Road Trip!
Art Journaling Club

Distress Stain Adventures

People often ask me where to buy the Adirondack Color Wash that I'm so darn fond of. 

Detail2 (I use them constantly, including in the background tutorial for the spread above.)

There's a great online store called Artist Cellar that carries the full range of colors (as well as Crafter's Workshop stencils)!  And the owner of that store, Lisa, was kind enough to send me a few of the new Ranger Distress Stains to try out! 

Ad "Distress Stains are fluid water-based dyes for papers and other porous surfaces. Use for quick and easy ink coverage for backgrounds and larger areas. Mist with water to lighten color and create mottled effects. Apply layers of stain to achieve more saturated color.

The brushed nylon dabber top has a built-in spring valve. This allows for controlling the release of Distress Stains from the bottle. By pressing the dabber top down onto surface, the valve opens and fluid releases. Lift dabber away from surface to stop fluid flow. Spread Distress Stains by swiping the dabber top lightly as a brush across the surface."

I spent an afternoon playing with four colors (Dusty Concord, Walnut Stain, Wild Honey, Broken China) and I figured I'd tell you about what I discovered in the form of question and answer:

Q: Are the stains water reactive?

A: The answer is yes.  Once the stain is dry, if it gets wet, it will run.  It isn't as water reactive at the Color Wash, but it's about the same as the Distress Ink pads.

On the left is the Distress Stain washed out with water and on the right is the Distress Ink washed out with water.  You can see that the fade from water is about the same.

Q: Do the dabbers clog and dry out like the Adirondack Paint Dabbers?

A: Not so far.  I have heard that some of the original stain dabber tops have developed mold problems (hasn't happened to me).  But I have also heard that Ranger will replace the tops with new ones that don't mold.  In my experience, Ranger is a company that stands behind its products.

Q: What other products are similar to the stains?

A: The transparency and consistency reminds me of watercolor.

The color range is identical to Distress Ink.  But I find the stains thinner and more transparent than the ink.  And while you can achieve hard lines with Distress Ink and stencils, you get a softer, more watery edge with the stains.

On the left are the Distress Stains through a stencil and on the right you can see the Distress Inks through the smaller version of the same stencil.

The stains also remind me of a product from when I first started scrapbooking: Walnut Ink TintZ:

As you can see from the photo, tintZ came in a dabber bottle, nearly identical to the stain bottle.  And a wonderful range of colors.  I still have the ones I bought way back in 2007.  (From the Balzer Designs vault, see them in this post, this post, this post, and I mention them here as one of my favorite supplies of 2009.)  The company that made them (FiberScraps) folded in 2008 after seven years in the biz. 

Q: Do the stains smell?

A: There is absolutely no odor that I can discern.

Q: Are they easy to use?

A: Super duper easy to use!  And I think they'd be great for kids and for classes.  The dabber is comfortable to hold.  The top screws and unscrews with no problem.  There doesn't appear to be any leakage when they are stored on their sides.  Definitely a product I would feel comfortable traveling with.

Q: Are they messy?

A: The stains are very low mess for a paint/ink product.  Lisa warned me that you have to pop the seal by pressing down on the dabber and that there might be  a spurt, but I found it easy and no mess.  Everything is contained and nothing splatters or moves around unexpectedly on you.

Q: What would you use the stains for?

A: They're great for covering a lot of distance very quickly and easily with a minimum of mess and supplies.  I can cover an entire art journal background without breaking out my jar of water and having to clean a paintbrush afterwards.  I also really like the painty, imperfect look they give to stenciled images. 

And of course, you can use them anywhere you'd use a watercolor wash (like with resists, etc.)

Butterflyresist (I used DecoArts Traditions paint as the resist with my butterfly stamp.)

And lots of people have been raving about using them to dye ribbon and lace.  See a beautiful rainbow of colors here and a cool two-tone variation in color here.

Essentially, they're a quick (one of my favorite words) and wet alternative to Distress Ink.

Q: Does the Dauber leave streaks?

A: Sort of.  It depends on the surface.

So my advice, as always, is test your surface out to see what happens.

Q: Can you use Distress Stains with stamps?

A: Definitely!  It gives a cool watercolor effect.


And here's the tag when it's layered with more stamps and more Distress Stain and plenty of water:


I used my butterfly, journaling words, and ink splat stamps from Stamping Bella on this tag!

Q: How can I find out more about Distress Stains?

A: Well, buy some and play with them!  I also think personal exploration is the best way to learn.  And also check out tutorials from Tim Holtz here and here.

If you have other questions, leave them in the comments and I will try my best to answer them. 

Thanks for stopping by!