I often feel like manufacturers who specialize in 'craft' products are intentionally pulling the wool over their customers' eyes. Often the products you're paying for are uni-taskers: diecutters and embossers are really just stripped down printing presses, and many of the techniques stampers and cardmakers use are watered down printing techniques that are treated like innovations when they're really just overpriced simplifications. Still, there are many products marketed towards crafters that artists may find useful- many convention artists use the Silhouette for sticker and vinyl cutting, stamping markers make affordable watercolor markers, masking and stencil making techniques can be modified to suit the needs of the artist. There's a lot of potential for cross over in the art and craft supply markets, and often the distinction is an arbitrary one that is insulting to both parties. For artists, what we do is deemed over complicated, not worth the effort, not worth the money. For crafters, everything is presented as foolproof and low risk, but real techniques aren't taught because these people aren't 'artists', and it's assumed they aren't willing to take the time to learn.
I'm not a fan of either of these camps. I think art and illustration should be approachable, and I don't like supplies that make low ceiling'd assumptions about my interest level or abilities. With the advent of the internet, and the accessibility of information, you can learn how to do almost anything, if you're willing to sink the time, research, and practice into it. Many art supply stores offer classes at a variety of skill levels, and draftsmanship can be improved through practice and research. Many crafters sink a significant amount of money into their collection, and they deserve products that perform as advertised, and they deserve to know (if they're willing to look into it) which products will serve multiple purposes in their studios.
Ranger's Tim Holtz Distress Markers are very clearly marketed towards crafters, scrapbookers, card makers, but are not marketed to illustrators or artists. I have never seen these markers sold in a dedicated art supply store like Dick Blick, Jerry's Artarama, or Pla-Za, and I first found out about them by sifting through endless craft supply review videos doing research for this blog. I am not the target audience, I will probably hold these markers to harsher standards than they were designed to meet, and I think that's a good thing. If a craft product can't stand up to my standards, they may fail to meet yours, and for many of these marker reviews, the only real differences between what I'm looking for and what a crafter may be looking for are the following:
- I often want colors to perform in very specific ways, and I will not forgive them for that failure. Good enough is NOT good enough if you're paying more than a dollar per marker.
- I expect a reasonable range of skin and hair tones because I primarily render figures
- I am often using artist grade papers and inks, so I expect no negative interactions with craft grade products
- I am working with original illustrations, not stamps or print outs, so I am going to be more disappointed at the time wasted if an illustration is ruined because a product fails to perform as promised
- I have a body of reference to compare to- artist and student grade art materials, years of posts and pricepoints at my fingertips, so it's harder to sell me a bunk product, but I may be unnecessarily harsh on a decent product that is mismarketed. When this happens, I usually revisit the product later
I recognize that many of my readers have found this blog as crafters researching a product, and I apologize if any of my crafter readers are offended. I do not think my blog is the end all be all source (hence why I link other reviews at the bottom of most posts), but rather an alternative to craft supply bloggers who are often sent free product, create opinions based on a limited amount of use or access to product, or are compensated for every post written or recorded. This blog is fueled by my intense curiosity and passion for art and craft supplies, and paid for out of my own pocket by selling things from my online shop or in person.
I'm a comic artist and an illustrator by trade and education, and this blog does not contribute in a meaningful way to my income. If you like what I do, and you'd like to help support this blog, there are a variety of ways you can do so. You can signal boost my work by sharing it to your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest, you can send me a little tip via Paypal using the sidebar donation link, you can purchase copies of my ongoing, all ages watercolor comic, 7 " Kara through my shop, you can make your purchases through my Amazon affiliates links, or you can email companies on my behalf.
All that said, as I researched Tim Holtz Distress markers, I became excited about these products. They're designed to work with and compliment Ranger's other Distress products, including mists and stamp pads, and feature something I hadn't seen before- an opaque white marker with a solid foam brush nib. I watched A LOT of Youtube videos while waiting for my MarkerPop markers to come in, and I noticed that one of the biggest concerns consumers had was whether or not these were better than the existing Tombow ABT watercolor markers.
Watercolor Marker Review: Distress Markers
- "water-reactive" waterbased
- According to Cha 2012- Time Holtz Demos his New Distress Markers!, these are made for blending.
- Colors aren't supposed to turn to mud - AKA color pigments should remain pure and distict on the paper, regardless of blending, layering or addition of water
- Retail for $3.50 each according to video
- Designed to go with the Distress Ink Pads, which I have no experience with
- Twin Tipped- brush and detail nib
- In 2015, Ranger will be releasing a new Distress color for every month, and this includes the Distress markers, so it seems like there are plans to expand the line.
These Ranger Distress markers were both purchased at the Michaels in Champaign, IL and ordered through MarkerPop when I ordered my Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers. This was first time I've ever seen them in person, despite going to two Michaels in NO, and two in Nashville. Also ordered from MarkerPop, openstock. About a month later, they've popped up in the scrapbooking section of the Nashville Michaels.
There were 35 original colors, and I should have purchased the bucket set on Amazon before buying a set of 5 at Michaels, or buying individual markers through Markerpop, but I had difficultly finding how many colors were in the bucket, and what colors were available overall, or a chart of what color names actually looked like.. Now there's 49, and you can buy the entire set (and help out this blog) by clicking this affiliate search link. Distress markers are available openstock through certain sites, in packs of 5, in sets of 12, or all 49.
Colors I purchased:
Picket Fence (opaque white)
According to several of the videos linked at the bottom of this post, these markers can be used with a mist of water cheap watercolor background, which makes me think you can probably can do this with other watercolor markers that have free flowing pigment, like Zig Art and Graphic Twin
In my opinion, as an artist who selects colors for very specific uses, these colors have somewhat silly names (for an artist) that are more poetic that descriptive, so I didn't trust the names to give me an idea of the ink color. Also, for a designer who supposedly really likes the grungy browns (Tim Holtz), the Distress line is pretty threadbare when it comes to use-able skin and hair colors (i.e. BROWNS). I realize these markers weren't designed to be used for illustration, but a lot of stamps do feature people, so it's important to have a good selection of realistic colors, especially good skintones, hairtones, blushes. As late as it is in 2015, Holtz, Distress, and Ranger do have time to introduce these colors as part of their 2015 color of the month sales plan. At the time of writing, I was unable to find an official Ranger color chart for these markers, so I had to do some digging around.
Distress Marker Color Chart
|Distress Marker color chart by Jennifer McGuireInk|
Questions I Had Going Into This Review
Do watercolor blenders work, like Tombow ABT or Marvy LePlume II? Do Distress markers, which are dye based, play well with other dye based watercolor markers like Tombow ABT, Marvy LePlumeII, Zig Art and Graphic Twin?
This review will cover the basic qualities of Distress markers, but if there's interest, I'll revisit this post later to answer the above questions, and any questions you guys may have about Distress markers.
Something I found REALLY intriguing was the fact that Pickett Fence is Opaque white- goes on clear, dries white, and can supposedly be layered to build up layers of white. Pigment ink, not dye based, felt tipped bullet nib, not plastic finepoint like other Distress markers. A workable opaque white marker is a big deal for artists like myself- it can be used for corrections, to subtly lighten over rendered areas, and for special effects. I've tested a variety of white inks over the years, and am still amassing a collection of white artistic products.
The print is hard to make out, so I'll transcribe it here:
Tim Holtz Distress Markers are water-based inks for coloring, journaling, stamping and more. The dual tip markers are idea for many coloring techniques:
- Use the brush tip for coloring and shading
- Use the detail tip for journaling and drawing
- Use the color directly on rubber or clear staps
- Store markers horizontally
Markers coordinate with the Distress palette of products.The Markers
Unpackaged, I noticed that Distress markers use the same body as Chromatix alcohol based markers, with slightly different body screening.
Bottom: Distress Markers
With both markers, if you can see the black band, it means the cap isn't on securely.
Picket White Tests
To test the opacity of Picket Fence, I pulled out my handy black sketchbook, which I use for all white ink tests.
The ink did indeed go on clear, which makes it difficult to see where you've applied ink, but after about 20 seconds or so, it dries opaque.
The smaller nib is scratchy and dry, despite these markers being stored horizontally.
Despite promises that Picket Fence can be layered for subtle build of of opacity, applying additional layers just reactivates the original layer, so you can't really build up opacity through additional layers.
Marker Swatches on Watercolor Paper
These markers were swatched on 400 series Strathmore cold press watercolor paper. Each end was swatched, water immediately applied, and attempted to blend out before the other side was swatched.
The smaller swatch came from the plastic nib, and does not take to water easily.
The finished swatches and their corresponding markers. Most of these markers stayed true to their dye when water was added.
Since these markers are designed to blend, I decided to go ahead and do some blend tests. I'm using Canson's Biggie watercolor paper in 160lb cold press. This is a wood pulp based paper that I've had positive experiences with direct application of waterbased markers.
The first blend test is me blending colors into one another using just the markers. These markers do not blend the way alcohol based markers do, and while they can be layered, you aren't going to get a perfect gradation this way.
I pulled out two common waterbased colorless blending markers, the Tombow ABT colorless blender, and the Marvy LePlume II colorless blender. Distress markers blend easily with the Tombow ABT.
I'm not a fan of the fine tips on these markers. Not only does it feel scratchy, and stingy with the ink, but you can't get the line to blend out when you apply water.
The Field Test
Victorian Velvet (backround)
Dried Marigold (skin base)
Abandoned Coral (blush, accents on Kara's outfit)
Weathered wood (whites of eyes, shadows on clothing at end)
Milled lavendar (first round of skin shadows)
Shaded lilac (only a few secondary shadows)
Rusty Hinge (base of Kara's hair, base of Kara's eyes, first layer of freckles)
Vintage Photo (second layer of hair and eyes)
Shabby Shutters (Kara's Dress)
Evergreen bough (Kara's quilted vest)
Picket Fence (white highlights)
Can be blended out if you apply it to the masking tape first, and use a wet brush to apply to your watercolor paper. Direct application can also be easily blended out with a wet brush- no scrubbing needed.
Unfortunately, applying marker to the masking tape seems to cause some damage to the Distress marker's brush tip. Color applied from the fine tip is much harder to blend out when applied directly to paper- could the plastic tip be slightly abrading the paper surface? It did abrade the paper- when I go over it with the brush nib (which is significantly lighter in color, le sigh), it starts pilling the paper. So if you want to use this for watercolor applications, don't use the plastic fine tip directly on your paper.
I applied the milled lavendar directly to the paper, as it's such a light purple, I thought diluting it would make it just about useless, but unfortunately, the application of the stuff brush nib to the paper causes further paper damage where the plastic tip had scratched up the surface. What's the point of watercolor markers if using them directly on the paper ruins the paper's surface?
Although I only found one good color for Caucasian skin- Dried Marigold. You'd never guess it works as a skintone based on that name or the color of the cap, but swatching proved otherwise.
Blush was applied first to the masking tape, then to Kara's skin with a clean wet brush.
I applied color directly to Kara's hair, as I've had mediocre experiences in the past with trying to blend hair, and honestly, it often just looks better if it's directly applied, rather than washed in.
The green of Kara's dress was applied directly to shadows , and washed out to fill the rest of the area.
I'd had some decent results with blending out initial applications of brush side ink to paper with a wet brush until I applied Evergreen Bough to Kara's vest. It took some working, but I managed to get the application to look intentional, rather than an inability to apply color (or an inability to get color to blend out), but I still found it pretty annoying.
When everything dried, it was time to pull out the Picket Fence and apply white highlights.
I know some crafters are curious as to whether or not Tim Holtz Distress markers are worth buying, especially if they already own Tombow ABT watercolor markers, or Zig Art and Graphic Twin markers. While I think the Distress markers have a number of issues, I think there are unique colors that may appeal to you if you like muted, soft colors (as I do). I am NOT a fan of the color naming scheme, and I hope Ranger releases an official color chart with all the available colors soon, especially since they released 12 new colors in 2015. I do not think the Distress markers are a replacement for Tombow ABT or Zig Art and Graphic Twin, but I do think they're a very nice addition to your existing collection of watercolor markers. You can purchase Distress markers in sets, but if you're looking to augment a collection, I recommend buying them openstock through MarkerPop, which is where I purchased my openstock Distress markers. You can find the 2015 new Distress markers, as well as some sets to get you started, in the widget below. Purchases through that widget help to financially support this blog, and are always much appreciated.
I was really excited by Picket Fence- it's an opaque white watercolor marker, and I was promised (through several CHA and Ranger videos on Youtube) that I could wash the white out to blend the application, or even layer it. Initial tests on black paper were pretty underwhelming, and attempts to layer it, even after allowing it to dry, just cause the paper to pill. If you're going to use Picket Fence, make sure your paper is absolutely dry first.
Picket Fence can be blended out a bit with water, but it dries with a shine to it, which is a bit obnoxious when the rest of your work is matte. If you want to use color pencils in conjunction with Distress markers, I recommend you apply your regular Distress markers first, then your color pencil, then your Picket Fence.
Watercolor Markers In Order of Preference:
- Zig Art and Graphic Twin (I seriously think these are fantastic, especially their brush nibs!)
- Tombow ABT Colorless Blender (even useful with waterbased markers like Crayola and Up and Up)
- Docrafts Artiste Watercolor Markers
- Crayola Washable Supertips (Yep)
- Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers
- Tombow ABT
- Zig Clean Color (Not really that hot on the colors or the fact that once applied, they can't easily be blended out without leaving a harsh line of original application, but the individual nylon bristles won't tear up your paper)
- Distress Markers
- Lyra DuoAqua
- Marvy LePlume II (They just always seem to be dry when I buy them, and they feel lighter than other brands)
CHA 2012- Tim Holtz Demos His New Distress Markers!
Distress Markers- Jennifer McGuire Ink
Penny Black and Jill Foster Distress Markers- PennyBlackInc
Tim Holtz Distress Markers Techniques-laurelscrafts
Distress Marker Techniques: Blitsy Creative Team- laurelcrafts
Distress Markers Watercolor-waterfilterlove
Comparison Video Spectrum Aqua VS. Distress Markers- Tina G
Distress markers tutorial- nicoletta zanella
New Distress Color March 2015-Tim Holtz
Tim Holtz demos at Ranger-CHA Mega Show 2015-ScrapTimeVideos
Links used in this review:
Jennifer McGuire Ink- Video+Giveaway+Chart: New Distress Markers
Openstock source for Distress Markers
(note, I am not an affiliate, nor are they a sponsor):
Simon Says Stamp