Prime Your Palette

Kathi Hanson
by Kathi Hanson
working with waterbased inks         

A few years ago, I discovered Ranger Industries, Inc. at a CHA (Craft & Hobby Association) Conference and Trade Show. I instantly fell in love with their products and the numerous, amazing effects one could create using them. Their line has expanded greatly since then, and I am extremely excited to share some of these products with you. In this issue, we will focus on the waterbased dye inks.

I’ve always loved ink embellishments on art designs. The dense color contrast and fine detail lines create a look that oil or acrylic alone cannot emulate. Until I discovered Ranger’s Tim Holtz Distress Inks, my ink embellishments were limited to stamped designs and pen line artwork. Now, due to the chemical make up of Distress Inks, I can introduce colored ink into every area of my design if I so choose. How exciting!

   General Product Information

Here are some important facts about products used to create the techniques for the following projects.

Tim Holtz Distress Inks distressed ink
are an acid-free, nontoxic,
fade-resistant, waterbased dye inks. These inks are ideal for creating vintage, weathered, stained, and aged effects, and can be applied to paper, fibers, photos, and more. They are also embossable and are available in both ink pad and bottle form. Water reactivates the inks, allowing you to blend additional colors.

perfect pearlsPerfect Pearls Pigments were developed with a built-in resin, so they do not need additional binders. They are acid free, can be used dry or wet, and do not need to be sealed. To use dry, apply Perfect Pearls Medium (described below) to surface before applying the Perfect Pearls Pigment. To use wet, fill a spray bottle partially with water and add Perfect Pearls Pigment powder to the water, shake it up, and then spray the surface (water is the binder in this case). Sprayed Perfect Pearls Pigment will adhere to paper, flowers, ribbon, clothes, hair, etc. Perfect Pearls Pigment is available in a variety of colors. When Perfect Pearls White is added to watercolors, acrylics, inks, and embossing powders, it adds a luminescent glow and will not alter the colors. Also, Perfect Pearls Pigments that are sprayed over waterbased Distress Inks do not reactivate the inks.

Perfect Pearls Medium ink is the binder formulated to adhere Perfect Pearls Pigment powders to a surface. It also serves as a masking agent when applied to a surface prior to ink and can be embossed.

Archival Ink Pads are acid-free, nontoxic, fade resistant, water resistant, and can be applied over waterbased and alcohol-based dyes, acrylic paints, and watercolors.

These wonderful inks are so versatile. If you apply them full-strength, the color is bold and opaque. When you add additional water to them, they become soft and semi transparent. You will be amazed at the wonderful designs and hues you will be able to create when you work with them in a freeform style. The inks can be poured, sprayed, drizzled, and stamped on many surfaces including mat board, shiny smooth paper, cloth, ribbon, photographs, and more—the possibilities are endless!

Here are a few things to remember when working with waterbased Distress Inks. If you apply them on a slick, nonporous surface, the colors stay bold and bright. If you apply them to a porous surface, they will lose their intensity, because most of the ink is absorbed into the paper fibers. I use porous paper when I want to create muted vintage colors in my design. Also, when planning out your design, keep in mind that waterbased inks will reactivate if they come in contact with additional moisture.

Remember, no two projects will ever look exactly the same (just like watercolor), but to me that is part of the beauty of working with waterbased inks. The more you experiment with them, the more ways you will discover you can work with them. In each of the projects featured in this article, I used a different technique to give you examples of the versatility of these inks.

I also incorporated Ranger’s Perfect Pearls Pigments into some of my techniques. Okay, enough talk—let’s start playing and have some fun!

  Supplies Needed for Featured Techniques

Ranger Products (
Tim Holtz
  Adirondack Alcohol Ink Applicator
  Distress Ink Reinkers: Aged Mahogany, Barn Door, Chipped Sapphire, Mustard Seed,
  Pine Needles, Shabby Shutters, Spiced Marmalade, Vintage Photo
  Distress Ink Pad: Vintage Photo
  Idea-ology Mini Mask—Regal #TH92804
Inkssentials Mini Misters (set of three)
Archival Ink Pad: Jet Black and Sepia
Perfect Pearls Pigment Kit: Metallics (Perfect Pearl, Perfect Gold,
   Perfect Copper, Perfect Bronze)
Perfect Medium Stamp Pad (clear)

Paper Surfaces
Strathmore Pearlescent Chrome Paper in Mother of Pearl (a heavyweight, slick,
   shiny surface paper: 19-1/2" x 26” sheet)
• Specialty papers of choice including suede paper and white paper stock
• Ready-to-decorate journals, note pads, gift cards, tags, etc.

Rubber stamps with text, geometrics, leaves, flowers, bees, owls, celestial (sun, moon, planets), and any other stamps of choice

Scroll Mask Note Card: Little Yellow Bicycle Autumn Bliss Brad Assortment Set, #BLI-275
Of choice: sticky-back jewels, fancy yarn, fancy ribbon

Miscellaneous Supplies
Brushes: round and flat; double-stick tape or adhesive of choice; glue gun and glue sticks; hole punch; paper towels with textured designs; pencil; permanent black pen (fine tip); plastic storage bag or plastic tablecloth; ruler; scissors; sticky-dot roller, straws, tracing paper or vellum; water basin

   Waterbased Distress Ink Projects

Note: Some of the projects are featured here online, and others can be found in PaintWorks April 2011. Unless otherwise noted, all projects are created using Strathmore Pearlescent Chrome Paper in Mother of Pearl. Large sheets of this paper can be found in your local arts and crafts store (i.e., Michaels). It is a slick-surface paper that allows the inks to sit on top of the paper and move freely. If you cannot find this type of paper, shiny poster board will also work.

All the techniques that were used to create the following designs can be adapted to other projects. My focus is to provide you with several fun, quick projects using a variety of techniques to give you an idea of the endless possibilities of these inks.

Celestial Hologram Bookmarkcelestial bookmark

Cut desired bookmark shape from Pearlescent Chrome Paper. Fill the Mini Misters with Vintage Photo, Barn Door, and Chipped Sapphire. Spray each color randomly across the bookmark surface, and let colors flow out and merge together. Spray water randomly on the bookmark to further dilute or spread the colors or both. Immediately spray additional Vintage Photo in a few small areas (hopefully, you will create a few watermarks in this area). Let dry. Stamp a few celestial objects on the bookmark using the Perfect Medium Stamp Pad. Immediately load a round brush with Perfect Pearls Perfect Gold Pigment, and brush powder over the wet stamped images. Blow excess powder off the images, use a clean, dry brush to remove any remaining powder. Stamp additional images across the bookmark using the Jet Black Archival Ink Pad. Stamp right over part of a gold-stamped design, if desired. Remember, the gold images are muted until the paper is turned in a fashion that light catches the pigment particles. When dry, mount the inked paper on suede paper using a sticky-dot roller.

scroll mask gift tag and owl gift tagOwl Gift Tag

Cut desired gift tag shape from Pearlescent Chrome Paper. Using the dropper for the ink bottles, place several drops of Mustard Seed, Shabby Shutters, and Chipped Sapphire onto a plastic storage bag. Continue dropping each color here and there until the inks spread out into an area slightly larger than the size of the gift tag. Lay the gift tag facedown into the colors, swirl and spin the tag around, and then lift the tag off the plastic bag. When you lift the tag, additional diffused shapes will appear. Let dry. Tap the foam tip of the Alcohol Ink Applicator a few times on the Vintage Photo Distress Ink Pad, and then rouge the color softly around the edges of the gift tag. Use an owl stamp of choice, and stamp the design onto the gift tag with Vintage Photo.

Scroll Mask Gift Tag

Cut desired gift tag shape out of Pearlescent Chrome Paper. Create the background using the same technique as for the Owl Gift Tag. When dry, apply the Regal Mini Mask onto the paper. Load the Alcohol Ink Applicator with the Vintage Photo Distress Ink Pad, tap the applicator over the Mask and slightly past it, and then rouge the color edges out softly. Immediately spray water from a Mini Mister over parts of the rouged areas. Note that areas sprayed with water will be lighter. When dry, remove the Mini Mask. Embellish with ribbon and a brad, mount the design on a sheet of white paper stock, and then mount again on a sheet of brown specialty paper using adhesive of choice.

Bee Bookmark

Bee Bookmark

Cut desired bookmark shape from Pearlescent Chrome Paper. Fill a Mini Mister with Mustard Seed, and lightly spray a small amount in just a few spots on the bookmark. Let dry. Pour Mustard Seed on a plastic storage bag (this will be your palette). Take a textured-design paper towel (use a line pattern—not a flower or swirl design), scrunch it in your hand to create an irregular shape, dab into the Mustard Seed ink, and then press/stamp the ink-dampened paper towel randomly over the bookmark. Repeat this step using Shabby Shutters. Let dry. Pour Vintage Photo on a plastic storage bag, and dab a bee stamp into the ink. Practice stamping with ink on a separate sheet of paper before applying the bee images to the bookmark—loading a stamp with wet, thin ink can be tricky. It’s fine if some of the bee images are not crisp and clear. Let dry, and add embellishments, if desired.

Water Resist with Gold Flowers

gold flowersCreate card, tag, or bookmark of choice using Pearlescent Chrome Paper. Load the Alcohol Ink Applicator with the following inks: Aged Mahogany in a few areas and Chipped Sapphire in a few areas. Quickly stroke the applicator all over the paper (in the same manner as icing a cake). Dip a round brush in water, place the tip of the brush down on the wet paper surface, and then lift off. The water in that area should spread out to create a flower shape. Repeat this step on areas of the paper to create several flowers. Let dry. Load a tiny flower stamp with Perfect Medium Stamp Pad, and stamp the flower design over the loosely shaped ink flowers. Load a dry round brush with Perfect Gold Perfect Pearls Pigment, and stroke the powder over the stamped flower images. Blow loose powder off the paper, and brush off excess powder using a clean, dry brush. Place jewel stickers in the flower centers.stripe borders

How to Create Stripe Borders/Backgrounds

Squirt several thin lines of Aged Mahogany and Chipped Sapphire Distress Inks across the foam applicator tip of the Alcohol Ink Applicator. Lay the applicator tip on the top edge of Pearlescent Chrome Paper, and stroke down to the bottom edge. Repeat this process across the entire piece of paper.

How to Create Plaid Designs

Squirt a few very thin lines of Barn Door, Vintage Photo, and Pine Needle Green Distress Inks on the foam tip of the Alcohol Ink Applicator. Lay the applicator down on the paper’s edge and pressure-stroke color lines going across the paper. Turn the paper ninety degrees, and repeat the process.

Feel free to contact me at if you have any questions or would like to share a design you created using these wonderful inks. Take care, paint a lot, and laugh even more…Kathi