Mementoes In Time


All About Distress Oxide Inks (Part 1)

Posted on May 16, 2017 at 7:35 AM

Life in a Distressing World (Part 1), Adventures With Oxide Inks

I thought it was about time we ran another series of reviews, or as I prefer to call them ‘make it up as you go along because it is more fun that way’ sessions.


I do not profess to be any kind of expert but I like to try things out and share what I find. There is never any plan, I just like to sit down with my materials and play to my heart’s content. If you are like me, then you will enjoy this series of blog posts on the ‘newish’ Distress Oxide Inks. I am not sure where it will go but you are welcome to come along for the ride!


Important Stuff

Please ask if you wish to use our content - words, photos or designs. You can contact us here and we usually just ask for attribution links to be added.

I would like to say that this article is NOT sponsored in any way, I do not receive any remuneration and any enthusiasm for the product is genuine and without any kind of financial incentive whatsoever!



I guess I am relatively new to the Distress Oxide party but that never stops me. My re-inkers turned up first, missing three bottles (that is why there are only 9 in the photo below), which was annoying and actually they haven’t turned up yet and may never appear. I am in dispute with that company at the moment.  Anyway, I have a feeling I am going to be needing these re-inkers soon as these new ink pads have already taken quite a hammering to produce all the demos!


Never-mind, the ink pads are here now, so let’s get going. First, we had better do a bit of an introduction to Distress Oxide Inks.


What are Distress Oxide Inks?

According to the promotional blurb, Distress Oxide Inks are a water-reactive dye and pigment ink combination or ‘fusion’. At the time of writing, they are available in 12 colours, all from the Distress Ink palette and Tim Holtz has said that the colours were chosen pretty much randomly as it was very difficult for him to choose from such a big range of lovely Distress colours. I fully expect there to be the whole Distress palette available soon though as these inks are really different and interesting, as we shall see. Here are the colours availalable now.

So They Are a Dye/Pigment Fusion, what does this mean?

Traditional Distress Inks are Dye based and as such they tend to be translucent in nature, compared to Pigment inks which are more opaque. Although both are strong colourants:

  • Dye Inks contain much finer particles dissolved into liquid and they tend to be absorbed into the material to which they are added.
  • Pigment inks have larger particles which are coloured and suspended in liquid and tend to bond to the surface to which they are applied rather than being absorbed by it.

Here you can see the difference between the Distress Ink on the right and the Distress Oxide on the left. Both are Cracked Pistachio but the Oxide pad with its mix of both Dye and Pigment Ink is very vibrant and has a more opaque paint like quality

Here is a close up of an Oxide ink pad which is a felt pad, in keeping with the Distress Ink range

Distress Oxides are different as they are both Dye and Pigment Ink, in the same ink pad and this means that they are going to react in different ways, with the Dye ink running and blending and the pigment part being more stable. Not only that, they react in a particular way with water to create a white, dusty, chalky effect, not unlike an oxidisation, hence Oxides!


You can see the lovely chalky, pastel effect you can get with these inks, which lends itself perfectly to subtle backgrounds. This was my very first attempt and the paper started to disintergrate a bit as I had added so much water to a non-watercolour paper but the rough texture was actually surprisingly nice and was perfect for an absolutely stunning card that I will share in another post

With original Distress inks, apart from dry blending, you can of course add water to them and use various techniques such as direct to paper or ‘smooshing’ , dragging or dipping to create lovely effects and backgrounds. This is the big thing about Distress inks really, as they react with the water and allow you to spread them around, blend colours and generally create a beautiful ‘distressed’ or aged look with so many people love. There is no doubt that Tim Holtz has had a huge impact on the craft world with his techniques and products and Distress Inks are the flagship of that.


The good news is that you can do all of the same things with Distress Oxides, you just get an equally beautiful but different effect!


For this demo, I have saturated the paper and ink with water, using a spray bottle onto the paper itself, creating a complete mess that looks as if it is not going to end well!

I am dabbing or lifting off some of the wet ink here as to be honest I was panicking a bit but you don't have to do!

After drying you can see the chalky matt finish. The one on the left shows the piece above which looked like it was going to be a mess. It dried to a lovely rust effect finish quite by chance, with the addition of a couple more colours and using a heat gun to set the ink. I completed a nice project from this that I will share in a later post.


How Do The Colours Compare to Traditional Distress Inks?

If you swipe the Distress Oxides across a craft sheet, you will notice that the colours are very bright and vibrant, almost garish compared to traditional Distress Inks. I haven't done a photo of Distress inks to compare side by side but I think you can see from this photo that the Oxides are quite bright and more opaque than normal Distress inks.

When you add water spray, bubbles are formed and then when you start to dip your paper into the ink the colours appear a little less vivid.

As you dry the ink with a heat gun then the colours mute even more, to give a distinctly chalky, pastel finish as we noted above. The colours are there but they are just much subtler.

The effect using exactly the same colour palette of normal and oxides results in really quite different results. So, even though the colours are the same the final effects will be pretty different. The Distress Inks end up having a more vibrant, vivid and translucent quality, whereas the Oxides have a much more muted tone and a pastel, chalky finish.

I am using a mixture of Peeled Paint, Broken China, Faded Jeans, Fossilised Amber and Cracked Pistachio. The normal Distress Inks are on the left and the Distress Oxides are on the right.

A bit closer. Different effects but both stunning

With Distress Inks, if you keep adding colours, you can overdo things and end up with a brown mess. You may want a brown mess but then again if you don’t then it is very frustrating and wasteful of ink to ruin your project by just being a bit over-enthusiastic.


As Tim Holtz says, 'wet on wet' to get blends

and 'wet on dry' to create layers.


With Oxides, the colours do tend to stay true when you are adding wet ink to wet ink. However, if you add colours bit by bit and dry in between, then you can layer up the inks and get an even more vibrant effect. So if you add orange on top of a colour, you will get an orange. We will look at this in more detail and demonstrate that in a later post.


Also, you can mix the two types of ink in a project, so you have normal Distress and Oxides on the one piece, which can look fantastic! The Distress Dye inks make the design 'pop' against the chalky backdrop.

This is an example where I have used both Oxide and Distress inks. I love the mix of pastel and subtle tones with the richer ink of the traditional Distress on top.

What Papers Can I Use Them On?

Dye inks being more translucent do not work well on darker cardstocks, or on Kraft type cards. The vibrancy of the colour doesn’t show up at all. Pigment inks work a little better here but it depends on the brand you use. I personally have had little success stamping directly onto black card and have always had to add some embossing powder or perfect pearls to show up the image. .


However, Distress Oxides can be used quite effectively on darker cardstocks, as the Pigment part will show up and allow them to be seen. I have also used them on pearlescent card/paper and this creates a lovely effect also.

Using the inks with water to show the effects on different surfaces:

On Black Card, a milky effect reminiscent of a galaxy

On Kraft Card, a lovely warm background

On pearlescent paper, stunning with the pearlescent paper shining through the gaps

A couple of examples of the inks used on glossy photo paper. I find this particular surface stunning to work with, as the colours are so rich and vibrant as you can either end up with a super glossy look like these examples or a really chalky finish, as the oxidation is very noticeable on this type of paper. We will be looking at that in a lot more detail in a future post, so more about that later.

What Happens When I Stamp With Distress Oxides?

When you stamp with the Oxide ink, it will create a lovely, pastel, chalky look.

Here is an example showing Distress Oxides, Distress Inks and a standard water based Pigment ink, each simply stamped in a range of colours on black cardstock. The Distress inks don't show at all, the normal pigment inks barely show if you squint and the Oxides show up the best, reminding me of chalks writing on a black chalkboard.

If you take a mini mister and lightly dust a stamped image with water, it will ‘Oxidise’ and become whiter and chalkier in appearance. The more water you add, the more the dye ink will run and if you dab the image, you are left with a lighter 'shadow' image.Here is an example using a butterfly stamp and the Walnut Stain Oxide ink.

Two images stamped with the same ink

One sprayed with water

Excess water and ink dabbed off - which you don't have to do but I am just demonstrating the result

You are left with a softer image (on the left)

The more water you add, the more effects you can achieve. Adding more water will allow more of the Dye based component of the ink to mobilise and spread.


Try stamping into a puddle of colour you have left over from creating a background. Quite a nice watercolour effect

Can I Use Them For Anything Else Other Than Stamping?

Like normal Distress Inks, they can be used very effectively for stamping as we have touched upon above and will cover a bit more in a future post. My own personal opinion however, is that Oxides really come into their own when creating backgrounds for stamping, die-cuts etc. You can create some stunning backgrounds on different papers and by using different colours and more or less ink, or more or less water. With that many variables, you can see that the scope to achieve different looks is huge and that is what makes these inks so interesting and exciting to use.


You can use them with stencils, with dry and wet embossing, and blend around the edges of your projects exactly like you would do with Distress Inks and we will look at some of those techniques in our following posts.


To be perfectly honest, when I first started using them, I wondered what on earth the big deal was. I guess I fell for the hype and wanted to get them but wasn't at all sure what I would do wih them. However, after I had played with them for a while, seen how the dried pieces turned out and used them in my card, tag and other projects, I was pretty much won over. You will have to try them out for yourself I guess.If you would like to see more on my Adventures With Distress Inks, please join me for the next post where I will be showing some before and after photos and then after that, moving on to cover a few techniques with stamping, embossing and stencils.

If you have any questions or comments on this post, please leave them in the comments section below this post or if you are shy you can use the Contact Form on the left hand sidebar.


Important Stuff

Please ask if you wish to use our content - words, photos or designs. You can contact us here and we usually just ask for attribution links to be added.

I would like to say that this article is NOT sponsored in any way, I do not receive any remuneration and any enthusiasm for the product is genuine and without any kind of financial incentive whatsoever!


Categories: Craft Techniques, 2017

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