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Distress Inks Vs Oxide Inks

Paper crafting has been my passion since I was a child. I love sharing paper projects, ideas, and products. Get more from your paper.

Distress inks and distress oxide inks has a lot of subtle differences as well as similarities.

Distress inks and distress oxide inks has a lot of subtle differences as well as similarities.

The Difference Between Distress And Oxide Inks

Distress inks by Ranger have been so popular for many years. So many uses for distress inks have made them an essential tool in most crafters' stash. I would have to say that is true for my craft space. I was so happy with my distress inks. Then Ranger comes out with a new ink called Oxide Inks. And the craft world has gone crazy.

The basic difference between these two inks starts in how they are made.

Distress inks are described as acid-free, non-toxic, fade resistant, water-based dye ink.

Oxide inks on the other hand are described as water-reactive, dye, and pigment ink fusion that creates an oxide effect when sprayed with water. It also has a different opacity.

So while, like distress inks, they will react with water, there is a distinct difference. You may know that often with distress inks if you add water or try to layer the inks, the results often become muddy. Oxide inks, on the other hand, are opaque-like pigment ink. So you can actually see the different layers very clearly.

Like with distress inks, you will also be able to watercolor, emboss, stencil, and blend them.

But with the oxide inks, because of their pigment property, you can get a really nice stamped image. It is a crisp image rather than a smeary image that you might get with distress inks.

One important thing to know! It is important not to mix your oxide inks with your distress inks! Use separate blending tools and pads. Mixing these will destroy your inks!

Visual Difference Between Distress And Distress Oxide Inks

You can visually see the difference between oxide distress inks and distress inks.

You can visually see the difference between oxide distress inks and distress inks.

Visual Difference Between Distress And Oxide Distress Inks

Distress inks always have black cases vs oxide inks which have silver cases

Distress inks always have black cases vs oxide inks which have silver cases

Distress Ink Water Coloring

You can get beautiful soft tones using distress inks to water color

You can get beautiful soft tones using distress inks to water color

Water Coloring With Distress And Oxide Inks

One of the best things that both distress and oxide inks have in common is their ability to be used with water. That property alone makes them worth the investment.

When you purchase any of your distress or oxide inks, it is always a smart idea to buy the reinker at the same time. That way you your ink pad will never run dry in the middle of a project. And if the color is discontinued, you will extend your use of that ink pad for some time.

Having that reinker on hand, means that you also have the ability to use it for another technique that you may have not thought of. That technique is water coloring with your reinkers.

Unless you use all the ink in one sitting, you will want to have a plastic paint palette with a lid. That way, if you walk away from your project, or want to save it, the ink in the palette will not run dry.

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You only need a single drop for each color, so it is a very economical technique.

Water coloring with distress inks will give you a more traditional looking water color result. They will work better on lighter color papers.

On the other hand, darker colors of paper will react better to oxide ink water colors. The colors will be more muted than the distress inks.


  • Plastic lidded paint palette
  • Water color brushes with water wells
  • Distress ink or oxide ink reinkers
  • Water resistant inks like Stazon
  • Stamp sets
  • Watercolor paper
  • Heavy Cardstock- over 110 lb
  • Some clean water in a jar or glass
  • Heat tool ( optional)
  1. Stamp your images with a water resistant ink and allow to dry. You can speed up the drying time with a craft drying tool. Do not get too close to the paper with the tool.
  2. Take a moment to clean your stamps
  3. Load the wells of your watercolor brushes with clean water. Press on the barrel of the brush to make sure that it is working.
  4. Place a single drop of the reinker into the well of your clean dry plastic palette.
  5. Dip the brush into the ink.
  6. Test your color on a piece of scrap paper before applying it to your project.
  7. Paint as you normally wood adding ink or a squeeze of water where you need to.
  8. When finished allow to air dry or use a heat tool to dry the project.


  • Because Distress Oxides are thicker than Distress Inks, make sure you shake your Oxide Reinker (with the cap secured) before dropping it onto your palette to make sure the pigment ink fusion is cohesively blended.
  • If you are going to leave the ink in the palette, you may want to mark what colors are in the wells on some paper taped to the lid.

Water Coloring With Oxide Inks

Oxide inks provide beautiful tones when water coloring

Oxide inks provide beautiful tones when water coloring

Distress Ink Pads

Distress ink pads come in two sizes-1"by1" and 3" by 3" both are in black cases

Distress ink pads come in two sizes-1"by1" and 3" by 3" both are in black cases

Distress Inks

When Ranger first manufactured distress ink, it was and still is considered one of the most haled products in it's line.

One of the reason for the popularity of distress inks is that it creates an aged effect that never fades over time.

Another feature that made it so popular was that it could be blended with no virtual lines. With 61 colors available, you have an amazing range of color blends to chose from.

You have a choice of using the full sized pads or the minis. The minis are a 1" by 1" size. These have a terrific price point if you have little storage space and want to build your color option. They do also have the 3" by 3" if you are ready for the full size pad.

Dye ink is considered translucent. That means that you can see through the ink. While that may seem like a negative, in this case it makes the ink a dream for paper crafters. Because the ink is thin, you can apply different coats of different colors and still see the ink below it. This enables you to layer color.

Once the dye ink is applied to the surface it stays wet for a period of time. This makes the blending option a real option. because it is a dye ink. it will dry faster than the oxide inks/

The other property of this ink is it's reaction to water. When water is dropped on the ink, wet or dry, a new pattern emerges. That property could also be considered a downside. Once the project is dry, you do not want to get anything wet near it.

The other thing to consider is that color tones may vary. It works very well on any surface that tend to be lighter in color. But the color looks a lot less intense on darker backgrounds

Distress Ink Tip: Build up your color by using lighter colors and then build up to the darker shades

Shades Of Distress Inks

There are currently 61 shades of distress inks in the Ranger Tim Holtz line

There are currently 61 shades of distress inks in the Ranger Tim Holtz line

Ways To Use Distress Inks

Because of the wonderful properties of distress inks, there are a lot of ways to use them. These ideas will make you want to have a complete collection of ink pads.

Check out these ideas for your next project:

  1. Aging adds a grungy and distressed look to your paper. You can apply ink to the edges of any paper project with a sponge or blending tool. You can wrinkle a piece of paper by rolling it into a ball. Open the paper up and apply ink to the wrinkles.
  2. Stamping with distress ink creates a vintage look. While not a crisp look as other inks, distress inks can stamp well. You can stamp on any porous surface or paper. The best stamps to use are those with less detail.
  3. Blending is perfect with distress inks Load ink onto your blending tool. Starting on the outside of your paper start blending in circular motions onto the paper. You can blend as many colors as you would like. There are endless combinations that can be created.
  4. Stenciling is another creative option with distress inks. Lay the paper on a craft mat, a piece of parchment, or other covering to protect your work surface. Lay the paper on the mat cover with the stencil. Tape the stencil down with low tack tape. Using the same technique, apply the ink in circular motions. You can use just one color or many colors. When done remove the stencil and allow the project to dry.
  5. Reverse stenciling is another option. Instead of applying the ink through the stencil, you apply the ink on the stencil. Then you mist the stencil with water. Turn the stencil over and apply it to the paper. Press on the stencil slightly. You will get a custom watercolor effect creating a color negative pattern
  6. Water resist uses water to move the distress ink on the surface of the paper. Simply apply ink to the paper. Spritz water on the paper to create a pattern. Allow the paper to dry
  7. Emboss resist combines distress ink and embossing powder. Emboss your images on paper with white or off white embossing powder. Apply distress ink to the entire surface of the paper. Wipe the ink away with a paper towel or a baby wipe away from the embossed image. The paper will have color, but the embossed image will resist the distress ink.
  8. You can use distress ink like watercolor. Apply ink to a nonstick surface ( a craft mat or a piece of parchment paper laid over your work surface). Pick up the ink with a wet paintbrush. Paint the image with the colors of your choice. You will want to use watercolor paper or very heavy card stock for this technique. You will also want to use water-resistant ink like Stazon if you are stamping images.
  9. You can photo tint a picture. Distress Inks have been formulated to tint photos — both originals on glossy or matte photo paper and copies made with inkjet, toner, or laser copiers. Pick up the color you want to apply with a paintbrush and apply it to the photo. Allow the photo to dry before handling it.
  10. You can do an ink transfer technique. Apply distress ink to an acrylic block. Mist with water and then stamp the block on paper, watercolor paper is best. The effect you'll get is of blending colors like a watercolor background.
  11. Direct to paper. Direct-to-paper inking is so simple that you might not even want to call it a technique! You simply apply the ink from the pad directly onto the paper. After the ink is on the paper you can activate it with a water mister or a baby wipe. This will allow you to blend it, smudge the edges, create drippage, and more

Setting Your Distress Ink Projects

The only important thing to remember is that even though the ink is on the paper it doesn't mean it's set. If it comes in contact with water or other water-based materials like paint or gesso it will be activated and might smear or smudge. If you want to set it to apply a fixative spray on it or a thin layer of gel medium. That will allow you to work on the ink with other materials and keep its original design on your project.

Distress Ink Tutorials

Dragging Technique For Distress And Distress Oxide Inks

Because "dragging" is such an easy technique and very effective, it has become one of the most popular types of distress and distress oxide applications. Because of the properties of these inks, you can keep adding as many colors as you would like.

  1. Lay down a craft mat or a piece of parchment paper on your work surface.
  2. Apply some ink to your craft mat
  3. Spritz a tiny bit of water to the ink
  4. Drag the paper through the ink
  5. Allow to dry or dry the paper with a heat gun.
  6. Keep applying ink colors until you are satisfied with the results.

Salt Technique For Creating Background paper

Create background paper for your cards, scrapbook paper, and art journals with the salt technique.

Create background paper for your cards, scrapbook paper, and art journals with the salt technique.

Distress / Oxide Ink Salt Technique

This is an easy and creative technique that you can use on your paper to create a custom design with your distress and oxide inks. There are so many combinations that can be created. Have fun with the process and create your unique custom paper.


  • Watercolor or mixed media paper
  • Distress and/or oxide inks pads
  • Water in a small spray bottle
  • Kosher or other salt crystals
  • Craft mat or some parchment paper
  1. Lay your craft mat or parchment paper on your workspace
  2. Place the paper on the mat
  3. Add the inks to the paper. You can use a blender tool or just swirl the ink pads on the paper. You could also use a sponge.
  4. Spritz the paper with the water sprayer.
  5. Add as much or as little of the salt to the paper as you would like
  6. Allow the paper to dry with the salt on it.
  7. When the paper is dry, brush the salt off
  8. Use the paper to create cards or an art journal page

Create Stripes With Distress And Oxide Inks

Using a blending tool and slightly overlapping the inks, you can create colorful stripes

Using a blending tool and slightly overlapping the inks, you can create colorful stripes

Creating Stripes With Distress And Oxide Inks

So simple and so pretty, you can make unlimited combinations of these delightful striped cards. These are perfect for masculine cards when you use darker color combinations.

  1. With a blending tool ( the square one is perfect for this technique) or a sponge apply stripes of either distress or distress oxide ink to a piece of card in the size you want.
  2. Now, swipe with a wet water brush.
  3. Allow to dry or heat with a heat gun.

Creating Galaxy Effect-Oxide Ink

This is super easy to create on a card or a scrapbook page in just a few steps with Distress Oxide Inks.

  1. Lay down the colors that you want-usually a combination of blues and purples.
  2. Add splashes of yellow and greens in the center of the paper.
  3. Lightly spritz with water to blend.
  4. Dry the paper with a heat gun.
  5. Go over lightly with black soot.

How Distress Inks And Distress Oxide Inks Compare


Distress Oxide Inks

Simply out, distress oxide inks are a combination of dye ink and pigment inks that oxide whenever they are near water.

Oxidation is what happens when the ink is applied to the surface and water is applied. The spots that appear after the water is applied has more saturated color. When the color and the water dry it has a chalky appearance.

You can use them with distress inks. They are compatible. The shades might not match exactly/ But they will give you a very distinct look.

It tends to be a little thicker than other inks. Because of the thickness of the ink, it tends to dry slower. You can use a heat tool to quicken the drying process.

The layers lay on top of each other to create a unique color combination.

This combination ink is not translucent which means that you are not able to see through it easily. The colors may be less vibrant and lighter than other inks.

They are available in the 3" by 3 " sizes only. The color of the ink pad container is grey.

Distress Oxide Blending Combinations

You can create seamless and lovely blending combinations with distress oxide inks

You can create seamless and lovely blending combinations with distress oxide inks

Ways To Use Oxide Inks

Like distress inks, oxide inks have uses that make them a must have for any paper crafter.

  1. You can blend them- one of the better things about oxide inks is that they blend faster than distress inks.
  2. The oxide inks react with water. When water is applied you get a droplet effect or a milky tone.
  3. Like distress inks, you can do water color techniques with oxide inks
  4. Oxide inks are good for stamping-especially for backgrounds. Distress inks are not effective for stamping. Rub the oxide ink all over a background stamp. Stamp right away.
  5. You can layer with oxide inks. Since the oxide inks don not get muddy, they layer perfectly.
  6. Use them with stencils-They give a crisp image
  7. Create a background. from the ink pad place ink from three colors on a craft mat. Slide a card through. Dry between layers. Create as many layers as you want to.
  8. Use them to color die cuts-make sure to spread evenly

More Oxide Ink Ideas

  • Embossing TWO ways with Distress Oxide Inks | Ellen Hutson
    You've likely tried ink-blending and maybe watercoloring with distress oxides but what other inky techniques have you tried? Today, EH Design Ambassador, Jessica Frost-Ballas, will share how to heat emboss and emboss resist with distress oxide inks t

Distress Oxide Ink Colors

These are the current distress oxide ink colors

These are the current distress oxide ink colors

The color difference on the container makes it easy to tell the difference

The color difference on the container makes it easy to tell the difference

Mixing Your Oxide Inks

Add some color to a craft mat, but keep them separate. Spritz droplets of water and run some cardstock through the color. Dry with a craft dyer and watch the color blend. Add more color if you want. You can add as many layers as you want ! Just keep drying in between layers! There are endless combinations.

Oxide Inks Blend Nicely

Oxide Ink colors blend well. A blending tool is the perfect way to get a seamless blend

Oxide Ink colors blend well. A blending tool is the perfect way to get a seamless blend

Tim Holtz Demos Oxide Inks

Oxide Ink Bundles

The colors of the oxide inks work beautifully on craft and dark papers

The colors of the oxide inks work beautifully on craft and dark papers

Introduction To Oxide Inks

The Ink Pad Physical Differences

Like the distress inks, the oxide ink pads are both felt pads.( In other pigment pads, you might find a more spongy material in the pad). The only real difference is that the oxide ink pads covers and bases are grey. This helps people like me who get involved in the project and forget which one they picked up. Also helps in organizing your ink pads

Do you have oxide inks?

Oxide Ink Tag

Oxide inks make vivid backgrounds

Oxide inks make vivid backgrounds

Stamping With Distress Oxide Inks

Different Blending Tool Options


Blending Tools-Must Haves

If you are working with distress or oxide inks then a blending tool set is a must have in your craft space. The pads on my tools set come off and on like Velcro. I store my pads with my inks so that they are re- usable. That way I have one pad per color

Foam Daubers

Foam daubers are often used to blend both distress inks and distress oxide inks. There are two different types. One is a larger piece of foam attached to a handle. The other is a piece of foam with a plastic piece that fits over your finger. It is smaller.

They are considered more disposable. The larger ones, however can be saved. I would label them with the color used and store them.

The smaller dauber is perfect when you are creating things like color rainbows;

Blending Tools

The main tool used to blend these inks are blending tools. These tools have a wooden or plastic handle . At the end of the handle is a piece of tough velcro. The pad that blends is attached to the tool. They come in round, square and even domed. blending tools.

With the square and round blending tool there is a chance that you might get edges appearing on your project if you are not careful.

The domed version of this tool eliminates the harsh edges that you may get with other tools, It seems to distribute the ink better as you blend.

Stencil Brushes

Stencil brushes are efficient tools for blending both the distress and the distress oxide inks especially when you are using stencils. You can use the stencil brush to add detail and dimension. They add highlights and brush strokes that you would not get from the other tools.

Tightly Woven Cosmetic Like Brushes

These are probably my favorite blending brushes of all. They look like sets of cosmetic brushes. They are a little more subtle. So while they work beautifully, you may have to apply several coats of color if you want a bright look

Sizzix Blending Tool

Sizzix has recently come out with a new blending tool that has more than one use. It is a stylus that has a knife attachement, a tip to cap off the end of the stylus as well as a tool that will scuff up the edges of the paper. You can buy the blending brush attachment also. The nice thing about this tool, is that you can load blending heads on both sides of the stylus.

Blending Tips

  1. Always start blending off the paper and work onto it as you blend
  2. Store your removeable pads with a little velcro under your ink pad to save time and money
  3. Always put the lid on your distress and oxide inks as soon as you are finished with the color

Oxide Inks Are Meant To Be Blended

Oxide inks blend well with water-don't get muddy

Oxide inks blend well with water-don't get muddy

Embossing With Distress And Oxide Inks

The exciting thing about both these inks is that you can emboss with both these inks. You will have to work a little quicker with the distress inks as they tend to dry somewhat faster, but it is in fact possible to use both inks to emboss with.

Since they both have such rich colors, you will want to use clear embossing powder. This is perfect, since you are limited only in color by the amount of colors of distress and oxide inks you have in your stash.


  • Cardstock
  • Scrap paper
  • Distress and oxide inks
  • Embossing bag
  • Stamps of your choice
  • Clear embossing powder
  • Heat tool
  1. Go over your cardstock with the embossing bag. This tool will keep any loose powder from staying on your project
  2. Stamp your image with either the distress ink or the oxide ink in the color of your choice.
  3. Set your stamped image on top pf the scrap paper.
  4. Cover the stamped image with a layer of clear embossing powder. Make sure that the entire image is covered with the embossing powder.
  5. Pick up the coated stamped image and gently tap off any excess powder
  6. Use the scrap paper like a funnel and replace any left over embossing powder back into the container
  7. Hold your image by the corner. Lift it up and apply the heat tool to the back of the image as well as the front. Get close to the image so that the heat activates the powder and cures it. You can use a long handled tweezer to hold the paper.
  8. You will notice that the image will start changing color. Make sure all of the image is heated through.
  9. Allow it to cool down. It is now ready to use.

Differences In Storing Oxide Inks Vs Distress Inks

One thing to consider is the difference in storing these two types of inks.

Distress inks can be stored flat or on their sides.

Oxide inks must be stored flat. If they are stored on their side, the pigment will puddle on the pad and ruin the ink

Bottom Line-Oxide Inks Vs Distress Inks

The color palettes of both the distress inks and the oxide inks are the same. The results are entirely different

Distress InksOxide Inks

Distress inks are dye inks

Oxide Inks are pigment dye fusion

Distress Inks are more translucent

Oxide Inks are more opaque

Available in 1" x 1" and 3" x 3"

Only available in 3 " x 3"

Distress inks are brighter in color on white cardstock

Oxide inks are brighter in color on dark cardstock

Distress inks dry faster

Oxide inks can be used for embossing because they dry slower

Can be used for watercoloring

Can be used for watercoloring

Can be reinked

Can be reinked

Blends a little streaky

Blends seamlessly

Can be used for embossing

Can be used for embossing

Want More Inspiration?

Distress Crayons

Distress Crayons Colors And Sets

These are vibrant color combinations is distress color sets

These are vibrant color combinations is distress color sets

Distress Crayons

Distress Crayons are creamy buttery crayons that you can use as-is or use with water. They are so versatile. You can use stamps and pens over them. They are perfect for art journals.

You get 6 crayons per package and they last for quite a while.

What I really like about these crayons is that they bring me back to my childhood. You can lay some colors or combinations of colors on some paper and blend them with your fingers. ( Of course, you could use blending tools, but fingers are more fin!)

Creating Custom Embossing Paste

One of the sweetest techniques that you can use these crayons for is to create custom embossing paste. All you do is lay some of the crayon colors on a craft mat or on a piece of parchment paper. Take a bit of the white embossing paste and add it to the crayon color. Mix it well and apply it over a stencil. Lift the stencil and allow it to dry. You will be pleased with the result.

A Resist Type Technique

Once you lay down your color on a piece of watercolor card or heavy cardstock, blend it with your fingers. Now lay a stencil over the cardstock and spritz it with water. Dab at the stencil with a piece of tissue or paper towel. Spritz again till you get enough of the crayon lifted. Remove the stencil and allow to dry, If you were going to do this on an art journal page, I would gesso it first.

More Distress Crayon Ideas

Distress Ink Sprays

The Distress Ink Sprays come in the same colors as the Distress Ink Pads

The Distress Ink Sprays come in the same colors as the Distress Ink Pads

Distress Spray Inks

There are two types of ink sprays in the Tim Holtz Distress line. Distress Resist Spray and Distress Oxide spray. You can buy these as singles or in bundles. The bundles are usually the best value.

Distress Resist Spray is a textured spray the dries clear and is water-resistant. It can be used as a splatter effect or through a stencil.

Distress Oxide Spray is a dye and permanent fusion that creates oxidized effects when sprayed with water. It covers porous surfaces with quick and easy ink coverage. It starts our shiny and then it dries to a chalky finish. Since this is an opaque spray, it is great for building up layers.

  • Shake it side to side so that the nozzle does not clog.
  • Shake it every time you go to use it as the ingredients separate quickly.

Color Chart For Distress Oxide Sprays

There are enough colors in this line that are vibrant and useful on your paper craft projects

There are enough colors in this line that are vibrant and useful on your paper craft projects

How To Use Distress Oxide Sprays

Final Thoughts On Distressed And Oxide Inks

I am awed by the uses for both of these links. Every time I blend severe; colors together. I get joy just watching them work on my paper. Honestly, I love them both. The oxide inks work best on darker papers, but other than that, enjoy mixing them and having fun with them.

The nice thing about these inks is there are two sizes. If you struggle with storage space, you can get mini ink pads that are also more reasonably priced.

They are so useful in everyday papercrafts. Here is my personal favorite uses.

  1. Create backgrounds on greeting cards, art journal pages. junk journals. There are so many ways to create techniques for backgrounds. The oxide sprays are so much fun to use on art journal pages! Also, try the Distress crayons!
  2. Edging almost anything-edge cards, embellishments, journal pages, you name it you can edge it.
  3. Coloring anything- the Distress Crayons which work with water are so much fun to color with. Try coloring 3 D Embossing folders with side and distress oxide inks.
  4. Stenciling-Try stenciling with either the oxide or the distress oxide inks. Makes for a great experience.

No matter which ink or both you decide to try, I guarantee you will have a craft experience that will take you tp a whole new creative world.

© 2017 Linda F Correa

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