Mementoes In Time

A Review of the Tim Holtz Distress Markers - Top Ten Tips

As regular readers of this blog know, I love using theTim Holtz Distress Inks range and as I’ve recently got my pack of Tim Holtz Distress Markers, I planned to do a quick run-down/review  on them, so if you are thinking about getting some, be warned, this blog post might just tip you over the edge and make you open your wallet.


I know they have been out for a while now, so they aren’t exactly ‘new’ but as I have only just got mine, they are new to me.


So grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and read all about using Tim Holtz Distress Markers!




Distress Markers are water-based inks, which you can use in different ways, to get wonderful effects on your stamping and other paper-craft projects and of course all in those gorgeous Distress Ink Colours.

They are designed to co-ordinate with all the other Distress Ink products, such as the ink pads and distress stains but although the colours co-ordinate, be aware that they are not an exact match. This is due to the composition of each of the inks being slighty different (eg. the stains are a bit more washed out and the ink pads are much richer).

Note: These markers are not refillable!



You can use these markers for colouring, shading, stamping, using in journaling and more. The markers are dual tipped with a brush end for colouring and a thin tipped plastic end for writing or more detailed effects.

You can use these pens on all kinds of card stock, from watercolour paper, to stamping card, glossy and coated cardstocks. The result will vary from paper to paper but I think this makes it interesting, as you can get different effects, just from changing the paper you use.


The markers match the normal range of Distress Inks (36 colours) and include a White Marker – which is really cool. You can get them in small packs, or blow the cash and get the whole lot in a neat canister. Here are some ways to use these markers. The listis by no means exhaustive and you can play around with them to get different effects yourself.


Techique 1 - Basic Colouring In

You can apply the markers directly to the page, as I have done here. I've stamped my image using my trusty Jet Black Archival Inkpad for my image, as the markers are waterbased and they are actually quite 'juicy'. The Archival pads don't bleed when you go over the lines with water based markers, so they are ideal for this. Of course any similar pad will be fine.



I haven't blended or brushed the colours together here, just simply coloured the image just like you would with a fibre tipped pen. The colour applies well and is nice and rich, giving a quite vibrant effect, while keeping the lovely muted Distress Ink colour.


Note: If you decided to blend the colours, you can't ruin the pens, just scribble the brush tip onto a piece of scrap paper to clean it off. The colour integrity is maintained.

Technique 2 - Creating a Watercolour Effect

I think this is where these pens come into their own. Being water-based, they lend themselves beautifully to creating watercolour effects. After hunting high and low for my waterbrush, I had to go and buy another one for this blog post but I love using mine, so it was worth it! Tim Holtz has a new range of specially designed brushes but be warned, they are expensive. The detail brush is nothing special but the flat brush is a really good idea...more about that later.


Note: Make sure you are using a good card or thick paper for this, just as you would for any watercolouring.Ranger has a range of special stamping card which works really well with these inks but again, a bit on the pricey side.



I've coloured the other side of the wing differently. By just adding the colour to the outside and then using the waterbrush to pull the ink inwards and blending it with the other colour, you get a lovely watercolour effect. This gives your image much more depth too and takes it from something that your five year old might do, to something I think looks pretty darn good.



If you don't want to colour directly to the paper, you can scribble them onto a craft mat, piece of acetate or an acrylic block and then use the waterbrush to pick up the colour. This is what I have done with the blue shown on the lower wing in the image below and on the flower image underneath.



Technique 3 - Colouring onto the Stamp

This is the really the main benefit of markers. You can colour each part of your stamp in a different colour, which can produce really beautiful effects. The Distress markers are very 'juicy' so they are easy to apply. I'm using a rubber stamp here but you can use acrylic.



Note: If you are using an acrylic stamp for the first time, that you might need to sand the stamp very lightly with a very fine sandpaper to allow the ink to adhere properly. Just test the stamp out first to check your image. Take care not to ruin your stamp by sanding too heavily and with too rough a sandpaper.


You can colour over parts of the stamp you have already coloured, as the pens can easily be cleaned up with a scribble on a piece of scrap paper. You can also take as much time as you like adding colours, which is really helpful if you are using a complicated or large stamp. The ink has a huge 'open' time and when you come to stamp and when I say huge, I mean, you can walk off and do something else and come back later to stamp. You just need to breathe or 'huff' on it, to reinvigorate the ink and get it ready to stamp.


Tip: Don't use a spray bottle to refresh your stamp. The ink is too wet for this and you will get an unclear or messy result when you stamp.


Technique 4 - Colouring the stamp and then blending out the image

You can use your marker to soften your stamped image and create a real watercolour effect.

Instead of just stamping as we have done above, you take your waterbrush and apply it to the stamped image, taking care not to smudge or blur it. You can work on a piece of the stamp at a time or just wait for each bit to dry first, if you wish. The end result is a much more 'blurred image', which can work very well with stamps designed to give a watercolour effect. I've used a thick, slightly more absorbent card, which allowed the colour to bleed.




Technique 5 - Shading

One of the best things about the Distress Ink Pads, is the ability to use them to shade around or across your image, to create depth. This gives a lovely 'distressed' effect. You can achieve this effect with the markers as well.

As all my ink pads are in storage, I have been having 'distressed withdrawal symptoms' I was especially interested in being able to do this!


I've simply scribble my Tea-Dye marker on my block and then just attacked it with my rubbing block around the edges of my stamped image. I would be using my Tim Holtz one but that is in storage as well!


I've added a script stamp in the background (should have done this first really), to give some more depth and used the markers to add a bit more detail on the flower.



This shows that you can get the same effect as your distress ink pads with these pens, but of course you wouldn't want to do this all the time and wear out your markers. Here is the finished card, simply done by mounting my stamped image on some black card and then onto a Kraft base card. A lovely simple notelet, made in minutes!



Technique 6 - Creating a negative or white on black

You can create some lovely effects using the white marker (Picket Fence). The pen goes on clear and then gradually dries to create a very effective result on a dark background. I've used my flower stamp again here.


Now it dries...



Warning!! I hadn't cleaned my stamp properly before using the marker, so ended up with this..


This didn't come off when I scribbled, which was a bit annoying but luckily, it doesn't affect the use of the pen.


Technique 7 - Doodling or Journalling

All the markers have the plastic tipped end, with the exception of the white marker (because it is a pigment ink and not a dye ink apparently). This means that you can go to town with your own doodling and journalling, all in the lovely Distress Ink Colours.


Technique 8 - Creating Backgrounds With a Waterbrush

Another great way to use these markers is to create backgrounds, either as a base to stamp on, or to add some depth after you have stamped your image. If you have the new Tim Holtz flat watercolour pen, then you are lucky and this will be easy as the water is added to the ink in a controlled manner. I don't have one, so I had to make do with a brush.



Scribble your ink onto your coated surface (block, sheet etc) and then pick up the colour with the waterbrush. If you are using an ordinary brush, you will need to be a bit careful with how much water you add. Then just wipe the ink across your paper to create the background you want.



Tip: Coated paper/card seems to work best with this. If you use an absorbent paper, it will suck up the ink quickly and won't blend out as well. See photo below.



Technique 9 - Creating a Background Direct to Paper

You can also just scribble your colour direct to the paper and then use a spray bottle to add water to it.  You can use the Tim Holtz mini misters but again, mine are in storage (sigh), so I am making do with a cheap mister from the $ store.


Don't swamp the paper but add enough to get the effect you want. You can pick up the paper and move the ink around the surface to blend colours but be careful, or you will end up with a brown mess. Again, a coated paper seems to work best for this.



Note: My personal opinion is that the Distress Ink Pads work better for this and it is a bit of a wasteful use of the pens, as they can't be refilled.


Technique 10 - Adding Highlights with the Picket Fence Marker

The white marker is really useful for adding highlights to your stamped image. Wait until your image is dry (a heat tool is good for this), or else the marker won't work as well. Use the thin tip to add some highlights and bring your image to life!



I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and that you have lots of fun with your Tim Holtz markers.


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