backgrounds for scrapbook pages, tags, and greeting cards, just to name a few ideas

Use two to three colors to make a seamless blend. Use a blending tool or sponge. Ink up the pad or sponge. In a circular motion apply the first color. Apply the next color with a pad for that color. Apply the color blending it with the first color. Apply as many colors that you want using a specific pad for that color.

Start with the center of you paper or project. Add saturated ink from the center and pull the ink out, gently pushing and pulling the ink outward. If you want the top to be dark and fade out to the bottom start with the darker color at the top and work downward.

You can store the pad that you use for that color on the underside of the ink container with a piece of Velcro.

Iron Off Resist Technique

  1. Blend one or more distress inks on the surface of a tag or paper
  2. Leave some areas untouched or make masks for the areas you want to stay white.
  3. Apply versamark ink to the stamp or stamps you have chosen
  4. Stamp the image onto the surface of the tag or paper
  5. Sprinkle clear embossing powder over the stamped image
  6. Heat set the embossed image with a heat tool
  7. Add an additional layer of distress ink over the embossed image.
  8. Place a sheet of paper over the paper or tag
  9. Iron the surface with a very hot dry iron
  10. The image is now smooth, but still appears on the tag

Selective Embossing With Distress Inks

This is a technique where you select the areas that you would like embossed.

  • Stamp an image with the versamark or stazon ink
  • Allow to dry
  • Using an embossing pen, apply embossing ink to the areas of the image you want to emboss
  • Sprinkle with clear embossing powder and heat set
  • Blend the distress ink of your choice on the project

The embossed areas will remain the original color of your paper

Does It Matter What Color You Start With?

For blending, it may very well matter/ You mind may tell you to start with the lighter color, but in reality, starting with the darker color may get you a better blend.

The blend will go better if you pull ink out gradually rather than adding ink to blend

Always blend distress inks in a circular motion.

Using Distress Inks Reinkers

One of the finest technique in using distress inks is their ability to be used as water colors. For this technique, you will need to use the re-inkers of the colors that you want to use.

You will need:

A plastic paint palette or a styrofoam tray

A waterbrush

Bottles of reinkers in the color of your choice

Scrap paper

Stamped image, best to use water color paper

Drop some reinker on your palette or tray. Prep your water brush by filling it with water. Gently squeeze to make sure it's working. Dip your brush into the ink. Test your color on a scrap piece of paper before adding it to your project. Paint as you normally would, squeezing your brush gently to add water as needed. Allow your project to air dry. You can also use a heat tool to dry it.

Note-if you are using a stamped image, make sure that you use Stazon ink to stamp. Otherwise as you watercolor it, the image will run

Watercoloring And Distress Inks

Stenciling And Reverse Stenciling

Using Stencils With Distress Inks

It is easy to use distress inks with a stencil and the results are very rewarding.

  1. Lay your piece of paper on a hard surface.
  2. Place your stencil over the paper and anchor it down with some low tack tape.
  3. Pick up ink from Distress Ink Pad using a sponge or a foam blending tool. Working in circular motions, apply ink to the surface, blending the inks as you go
  4. Remove the stencil

Reverse Stenciling

Reverse stenciling is the opposite to stenciling with distress inks

  1. Apply distress inks to the stencil
  2. Mist lightly with water
  3. Apply directly to paper

You’ll get a watercolor pattern that is the reverse image of the stencil.

Photo Tinting With Distress Inks

Distress Inks have been formulated to tint photos — both originals on glossy or matte photo paper and copies made with ink jet, toner or laser copiers. Pick up color with a brush, sponge or cotton swap and lightly apply the ink over the photo.

Distress Resist Sprays

These sprays are truly the most unique product in the whole line. In essence, they are like a textured coating. It sprays like a sprayable glue, but it is not dry tacky. It seals the surface below and is kind of bumpy. It is waterproff.

The product goes on white, but dries clear,

Never use this product where you do not want it to stay on. Never stamp with distress resist sprays because they will be permanently on your stamp/

The great thing about this product is that it will stick to just about any surface. That means, if you are not careful using it, you may get it on other items.

A spray box is recommended for use. That is simply a cardboard box with one side cut out. Lay a piece of scrap paper on the bottom of the box

You can work with it two ways. You can spray it on the paper or other surface, or you can remove the sprayer and drop droplets on the paper.

Tip For Distress Resist Sprays: Always keep the top on the bottle when not in use. Wipe the nozzle off after use. Use a baby wipe to wipe the nozzle off.

Distress Resist Spray Techniques

Layered Technique

After allowing the resist spray to dry, you simply layer distress inks over it. AS you go, you can add more droplets of resist spray after each color is applied. Allow the resist spray to dry after each coat. Wipe off any excess spray. This is perfect to create a nite sky ! Where the resist is, they will look like stars;

Spotlight Technique

For this technique you need watercolor paper. You spray heavily in one specific area. Set it aside and allow it to dry. You can then apply any water colors or distress inks over the paper. What you are left with is a lot of color and one bright white spot.

Stenciled Technique

Use a background die make a mask out of scrap paper. This creates a stencil. Take the stencil that you created and tape it onto your card with low tack tape (like washi tape) Then spray over the card and the stencil in your spray box with the resist ink very generously. You then remove the stencil carefully. If you are very careful, you could reuse the stencil for another project. Allow to dry. Then apply distress inks.

You can use more than one stencil if you would like following the same directions.

You can use the same technique with words

Organizing Your Distress Inks

It is super easy to tell the regular distress inks from the oxide inks. The regular distress inks have a black case while the oxide inks have a gray case.

Since the colors are similar, you could keep them together or separate them. That is up to you.I keep mine in a shelf built for them.

But you could also keep them in a drawer. Another option is a bag that is clear and just the right size. You could also use a hinged lid plastic box and place them on their sides.

I keep the sun off of them which keeps them a little juicer

Storing The Blender Ink Pads

You can store the blender pads for the distress inks right under the same color ink pad. Just use some velcro to attach the pad. Make sure when you attach them to place the side that you apply the ink is up.

That way you can use your pads over and over again.

More On Distress Ink Sprays

© 2019 Linda F Correa

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