Distress Ink Coloring Tutorial

I’m soooooo excited…7 Kids College Fund is now carrying my FAVORITE inks ~ Tim Holtz Distress Inks by Ranger!!  I LOVE these inks, and use them in so many ways!   I’ve put together a step-by-step guide showing the Distress ink colors I have used to color a Stampabilities House Mouse image, Jelly Bean Heist, also available at 7 Kids College Fund.

In this tutorial, I will be showing you TWO ways that I use Distress inks ~  coloring the images and also highlighting around the images. 

1.  Supplies used:   Various Distress Ink pads, water brush (small), water color paper, Neenah Solar White card stock, black pigment ink pad, marker for outlining image, sponge for highlighting.



2.  Using the pigment ink, I always stamp at least two images….just in case something unexpected happens while I’m coloring so I don’t have to fool around with re-stamping!

I have stamped two images with black pigment ink on each type of paper ~ watercolor and Neenah card stock ~ the watercolor paper is for the actual coloring of the image and the smoother card stock is for the highlighting.

Stamped Images

Stamped Images

3.  The first step in coloring the images on the watercolor paper,  I try to start with the lightest color for my image, in this case the faces, hands, feet and tails.  I’ve used tea dye Distress ink. 

One thing I do is start out with a very wet brush.  I find it’s easier to start lighter and add more color later.  I put a few drops of water into the cover of my ink pad and try the color on a scratch piece of paper before I color the image…if it’s too dark I feel I have more control to pick up some of the water from the cover.

Extra water in cover

Extra water in cover

tea dye

tea dye

4.  I can then go back with the same color on my brush, with less water ~ for more concentrated color to add shading.  I’ve also added some rosey highlights to their cheeks, noses and ears with tattered rose Distress ink.       [Please note:  Since I plan to cut out the image, to show you the highlighting technique, I am not being too careful to “color within the lines”  – I’m such a rebel!]

tea dye shading

tea dye shading

5.  I’ve colored each of the three mice in a different shade of brown for some contrast.  The first (middle) mouse is colored using brushed corduroy, the second mouse (left) is colored with frayed burlap and the last (right) is done with vintage photo.

brushed corduroy

brushed corduroy

frayed burlap

frayed burlap

vintage photo

vintage photo

6.  The jelly beans are colored with a light color and highlighted in the coordinating darker color – worn lipstick & fired brick, shabby shutters & pine needles, mustard seed & scattered straw, milled lavender & dusty concord, and spiced marmalade & dried marigold.

jelly beans

jelly beans

7.  I also added some light weathered wood for shading on the glass jar.

weathered wood

weathered wood

8.   The second technique I would like to show you is to use the Distress inks to highlight an image.  I do this alot and have received many questions on how it’s done.    Here we go …

First, I cut out the colored watercolor paper image; Then took my Neenah card stock uncolored image and added marker around the entire outer edge.   And, using a sponge with (in this case) broken china Distress ink, in a very light sweeping, circular motion go around the areas you wish to be highlighted.  I always start my sponge on the center area of an image, knowing that will be covered when I attach the already colored and cut out image.  

broken china

broken china

The last and final step is to glue the cut-out image onto the highlighted card stock. 

That’s it!    🙂    Your image is now ready to be made into a card.   (which I’m hoping to do very soon!)    [Update:  I did actually use this for a card, which can be found here. ]

Jelly Bean Heist

Jelly Bean Heist

I hope you will give this a try.  The Distress inks are such amazing versatile inks that can be used in sooo many ways.  7 Kids College Fund will be carrying ALL the Distress ink colors available….at a FANTASTIC price. 

Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions on any of the above steps.     Thanks for stopping by today!

[Special thanks to my wonderful photographer – John Montgomery!   He’s the best!!]


  1. Wow,wonderful tutorial! You certainly put a lot of work into this. Thank you so much for sharing this.I think I need to try this out.

  2. Wow,wonderful tutorial! You certainly put a lot of work into this. Thank you so much for sharing this.I think I need to try this out.
    Sorry, should have mentioned good post! Waiting on the next post!

  3. Wow! I had no idea you cut out all your images…wish I could cut like you do! The card is wonderful! I will have to try this method and see how I do with it. May I ask, what adhesive do you use?

  4. Wow, wow – awesome tutorial. thank you for sharing this. I think i may try this with my next house mouse card!

  5. This is so well done thank you for doing this. I love the hm stamps and would like to try this form of waterpainting. Can’t wait to get started. Will you be making a card with this finished scene? Can’t wait to see that also!tfs.

  6. Wow I did not know you cut out all your images! They are always so well done. The finshed colored mousies are so cute. It almost looks like you have used copics to color these with the shading. Very cute.

  7. Awesome tutorial girl!! I think I’m having ink envy though…look at all those distress inks!!! Love those jelly beans – so vibrant!

  8. i think you need to give a tutorial of hailee and jordy using your pencils and filing them!hehe

  9. thanks SO much, Mary, for your great instructions on coloring house mouse images (and others too!). i can’t wait to try them. i have several TH distress inks, but just don’t know how to use them 🙂

  10. wonderful tutorial… will definetly be try this out….

  11. Oh Mary, you are so generous to have shared this coloring tutorial. You have showed me this and thus given me hope on the whole *coloring business* that intimidates me so. THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH!!!!!! 🙂 Now, can I just send all of my images to you to stamp and color so I can use on my cards?? lol.

  12. a fantastic tutorial mary, thank you for sharing.
    think that i need to get my distress inks back out..

    you asked about linking my copic tutorial to your copic challenge blog.. i don’t mind in the least.. glad if it helps..
    Hugs Rachxxx

  13. Gladys R says:

    So glad I found this site. The tutorial is just
    what I needed to know how to do the
    highlighting. Thank you so much.

  14. This is a great tutorial–thank you so much. I just found your blog from Tammy’s blog.

  15. Nice tutorial! I love how you do the highlighting!

  16. Wow! Your art work is so gorgeous. Thank you so much for sharing. I am always looking for new wasys to color and this looks like a winner.

  17. I love your work and help. I am still new to the coloring the image and still trying to do your steps, But now how do you cut this small image out? And what tools do you use if you don’t mind sharing.

    I love your work wish I could be by your side hands on. All your cards are the BOMB!
    Keep up the great work

  18. What a great guide! I must say I adore the Internet – although I’d have a lot more money and a lot more spare time if it didn’t exist 😉 It is so wonderful to see talented people being able to share their insights in an easy way which requires no investments publication wise.

    Thank you for taking the time to make this tutorial – it definitely goes to my bookmarks!

  19. Sue aka coffeestamper says:

    Great tuitorial…would love to give this a try…off to get some distress inks.

  20. Wow! This is what I’am lokking for!

    with love from Holland!

  21. Melanie says:

    I love this tutorial so I decided to give it a try. LOL. What a mess I have made. I think I will continue to admire your distressed ink cards from a far. My hands were not made for a water color brush. I did enjoy trying something new. Thanks for getting me out of my copic box, even if it was only for a brief time. LOL.

  22. Thanks for the tutorial. I am over head and cars in love with the House Mouse!

    with love from Holland.


  23. Thank you so much for this great tutorial. I have been steering clear of the Distress Inks cause I really didn’t know how to use them….I do now! :o)

  24. Stephanie B says:

    Wow, this is a fab tutorial!!! I can’t wait to try this method of colouring! Thanks so much.

  25. I just found this and am beyond thrilled! I am practicing now…love it!

  26. Thanks so much for the tutorial. I am such a “newbie” and there’s so much to learn. I just created a brand new blog. I will be posting everything I learn on it. I love trying out new techniques and you will see this one on my blog!

  27. Wonderful tutorial, thanks so much for posting it. Can’t wait to try another watercolor card and use your techniques…

  28. Mary I have always admired your work greatly.
    Thank you very much for this tutorial on how you use your distress inks AND get the shadowing. I have always wondered how you did it!
    Hugs, Candy

  29. Shirley says:

    Love the coloring tutorial…I would like to see a cutting tutorial…especially how did you cut around the belly of the upper left mouse…that hole is so small…did you cut a hole or shaded area without cutting?

    thank you

  30. Thank you for the fabulous tutorial, I’ve always wondered about the sponging around the images. Love your finished card as well. I’ve never used TH distressed inks, the colors looks so vibrant.

  31. Thank you for clear instructions. I am new to distress inks and found this very useful. I have done water colour painting on cards in the past, but this is so much easier and cleaner.

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  36. I’m not seeing the cut out…do you have more detailed information for that aspect? jokim2@sbcglobal.net

  37. I think I missed a step. How do you get the distress ink on your water brush? Do you swipe the waterbrush directly on the stamp pad? What is the water on the lid for? thanks!

  38. Magnifique colorisation j adore !

  39. Reblogged this on kelliebandcodesigns and commented:
    Love this. Thanks for such a good tutorial

  40. Love, Love, Love these guys are my all time favorite. I think I have over a 100 of them. Lots of hugs


  41. Dale Thornton says:

    Which would you reccommend the small inks or the larger ones
    I live in New Zealand and they are expensive but if i can refill them it will make sense to set up once
    Thank you
    Dale Thornton

  42. Heather Thomson says:

    I love this demo. I never really thought about using inks in this way -i’m a complete novice!

    Your cards are delightful.

    What type of brush do you recommend

    Heather x


  1. […] you had a chance to check out my recent tutorial below, you may recall these guys!  I finally had a chance to make a card using the image I colored […]

  2. […] I put each stamped and Distress ink colored image (Distress ink  coloring tutorial can be found here) into a frame for a collage grouping as a gift for our friends.   Here are some closeup views:  […]

  3. […] watercolor paper.   I did a tutorial quite awhile ago for this technique that can be found here  ~  It’s actually a nice break from Copics!    (short-lived, but […]

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