Getting to Know Distress Inks

When I was first Bible Journaling, one of my goals was to figure out how to add background color.  Distress Inks have become a favorite choice.  The inks are vivid and bright, and the colors blend nicely.  The inks dry smooth, and provide a good surface for most pens.  If you stamp your inks onto a craft mat or plate, they instantly transform into awesome water color paint.  The inks will bleed through the thin, Bible pages, but some gesso applied to the page first is an easy fix.

What they are:  Water-based ink in vivid colors with interesting properties

Why they are great for Bible Journaling:  They provide vivid color with a minimal amount of water.

Page prep needed:  Definitely apply gesso to page first!

Ideas:  Adding background color, playing with stencils, using with a paintbrush as watercolors, stamping, distressing edges, adding color to paper before printing.

I’ve been gradually collecting Distress Ink pads since I started Bible Journaling.  I noticed while pasting the links to Amazon that the prices on these inks varies widely from color to color; sometimes if you wait, you may see the color you want at a better price or you could try a different source.  The ink pads come in two sizes.  I chose the larger 3-inch squares, but they also come in cute mini sizes, which are just 1-inch squares.  The smaller size would work fine for most Bible Journaling applications.  They come in fun starter sets.  I love the Distress Ink palette.  I found this blog post to be extremely helpful:  Distress Ink Recipes from Simon Says.  I am not always the best at guessing what colors work well together, so I tried a number of these recipes and was very pleased with the results.


I’ve been storing my Distress Inks in a spice caddy that my husband made for me, before we had a spice rack (or a home!).  I’m so happy this pretty wooden box has been repurposed.


Here’s a quick picture of some other supplies I’ve been using along with the Distress inks.


Here’s a quick list of what’s above with links to Amazon:

As I put together some examples of how to use Distress Ink, I focused on the theme “Distressed”.  Just from reading the news, it seems that there are so many in distress right now.  As I read the stories of the Old Testament and think about what happened to Jesus and the apostles, I am reminded humanity has never lived in a world free from trouble.  The word “distressed” appears often throughout scripture.  Still Jesus gives us this command again and again: “fear not!”

If Distress Inks had only one trick, I think they would be worth it:  using the foam applicator to pick up ink and blend it onto the page.  One of my favorite Distress Ink color combinations is a sunset mix:  Black Soot, Chipped Sapphire, Seedless Preserves, Victorian Velvet, and Antique Linen.  I used a gold gel pen for the lettering.  I found a YouTube tutorial helpful for learning how to blend a sunset.   These words appear early in Psalm 18:  “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.”  I decided to focus on the phrase:  “My God lightens my darkness.”  Whatever we are going through staying focused on God will give us the light to see our way forward.


Distress Inks can also, of course, be used with stamps.  Distress Inks don’t provide the crispest stamped image, but they do provide color and provide an overall pleasing effect.  I like to layer the colors, by first adding color to the background and then stamping.  For the following two pictures I used Mustard Seed, Spiced Marmalade, Picked Raspberry, and Peacock Feathers.  These colors are all included in a mini-ink starter set, too.

I think at times we all feel under siege by something that makes us feel weak or ineffective.  The Israelites cry out to God when they are outmatched in battle “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  This is a different kind of fear from the fear I felt yesterday when my four-year-old daughter, who just figured out how to swim, was swimming in a pool with 18 other partying adults and children, which kept me vigilant and protective.  It’s a fear of something beyond our control, beyond our own ability to react.


God’s response:  They don’t have to do anything.  God will fight for them.  It’s often hard to take this advice, but there are times when the best thing to do in times of distress is to sit back, be patient, pray to God, and let things work themselves out.


Psalm 30 reminds us to remember God’s abundant goodness.  God has our times in His hand; they are working toward His good purpose.  Some neat effects can be achieved by using Distress Inks together with a stencil.  For this pictures I used picked raspberry, mustard seed, twisted citron, and salty ocean.


Sprinkling water droplets over Distress Inks can create some interesting effects.  I did find in the page below that wherever I dropped water, I had bleedthrough on the backside—just fair warning.  The page below was inspired by this sweet video tutorial from Jess Crafts.  I adapted her birthday card design to fit the story of Jonah.  I especially loved the perfect, little whale stamp, which I ordered directly from Gerda Steiner Designs.  The Distress Inks used:  cracked pistachio, peacock feathers, and salty ocean.  When I looked at the completed page, I had the thought:  “Even if I am at the bottom of the ocean, inside the belly of a whale, I know God can hear my prayers!”


Distress Inks make great water colors.  I painted the tree below by splattering Distress Inks with a paint brush over a stencil and then using a paintbrush to paint the tree trunk.  On the right side, I used the same colors as for the tree blended onto the background.  The verse that inspired the tree:  “You have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in distress, a shelter from the storm, and a shade from the heat.”  The verse from this passage that grabbed my heart:  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.”  How have I not known this verse before?  There are so many treasures to be discovered in the Bible, so many words of assurance.  I’ve been wanting to add the lyrics to “Just Be Held” somewhere in my Bible.  It seemed a perfect match for this verse.  I discovered that it’s easy to add color to cardstock with Distress Inks.  I colored the page first, printed the page, and then cut it to size.  I applied the forest moss ink with a foam applicator to distress the edges of the page.  Other colors used include old paper, shabby shutters, bundled sage, and brushed corduroy.  Here are just a few in-process photos.  I hope they speak for themselves…

in process




An alternative way to apply Distress Inks to the page is to stamp the inks onto an acrylic block.  Next, you simply spritz the ink and then press the acrylic block onto the page.  I’ve heard this technique called “Ink Smooshing.”  Since this approach is a little wetter, I did have some bleedthrough with this technique, even with the gesso applied first.  The colors used:  rusty hinge, broken china, peeled paint, and walnut stain.  The overall effect is exceptionally vivid color and a beautiful color mixing.  This passage from 2 Corinthinans often comes to mind for me in times of trouble:  “We have these treasures in jars of clay.”  When we feel afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down, we can be assured that the resurrection power of Jesus will renew us.



Another thing I love to do with Distress Inks is to stamp an image with a permanent ink like StazOn and then use the Distress Inks as water colors with a paint brush to fill in the stamp.  I included the following passage for personal reasons.  It seems every time I’m in distress, someone will remind me of this verse or just send me a text “Phillipians 4:4-7”.   This is also my mother’s favorite verse.  It seems to be a recurring theme in my life, maybe something God wants me work on!  Even when we can’t rejoice in our circumstances, we can rejoice in our Lord, avoid worry, and give thanks.  If we do these things, God will give us the peace that passes all understanding.



A fun way to use Distress Inks is to simply stamp the same image in multiple colors.  For this page, I used spun sugar as a background color and shaded lilac, dusty concord and peeled paint for the stamps.  I’ll leave you with this benediction from 2 Thessalonians.  My prayer for all of you is that you will know the peace of God, no matter what type of distress you may face in life!


4 thoughts on “Getting to Know Distress Inks

  1. Hi, Sally! Pat Maier here (I sat at your table at the Ilustrated Faith event in Springfield, VA last November.) I love what you are doing with your blog and appreciate so much your analysis of materials and your guest blogs with Lisa and Aneke. Just wanted to ask – I used to be able to see big pictures on your posts…..but now the photos are teeny tiny & will not enlarge when I click on them. (I have a Mac – don’t know if that makes a difference.) But just wanted to ask or see if you were attaching them in a different way from before….I want to see your pictures very much! 🙂 Thanks!

    • Thank you for the feedback. I changed from a WordPress hosted site to a BlueHost site this spring. I haven’t noticed this problem when I used my laptop or my iPhone. I’ll try from a Mac and see if I can recreate the same issue.

  2. Pat again…….I tried clicking on the July 2016 tab in your archives list at the left – and it came up with the full size pictures. So I’m good to go. It’s just when I click the link from your Journaling the Bible fb page that comes into my fb news feed, that the pics are small. Maybe that’s something to look into – or not! Anyway, I’m good to go now. BLessings to you!

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