Distress Ink Tutorial

I have been asked so many times how I do my colouring with Ranger distress inks.. and thought to save me a whole heap of time explaining to everyone I’ll write this tutorial.

This will describe how I use them, encouraging you to use your own style and creativity at all times! :)

I have taken lots of photo’s when I was doing my ATC for Tilda and friends ATC blog but it was very hard to take pictures of me actually painting and pressing the button on the camera at the same time..lol

Right.. first off.. get your materials ready. In this tutorial I am using the Ranger Distress inks pads, I have listed the colours as I used them.. and will experiment with the re-inkers at a later time. So, I’ve got my image, choose the papers I wanted to use.. to pick the colours for the image, a filled water brush (mine is koi) and the most important bit.. The water colour paper and ink for the stamped image.

After trying most available papers to stamp on there is one that I absolutely love and would recommend to anyone!

This paper is called FABRIANO ARTISTICO HP (hot pressed) and is a smooth, off white paper.. it is quite expensive.. but I truly believe you get what you pay for and it saves throwing all those spoilt images in the bin! ;-)

I stamp the image in black or brown versafine ink and find that I can colour as soon as I have stamped the image, even the lighter colours like skin!


Lets get colouring!!.. I usually start with the lighter colours.. like the face and use ‘Tattered Rose’ colour for this.

Grab your water brush and dab/swirl it on the back of your ‘non painting’ hand, in between your thumb and forefinger.. I find that this gets the flow going and you can tell if the brush is too dry or too wet.. I also use my hand to wipe the brush so it is clear for the next colour.

Dab your brush onto the pad to pick up the colour and bring straight to the skin area of your image. Start at the hairline or darker shadowy bits of the area and drag it equally all over, at this stage I use a sweeping motion with the brush

Try and not get it too wet and a little goes a long way, you can always build up colour.. it is much harder to take it away.

Again take some colour from the pad and apply to the shadowy area’s, you are now building the colour up to a shade you are happy with… I make more of a dabbing motion with my brush for this part. Once the face in particular is coloured and shaded move on to another area of your image, so it can dry.. we will add the blushed cheeks and details later.

Next I wanted to colour Tilda’s jeans, so took the ‘Faded Jeans’ ink pad and as this is a much to dark a colour to add straight to the image, I dabbed the brush and then swirled some on a piece of scrap paper, or at the unused bit of the CS. Then paint the whole area of the jeans again really dragging the colour from the edges to the middle, using the sweeping motion.

Work your colour again and again, always using your scrap bit of paper to get the darkest colour of your brush, then dab around the area’s you want more shading.. sometimes, when you drag your colour in smaller areas, a drop of water will lay on your paper as you take your brush off, I quite like this effect.. but if you don’t, you can always blend this darker bit by drying the brush.

as you can see i got quite a definate line on the second picture above.. as I wanted to show you that you can blend this easily.. when you ready to blend, swirl the waterbrush on your hand again to lose all the colour from the tip.. then go over the line and drag to the middle of the area.. the water will do it’s job and blends the line!

have a look at how I build up her shoes:

Oohpsy, made a mistake and gone outside the line?

This can also be corrected by going over it with a clear brush.. swirl your brush on your hand, go over the mistake from the white inside to the line and it will dissapear like magic!! just have a look at the first picture below, its all gone :)

Next it’s Tilda’s top.. I have used ‘Spiced Marmelade’ for this.. work this in the same method as described for the jeans by dabbing the darkest colour onto scrap paper, light colouring, sweeping all over and dab the brush onto the parts to be shaded, blend with your brush (cleaned).

While I’ve got the spiced marmelade in front of me, I dabbed dark orange onto the centre of the flowers in her hair and really light onto the petals

Onto the hair, love this bit :) .. I’ve used Antique Linnen all over and gone over it again in the shaded places.. then added a darker shade, Frayed Burlap for the hairline and accents, and lastly an even darker shade ‘Brushed Corduroy’ for the bits I really wanted darker.. I’ve also used this shade to give some shadow by the neck and coloured the buttons of the top, I then took the green ‘Peeled Paint’ ink and coloured the leaves..

ohhh… nearly done, just some finishing touches..

I wanted her cheeks to be a little more rosey.. so got the tattered rose inkpad again and made small circles where her freckles are, again if the lines are too obvious, wipe your brush clean on your hand and go over the lines to blend..

To finish off I took my white painter pen and added some dots on her face and lines on top and shoes to give the appearance of a glow

This is my finished picture

She was now ready to be cut out and put onto the ATC :) .. Oh.. and you might have to wash your hands, or you’ll be walking around with ink smears for the rest of the day! lol

I really hope this tutorial is of some help and use to some of you.. and ofcourse if you have any questions or comments, please contact me anytime!

Marlene xx

89 responses to “Distress Ink Tutorial

  • Julia

    Silly question I am sure but do you use watercolour paper or any card? I assume you need to stamp using stazon or similiar so the stamp doesn’t bleed?
    Thanks for your help and really good tutorial. I have been trying to watercolour but shading has proved difficult.

  • Viv

    You have unravelled a lot of mysteries for me Marlene. Thank you for this tutorial. Viv xx

  • Debs

    Gorgeous colouring. I love colouring with Distress Inks. Deb x

  • Rach

    Brilliant tutorial…I have only used prisma pencils and sansodor so far but after looking at your tutorial am tempted to have a go with the inks…i will just have to do a bit of searching for the Koi water filled brush first…
    Thanks again for sharing…
    hugs Rach. :O)
    p.s your blog is fab!

  • Elisabeth

    You do beautiful work, Marlene!! I’m going to try this fabulous tutorial out! I love your use of colours; such gorgeous attention to detail! You are amazing!! :)

    Elisabeth xx

  • joanne

    Fab tutorial – your instructions were easy to follow and the visuals help. I love your blog, your cards are some of the best I’ve seen.

    Joanne xx

  • annie

    your help was great must have ago now anniefrom nuneaton

  • jakki

    great tutorial marlene, will hve to get a couple more colours and give it a blast. Great for really strong coloured papers.x x x

  • Erika

    Marlene, I love this technique using the ink pads. Great instructions. Now I want to go out and get a larger range of pads and give it a go.

  • Zarah

    What a brilliant tutorial! I was looking for one in english, for my english speaking friends – and you were the answer to my search. TFS!!

  • Bridgette

    Thank you Marlene – I have been visiting your site each day for quite some time now and enjoy looking at the cards that you design – I also found this tutorial informative as I have never worked with Distress Inks before only my Marvy Le Plume pens for watercolouring – your images seem to have a depth of colour that mine lack.

    I was sooooo impressed with your workspace and noticed you have a small sewing machine – what make did you chose and do you find it a useful addition to your cardmaking? As a small aside – the outside space looks fab but I would prefer to remain within the house – close to all the activity and your children are close at hand and you can still see all that’s going on …… but that’s just my thoughts – I craft in the spare bedroom upstairs and it would be lovely to be on the ground floor – but I’m just happy to have my own space.

    Once again many thanks for brightening my day with your designs I always look forward to finding out what you have created and have told my friends about your site.


  • carole

    Thank you for your well put together tutorial. I never know where to start with painting images. I have a waterbrush and although my inks arn’t the ones you use i am going to have a go with the ones I have !

    Thanks again –Carole

  • Dawn

    what a wonderful tutorial, you have now got me itching to try it.

  • Heather Fullerton (Retired Heather)

    I have been doing my coloring with prismacolors and OMS but this looks like a fun idea. I love your use of your hand…I often do that cause I can never find anything and its always there. Great blog which I just found today. I have added you to my visit daily list.

  • Ila

    Great tutorial Marlene! and Beautiful vibrant coloring. I’m going to be keeping an eye open for these pads…TFS..Hugs, Ila

  • Sonya

    Thanks for sharing these tips with us! Your watercolouring is amazing!

  • Erin

    Brilliant!!! These are gorgeous. Thank you for teaching us all how to do this!!!

  • Anita

    A very helpful tutorial

  • Jeanie

    Thanks for the interesting ideas on using distressed inks. I love them but have been reluctant to do much with my watercolor brush–maybe I’ll give this a try

  • coloradoleen

    Wow! I had no idea you could do this with the distress inks! I may have to go out and buy a few more colors and give this a try. Thanks for the idea! I do have on question, are you just using regular card stock or watercolor paper?

  • Daria

    Thank you for the wonderful tutorial.

  • Chrissie

    Brilliant tutorial. I can see some more purchases coming on… I need some more distress inks!
    Thank you SO much.

  • Justine

    TFS, I really needed to see the step by step process….. Did you answer the question regarding the type paper you use? Is it actual watercolor paper?

  • emma

    hi marlene, oh so thats how you do it ! fantastic tutorial, just need to go and do a little shopping for some distressed inks !
    much love and thanks for sharing

  • craftyc

    Fantastic tutorial, I have loads of Distress Inkpads but hardly use them, will defo give this a go, Thanks a million

  • craftyc

    Have given it a go and posted a card on my blog, that was quick wasn’t it!!
    Thanks Marlene

  • Jill

    Thanks Marlene! Just ordered a few more distress inks. Glad to see you named the colours!
    Love your blog!

  • Pat(mspfd)

    Awesome. I can’t wait to give this a try. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • veronica

    This is a fab tutorial Marlene thanks for sharing. Love your blog and your cards. xx Vee

  • Katrina

    Thank you so much for this tutorial Marlene, it has helped me improve my colouring a great deal! You really should teach workshops as you are super talented and I live in Coventry and would definately attend! So pleased I shop at Stampeezee and Debbie told me about your blog.

  • Kathleen

    Thank you for this great tutorial. I’ve only used waterbased markers for watercolouring so far, but I’ve got some Distress Inks and think I’ll have a go at this.
    I’ll add a link to this tutorial on my blog too if that’s OK!!

  • mar1ene

    Hi Kathleen, ofcourse it’s ok!! thanks a million!

    Marlene x

  • gill

    great tutorial gorgeous work thanks for sharing your ideas

  • Shelly

    What a fantastic tutorial on colouring with Distress Inks! Your explainations are great, maybe I’ll have a go at this? I only have 3 colours at the minute so may have to invest in some more.

  • Sallyann

    Brilliant, you have inspiered me to get the old water colors out again,you made it looks so easy. I only hope that im not up till the early hours in the morning like old times.

  • shazzapat

    fab tutorial Marlene, thank you so much. I must try this technique out

  • Vina

    I was so inspired by your tutorial that I had to get a bunch of Distress Inks to try it! I love the technique but I need more practice. What kind of paper do you use for this? Thank you for sharing & inspiring us all!! Vina Fresno, Calif.

  • Denise~Paper Ponderings

    Amazing. I have quite a few of the distress inks…I will definitely be trying this. Thank you SO much for being willing to share your talent!

  • Sharyn Davis

    Thanks for the excellant tutorial. I never saw this done before.

  • Teresa Rogers

    Oh thank you, thank you for putting together this tutorial…I wondered how in the world you color with distess inks and make your images look so beautiful. Now I can at least visualize how to do it…amazing! hugs,T

  • Simone P.

    Thank you! This was great. I will try this once I find the paper!

  • HP 2840 toner

    Great tutorial! Very informative in how well worded and descriptive you were! You know they say that if one knows how to describe what they want really well, then life is just as good as how you describe it :)
    Its great for people who feel like time is running against them and then land on your blog and feel like a whole burden was just lifted off of their shoulder.. I admire and respect people who take time to make it easier for others.. Thanks a bunch! :)

  • sue

    Oh Marlene
    just googled this n up you pop, brill tutorial many thanks, guess i need to go get some distress inks now!! lol. this blog lark is making me spend a fortune!! hehehe. sue.x

  • Debra Brady

    wow i was amazed by your beautiful cards, i really enjoyed reading your tutorial and found it very easy to follow and can’t wait to buy some and try them out instead of using watercolours, marvy pens, gel pens, paints extra. i love the way you build up the colour to add the shaded areas and detailing.

    thanks for your help and i will keep checking your site for more inspiration
    happy christmas to you and your family

  • Laura

    Thanks so much for this tutorial, I tried it today!

  • Joy

    Fabulous tutorial. I have bought some distress inks today and am off to have a play now. Thank you Marlene.

  • Ineke van den Akker

    Het wordt steeds leuker! Niks potloden! Met distress inkt gaat het ook. Ik vind het resultaat erg mooi.
    veel succes,

  • Mary C

    Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. I have a lot of these inks but never thought to watercolor with them. I will definitely try it now. Thank you!

  • Sandra Dry

    Thank you for taking the time and making this tutorial. You are so talented, it has been lovely seeing how you build your characters.
    Thanks again,
    Sandra xx

  • Wendalyn

    This is absolutely fabulous. I’ve had these pads for sometime now and use them for distressing. It is nice to know they have something else they can do. I love the colors. I use fabriano too I buy mine from Dick Blick Online its so much cheaper there than anywhere else…

  • sarah (customer stampeeze)

    WOW……great blog, can’t wait to play with the distress inks, your tutorial looks really easy to follow. Thanks for the advice in the shop today, really cannot wait until i am creating wonderful cards like yours!!!!!

  • debbie

    i just love the distress inks too.have you tried starburst stains as they are fabby too.

  • Sue

    Thanks Marlene for giving me so much inspiration. Please can
    you tell me exactly what paper I should buy including the weight and if possible where to purchase it from. I luv your cards. Many thanks Sue.

  • Sue

    Thanks Marlene for giving me so much inspiration. Please can you tell me exactly what paper I should buy including, weight, colour and if possible where I can purchase it. I love your cards. Many thanks Sue

  • Sue

    Thanks Marlene for the information. I ordered my paper today. and I can’t wait for it to arrive. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you but my husband has been taking my lap top to work with him!!!
    Can you give me some advice on stamping.I bought a stamp from Funky kits. “little girl sitting on a swing”and I am not having much luck getting a good image, not having had an unmounted stamp before.
    Also not sure what ink pad to use. Throwing away loads of paper! I would be glad of your advice.

  • Julie

    Hi Marlene

    I love your advice on the distress inks painting. Thanks for sharing your advice.
    I would love to know where to buy the FABRIANO ARTISTICO HP (hot pressed) as I have looked on google, but can only find in large sheets?

    All the other ones I have tried so far I end up with the ‘pilling effect’.

    Thanks again


  • Christine Nott

    Hi Marlene, love your tutorial and want to give this method a try, can please tell me where I can get this wonderful paper that you mention and what weight it is.

    Thanks so much


  • Christine Nott

    Hi Marlene, love the tutorial and I want to give this method a go, can you please let me know where I can buy this fab paper and what weight it is.

    Many thanks, love your style.


  • moni

    Oh… Marlene.. Thanks for the Distress Ink Tutorial……

    i will learn it…. and my first Card with Distress is ready….. thanks.. thanks thanks….

    Hugs Moni xoxo

  • Maz

    Love the distress ink tutorial I’ve been trying my hand at watercolour painting. You’ve given me a lot of tips especially the dabbing where you need shading Thank you so much

  • sandra

    great tutorial, im always looking for help with colouring and shading.

  • amy

    Thank you for the inspiration, great blog, After looking at your tutorial, I can’t wait to play with the distress inks. Thanks for the Advice and fantastic ideas. A great find!

  • Jennie

    Thank you! I am awaiting some copics and have limited colouring mediums. I have distress inks and NEVER used them as afraid of them in a way! I have been playing with them-you explain things so well and I’m amazed and thrilled with the results.Thank you for teaching me a new technique but most of all thank you for enabling me to make use of stuff I already own and was being wasted sat in a drawer. Fantastic!

  • Nancy

    Lieve Marleen, hier liefs van je grote zus uit Almere dus Holland,
    Lieverd dit BLOG ziet er fantastisch uit, liefs uit Holland eb hopen je gauw weer te zien , dikke kus….liefs Nancy

  • janny

    Very great tutorial.. I found it on the google search engine. I just didn’t understand how it worked but you have shead some light on this.. Thank you…

  • Nicki

    Oh wow! had never thought you could paint with these! fab tutorial, thanks for the inspiration, fab!
    take care

  • Leah

    Gorgeous colouring, and great tutorial, Marlene!! Thanks for sharing your expertise!

  • Hanna


    Oh, your colouring is out of this world gorgeous!
    Thank you for sharing with us, and for a great tutorial! :o)
    Have a wonderful day,
    hugs from Hanna

  • sylvie colledge

    hi love this tutorial i have some distress inkpads but not really used them, so watching this i will give it a whirl thanks

  • Daene North

    Brilliant tutorial, very inspirational, I am looking forward to having a go myself. Thank you for sharing your advice and ideas. Thank you so much, Daene xxxx.

  • Sioux Booth

    Thanks for a great tutorial, only hope mine turn out half as good as yours

  • Sharon

    Thanks for a brilliant tutorial. I just bought some distress inks and I am having so much fun painting Tilda. I am really inspired by your work!
    Sharon from Oz

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  • Kathi

    Thanks so much for the step-out tutorial! It’s wonderful.

    Your Ragdolls are gorgeous! I’ve never seen a white one.

  • Sue P.

    Thank you so much for this brilliant tutorial. Now I have to try out the technique.

  • Vicki

    Please sign me up for your posts. Thanks

  • Julie

    Hi I loved the tutorial thank you i was struggling with inks im gonna give it a go now! love your blog cards are all gorgeous!

  • Yve

    Wow, this is super coooool, thanks so much for sharing.
    I can now finally make use of my distress inks.

  • Tammy

    ok wow! thanks so much for this tutorial..I’ve usually been coloring images with my copics but it’s awesome to have another medium to use!

  • Traci Starkweather

    This is an awesome tutorial! Thank you for making it. It is so easy to understand, and the photos of the image for each step make it so clear what you mean when you refer to the “darkest part of her hair” or something like that.

    This is just fabulous! You are very talented.

    I am wondering, I am starting a new blog, and this is so wonderful for people to understand. Do you mind if people refer others to look at your blog and try it at home? Please let me know via email.

    He IS Able,
    Traci S.

  • terry york

    Thanks so for the tut! I’ve only been using prismacolors so far, but have lots of Distress Inks, which I’ve been using in alot of other projects…now I can try this tech ! I’m excited. I didn’t see the name of the Tilda stamp cd you please post or send it to me? She’s an adorable one! I’m new to Tidas, so….I want her to be one of my first!

  • Lizabeth Reddick

    Thanks Marlene for the information. I ordered my paper today. and I can’t wait for it to arrive. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you but my husband has been taking my lap top to work with him!!!Can you give me some advice on stamping.I bought a stamp from Funky kits. “little girl sitting on a swing”and I am not having much luck getting a good image, not having had an unmounted stamp before.Also not sure what ink pad to use. Throwing away loads of paper! I would be glad of your advice.Thanks, Sue.

  • Dwi Texas

    Thanks Marlene for the information. I ordered my paper today. and I can’t wait for it to arrive. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you but my husband has been taking my lap top to work with him!!!Can you give me some advice on stamping.I bought a stamp from Funky kits. “little girl sitting on a swing”and I am not having much luck getting a good image, not having had an unmounted stamp before.Also not sure what ink pad to use. Throwing away loads of paper! I would be glad of your advice.Thanks, Sue.+1

  • QuaxQuaby

    I the first day here.
    Wished to show to you,news Blog


  • Debbie L

    Just found this – AMAZING! Didn’t know you could use Distress Inks like this! Your colouring is beautiful and instructions seem very clear – I’ll have to give this a go!

    P.S. Studio and storage envy in bucket loads!

  • Teresa Tye

    Thankyou so much for this wonderfully clear tutorial. I have been using Copic pens which uses the same principal but to get the whole range would be too expensive. I’m so pleased to have found this and although I need to get the ink pads I certainly won’t need as many as the pens! I have a list of 25 pads to buy!!! It’s no good just buying a few otherwise everything looks the same…..don’t you think?! LOL. xx

  • Donna

    Absolutely love your work and the excellent tutorial. We only started trying this at our monthly crop last week and had so much fun. Now we are busy sending links to everyone so that we can all learn this fun technique. Thanks

  • Colleen

    I have been considering trying this technique. Thank you for the wonderful, informative tutorial. I think I am ready to jump in!

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