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Part One - Distress Inks Tutorial: Materials

Before I start, can I just stress that it not a definitive tutorial. This is just what works for me. There are other, fuller and better, pages out there in blogland by artists with buckets more ability!

Part One – Materials

Tim Holtz Distress Ink by Ranger - a fade resistant dye ink

Pad Or Bottle (or both)?

Such a big question to start with! PADS are versatile, let’s be clear on that; you can stamp, you can edge, you can background, you can blend and, yes, you can paint. To paint with the pads, number one rule is not to take a wet brush to the pad. You will need a non porous surface, like a sheet of acetate, one of those stamping sheets, or even a white (glazed) ceramic tile. Take the pad and giving it a good old fashioned squish down on to your chosen surface. You should now have a splodge of wet ink just waiting to be used.

BOTTLES (ReInkers) also have many uses but, being a coward and disliking too much mess on my work bench, I only use mine for painting.

For me, the ReInkers are my weapon of choice, but why these rather than the Pads? The Pads are great if you just want to colour a small area and a delicate colourwash but if you want to paint larger areas and have deeper, intense, colours then the ReInkers have it.

Another plus of ReInkers over Pads is that to use a wide colour range, you use a large area of work space with the Pads, unless of course you stamp one colour, use it, wipe it clean, stamp the next, wipe it clean etc etc. One drop from a ReInkers bottle will last for WEEKS in a ceramic palette without drying out

As you can see, I’ve created my own paintbox. This palette is a survivor from my watercolour painting days and is an essential part of my kit. However, having an open palette of wet ink does create it’s own hazards so you need to think about where you can leave it safely – my camera strap is rainbowed from being accidentally dragged through 20+ colours of wet ink!

If you can’t find a ceramic palette to suit you, plastic ones work just as well – the ink may stain the plastic eventually but it’s no big deal. Another, and cheaper, option would be to use an old ice cube tray, but I’d suggest you use a rigid plastic one rather than a floppy silicon one.

If you have Pads already and don’t want to invest in ReInkers just yet, here’s a little tip for if you use a sheet of acetate to stamp your colours onto. Simply lay a sheet of white paper underneath. That way you can (a) see where your acetate is on your workbench and (b) you won’t get colour distortion from the underneath surface. Nothing worse than painting a tree bright orange when you thought you’d picked up brown on your brush. Been there!

So, you’ve got your Pads stamped out or your palette filled with ReInkers and you are ready to start…….. or are you?

Brushes (Modern v Traditional)

As I stressed above, this is all personal preference so you use whatever works best for you!

As I see it, there are two readily available choices for brushes – the modern waterbrush with its own reservoir or a traditional paintbrush with a jam jar of water.

Some people swear by a waterbrush as being convenient and quick to use but I have found that I don’t have as much control over the volume of water as I do with a traditional brush. For distress inks, you want dampness, not puddles.

My choice therefore is a traditional paintbrush. There are so many types and sizes of brush on the market that it can all be a bit overwhelming and confusing about what to get. Firstly, you will need a brush specifically designed for WATERCOLOUR work. Brushes for other types of painting media like oils, acrylic paints and gouache are not suitable.

Watercolour brushes are either synthetic/acrylic hairs such as taklon or nylon, or natural with sable hair, or a mixture of synthetic/sable. I’ve tried all of them and favour a sable brush, the water hold (how much water the hairs retain) is better and the softer, springier texture of the sable gives a good, even colour spread, and the softness means they are superb for blending.

Sable brushes come with a price tag though. If you are painting for the first time and don’t want to spend too much then you could do far worse than a simple set of WH Smiths own brand synthetic watercolour brushes (about £11 for six brushes last time I checked).

So, what SIZE brush do you need (told you this was confusing). Well, to be honest, unless you are about to paint a mural the size of the Sistine Chapel, you won’t need any more than three or four brushes. These are all “round” brushes – go for a size 6, a size 4, a size 3 and a size 2. The 6 should be big enough to give you coverage for your larger areas and the 2 will be small enough for the tiniest details.

A decent quality brush will keep its shape when wet and while you’re working you shouldn’t get stray hairs flicking out at the sides and spoiling that very fine line you have just spent ages doing with the tip of your brush.

The best advice I can give is to experiment (most stores sell single brushes) and find what you feel most comfortable with. You would be amazed, even the length of handle can make a huge difference to how a brush feels in your hand.

Don’t forget to save those empty coffee jars (and lids) – you will need a water container!

What Ink Pads?

Loads of ink pads on the market but the one I’ve found works best for me is Memento. I’ve heard that VersaFine works ok but for me I found it bled a little bit when wet.


Another field of confusion here guys! You will need something strong enough to take a wash of water and smooth enough to be able to get a clean sweep of the brush but not so smooth that your Memento/Versafine takes too long to dry.

My paper of choice is BRISTOL BOARD

So, we have the basics …… now you are ready to paint. Watch out for Part 2, coming soon!


Mary J said...

Yay! I'm self taught with these babies so looking forward to your tutorial so I can pick up some tips!

kay said...

fab advice,x

Rufus said...

Yahoooo!!!! We're off and running...thanks for all the details of what you use and the why. I can hardly wait for part 2! Hope that you are feeling better my bushy tailed friend.

Zippy said...

Great advice hun and written in a way that even I can understand! xxxx

Pauline C said...

Fab tutorial Squirrel ... not only great tips and advice but a brilliantly engaging chatty style. I'm just getting into distress inks in a small way myself, so am genuinely at exactly the right stage to be interested in this. You've just whetted my appetite (or ahould that be dampened .. no puddles ?? ;-) )so I'm eagerly off to read part 2 now ...
pauline x

Lou Mac said...

Well I gotta say, this HAS been worth the wait.

REALLY informative and I cannot wait for the second installment. I don't think you have any worries about not writing enough, I think you have answered any common FAQ's and more!!

Love it. Thank you so very much for sharing and getting this ball rolling!! xo Lou.

Delphine said...

WOW WOW WOW! You have done it! Your tutorial PART ONE (I can't wait to read part 2!) is fantastic Squirrel! So much advice in there and all very clear, what a great help your tutorial is! And I feel a little better, knowing you prefer a "regular" brush too... I tried the modern waterbrush and I was always so disappointed to see I was totally unable to get the result I wanted (too much water!) Thanks for sharing all those tips with us hun, I am off to read part 2:-)! Lots of hugs Delphine xx

tilly said...

what great advice, can already see why I don't get good results, I need a shopping trip lol

Kaz said...

Way to go Squirrel!! What a FABULOUS tutorial. So informative and clear to understand. I'm an old fasion girl at heart & go for a regular brush too. Have a range of pads but no reinkers.
Not sure I should read part two......can feel the urge to shop coming on (gulp)
Oh heck, you can't take it with you so I'm off for a read.
Kaz xx

JoyfullyOrangeDeborah said...

I so appreciate your teaching of material choices, and explanation of them! I am a detail person and would spend HOURS in a store trying to figure out what to have if you didn't give reasons with your choices LOL! My husband thinks I am too wordy when I explain things - I think it is just proper explaining!

Hugs and blessings! Deborah

mckinkle said...

Awww, Im well impressed Squirrel! I LOVE your tut, its really easy to understand (helps when you're on as many mind bending meds as me I can tell you!) and you talk sense!

I will be looking out for re-inkers now as I have found that splodging my pads is quite a labour of love as I always run out of the colour before I should have and then if its been blended - I cant ever replicate properly enough!

Thank you so much!

Am now off to view the second one too!

Keryn x

Teresa said...

Great advice Squirrel, I feel ready to give it another go now! Thank you. xx

Ghost_Writer said...

yay.. i reached the right place... thank you for this tute!

Christina Hor said...

awww, already made the mistake of bringing a wet brush to the pad. wish I found this tutorial sooner! thanks for the lesson.

Beryl Cockman said...

Well I’m just starting with the inking side of things. Been making cards for quite a few years but love the ink backgrounds. I’ve dabbled in a couple but you’ve given me more tips and ideas I haven’t thought of. Purchased 12 Tim Holts mini inks last week on special at Spotlight. Now I’m ready to get started. Cheers Beryl from Perth. Have a Merry Christmas and we all hope that 2021 will be a better year

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