Distress Stain Watercolor

by Heather Telford

Stamp and blend with Ranger Distress Stains for a watercolored look.


  • Outline stamp (‘Fresh’ cling stamp and ‘Sprigs’ clear stamp set from Penny Black used here)
  • Watercolor paper (Fabriano Artistico Hot Press used here)
  • Tim Holtz® Distress Stains or other water-soluble medium (Peeled Paint, Scattered Straw, Spiced Marmalade used here)
  • Tim Holtz® Distress Markers(Forest Moss and Black Soot used here)
  • Mister bottle
  • Water brush
  • Other supplies as needed to complete the card (Versafine Spanish Moss ink used here)


  1. Step 1

    Ink an outline stamp directly with the dauber on the end of the Distress Stain bottle, using a light dabbing motion. Start with the lightest color – in the sample, Scattered Straw was used to ink the flowers. Add a darker shade to the edges of the image (Spiced Marmalade was used here on the edges of flowers and buds; stems were inked with Peeled Paint Distress Stain and short bud stems with Forest Moss marker).

    You should not need to squeeze the bottle as you ink the stamp. If you do, you are likely to make your stamp too wet. There should be enough stain in the sponge dauber already.

  2. Step 2

    Mist stamp with water from 6-12 inches away, then stamp on hot press watercolor paper (hot press paper has a smooth finish that is ideal for stamping). Stain will stay wet long enough that you can paint the image.

  3. Step 3

    Using a waterbrush, pull color from the stamped outline to fill the petals.

    Work on one petal or area at a time so all the stain does not run together. When one petal is done, move to another one that is not touching it.

  4. Step 4

    Gradually work through all areas of the image, pulling in the stain and blending with the waterbrush.

  5. Step 5

    If deeper color or shading is needed, or to add color to any areas that have dried, press Distress Stain or Distress Marker onto an acrylic block and pick up color with a waterbrush.

  6. Step 6

    Distress Markers can also be used directly on the image as needed. Here, a Black Soot Distress Marker was used to color flower centers then blend with a waterbrush. Add extra black from an acrylic block as needed.

  7. Step 7

    Make sure all coloring is completely dry before trimming the panel to desired size.

  8. Step 8

    Stamp a sentiment and mat the panel with coordinating cardstock, then attach to card base to complete the project.


Your Turn

You've seen the tutorial, now you try it! We've got a section of the gallery set aside for Distress Stain Watercolor. Try this technique, then upload your artwork to the gallery. Show us your creations!

***Please note - Internet Explorer/Edge is not a supported browser, and will not allow you to see the videos. Please use Chrome, Firefox or Safari to view our tutorial videos.

Questions and Comments

We'd love to get your feedback or questions. Leave your comment below.

This card is just beautiful! Thank you for sharing the technique
Joanne J  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 3:22 AM
Very lovely watercoloring tutorial. I like the way you explain what you are doing very clearly; as a beginning watercolor painter I really need to watch how this beautiful technique is done. Thank you for your time in making this tutorial for us. It is greatly appreciated.
Dottie  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 3:37 AM
WOW! Heather, you have made this look so easy. I can't wait to try it out. Thanks so much for the easy to follow instructions.
Annette [fauxme]  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 5:09 AM
Wonderful Technique! Thanks for sharing ! Barbara
Barbara Jay  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 5:27 AM
Wow, this is so beautiful Heather! Can't wait to give this technique a try. Thank you very much for the detailed & easy-to-follow instructions too.
Jocelyn Knight  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 5:40 AM
Thanks Heather, this is brilliant!
Helen Cooke  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 5:48 AM
Wow Heather, fabulous tutorial, which I will definitely try...anything to help me with my hit and miss watercoloring! Thanks so much!
Cindy Gilfillan  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 6:08 AM
Thank you --what an outstanding tutorial.
Prisssequito  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 6:48 AM
Heather you are amazing!! Great tutorial!
lydia  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 7:58 AM
Fabulous! Amazing! Thank you so much for share !
Micheline Jourdain  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 8:17 AM
Oh, Heather, this is a beautiful card and a fabulous tutorial! I loved it and am always inspired by your work - a true artist!! It's wonderful to have you and Mimi on the Dirty Dozen together! Hugs!
CherylQuilts  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 8:29 AM
Really beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your technique.
Nancy Rigoglioso  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 8:37 AM
Beautiful work, Heather. Thanks!
Leanne Cyr  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 8:58 AM
Such a beautiful card! Another fabulous tutorial on water coloring. I love Heather's work and follow her blog.
Melanie  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 9:06 AM
Beautiful! I don't have any stain with the daubers. Do you have a suggestion as to how to apply inks to the image without those dauber stains?
muscrat  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 10:11 AM
Thank you for such detailed inductions! Love your result and will try this technique.
Billie Dee Jelin  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 10:24 AM
Hi Muskrat,
If you stamp the image with a waterbased ink pad you will get a good outline but you will need to pick up ink from a palette or bottle to paint inside the petals. The painting part should work with any water based ink you will just need to see how fast your ink dries as you paint it on. Distress stain takes a while to dry which gives time to blend and move it around. The hot pressed watercolour paper works in your favour because the ink sits on top for longer before soaking in. You could try painting ink onto the stamp - I have not tried that myself.
Heather T  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 10:25 AM
Duh... I used markersmto put color on the stamp and then spritzed it!
muscrat  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 10:46 AM
Thank you once again for a Great Tutorial. Love your color blending!
Linda Miller  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 12:35 PM
This came out lovely. I have seen this technique before, but done a little differently. I really need to try it out!
Jackie Lage  |  Wed May 20, 2015 at 12:37 PM

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