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More Than Stamping: 10 Creative Ways to Use Distress Ink

Ways to Use Distress Ink

While there are countless types of ink to choose from, there’s one type that’s really set apart from the rest. Tim Holtz Distress Inks are high-quality water-based dye inks that have incredible color stability.

Unlike other inks, Distress Inks play well with water: that is, water won’t break down the color. Plus, water also allows the ink to wick and spread out, traveling across the paper for beautiful effects. Distress Inks stay wet longer than other dye inks, making the ink perfect for embossing, blending and shading.

Another appeal? These inks coordinate perfectly in color with a huge line of Distress products such as markers, stains, glitter and paints. With 59 beautiful shades to choose from you’re sure to find a palette that works for you.

Distress Inks are one of best known crafting inks on the market — and for good reason! Find out how to use Distress Ink 10 different ways.

Distress Ink Stamped Eiffel Tower Card

Distressed Ink Eiffel Tower Card via Julia Stainton

1. Stamping

The most basic and natural way to use any ink is stamping, and that include Distress Inks. Distress inks stamp well on porous surfaces and can be used with both rubber and clear polymer stamps. Because the inks are water-based, make sure the stamps are free from sizing and any oils to prevent the ink from beading on the stamp.

Faux Watercolor Stamping with Distress Inks

Faux Watercolor Stamping via Random Acts of Creativity

Take advantage of the special blending properties of these inks by adding simple stamping techniques, such as misting the inked stamp before stamping your impression for a watercolor look.

Distressing paper with Distress Inks

Distressed Shabby Mini Album via Julia Stainton

2. Distressing

One of the most basic uses of Distress Inks is to simply distress paper and other surfaces. This is great in grunge, vintage and shabby-chic styles of crafting. 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.

Blended Distress Ink Background Card

Distress Ink Blending Card via Julia Stainton

3. Ink blending

Distress Inks really shine above other dye inks when it comes to ink blending. The colors mix beautifully and can be applied lightly or layered together for a rich, deep background. To create blended ink background, 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. Layering two or three ink colors together provides endless color variations and a beautiful graduations of tone.

Stenciling Distress Inks Card

Stenciled Distress Inks Card via Julia Stainton

4. Stenciling

Layer a stencil over the paper layer and apply Distress Ink with the same technique as ink blending. Hold the stencil firmly to prevent movement, or tape down the stencil with a temporary adhesive. Remove the stencil to reveal a beautiful pattern.

Watermarked Distress Ink Background

Watermarked Distress Inks via Julia Stainton

5. Watermarks

One of the most distinct features of Distress Inks is the ability to add water. Water moves the ink around the surface, and by adding drops of water to an inked background, you will get beautiful water-marked areas. Allow the water to move the inks; then blot with a paper towel to dry and prevent further movement.

Reverse Stenciling with Distress Inks

Reverse Stenciling with Distress Inks via A Blog Called Wanda

6. Reverse stenciling

Distress Inks create a beautiful background with reverse stenciling, also sometimes called direct to stencil. Once again, blending the Distress Inks works well here. To use this simple technique, all you need is a stencil, some distress inks and a misting tool. Apply the inks to the stencil, mist with water and apply to your paper surface. You’ll get a watercolor pattern that is the reverse image of the stencil.

Smooshed Distress Inks Tag

Distress Ink Smooshing Tag via Donna Mikasa

7. Ink transfer techniques

Ink transferring, in its various forms, involves applying ink to a non-porous surface, blending the ink with water and then transferring it to the final project. The above ink-smooshing project uses an acrylic block for the surface. Distress Ink colors are applied to block, misted with water and then stamped onto the watercolor paper. The gorgeous blending of the colors really highlights the beauty of inks. Acrylic transparency sheets or non-stick craft sheets also work for this technique.

Distress Ink Direct to Paper Technique

Direct to Paper Technique via Julia Stainton

8. Direct to paper

Direct-to-paper inking is so simple that you might not even want to call it a technique! While it’s easy, it’s worth mentioning, as it creates a unique look. You simply apply the ink from the pad directly onto the paper. You can swipe the edges of a layer, apply the ink across the surface in one fluid movement or even use this method to highlight textures. For example, this is an great way to highlight the texture of dry embossing or crumpled papers.

Watercolor Background with Distress Inks

Watercolor Distress Inks Card via Julia Stainton

9. Watercolor

Like many dye inks, Distress Inks are fabulous for creating a watercolor effect. This means you can save money by not having to purchase separate watercolor paints! Since Distress Inks are formulated not to break down, they are the perfect ink for this popular style.

To watercolor with Distress Inks use either the ink pad itself or drop of ink from the Distress Ink Refills. To access the ink in the ink pad, simply squeeze the felt pad onto the inside of the lid (or onto a non-stick sheet) to expose some ink. Pick up the ink with a wet watercolor brush and paint as you would with watercolors.

10. Photo tinting

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.

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Albertine Locklear

Thank u for all of the different techniques.
I make blank cards for a Military hospital for our troops.
I love Tim Holt products ,now I will have so many different uses for his inks.

donna mikasa

Thanks for sharing my tags using the “smooshing” technique! I’m a huge fan of Distress inks, and I love their properties as well as the vivid colors!

Lori Sullivan

They are sooo pretty! I LOOOOVE distress inks! My new favorite thing!

Allena Smtih

Howdy! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the excellent work!|


Hello. What would I use the distressed clear ink for?


They are sooo pretty! I LOOOOVE distress inks! My new favorite thing!


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