Distress Watercolor Dry Embossing

by Mel McCarthy

Combine dry embossing and watercoloring for a beautiful look.


  • Watercolor paper, 140lb cold press used here
  • Embossing folder, Stampin' Up! Manhattan Flower used here
  • Die Cutting Machine, Cuttlebug used here
  • Rubber brayer
  • Temporary adhesive
  • Versamark Inkor another embossing ink
  • Clear fine (or detail) embossing powder
  • Heat gun
  • Distress Ink refills and palette, or another coloring medium
  • Paint brushes
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Double-sided tape
  • Scor-Pal™
  • White Pigment ink
  • White Sakura Souffle gel pen
  • Microglaze by Judikins


  1. Step 1

    Cut a piece of watercolor paper to fit your embossing folder.

  2. Step 2

    Place the watercolor paper in an embossing folder and run it through your embossing machine. Make two or three passes for a deep impression.

  3. Step 3

    Add temporary adhesive to the back of the image and adhere it to a flat work surface.

  4. Step 4

    Cover a brayer in Versamark ink.

  5. Step 5

    Brayer the Versamark ink onto the raised areas of the embossed image.

  6. Step 6

    Cover the wet Versamark in with clear fine embossing powder.

  7. Step 7

    Brush off any areas of stray embossing powder from the negative (or un-raised) areas of the dry embossing.

  8. Step 8

    Heat the embossing powder with a heat gun to melt it.

  9. Step 9

    Add color with distress ink, or another medium and a paint brush. Begin by wetting the watercolor paper liberally, so that the ink will bleed out and give a painterly look.

  10. Step 10

    Add ink to the water. If there is enough water, the ink will spread out.

  11. Step 11

    To add bold sections of color dip straight into undiluted ink or paint.

  12. Step 12

    To create areas that have softer shades add a wash of ink that is diluted with plenty of water.

  13. Step 13

    For a softer look you can add white pigment ink to your palette and mix it with water and ink.

  14. Step 14

    Spray the paper with a fine mist of water to blend the ink. No need to worry about it if the ink bleeds out of the lines; it's part of that painterly look.

  15. Step 15

    Use a tissue or paper towel to remove any extra ink.

  16. Step 16

    Add a wash of a complimentary colour for a background.

  17. Step 17

    Use a Sakura Souffle pen to touch up any areas that you would like to be more white.

  18. Step 18

    Apply a thin layer of Microglaze to make the colors pop.

  19. Step 19

    Score a card cut to fit the watercoloured panel.

  20. Step 20

    Adhere the panel to the card. Watercolor paper may warp a little, but with plenty of adhesive to the back of the embossed image it will lay nice and flat on the card.

  21. Your card is finished.

Your Turn

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

Questions and Comments

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

Using the brayer to apply versamark to the raised portion of a dry embossed image is brilliant! I can't wait to try that!
Christine F  |  Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 7:09 PM
So lovely !!!
I'll try as soon as my grandchildren go back in their parents' home !!
Thanks for tutorial.
Have a good day.
sylvie  |  Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 7:07 AM
What a fabulous tutorial! Thank you for the great photos with the very clear directions! I can't wait to try this!

Is there a specific way that I should get the clear embossing powder off the brayer? I have not used my brayer yet, even though I have had it for about 10 years!

He IS Able!
Traci S.
Traci S.  |  Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 7:03 PM
whata fantastic idea must have a go brilliant thanks
flainey  |  Thu Aug 2, 2012 at 5:16 AM
Oh Mel, hyou have outdone yourself again. Thank you so much for this terrific tutorial, including all the little tips along the way
DianeL  |  Thu Aug 2, 2012 at 10:14 PM
merci pour ce tuto - je n'ai encore jamais essayé cette technique et je ne savais pas trop à quoi servait ce "brayer".. si ce n'est à aplatir le papier.. je n'aurais pas eu l'idée de m'en servir pour tamponner l'encre - mais je suis débutante !
j'ai hâte d'essayer ! merci beaucoup pour ce partage, il me permet d'apprendre ! amitiés de France
Nicky  |  Sat Aug 4, 2012 at 1:58 AM
Mel, your creativity is awe inspiring.Your tutorials are so articulate and thorough. I love how you show alternatives and possibilities. Love it!

Thanks for sharing this particular gorgeous technique. I noticed on your plastic palette wells, the names of the color was in a half circle around the well. How did you create those labels?
Judi  |  Sun Aug 5, 2012 at 9:23 AM
Gorgeous card! smile
Gabby  |  Wed Aug 8, 2012 at 3:00 AM
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this...can't wait to try! Thanks so much for sharing. Just beautiful!
Kathi Z  |  Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 4:33 PM
lovely tut!
Karee SOWARDS  |  Thu Oct 4, 2012 at 7:25 AM
Amazing technique! Thank you so much!
Lagene  |  Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 10:25 AM
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Herjealo  |  Tue Oct 23, 2012 at 11:34 PM
A very beautiful card. I can't wait to try this.
Mary Williams  |  Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 3:31 PM
Hi Judi, Thank You oh so much! I made the labels using two circle punches. It's all described here: http://melstampz.blogspot.ca/2012/05/distress-ink-watercolour-trick-labeling.html Next time I would add even more lacquer glue to protect them from ink, because I'm very spill-y. wink
Mel McCarthy  |  Sat Jun 8, 2013 at 11:17 AM
Hi Traci, Thanks! The rubber brayer is just used to apply a nice layer of Versamark ink, so hopefully it won't get any embossing powder on it, but I find brayers are so easy to clean. I just use warm water in the sink & soap or stamp cleaner if the mess is really bad. Thankfully Versamark ink will just condition your brayer and make it last longer, so no need to worry about how clean it gets after this. :o)
Mel McCarthy  |  Sat Jun 8, 2013 at 11:20 AM
Hi Pam, You could also use a versamarker or any brand of embossing marker to just draw the lines on the raised areas. Might make it easier for those who don't have brayers or for anyone who doesn't want to have to spend time brushing off extra embossing powder. :o)
Mel McCarthy  |  Sat Jun 8, 2013 at 11:22 AM
What a lovely technique. I cannot wait to try it.
Cathy DiBlasi  |  Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 7:09 AM
Love the clear directions and beautiful result! Can't wait to try it!
Thank you!
Diane L  |  Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 8:06 PM
a very lovely technique and I might try it tomorrow.
HEATHER NOBLE  |  Tue Jul 7, 2015 at 5:26 AM
Beautiful card! Love the watercolor! Had wonderful results following the tutorial instructions! Thanks so much!
Kim Ellis  |  Wed Jan 20, 2016 at 7:52 AM

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