Thursday, September 15, 2011

Distress Stains - Paper???

I've been reading about and have had several e-mails from people having troubles trying to get the cool swirly effect Tim Holtz gets with the new Distress Stains.  I have read several comments stating that you've got to use coated or "special" papers.  I say nonsense ~ Ranger isn't going to sell a product that takes an elusive paper just to use their inks.

Sooo, today I set out to prove them wrong!

I gathered up a boat load of different types of paper....I have special coated papers from Judikins; One Sheet Wonder paper (a copic type paper); Manila Tags; Bazzill & Couture Cardstocks; a plain old Manila folder; cheap index cards and Georgia Pacific Cardstock.

Distress Stain I 001

You will notice that some of the cardstock/papers I have chosen are cream, grey and tan.  I will explain more about this later.
Distress Stain I 007

I am using the same 3 colors of Distress Stain for all of the examples today.  They are... Dried Marigold; Mustard Seed and Spiced Marmalade.  I believe one big problem that is the root cause for most people is they don't use enough of the inks.  I'm not saying you need to have rivers of ink on your craft mat but the ink will only go so far.  If it's not there it's not going to spread on the cardstock when you add the water.
If you watched Tim's video you will notice he used an ample dose of each color.  It doesn't look like much and is quite deceiving because the ink tends to pool into tiny puddles so it's not spread out but he uses quite a bit.

Distress Stain I 002

Now you simply push your tag/paper/cardstock around in the ink however you'd like.  I usually place it in, smoosh and wiggle it a bit.   Lift and continue until I have as much of the paper covered as I want.
Depending on the look you are going for there are a few different techniques to try at this time.  Today I'll share 3 of my fav's.

(just dipped into the stain)
Distress Stain I 004

1 - You can leave it as is;


2 - Spritz water into your hand and flick it on the ink/paper.  Let the water stand for a few seconds (5-10) and either dab the excess water away or heat to dry.   This will create darker rings of color around lighter pools of color.  Similar to the Spritz & Flick Distress Ink Technique but with more intense colors.


3 - Immediately after you dip, your paper into the inks squirt with water.  I use a regular squirt bottle for this instead of a Mini Mister.  (Why regular vs. MM? You can deliver more water in one or two pumps quickly with a regular squirt bottle which works great for this technique).  As soon as you apply the water it will suck up some of the ink and begin moving around.  Tilt the paper this way and that to move the ink around.  Depending on how much water I've got on the paper I either dab away the excess after it's moved around a bit or heat to dry. 

Distress Stain I 005

And here are my results with various types of paper.....

These are various examples of index cards....  Have you bought any index cards lately?  I hadn't but man are they ever cheap.  They are somewhere between copy paper and cardstock.  Not thick at all like they were back in the day - lol!!

Anyway, the top card was the final card of this mix.  I used option #2 and went with the Spritz & Flick technique.  The center card was #3 but I used WAY too much water.  I kind of like it though ~ it is a dreamy watercolor look.  Picture this in blues (water!)   The final index card was my first try.  I used Technique #3 as well but with quite a bit of ink 2 squirts of water and swirled it.  Turned out perfect I think!

Distress Stain I 011

This is the One Sheet Wonder (Couture Cardstock) and technique #2. 
Cool look but the colors are a bit muted because the paper sucks it into the surface.

Distress Stain I 014

This is the Judikins MatteKote paper.
This is Technique #3 and again a lighter result as the inks are sucked into this paper as well. It is an interesting design though don't you think?

Distress Stain I 015

These two examples are Georgia Pacific cardstock....yes, "that cheap paper from Wal-Mart". 
 I have to get on my soap box here for a minute.  I get so tired of people knocking this paper.  I go through TONS of cardstock and I have to tell you I use this paper day in and day out.  I never have any trouble with it.   I get tired of people degrading one product just so they can hawk their own wares.  Drives me nuts!

Anyway, the top example was made using technique #2 but I got a bit excited and used 3-4 squirts instead of just one or two.  The bottom example was made using technique #3.

Distress Stain I 016

So, for the most part I was getting light colored results so I gave it a think and figured out something.  Virtually all of Tim's examples start off with either tags or cream colored paper so I thought I'd give it a try.

Of course these are tags -
The left tag was left as is, the right tag was technique #2.

Distress Stain I 008

This is grey (Bazzill)'s not the best color choice. 
The inks are very vibrant but the grey just doesn't do it for me.

Distress Stain I 010

These examples were made using a tan (Couture Cardstock) cardstock. 
I really like these results.  Vibrant Colors, great definition, just really super results.
Distress Stain I 012

And finally an old Manila file folder.  I was totally surprised at how cool these turned out.  It is amazing the color intensity and design that I ended up with.  Way cool!!!
distress stain 002

paper you start off with does make a bit of difference but over all the type of paper really makes no difference when you get right down to it. 
From the expensive to the cheap it all works very well.  I think above all what really matters is that  you get the ratio of ink/paper/water balanced correctly. 

Hope this helps clear up a bit of confusion about the Distress Stains!
Tomorrow I'm going to share a fun example of pairing this set of techniques with stamping!
Hope to see you then!

Till then, have a wonderfully inky afternoon!!


  1. WOW! those are awesome!! All of them look great and I think it boils down to not which paper, but how much ink you start with on the craft mat. Like you said... ink can only go so far. Plus if you put too much and have any ink left on the mat, just run another tag through so it wont be wasted. Then I have stack of tags ready to be used. :)

  2. What a great pictorial. This is something I'm definitely going to have to try. I don't have any of the Tim Holtz stains but I think I'll try it with ink refills that I do have and see how that turns out. Have you tried it on canvas as a background for mixed media? I will put this on my "to do" list for the weekend. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  3. Thank you for doing all this homework. I will definitely be trying this technique...except I don't have the mat. I am excited to see what becomes of ink and paper. Art journal get ready...

  4. Thank you Roni for taking the time to show us this. You are a gem. And thanks for the heads up on the Georgia Pacific paper.

    Elaine Allen

  5. My new stains just arrived yesterday so this post is very timely! I can't to start playing with them and my different papers. Thanks much.

  6. Great tutorial, Roni. Thanks! I use the WalMart cardstock a LOT also.

  7. this is a technique that some watercolorists use, and you can also get the effects with acrylic inks.
    Try also adding a sprinkle of salt for deep coloured specks (brush off the salt after) or alcohol which gives light spots with dark rings.
    love your page

  8. I have had a doozy of a time with the new crackle paint! I paint it thick as instructed but it still looks like regular craft paint. I need help so I can enjoy these paints. It is frustrating having them sit on my shelf.

  9. Very cool, I just started using the stains and I love them!! I've used them on different kinds of paper and they're great, very vibrant colors!!!

  10. I haven't bought any of the stains, but I appreciated the "soapbox" speech. I'm sure there are some special end results that may require certain papers or other supplies, but for the most part, I use Sam's, Hobby Lobby, Michael's. They work just fine!

  11. Roni, great comparison blog. You might find that some of the differences in vibrancy are due to the amount of bleach in the paper. Manila tags and folders are an unbleached product, but all white paper and cardstock requires bleaching to get it white.

    But I'm with you on the whole grandstanding thing. Paper is paper is paper!



Thanks for your thoughts and comments!