Using Distress Inks

Calv from the forum has written a guide on using Distress Inks.  Check out his blog for more of his ideas and creations.  

A few people have asked about my blending technique when using distress pads, also about the basic tools needed for this. So here is a little guide to get you started with the distress pads and blending, if you have not dabbled with it already. May I add that, I have not been doing this for long myself.  This guide is mainly based upon my own experience of working with distress pads and what I have learnt from others, so your experiences may indeed differ.

Ink Pads

The most common ones used (maybe the only ones in fact), are the Tim Holtz Ranger Distress Ink pads. These are acid-free, non-toxic, fade resistant, water-based dye inks.  Ideal for many projects and can give a great "aged" look to a project. There are 24 colours in this particular range.

These have so many uses, people even forget sometimes that you can use them for stamping, but this is about blending so I'll move on.  Remember though, waterbased also means they can be affected by water. Sorry if that sounds obvious, but when I said you could use them for stamping, they will not be as permanent as solvent based archival inks and the likes. If at all possible, see the ink pads in person if it is your first time choosing colours. Maybe someone can show or send you samples of how the colour looks on card before you choose and buy. This reduces the risk of you spending out on colours that you are not too keen on once you start using them. Another thing, don't just take the lid off in the shop and go by the colour of the ink pad. Often the pad looks different than the colour it produces.

There are a few other hints and tips on other type of ink pads here.

Tools for applying the ink.
For the best results, I find it better to use the proper tools for the job. These can however be improvised upon if you do not have the tools available. (I'll talk about that later). Firstly, you will need an applicator tool and blending foam..... notice I said "blending foam".  There are also "blending felt pads", however the felt pads are used more for alcohol inks, for the technique I am describing, you need the foam pads. These pads are foam on one side, velcro on the other. They just stick nicely to the velcro on the underside of the applicator tool. Easy as that!

Remember, do not throw away the pad once it has been used, as long as you use it for the same colour, it can be used again and again until it gets worn. As far as tools are concerned, that's all you need to blend distress inks. A few of the forum members write the colour on the back of the foam.

Right then....cardstock/paper. As far as I am aware, it does not make too much difference whether you do this technique onto cardstock or paper. I've used the ink on many different weights of card/paper and it works fine on all so far.

To apply the distress ink, dab your foam pad into your ink pad. With practice, you will get to know what is too much or too little. Some colours are stronger than others, in which case you may want to dab the freshly inked foam pad onto a scrap piece of card to get rid of some of the ink. Remember, you can always add more, but to remove a thick wet amount of ink is a lot harder.

To start the technique, you need to have your applicator tool and pad at an angle to the piece you are going to ink.....also, do not start directly on the card, start off of the card.....this ensures you hit the card blending.

You can see from the pictures, my ink starts off of the card and continues to wherever I want to blend up to. You do not have to start quite so far off the card, I've just done this so it's easy for you to see.

So off you go, keep stroking your foam pad towards the card, take it off once you're on the card and then return to the start point off the card. Hold the card with your other hand to keep it still. I find it better to place the holding fingers close to where I am blending, as this stops the tag creasing from the pressure of the pad when you stroke over it.

For an excellent demonstration of how this technique is done, I would suggest watching a very talented guy called Dan make this tag on his blog....the video not only shows you blending, but how to use masking with the inks too.  A very helpful tutorial indeed.

Here is an example of a very basic tag I did for the purpose of this guide. The photo shows where I have used four colours, red, blue, green and yellow. I have purposely left the ink marks on the outside of the tag to show you the direction I blended.

Gradually work each colour into the one next to it, so you lightly overlap it. The colours will blend into each other if you don't have too much ink on your pad. Basically, I just came in from each corner with a different colour. The image was stamped on before I blended, just ensure the stamping ink has dried before blending over the top of it.

*Note, the "red ink" on the tag is a good example of where I had a little too much on the foam pad. It has not blended so well with the yellow to the left of it.

Here you can see I have used lightly blended the edges with a purple ink.

If you like, you can add another effect by either spraying the tag with water using a mister for an even mottled look, or flick drops of water for a random and more obvious effect.

For best results, apply the water drops/spray whilst the ink is still fresh.  If the distress ink is allowed to dry, it does not have as much of an effect. 

So there you are, a simple introduction to using the blending method with distress ink.  I found that the secret to getting the blended look, is to just keep on going with the foam pad until there is no ink left on it....then keep going, even the empty pad will blend the ink nicely.

Other variations of tools and techniques

For those who do not have the applicator tool and blending foam pad, another option is to use your chalking tool and some Ranger cut 'n' dry foam which you can buy in A4 sheets.  Cut a small square and grip it between the teeth of the crocodile clip.  This is not quite as good as the proper applicator as it is not as firm and has a smaller surface area. You can also use this method for more detailed blending.

Regarding technique, I have seen some people use circular motions with the pads when applying the inks, so maybe try this too and see what you like.  Ensure though that you keep the pad angled as this eliminates marks caused by the edges of the pad. That said, once you have barely any ink left at all on your pad, you can get away with using the flat surface of your pad, but go can easily mark your work like this.

Quite a few of the forum members do not use the applicator tool and just bend the foam between their fingers and thumb, by bending it will stop 'edge lines' on your ink.

Foam storage chest tutorial

Lastly, a neat little project for you to house your foam pads ready for the next blending session.....a foam storage chest!'s the one I made...So easy to make, just a few matchboxes stuck together, ink the fronts to correspond with the pad inside, and wrap a length of card around it to hold it all together.

Decorate as you desire.

I got this idea from a lady on a craft storage site, here's her post about how to make one Patti Behan .... 

All of the inks and tools mentioned above can be purchased from the forum sponsors. Happy blending!

  CraftsbyCarolyn Nov 2008